Relient K It's been a lengthy dry spell for Relient K fans. After the success of their popular Forget and Not Slow Down project back in 2009, new music had been few and far between for the Ohio-based rockers, fronted...
Cast My Cares
Tim Tim Timmons is far from your established triple-threat singer/songwriter/worship leader. Albeit, he balances all three roles, but for this happily married father of four, music isn't just a career, nor...
When We Gather
Brad & Rebekah Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
While they might be a new name to you, the husband and wife duo known simply as Brad & Rebekah are no strangers to the music circuit. The two met while attending collage...
A New Direction Musically and Thematically | Posted June-14-2013
It's been a lengthy dry spell for Relient K fans. After the success of their popular Forget and Not Slow Down project back in 2009, new music had been few and far between for the Ohio-based rockers, fronted by fearless leader Matt Thiessen.
Two karaoke-style EPs were welcomed two years ago, but only left the mouths of fans watering for more of the group's signature quirky alternative rock delicacies. Approaching five years with no sign of any new music, fans began to wonder if their beloved band had met their proverbial deathbed.
Truth be told, Relient K was never gone—just out of the spotlight for a while. They toured frequently, gaining an abundance of mainstream exposure by appearing on the Warped Tour, as well as opening for high-profile Paramore tours both in the U.S. and overseas. Thiessen also found some success on his own, co-writing songs like "Long Shot" by Kelly Clarkson and "Good Time," by friend and fellow crossover artist, Owl City.
Between songwriting and traveling the world over the last three years, quietly, the band managed to sneak into the studio to write and record a long awaited follow-up. On the heels of several personnel changes, including the surprising departure of longtime drummer Ethan Luck, the announcement of the band's newest digitally exclusive LP, Collapsible Lung, was finally made in early 2013.
"This time around, we wanted to have a collection of songs that surprised even us," Matt Thiessen says about the new album, which is the first time in their history the band has chosen to co-write with different producers. "Each song includes a different combination of authors, yet there is an underlying thread that ties the tunes together thematically. We took an experimental approach creating the album, and we couldn't be more pleased with the result."
The question on everyone's mind: Has the music been well worth the wait?
The pristinely produced and anthemic "Don't Blink" gives the listener their first taste of a more mature sounding Relient K, yet still possesses the fun musical oomph fans fell in love with in their youth.
"Boomerang" is a glossy modern rock powerhouse detailing the chronicles of a twisted romance. Think Switchfoot gone slick. Thiessen's vocals are spot on, and the song has, in my option, enormous crossover potential. One of the album's earliest singles, "Lost Boy," continues the prevailing sheen the project boasts so well.
"If I Could Take You Home" crosses into synth pop territory and continues the theme of relational struggle, presented with their unapologetic way of crafting a lyric: "The trail of broken hearts you've left behind should send me running girl, but I don't mind, it's not up to me where you sleep / You're so good at making casualties, inflicting pain by the casualty, it's easy to see you'll do it to me."
The free-spirited and bubbly "Can't Complain" can almost be taken as follow-up to the band's hit "High of 75," sounding the most lyrically reminiscent of some of their earlier work: "I know some days I'm gonna stumble, and I know the cookie's gonna crumble, and I know life is gonna suck some days, but I can't complain."
The tongue-in-cheek Brit rocker "Gloria" is directed to the female character in the title being accused of being an overprotective girlfriend, while "PTL," unexpectedly addresses the apathy following a one-night stand. Honestly, it comes as a major turnoff.
Zany and theatrical, "Disaster" tells the tale of a sour relationship headed south, while "When You Were My Baby" turns the tables and address the painful sting of lost love: "They say it's better to have loved and lost, but maybe if I stayed away from you, I'd be better off now."
"Sweeter" aids the advice that love just isn't worth the time, reminiscing the betrayal of a former lover. While I applaud Matt and the band for brutal honestly, ethically, this song just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Closing the venture, the album's mellow namesake "Collapsible Lung" serves as both the first and last uplifting tune on the record, even making a brief yet profound mention of the band's personal beliefs. I only wish we could have heard more of them throughout the album.
Longtime Relient K fans have reason to rejoice. With Collapsible Lung, their beloved band is back, and musically, better than ever. Working with multiple producers has conceived a sound unlike any of their prior albums, varying from synth-pop, modern rock, acoustic folk and everything in the middle. If we're rating on sonic merit alone, this project takes the cake.
Music aside, I do think some listeners will take issue with a majority of the lyrics found on this album. While I certainly appreciate the band for diving into issues that are rarely to ever sung about in the market, I felt some songs were addressed far too drearily, and at times, lacked an appropriate level of morality. It's a noticeable departure.
