Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

In the over saturated pop/rock market, it isn’t easy for new bands to garner attention. Many factors play into building a fan base, but solid music is a crucial part of the equation. For The Radiance Effect, this is a non-issue. The Missouri-based act’s second full-length record, Separate & Change, is nothing but solid, offering hook-laden pop/rock tunes and alternative rock anthems with meaningful lyrics to boot.

Separate & Change takes off with high-octane rock on “Bring Me Down.” The energy continues on the infectious “Nothing To Lose.” Both tracks offer lyrics of encouragement. “Make It Happen” sums up the band’s mission- to inspire change, “I know that we can make this happen, we can be the ones/To fight the fight that we believe in, be the change we’re looking for.”

The Radiance Effect goes for an edgier rock sound on “Out of Control” and “Prodigal,” similar in vein to This Beautiful Republic, before returning to a more mild-mannered rock on “Never Let Go” and “Tonight.” The two final tracks focus on break-ups, but the lyrics are refreshingly positive, refraining from wallowing in self-pity or tearing the other person down, “With all things considered, I suppose I should be bitter/But I just find my self fortunate to have loved at all” (“She Said”).

Separate & Change is an accessible, polished effort. More importantly though, it’s encouraging and inspiring. The Radiance Effect is destined to create a buzz with Separate & Change.

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While Josh White may sound like an unfamiliar name, he is not new to Christian music. Once the frontman for Christian rock act, Telecast, White currently pastors and leads worship at Door of Hope, a church in Portland, Oregon. The singer/songwriter composed worship songs for his church and recently recorded these songs to form his first solo effort titled Achor.

Even though the music on Achor is rather mellow and understated, it’s an intriguing blend of instruments and styles. Songs like “He Who Feeds the Ravens” and “Holy Ghost Revival” are rootsy bluegrass. “You Amaze Me” is similar to John Mark McMillan’s folk acoustic style. “He Is Able” and “To Burn In You” incorporate brass, flutes, and other woodwind instruments. Other songs are more stripped down and simple such as the final track, “Be Still.” “Awake” is a musical highlight of the record, a beautiful praise tune sung by a choir and carried by a group of stringed instruments.

The lyrics on Achor are worshipful yet honest. One of the most lyrically potent is “Let Me See Your Hands,” “Jesus, let me see your hands/I want to see the holes where you felt Your Father’s plan.” Other songs are more stirring than potent. “Our God Is Present” reminds us that when we seek God, no matter what the circumstance, He is with us. “I Love My God” is another standout as a peaceful and intimate worship song.

Josh White has crafted a seemingly flawless album. Achor is a breath of fresh air in the over-saturated worship scene, not only because of its colorful musical style but also because of its striking authenticity.

A year after the release of their debut EP, indie rock outfit Abel brings fans their first full-length album, Lesser Men. According to vocalist Kevin Kneifel, “the album is about how we often lose focus on the things that are truly lasting and important in this life.”

There’s a certain musical freedom about Lesser Men. Instead of letting song structures define the direction of vocals and instruments, Abel allows the vocals and instruments to carry the songs, giving the album a rawness and authenticity that many albums lack.

Lyrically, Lesser Men is pretty straightforward; yet, clever metaphors are found on “Titanic” and “The Martyr.” One of my favorite lines on the album, though simple, is strikingly powerful, “There’s no greater love/There’s no greater call/than when You said, ‘Come, follow me.’” (“The Martyr”).

Lesser Men is one of those rare albums that offers the best of both worlds, great music and uplifting, honest lyrics. This is indie rock at its best.

After a short stint on the once infamous Forefront Records, pop/rock act Philmont finds itself independent once again. The band included its fans in their latest project, Transition EP, by allowing them to assist in funding the album through Kickstarter (a fundraising website that’s become popular among independent bands). Compelling hooks, bright melodies, polished production, and spirited lyrics make this release their best yet.

This six-song EP is catchy throughout, from the toe-tapping punk-infused rocker “I Am” to the sing-able “Ringing In My Head” to the melodically beautiful acoustic ballad “The Last Song I Sing.” The lyrics are just as captivating as the melodies. According to vocalist, Scott Taube, “The Alchemist” was “written as a metaphorical debate for creation,” certainly an interesting topic for a song. While Philmont’s songs don’t explicitly use “God” or “Jesus,” it’s pretty obvious that the songs have spiritual undertones with lyrics like, “Cause who am I/that You would die to prove/that the worthless are all worth it” (“Closer”).

