A Must-Own for 2013 (and beyond) | Posted April 10, 2013 Staff Reviewer
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.
Song To Download Now:
"Life Is Beautiful" (Get it on iTunes here