That said, Relient K has never been a band to wear a "Christian" moniker. They've always sung about the ups and downs of life, and have normally done so in a fashion that both believers and nonbelievers alike could relate to and enjoy. I felt as if this album missed the mark on that level. Here's to hoping that some of the brighter musings of young Relient K make their way back in the future.
Tim Timmons is far from your established triple-threat singer/songwriter/worship leader. Albeit, he balances all three roles, but for this happily married father of four, music isn't just a career, nor is it merely a passion he‘s possessed since childhood. For Tim, it's a potential movement.
"If there's a word for me it's 'inviting,'" he says. "I want to invite people into a conversation about Jesus."
And invite he does. Having served as the worship leader for Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif. for 15 years, alongside his many co-writing accolades with key players in CCM, this seasoned musician has quite the story to tell. Diagnosed with an incurable cancer nearly a decade ago, he considers the sickness to be both a gift, and a timely assignment to broadcast the name of Jesus with fierce urgency.
"I know it sounds crazy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything… the gift through an incurable cancer, or any other sorrow we face, is perspective. And perspective is the gift that keeps on giving."
Tim's world was rocked again in 2010 when the content independent artist felt called to lay down his role at Mariners and pursue a full-time career in the industry. After much poking and prodding from friends, family, and God Himself, he finally embraced the calling and embarked on a new season.
Coming three years later, Cast My Cares is Timmons' first major label release. The album is an 11-song flight that openly chronicles Tim's personal relationship with Christ over the last several years, through the mountaintops and the messes.
"It's Your Revolution" kicks things off with an infectious groove and a solid dose of brilliant penmanship, a foreshadowing of things to come: "You are the air held in our lungs, it's not enough if we're not breathing / What good is a song stuck in a heart? / If we don't sing, the stones start screaming."
The inquisitive "Start With Me" reels you in with a funky hook, while the project's namesake "Cast My Cares" is a vulnerable reminder to continually cast our cares upon God, especially when life gives us more than we can handle. It's a message everyone can relate to in one way or another, and is set against yet another fantastic background melody.
"You Remain" begins soothing and builds momentum. It talks about our human tendency to run our own lives, only to see them crumble under the frailty of our own control, yet how every time, God remains near, ready to help us pick up the pieces: "I've tried to do this now for so long on my own / You'd think I would have figured this whole thing out somehow / But just when I think I can't fall faster, farther away, I turn around, and there You are."
"Christ In Me" perfectly balances Tim's ability to lead the listener into worship, as well as deliver an honest message about his own struggle with faith.
Without a doubt the finest example of songwriting on the album, the 5-star song "Let's Be Beautiful" is an allegory that that edifies the Church on how we will never be seen as the shining bride of Christ till we throw away all the ugly divisions that ensnare us: "Let's be beautiful, with love so radical / Full of compassion, oh what would happen if we were powerful from grace that overflows? / Love into action, oh what would happen if we were beautiful?"
Tim channels shades of Gavin DeGraw with his soulful and passionate delivery of vocals on "For Your Glory." The lyrics share how God will take every circumstance we face, whether it be a victory or a valley, and use it for His glory.
"I Will Follow Love" is a song of complete surrender that declares our allegiance to God no matter what, even if it means losing everything for Him. It yet again showcases the raw depth of honesty in Timmons' songwriting and leaves the listener feeling both challenged and uplifted: "I still believe You're in the silence, I still believe You're ever near, I still believe You're in the fire, I choose to believe above the fear."
Both "Great Reward" and "Holy Unafraid" tap into Tim's worship leading roots and serve as great moments of holy intimacy on the record, the latter of the two being a great addition for any worship leaders looking for something upbeat to bring to their congregation.
"Only One Standing" takes Tim's chief mission statement of seeing his private kingdom fall to the ground in order to see God's kingdom arise, and assembles it in the form of a four minute song. It's a solid way to end a lyrically golden album.
Tim Timmons' Cast My Cares is one of the finest examples of raw, honest songwriting to come from a worship artist in a very long time. His ability to balance one's own personal struggles authentically, while still being able to lay them down them with wholehearted abandon, is refreshing and vastly laudable.
The first half of the album does feel stronger than the latter, and while it never boasts a surplus of musical diversity, the chill pop/soul style Timmons has chosen suits him extremely well, and is done in such a way that draws you in song after song. Unquestionably one of the strongest releases of the year by a male vocalist, you'll definitely want to keep an eye on this rising artist.
While they might be a new name to you, the husband and wife duo known simply as Brad & Rebekah are no strangers to the music circuit. The two met while attending collage in Minneapolis, MN. Brad, a member of an all-male worship team, was on the hunt for a female vocalist to sing lead on a new song. Rebekah happened to be walking by at the time and caught his eye--the rest is history.