Philmont matures its sound with Transition, while maintaining the spunky, high-octane rock that fans have come to love. Philmont is transitioning into a seemingly bright future…

After the release of their phenomenal debut, Lovelite returns with a new EP, Nearness. Husband and wife, Andrew and Jen Polfer, wrote songs “wanting God to renew [their] passion and drive for ministry.” The result: Nearness EP, an indie/worship album with luscious melodies, appealing instrumentation, and lyrics glorifying the Creator.

A thick 80’s synth lays the foundational soundscape of “Apathy.” The fast-paced indie rocker showcases the couple’s impeccable harmonies. “Brevity” brings the tempo down with serene instruments and more pretty harmonies. Musically, “Ambition” takes a more serious tone, fitting with the prayerful lyrics, “My ambition is to bring joy to You/I’ll do anything if You ask me to.”

The title-track is one of the highlights of the album. Dreamy guitar motifs and Jen’s rich yet angelic-like vocals pair well with the song’s intimate lyrics- “Give me a nearness/I want to feel fire/Your friendship is tireless.”

“Invisible One” and “Finally Free” are vertically-focused worship tunes that could be suitable for corporate worship, as their melodies are easier to sing and follow than the other songs on the album.

Nearness is not your typical worship album; there are no cliche lyrics, predictable melodies, or bland instrumentation. With a lot of bands, I find, I must decide between creative music or solid lyrics. Lovelite is one of the few bands that offers both.

Get Nearness for FREE at comeandlive.com

To learn more about Lovelite visit http://www.myspace.com/lovelite

Two years after the release of his debut album, U.K. artist Haydon Spenceley is readying for the release of his second solo album, Heart Strings. A glorious fusion of synthpop and rock, Heart Strings weaves through a myriad of spiritual themes including, love, surrender, and hope.

Heart Strings opens with the bright, poppy title-track, similar in vein to Owl City (minus the vocals), but with more straightforward lyrics. “Hiding Place” is just as upbeat, with fast-paced percussion. One of the highlights of the album, “Lost My Heart,” is an atmospheric, melancholy tune. The message can be summed up by verse 6:20 in the book of Matthew, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (NIV).”

Songs like “Lay It Down” and “Save My Day” are synth-based but have more of rock edge than others. The acoustic-driven “King of Glory” has a slight folk-flare to it, reminiscent of John Mark McMillan. “Masterplan” is the epic closer- somber and slow-building, carried by strings and haunting vocals.

Heart Strings is the perfect album for synthpop and 80’s electronica fans. My only complaint is that the production is a bit lacking. Some spots sound a little empty. That aside, Heart Strings is a solid album, oozing with originality and the love of Jesus.

For more information on Haydon Spenceley visit http://www.myspace.com/haydonspenceley

Heart Strings pre-release is available on NoiseTrade.

After nearly two decades of making music, Disciple continues to be a force within the Christian hard rock genre. The Knoxville-based band’s eighth studio release, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, packs in all that fans have come to love about Disciple- fist-pumping, mosh-worthy metal tracks, melodic rock songs, stirring power ballads, potent lyrics, and a powerful message.

Mid-tempo rocker “Dear X” provides a strong start to Horseshoes & Handgrenades, with a solid melody, crunchy guitars, and backing strings. But it’s not the explosive track that would be expected to kick of a Disciple record. In fact, there are quite a few mid-tempo rock songs on this record. “Eternity” starts off deceivingly like a hard rock track but quickly shows its true colors as an alt. rock sing with a melodic chorus. “Collision” and “Invisible” are radio-ready tracks, similar in vein to “Dear X.”

Make no mistake though, Horseshoes & Handgrenades is not for the faint of heart. “Watch It Burn” is classic Disciple- fiery metal riffs and spitting vocals. “Shot Heard Round The World” also has an old school Disciple flare to it. “The Ballad of St. Augustine” is a bit deceiving in it’s title, as it is certainly no ballad. It’s actually one of Disciple’s hardest songs, with brutal guitar riffs throughout.

Disciple’s lyrics are as potent as ever (Infiltrated crawling on the inside/Crooked hands put us all in their chains/Wrapping nooses all around the halos/Another chemical making my blood insane – “Watch It Burn”), but the lyrics are not without purpose. One of the things I love about Disciple is that their CD booklets list the Bible passages that the songs came out of. A few tracks have verses paired with almost every lyrical line.

Disciple will surely pick up new fans with Horseshoes & Handgrenades, as it is their most accessible album to date. However, it is not too much of a departure from their original sound that it will alienate longtime fans.