Ending 2013 on a high note with the release of their energetic single, “Shake,” GRAMMY®-nominated, American Music Award and Dove Award winning band MercyMe carries the enthusiasm into 2014 as they announce their eighth studio album Welcome To The New, available April 8, 2014 from Fair Trade. Collaborating with producers David Garcia and Ben Glover (TobyMac, Mandisa), Welcome To The New represents a shift in tone for the multi-platinum selling group.
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A Hearty Welcome| Posted March 31, 2014
When you hear a band like MercyMe declare that it is "out with the old and in with the new," there are several different things your mind can think.
Longtime fans of the group that has penned some of the most well-loved songs in CCM ("I Can Only Imagine", anyone?) might worry that their beloved band has gone off the deep end and created something so far removed from their signature sound, that any trace of familiarity is gone. On the other hand, you have scoffers who can't help but wonder if anything has really changed at all. I mean, how many musical bandwagons can you hop aboard before it starts to leave you a little cynical?
I admittedly fell into the latter group when I received my copy of MercyMe's latest studio project, Welcome to the New. While I've always been a fan of their Adult Contemporary-friendly sound, I couldn't picture this prestiged quartet doing anything differently, let alone doing it well. However, what I soon discovered upon listening was a series of songs that left my stuffy misconceptions utterly shattered.
"Welcome To The New" introduces the sonic shift, which is bent towards a balance of upbeat pop, and synth rock. They've always been something of a mature pop group at heart, but this completely renovates anything they've done before. Far gone are the days of sleepier jingles. This is something that stands up to the best of 'em.
The song also introduces the theme you'll find tied into almost every song on the record, about how Christ has set us free from the laws of religion and offered us grace enough to repeatedly fall down and get back up again: "You broke your back, kept all the rules, jumped through the hoops to make God approve of you, oh tell me, was it worth it? / The whole time you were spinning plates did you stop to think that maybe He's okay with just you? / There's no need to join the circus."
"Gotta Let It Go" blazes out of the gate and quickly sets itself atop a long list of some of the best material this band has put out, musically speaking. It carries a blisteringly powerful modern rock vibe, while somehow tipping its hat to the sounds found in much of the music birthed at the start of the millennium. Think Smash Mouth, without the cheesy nostalgia.
Another smokey rocker—no pun intended—is found on "Burn Baby Burn," perfectly incorporating synth elements into the backdrop of a gritty anthem about shining boldly for Christ. It's a theme that's being touched on more and more in CCM lately, but yet have I heard it come from such a fresh perspective.
OK, so the band has clearly proven that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks, but what about those fans who actually liked the old dog? Fear not! While Bart and boys have mastered the ability to reinvent themselves, fans who've been with them since the beginning with be glad to hear that worshipful and cutting MercyMe mainstays are indeed present here.
Lead single "Shake," the folksy "Greater," future radio darling "Finish What He Started" and open letter "Dear Younger Me" all return to the core of the group, which is to both challenge and inspire. Each song offers some of the strongest songwriting of their lengthy career.
One of the biggest gems will be found in "Flawless," which was originally slated to be the title track. It sums up everything good about this album in just over four minutes. Old meeting new, incredible lyrics, and a message that sternly reminds us that God isn't looking for our perfection, He just wants us: "No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars, still the truth is, the cross has made, the cross has made you flawless."
I could say Welcome To The New is a step forward for MercyMe, but that would be lie. It's more like 12 steps and a giant leap. I'm thoroughly impressed by the production here, which is neither bypassed or overdone, something that has plagued some of their prior albums of the past. Bart Millard's lead vocals are the strongest I've heard yet, and the band is all playing together better than ever.
I have few complaints about this album, other than it was a little shorter than what I'm used to from them, but as I always say, if you're left wanting more, obviously they're doing something right. This is one of the strongest albums Christian music has to offer in 2014, and a step in the right direction for a band who has clearly shown that they still have many years ahead of them.
Welcome to the New: A Pleasant Surprise| Posted July 22, 2014
There was a time when I really enjoyed Mercyme. Once you got past the contemporary singles, I noticed a bit of a pop/rock grit about them I really latched onto. This was one reason I really enjoyed All That Is Within Me and The Generous Mr. Lovewell. However, as I started to get into more poetic songwriting and all kinds of Christian and secular pop and rock acts, I didn't thik they would really have anything for me. Boy, I was wrong.
While I do feel like lyrically this new album, Welcome to the New, isn't a masterpiece, I like the heart the band has behind its message. Simply, the message is that God doesn't keep a record of our sins when we are saved, we are considered pure and blameless in His eyes. Musically, this album is a super fun ride. The band challenged themselves to try new sounds, and it definitely paid off.
I was already taken aback by the furiously upbeat opener and title track. With a lot of energy and a catchy melody, I was interested in seeing how the rest of the album would turn out. "Gotta Let It Go" is a stellar funk-rock track with some of the best guitar work I've seen from the band, which continues throughout the album. Lead single "Shake" is a throwback to 50s and 60s pop that works surprisingly well. "Greater" sounds like the indie-folk movement of 2010-2012 popularized by Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, and is another stellar track.
While these first four tracks are the true standouts for me, the rest of the album isn't far behind. "Finish What He Started" is your typical Mercyme power ballad, which should probably be expected. There is some very nice leader guitar on it, however. "Flawless" is another one of my favorites because of its solid riff, nice drumbeat, and sing along chorus. "New Lease On Life" is an enjoyable blues-pop song slightly reminescent of The Black Keys. "Wishful Thinking" is very Beatles-esque and although probably my least favorite, is still a strong track with solid harmonies in the chorus, a cool drumbeat, and nice lead guitar. "Burn Baby Burn" is another one I'm not as into, mainly because dynamically it doesn't shift well from quiet to something big, mainly due to the different drum beats in the build and right after. However, the ending is pretty awesome. "Dear Younger Me" is another folk-pop song that is an excellent closer with some pretty solid lyrics.
Overall, Mercyme's Welcome to the New was a very pleasant surprise. Normally I'm not a big fan of ten song albums because they're really short and usually don't have as many highlights. However, I'm glad this one is ten songs because there is absolutely no filler on this album. If they continue with this style, you can bet I'll keep being interested in Mercyme.
What Happened?| Posted April 30, 2014
It is not my norm to give negative reviews.I have eagerly anticipated every MercyMe release since Spoken For. I have always ran out and bought the entire CD without question, without fear.
The New may be good for some, but I am not one of them. The entire release is poorly produced with distorted everything in awkward places. Saturated drums, Over overdriven vocals, Sorry, I will listen VERY carefully to any of MercyMe's future releases before purchasing. I could not find one song on this release that really spoke to me musically or spiritually.