Having released several independent albums over the last five years, the couple has been involved in various aspects of worship ministry ever since feeling the Lord calling them to purse music full-time in 2008.
Although they currently call the quiet town of Haymarket, Va. home, their bags are rarely unpacked for long, seeing as they lead worship in churches throughout the country almost every weekend out of the year. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Brad & Rebekah also have found time to give back and travel as missionaries throughout Uganda, where they work with an organization called Watoto, which reaches out to those touched by the crippling effects of war, poverty and disease in the nation.
Produced by Josh Silverburg, When We Gather is the duo's latest offering—a collection of 12 songs written to lead the church into an intimate time of reflection and praise to our Creator.
"Wake Up" bursts forth as a glorious introduction with a large scale congregational feel. Brad commandeers lead vocals while Rebekah offers complementary BGVs. For those unfamiliar with the duo's work, this is a stellar portrait of their harmonies.
Displaying Rebekah's vocal talents on lead, is the follow-up track "Oh Such Love." The praise filled lyrics point to the everlasting love of God, and with a strong melody, instantly draws you in. I could see this being a favorite on AC radio.
"Lift Your Hands" is reminiscent of Kari Jobe's version of "Healer," and offers lines that are just as poignant and powerful: "We are the chosen, the beloved, we are the broken / Still He holds us, He deserves all praise / No one is greater, who can measure?"
Listeners are met with more flawless harmonies and the inclusion of a beautiful cello symphony on the softly anthemic title track "When We Gather," yet another song written with congregational worship in mind.
"All You've Done" shifts from the mellow contemporary style of the record and delves into a borderline pop track. The worshipful chorus is infectious as Brad and Rebekah trade off vocals, making it a song you'll no doubt be singing and bouncing along with.
"Christ Is Alive In Me" is sung as an tender, adoring prayer for Jesus to come and make Himself known in our lives, while "Only You" lifts up more wholly abandoned praise to the King.
Arguably the best offering, "Children Of The Living God" has the all the makings of a hit song with its catchy beat and anthemic chorus. When met with the musical artistry, the victorious lyrics take a fantastic song to even greater heights, proven true in the stanza: "God is alive, He is on our side, and He will go before us."
"Oh Great God" is completely chilling with its haunting piano accent. The vocals are sorely off put at times, but regardless, the song is still a beautiful artistic expression, and hiccup aside, has massive potential.
"Be Here Now" boasts yet another memorable hook with passionate lyrics, while "Body Of Christ" is a call for the church to rise up and stand together to make a difference in the name of Jesus. Brad's consistent vocals are a highlight, and with its inspiring ‘rally the troops' feel, reminds me of a Chris Tomlin penned tune. Worship leaders should take notice of this one.
Closing the project on positive note, "We Are Not The Same" hangs mellow until a sudden twist at the three minute mark, at which the song suddenly becomes a bubbly toe-tapper. Since the album had begun to grow somewhat tired on the latter half, this is an impromptu treat: "Until our final breath falls from our lips, this promise we proclaim / That Christ is alive and we will sing, we are not the same."
When We Gather is a delightful surprise. In an indie market where worship leaders seem to be a dime a dozen, Brad & Rebekah are a duo that stand apart. Resonating lyrics are met with stunning compositions, and when paired with their spot on harmonies, you can't help but wonder after at the end of every track what they're going to do next. The solid songwriting is commendable, and although the album does feel like it drags near the end, their mix of low-key praise and contemporary pop are sure to satisfy those who love either genre.
With a portion of album sales going to help the folks at Watoto, this is an project that is definitely worth the investment, not only for the great cause you‘ll be supporting, but for the rich ministry you'll be receiving in return.
Hannah Rose is a young up-and-coming vocalist born and raised in Southern California. The daughter of a pastor and traveling musician, music was something Hannah was introduced to at a very early age, and it wasn't long before she was singing solos in church and performing original music at camps and festivals all over the region.
"Instead of keeping a journal, I write songs," she says in regards to inspiration. "[These songs] are all about my life and actual events that I have experienced. Writing songs is how I express myself and get my feelings out."
The latest addition to the DREAM Records family, Hannah's music has been described as that which will make you "smile, cry and love." With her 2013 self-titled debut release, Hannah Rose, she does just that.
"Sea Of Love" is a theatric opener that highlights Hannah's soaring soprano vocals against the backdrop of a sweeping melodic arrangement filled with stunning sonic waves.
"It's A Good Life" provides some sunshine, introducing listeners to a fun bubblegum-pop track about enjoying life through all of its twists and turns. It's the perfect, carefree, driving with the windows down type of a song that is sure to leave a smile on your face.
