Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Non-profit organization Come&Live! is home to some of the most unique worship bands, one those bands being Great Awakening. The North Carolina-based quartet is back with their second record Songs In Secret, done in an indie/alt. rock-style that borders on experimental.

Songs In Secret feels like a live record with its raw production and unconstrained song structures. Take “Explore;” it begins minimally with a picking guitar before unexpectedly erupting into a full band. A few songs are more straightforward like “Lazarus” with its singable chorus, “Alive, You’re alive/Now You’re breathing in me, feeding me.” Lyrically, the songs are very intimate and organic, reminding me of Luke Parker’s Home.

This collection of intimate worship songs is perfect to put on during your quiet time with God. Fans of Ascend The Hill, The Ember Days, and Josh White should enjoy Great Awakening.

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Review: Luke Parker’s Home

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Album Reviews

Luke Parker may be an unfamiliar name to you, but the New Zealand native has written several songs for contemporary worship act, Parachute Band.  In addition to corporate worship songs, Luke also writes worship songs that are more intimate and appropriate for one-on-one time with God. Luke recently released a collection, titled Home, with six of his solo songs.

What struck me about Home is that it’s so light and acoustic-based, yet it’s such a powerful record. Songs like “In Quietness” and “My Soul Lays Bare” prove less is more- simple instrumentation puts the focus on the lyrics, which center around waiting on God and longing for His presence. “Home” begins with guitar picking and gradually builds with swirling, reverb-laced background vocals. “Selah” also builds slowly; during the climax Luke repeats a heartfelt cry, “My soul is singing out.”

If you enjoy music by Jon Foreman and Derek Webb, or even if you’re looking for some music to play during your quiet time, then make sure to check out Luke Parker’s Home.

When I heard that Hawk Nelson was releasing another album my initial thought was, Didn’t they just release an album? Turns out it’s been a year and a half since Live Life Loud. Time flies. The Canadian pop/punk act’s fifth endeavor, Crazy Love offers a good balance of pop/punk fun and meaningful messages.

While Crazy Love doesn’t take as many musical liberties as Hawk’s previous effort, it makes for a more cohesive record. The title-track and “Your Love Is A Mystery” have a pop/synth influence, which fits nicely with high-octane pop/punk, reminiscent of their Letters to the President days, on “Tally-Ho,” “Skeleton,” “Fraud,” and “Joanna.” Even more energy is displayed on “LAX,” a chaotic punk ditty expressing the band’s frustration with airports, “I hate airports, I know they hate me/I know they jade me and that’s my point.”

It’s not all lighthearted lyricism though. “We Can Change the World” rallies listeners to make a difference in the world. “One Shot” follows the theme of their last album, urging listeners to “live out loud” because “you got one shot.” “Your Love Is A Mystery” is one of Hawk’s most overt songs to date, “You love me Jesus, it’s a mystery/You know my faults, You know my wrongs/And You still love me.”

I stated in my review of Live Life Loud that I could be a Hawk Nelson fan by their next album. While I’m not quite there yet, Crazy Love has convinced me that Hawk Nelson is a CCM staple.

While Attalus is new to the music scene, the North Carolina-based quintet proves to be a promising band. Their debut, The Greater Tide EP offers an appealing alternative rock sound that can best be described as Thrice meets House of Heroes.

Attalus will keep listeners on their toes with frequent change-ups in style and rhythm. Take the second track “The Rich and Poor.” On the verses, it encompasses a crisp, fast-paced drum beat, sizzling guitar riffs, and a faint piano motif that graces over top of it all. The chorus takes a slower rhythm and melancholy chord progressions, putting the focus on the hook-laden melody. Another musically intriguing track, “Behind Your Eyes” starts full but quickly strips down to a simple, piano chord progression and a driving kick drum. The song builds momentum as instruments are added back. During the bridge, vocalist Seth Davey shows off his upper range, which is strikingly similar to that of Matt MacDonald from The Classic Crime.

The lyrics are just as attention-grabbing as the music. The Greater Tide isn’t a concept album per se, but there are a few songs that have a “sea” theme. One such song, “Message In A Bottle” tells a metaphorical story of a man surviving a shipwreck to demonstrate the beauty of grace, “And I don’t know why I survived. I too deserved to die/But Providence has turned His eye/Grace has chosen me to stay.” The title-track is about people who have died for their faith. Seth explains in an interview that the song “represents [his] admiration for those individuals.”