Synth-pop-driven "Eye Of The Storm" is a comforting ballad with the reassuring message that even when we've hit rock bottom and reached our most desperate point, God is still with us, just as He always has been and always will be, bestowing Him the title "the eye of our storm."
"Permanent Love Scar" proves to be a track just as intriguing as it implies. Showcasing the most solid work from a musical standpoint, Hannah's unique take on how God's love invades and leaves its mark on every part of our lives is both fresh and uplifting, seen in the simple yet thoughtful lyric: "Not everything can change in a day, but a day can change everything."
Changing the tone of the album dramatically, "Keep Moving Forward" is an emotional cry for God to be near us in our darkest moments. The lyrics are somewhat scattered and feel unfinished, but overall, is a strong point on the album.
"When The Music Stops" is yet another happy-go-lucky pop track about enjoying life. This tune possesses a grittier edge, thanks to the inclusion of some crunchy electric guitars on the intro.
The next handful of tunes are sweet and cheery love songs. "I Love You For That" is piano driven with a double meaning. While it's written as a personal moment of Divine adoration, it also serves as a love song written for Hannah's future husband. The message seems a bit lost while trying to apply the lyrics in both regards. Nonetheless, it is a very beautiful song.
"Wasting Time" is a tried-and-true tale of romance and young love. It highlights songwriting well beyond Hannah's years and serves as a nearly flawless song with shining vocals, poetic lyrics and a memorable melody: "I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else than by your side / I'd rather just waste away the day lying underneath the sky / With you, with you, just wasting time."
"So And So" recounts the bashful experience of a developing crush, and the courage it takes to move forward with a possible relationship. It's a definite earworm, but what starts off as a high point slowly gets bogged down with more confusing word play, and by the end, becomes yet another song that leaves listeners scratching their heads.
"You And Me" closes the album on a high note. It more than makes up for the lyrical blunders found on a few of the previous tracks, and paints the picture of a love story worth waiting for: "I can see us in the sand / Strolling along, hand in hand, can't you see it, oh, can‘t you see it? / Making perfect melodies, creating lasting memories, don't you feel it, oh, don‘t you feel it?"
Hannah Rose is an artist with passion, made known both in her confident vocals and heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics. From that passion, has come a commendable debut album filled with 10 bright songs ranging from the topics of life, love and everything in between.
It's clear that Hannah is still maturing in her musicianship, both in style and songwriting, and I felt as if some of the songs on this project could have undergone further tweaking before making the final cut. Still, while this might not be a perfect album, her enthusiasm for creating something substantial is to be applauded.
It's been an eventful two years for the guys known as rock group Remedy Drive. Starting off with the four Zach brothers in the late '90s, the guys earned a name for themselves in CCM after their 2008 debut, Daylight Is Coming, spawned several successful singles.
After three years of constant touring, 2011 brought several personnel changes to the group. On top of a label switch, three of the Zach brothers decided to depart and pursue other interests, leaving lead vocalist David Zach solo at the helm of Remedy Drive's future. Not wanting throw in the towel, Zach hired musicians Dave Mohr, Corey Horn and Timmy Jones to fill the vacant spots and further the band's musical legacy.
Their first effort as a "new act" of sorts was 2012's Resuscitate on Centricity Records. The album earned high marks from listeners and critics alike, and filmily established the band as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Coming just a year later is the exclusive digital release, Resuscitate: The Acoustic Sessions--an album which ruggedly strips the polish from all 10 tracks on their last effort and presents them at their rawest state.
The band's No. 1 single, "Better Than Life," starts things off and sets the rustic tone of the album nicely. While it doesn't quite hold the forceful, anthemic feel of the original, it's an enjoyable take on an already solid track.
"Lost Cause" is a perfect acoustic recreation of one of the band's best songs on Resuscitate. Serving as one of their most lyrically meaty pieces of work, the powerful chorus manages to take on a deeper meaning in its stripped down form: "I might be lost, I might be broken, but I'm not a lost cause."
A chunky bass line opens "Resuscitate Me." Much like the original, the song plays off a Switchfoot vibe in its punchy approach and grinding vocals. "God I Hope So" starts off a little too musically coarse, but builds momentum as it proceeds, adding the chilling essence of strings. It's not as strong as the studio version, but a valiant effort nonetheless.
The rough and funky musicianship on "What Are We Waiting For" takes center stage, while "Don't Forget" throws a folksy bone into the mix and livens up an album that is growing somewhat mellow.
"Make It Bright" follows along the same folk inspired lines as the previous, exchanging the distorted guitar sounds of the original for quirky banjos and acoustics. It holds its own nicely, and becomes a track that might even be stronger than the studio rendition.
Going raw once more is the reflective and brilliantly mixed "Crystal Sea." Void of any bells and whistles, it focuses more on the introspective message regarding the pain-free promise of heaven: "When there's nothing else left to break, we still have a song to sing, we'll sing / When there's no more fear, no more ache, standing by the crystal sea, you and me, we'll sing…"
"Glory" fails to live up to its exciting studio counterpart, but is more than made up for on the closing track, "Hold On." Another well-produced track with a shinier arrangement, it is an additional improvement on an already great song, tying up all 10 tracks suitably.
It's safe to say Remedy Drive is one of the most underrated acts in Christian music. Creativity abounds in this talented foursome, and whether they are meeting tape with screeching guitars or a heartfelt ballad, there is always something to be taken away from their music--The Acoustic Sessions being no exception.
The album feels under-produced at times, mostly in the case of instrumentation stifling David Zach's vocals, but with an album of this sort, production hiccups are both inevitable and permissible. I would've enjoyed seeing a few old Remedy Drive songs thrown into the mix just to switch things up a bit, but overall, this project is carried out well, and will certainly please longtime fans and those enjoyed Resuscitate.
Carlos Whittaker is more than a triple threat. Juggling the titles of worship leader, pastor, writer, Web junkie, and not to mention husband and father, Carlos is undeniably one of the most creative yet inconspicuous forces in contemporary Christian music, and specifically in worship.
This self-proclaimed "ragamuffin soul," who has been plugged in with several big-name churches over the course of the last decade, feels his mission is simple: "To ignite a movement of authenticity among all generations of Christians that morphs the face of the evangelical church into a place of being real with yourself, others, and God."
"Real" pretty much sums it up. Known mostly for his willingness to rock the boat with his open-minded opinions and unapologetic views on Christian clichés, Carlos' political incorrectness is what makes him a fascinating communicator. More than that though, it's what makes him such a vulnerable artist and authentic songwriter.
His latest release with The Paradigm Collective, Fight, is aptly titled. The theme of the album revolves around the spiritual battles we're faced with every day: battles for our minds, attention, energy and souls, all coming back to the understanding that God Himself fights for us, regardless of what turmoil we're confronted with.
The opening track "New Song" sets the tone for the entire album. Ringing with retro 1980s pop perfection, it still holds an uplifting congregational worship feel. The song segues nicely into "Sing," which still carries the same style, melodically, but with a more contemporary radio-friendly twist.
"Fight" is a firm worshipful anthem declaring our authority in the name of Jesus, and with one heck of an earworm chorus, stands out as the best track on the album: "Fight, fight, I know I'm gonna make it / My life is Yours, you can take it / I march for the army of light and I'm living for the glory of Jesus Christ."
The bubbly techno tunes are taken down a few notches with "You Bought Me," a true gem of a songwriting moment. A close, prayerful reflection opens the building song as the lyrics go on to cry throughout: "On that day, You made a way / The day You bought me, You bought me / I was broken and dead and used / But still, You bought me, You bought me."
"What Can Wash" is an enjoyable, modern spin on the classic hymn "Nothing But The Blood," while "You Made A Way" changes the musical tone of the album drastically, giving a nod to acoustic pop with a lighthearted feel. It sounds closer to Carlos' past work, which fans of his last album will enjoy, as well as leading new fans into a passionate time of praise.
The colorfully vibrant "Love" breaks out of the gate on a sweeping note, and shares the beautiful message that we as believers have the chance to bring a little bit of Heaven to earth when we choose to live as an example of Christ's love.
"In The Arms" provides more sonic ear candy, while still keeping the reverent feel of the album going. It sounds like a tune fellow Paradigm Collective label mates The Royal Royal would record. I can imagine it will go over splendidly in a live setting.
The last new song on the album, "Don't Give Up," reveals itself as yet another songwriting highlight. The tender lyrics recall the gracious transformation God has made and continues to make in all of our lives. It again swings more on the lines of guitar driven pop, similar to the likes of late 2000s Hillsong United, and displays Carlos' strong suit for this style of music.
An acoustic version of the previous "In The Arms" concludes the album. It sounds like a completely different song with a majority of the production stripped away, and went from what I assumed would be a weak filler track, to a better attempt than the original.
Carlos Whittaker's Fight is one of the most unique worship albums I've heard in some time. This isn't your average Sunday morning praise and worship; it is a full-on musical experience that possesses passion in every track, leading the listener to a personal place of looking to Jesus through the various struggles they're facing.
Musically, while I applaud his effort to bring something fresh to the table, each track tends to blend into the next and sound the same after awhile. I'd like to see more diversity come the next effort, especially in the arena of acoustic pop, where he more than proves himself.
While it might not be a "knockout punch" in a musical sense, the triumphant lyrics are what take center stage. The worshipful core is never lost, and Carlos does a fantastic job of not only displaying the greatness of the God we serve, but the beauty of what it could look like if we truly walked knowing He has already sealed our victory.