The Greater Tide is as solid as debuts come. The production is a little rough, but this is a minor detail. From the impressive guitar work and complex rhythms to the thought-provoking lyrics, Attalus sound more like seasoned pros than newbies. This is definitely a band to watch.

Grammy-nominated rock sensation Red return with their highly anticipated release, Until We Have Faces. The intriguing title, inspired in part by a C.S. Lewis work, does well to describe the album’s theme of searching for true identity. Sound-wise, their orchestral-infused nu-metal sound reaches new heights- the hard rockers are heavier and the ballads more delicate.

Unlike Red’s previous projects, that opened with beautiful yet haunting piano motifs, Faces rips right into meaty guitar riffs. “Feed The Machine” is without question Red’s heaviest song to date. Towards the end of the track, things calm down with strings and a choir. While the following track is less intense, “Faceless” still has moments of fury, as in the bridge when vocalist Mike Barnes unleashes his chaotic vocals. “Faceless” captures the album’s theme of feeling “hollow,” but offers a resolve for the emptiness- “We are the faceless/We are the nameless/We are the hopeless/Until we have faces.”

A few tracks sound a bit recycled, but on others Red pushes outside their norms. One such song, “Who We Are,” has a pop/punk-influenced rhythm. Another, “The Outside,” has a melody that stylistically differentiates itself from the rest. Yet both tracks still stay true to Red’s sound.

Faces certainly brings the rock, but it also offers contemplative ballads. Radio-ready “Not Alone” offers hope in dark world. The album’s epic closer is a poignant ballad titled “Hymn For The Missing.” The piano-based track begins somberly, laced with strings. Lyrically it’s cryptic and vague, “Where are you now?/Are you lost?/Will I find you again?” Assuming the song follows the album’s theme, it seems Barnes is singing about himself losing his way.

Until We Have Faces is Red’s most mature album to date. Not only will this album be pleasing to longtime fans, but is sure to expand their popularity in the mainstream arena- reaching people who need to hear Red’s message of hope the most.

During the short time-span of Come&Live!’s existence, they’ve acquired an impressive roster of “musicianaries.” I’m trying to keep up with all of Come&Live!’s releases, but I managed to overlook Sons of God’s The Genesis Prologue EP when it released early last year.

The Genesis Prologue is a collection of three tracks, all with simple, one-word titles- Doubt, Manipulate, Caution- yet each song is epic. The songs encompass moody, alternative-esque guitar riffs, blatantly spiritual lyrics, and intense, captivating vocals. But I must admit, I may be a teeny bit biased; my love for Sons of God’s music stems from their stylistic similarities to one of my all-time favorite bands, As Cities Burn.

The Genesis Prologue is melancholy indie rock at its best. I don’t think I’ve ever been so enamored with an EP before, especially one that contains only three songs. And I’m not the only one. Sons of God has created quite the buzz with The Genesis Prologue, as well as a demand for a full length. According to frontman Aaron Newberry, a full-length is on the horizon; in fact, Sons of God will be releasing one this year. It can’t come soon enough.

Independent Christian label, Gotee Records serves up a Christmas compilation sure to get Christian rock fans in the mood for the season. ‘Tis The Season To Be Gotee features Christmas favorites and even a few originals from five artists on Gotee’s roster. Actually, R&B/soul singer Ayiesha Woods is no longer on Gotee’s roster, but she provides two standout tracks on the record. Woods puts a big band spin on “Jingle Bells,” and her rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby” takes on a similar old school flair. Newcomers Abandon Kansas only make a short appearance on the album with their rockin’ version of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” All of the three House of Heroes songs were taken from the band’s Christmas EP released last year. While the covers are stellar tracks, it’s slightly disappointing that these are just rehashed songs.

Chick rocker Stephanie Smith shows her stuff on “Jingle Bell Rock” but tones it down for a mellower cover of labelmate Relient K’s “I Celebrate Day.” Speaking of Relient K, they make several appearances on the album. While the acclaimed punk/alt. rock outfit could have pulled a few tunes from their own full-length Christmas record, they chose to offer a few new tracks. One of the most intriguing of these is “O Holy Night.” Instead of performing this track with showy vocals (like most who cover it), Relient K simplifies it, putting the focus on the song’s powerful lyrics.

‘Tis The Season To Be Gotee is the perfect collection to rock at a Christmas party or even for putting up the Christmas tree.