A Must-Own for 2013 (and beyond) | Posted April-10-2013
The rise of The Afters' career has been nothing short of spectacular. From the crossover success they experienced with their debut, I Wish We All Could Win, to their more recent 2010 smash Light Up The Sky, there's no denying the impact they're making in CCM.
Seeing the victories that have unfolded for the band over the last several years, one would assume life for the four-piece ensemble--comprised of Matt Faqua, Jordan Mohilowski, Dan Ostebo and Josh Havens--would be one, big mountaintop experience. Not so much.
While their career as a group was thriving, their private lives were in disarray. Joyous personal changes like marriage and fatherhood were met with unexpected struggles such as families divorcing, cancer, death and other attacks, including a freak car accident lead vocalist Josh Havens and his family miraculously walked away from back in 2010--an accident police say no one should have survived.
As challenges mounted, each member of the band found themselves in the most desperate season of their lives. Yet as God always does, He began to bring beauty from the trials they faced. Lifting them out of the slums, miracle after miracle began taking place in the band's healing hearts, and not only strengthened their faith, but led them to their most vulnerable season of songwriting to date.
The Afters' latest effort, Life Is Beautiful, was birthed from that difficult season. The idea of the album comes from the reality that life is fragile, and we're meant to enjoy the gift of every moment we get to experience, even the painful ones. "The things that are really hard, make the things that are amazing that much more amazing," says guitarist Matt Faqua, "God [uses] them in our lives."
"Every Good Thing" is the perfect upbeat pop song to start the album. Fun and bubbly, it sets the tone for the rest of the album, and will having you smiling and singing along in no time.
"Breathe In Breathe Out" accentuates the evolutionary electronic beats the band introduced on their last effort, and shows yet another sonic leap from their early rock roots. The song talks about living in the now, and not waiting for the future to be happy when it's a choice we have today.
What I'm sure will be a another major single for the group, "Broken Hallelujah" opens up about confusion in God's will when things in life don't go as we plan, but offers worshipful surrender and declares trust in whatever the outcome may be: "I've seen joy, and I've seen pain / And on my knees I call Your name / Here's my broken hallelujah."
"Moments Like This" rides on the theme of making the most of every moment before it slips by, while "Find Your Way" pulls shades of Brandon Heath in its crunchy toe-tapping melody. The tune is penned from God's perspective and cries out with love to those who think they're too far gone for His grace.
The title track "Life Is Beautiful," which originally appeared in the 2012 film October Baby, comes next. The song has been tweaked a bit from the version heard on the movie's soundtrack, but still holds true in its powerful theme of life's rugged beauty, found in the lyric: "Living and dying, laughing and crying / We have the whole world or have nothing / I know there are long nights, but we'll make it / With every sunrise comes a new light."
"Love Is In The Air" is a fun and carefree love song which has potential to be yet another mainstream crossover hit for the group.
"Believe (Waiting For An Answer)" is based on lead vocalist Josh Haven's personal story of his son, Owen, being born a year ago with unexpected complications, landing him in the NICU for several weeks. The song, one of the meatiest cuts the band has written to date, is an honest look at our frustration with pain, but ultimately proclaims that God will use it to bring us closer to Him, and work it all out for our good.
Delivering more uplifting sonic pop, "What We're Here For" encourages the listener to get beyond themselves and live for others like we're meant to. With a lingering melody, "With You Always" sings of God's presence in our lives--regardless of how empty we may feel.
"In My Eyes" sounds the most like an old-school Afters cut, and will please the fans who have been waiting on a track with a grittier edge.
"This Life" ties up the album on a fantastic and emotional note. Touching on life's sweet brevity, it's a final reminder that this life we live is not our own, but a gift we're given to hold loosely and make the most of while we have it: "We can't own it, we just get to hold it for awhile / This life / We can't keep it or save it for another time / This life."
From track one, it's clear that this is not the same band that launched onto the music scene nearly eight years ago. The Afters have not only matured melodically, but lyrically, they're better than ever. It's clear that the fire they've endured has refined them in more ways than one, and the music they've crafted for this project is proof of it.
The theme of life's beauty rings throughout the entire record and is sure to stick with you long after each listen. While it's void of the alternative pop/rock sounds they‘ve been known for in the past, the musical path they've taken is a unique one: quirky, but with a broody edge. It will be interesting to see what they do next.
Filled with fun, encouraging and several heart-touching moments, Life Is Beautiful is easily one of the must-own albums of 2013. If there was any time to discover The Afters, it's now.
Starting as two individual members attending and serving at Journey Church in Franklin, Tenn., vocalist David Leonard--formerly of Jackson Waters--and singer/songwriter Leslie Jordan were introduced to one another by a pastor back in 2009. The two musicians quickly found a common bond in their similar writing style, and their desire to write music that transparently led the church into intimate and confessional moments of praise. Thus, the duo now known as All Sons & Daughters was born.
Three original EPs and one full-length release later, the group is rapidly becoming one of the premier acts in the thriving contemporary worship scene. Their first full length live recording, the duo's latest release, simply known as Live, was recorded at Oceanway Studios in Nashville, and features 13 songs, including several of their most noted hits alongside a few new tracks.
"Brokenness Aside" opens the project and paints an incredible mental picture of what the personal atmosphere in the room looked like the night the album was recorded. A small setting of worshipers gather together with one voice once the chorus kicks in, lifting up the name of Jesus as Leslie Jordan's soaring vocals lead the way.
The listeners soon discover the harmonizing superpowers of Jordan and David Leonard on the next two tracks, the folksy and reverent "Hear The Sound" and "Oh How I Need You."
"Great Are You Lord" welcomes a soft cello to the musical landscape as the tone of the album slows once more in soul-satisfying worship.
"Rising Sun" takes an interesting indie approach, musically, and compels listeners to praise with its solid hymn like lyrics: "Our great Redeemer, glorious Savior / Your name is higher than the rising run / Light of the morning / You shine forever / Your name is higher than the rising sun."
Honest and emotive, "Reason To Sing" is a vulnerable plea for God to make Himself real to us when life causes us to doubt. It's truly a stunning moment on the project. Going back to their roots once more, "My God My King" and "Oh Our Lord" lean toward more congregational style praise.
"Wake Up" is an anthemic cry to rise up as believers and worship our God, the one who takes the dreams of the broken and makes them whole again. It's impossible not to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit invade the atmosphere of the room as the bridge is sung and repeated: "So here we stand, our hearts are Yours / Not our will, but Yours be done."
"Called Me Higher" is a worshipful challenge for God to take us out of our comfort zones and stretch us to new levels of faith, as sung in the lyric: "I could hold on, I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside / And I could be safe, I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home, never let these walls down / But You have called me higher, You have called me deeper, and I'll go where You will lead me, Lord."
The inviting "God With Us" provokes more personal praise, leading into the duo's most well known song, "All The Poor And Powerless," which has been covered by numerous worship acts, including The Digital Age and Travis Cottrell. As the writers of the song, it clearly holds a personal place in their hearts, proven in the passionate vocals and stirring worship it provides.
A spot-on medley/mash-up of "Your Glory" and the classic hymn "Nothing But The Blood" climactically concludes this heart-touching collection of praise songs, and does so on a high note.
This project is a potential game-changer in the area of live corporate worship. Intimate and deeply personal, it still carries the weight of a heavy-hitting worship album recorded in a packed out church or arena. No song feels lost or out of place, and while the album stays mellow for the most part, it never feels tired or boring. On the musicianship front, David and Leslie's vocals are near perfect the entire album, which speaks volumes to their talent as vocalists.
While there are moments on the project where I felt certain songs sounded a little too overproduced in post-production, the live feel is never lost, and it stands as a sparklingly rugged piece of worshipful artistry. For those seeking the perfect album for soul soaking moments of praise and seeking God, All Sons & Daughters' Live is just what you've been looking for.
Lyrically Captivating; A Thick EP | Posted April-04-2013
Centricity recording artist Jason Gray has been repeatedly dubbed one of Christian music's best-kept secrets, and rightfully so. Despite being the voice behind popular songs such as "More Like Falling In Love" and "Remind Me Who I Am," Jason still remains one of the industry's most low-profile talents. However, don't let his quiet appearance fool you. While he isn't a spotlight seeker, his renown way of songwriting--both honest and introspective--is what draws the attention of listeners far and wide.
Fresh off the heels of 2011's A Way to See In The Dark, his ninth studio release, Jason's 2013 Nothing Is Wasted EP comes as a special treat to fans. Not only does it feature two versions of Jason's latest single, but it also includes three rare songs that were exclusive bonus cuts on the extended version of his aforementioned album.
The title track "Nothing Is Wasted" is a moving song of faith and redemption. The flawlessly crafted lyrics remind the listener that God can use every ugly and broken circumstance in our lives, even those we consider pointless, and bring something beautiful out of it. The second track, an alternate piano-focused version of the same song, drives the point home once more: "They tell you hope's a lie, but what if every tear you cry will see the ground where joy will grow? / Nothing is wasted, nothing is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer."
"Before I've Done Anything," while containing a less-poised vocal, boasts a stellar backdrop melody for a song written from two points of view: a man questioning the Savior's love in the verses, and God in the chorus, telling him that He loved him long before he did anything to try and earn it.
The acoustic "Love Is Rebuilding Us" sounds almost like a sequel to "Nothing Is Wasted," talking about the indescribable beauty that rises from a broken life, all pointing to the healing hand of our divine Restorer.
The fifth and final cut, "The Angel Of Your Presence," is a sobering look at the gut-wrenching hardships in life, and asks not that God would remove those trials from our lives, but grow us through them, and send the angel of His presence to comfort us as He does: "Jesus, I don't wanna miss anything that comes of this / Though grief may follow every kiss and gardens go to sea / Like pilgrims in the graying dust, we stumbled through the ruins of love / But in our loss, we learn to trust that You are all we need."
It is no stretch to say Jason Gray is one of the most lyrically captivating songwriters in our industry. Unafraid to be vulnerable and ask hard questions, his way of penning a tune perfectly verbalizes the things we sometimes fear to say. That skillful songwriting has been the trademark of his career, and is displayed effortlessly on his Nothing Is Wasted EP.
The final three cuts have a B-side quality to them simply due to their lack of studio polish. While clean-cut tracks aren't something Jason has been known for, I felt they could have done with a some tweaks to make them sound a tad more refined for this release. Rough cuts aside, the lyrics are what take center stage and grip your attention far beyond the music. This is a solid EP and one old and new fans like will thoroughly enjoy.
Song to Download Now:
"Nothing Is Wasted - Radio Mix" (Get it on iTunes here.)
David Thulin is a force to be reckoned with. No new kid on the block, David has been toying with music since childhood. Growing up among a musical family of missionaries helped to provide the inspiration needed to pursue a career in the industry.
It was while he was in collage in the early 2000s that David stumbled upon what was at the time the young field of trance and electronic dance. Falling in love with the stereophonic rhapsody the genre provided, and inspired by the likes of big name DJs like ATB and Paul van Dyk, it soon became his niche. After spending several years producing dance records for others in his native Sweden, David returned to the States and signed a deal with Dream Records in 2012.
Unlike his debut album, which solely featured remixes by fellow label mates, his sophomore effort Reconstruction is a unique project. Granted permission by various labels, David has taken some of Christian music's current-standing hits and given them his signature spin, forming them into a dance-lover's heaven.
A fantastic rendition of Group 1 Crew's "He Said" featuring Chris August, starts the project on a smashing note. Maintaining a standard nightclub feel, the song is a near flawless reinvention, while never overshadowing the heart of the original.
The already high-energy "Good Times" by Manic Drive receives a twice as upbeat makeover, while Beckah Shae‘s "#putyourloveglasseson"--an R&B party song it its own right, is mastered and even improved upon with Thulin's genius dubstep beat on the backline.
There is little done to the recreation of Remedy Drive's "Better Than Life," other than a dance track in the background, still, the two don't seem to mesh very well. The fault is quickly overlooked however with the inclusion of a stellar remix of Press Play's "NY2LA," yet again, improving on an already wonderful track and taking it to another level.
A captivatingly original dance remix of "Vicious" by rock band Silverline graces the musical palate, and leads to "Dead Come To Life," a song sung by fellow Dream Records artist and younger brother, Jonathan Thulin, alongside female vocalist Charmaine. It melodically plays on the artistic orchestration Jonathan is known for brilliantly weaving into his own music, and becomes yet another highlight on the album.
"Feel" by Rachael Lampa is one of the strongest songs on the entire album. Groovy and pulsating, it sounds like a club mix Paul van Dyk himself put his take on. Making her second appearance on the album, Charmaine's "Tell Me" comes next, but much like the Remedy Drive track, feels like it leaves something to be desired.
"Hope Will Rise" by Warr Acres--another label mate--is a true dance remix and underlines David's skill in the craft of remixing. "My Heart Breaking" by Alex Masters and "Come Back Home" by Spencer Combs follow next, with the Alex Master's tune sounding like it could be a play on a Taylor Swift gone techno--completely unexpected and very well-executed.
After 12 unique takes on different artists, David finally steps into the spotlight on his own with the final two songs, the album namesake "Reconstruction" and "Euphoria." While both songs run long (the first clocking in at nearly eight minutes), they are a grand example of just how talented he is in his own right, whether it be remixing others or conquering beats on his own.
As David Guetta is the go-to remix master for mainstream electronic pop, David Thulin can be seen as a Christian music equivalent. The ability to balance one's own originality while still paying respect to the original song at hand isn't easy, but with a wave of sonic ear candy, David Thulin's Reconstruction masters just that.
Like most remix albums, there are highs and lows, and inevitably some songs will go over better than others, but in the end, the stronger cuts take prescience. Thulin's creativity is not only something to be applauded, but it's something not to be missed.