|A "Stellar" Comeback in the Making | Posted July 08, 2013
Rewind the clock for a minute. It's 2005, and one of the brightest new acts to hit the Christian music circuit is a four-piece outfit of guys hailing from Phoenix named Stellar Kart
. Fronted by fearless leader Adam Agee, the group followed in the footsteps of acts like Relient K and Hawk Nelson to become CCM's answer to punk/rock mainstays such as Simple Plan and Blink 182, gaining a massive following with their quirky, boyish charm and solid tunes such as "Life Is Good," "Activate," "Me And Jesus, "Innocent" and more.
The band rode a steady wave of success till 2011, when out of nowhere, it seemed as if they had completely fallen off the radar. Numerous label conflicts and life changes, preceded by a premature greatest hits completion, lead to rumors that the end was near, fueled further by the departure of three of the four founding members: Jordan Messer, Brian Calcara and Cody Pellerin.
The status of Stellar Kart's existence was unsure by many until 2012's A Whole New World EP released. The EP not only re-introduced fans to the group they loved via a string of Disney covers (yes, you read that correctly), but also familiarized them to what would become the band's current lineup: Former TFK guitarist Nick Baumhardt, drummer Jeremi Hough, female bassist/vocalist Aliegh Shields, and Agee still holding strong on lead vocals.
Settling in at InPop Records as their new home label, the band got straight to work creating a piece of art nearly four years in the making, a project we now know as 2013's much-anticipated All In
With distorted guitars and a pulsating drum beat, "Criminals And Kings" opens the project with a rush that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. It's in the same punk/rock vein as their past work, but also showcases a new, edgier side to the group—a rousing piece of work to say the least.
"All In (Apologize)" changes the pace dramatically, yet never manages to lose your interest as it picks up musical momentum along the way. The tune, from which the album derives it name, is a bold declaration of being "all in" for Jesus, and is sure to become another success in their already solid line of hits.
"My Surrender" crashes onto the scene as a hooky song about the war we fight against ourselves to surrender our lives to God, while the melodic and encouraging "Never Left Your Side" sounds like a song Christian radio would absolutely eat up.
The most reminiscent of their early bandhood musings, the tongue-in-cheek punk tune "Hollywood Reality" is the most upbeat offering on the record. The song finds the majority of its lyrics in the titles of popular reality TV shows, and offers a humorous take on how our view on so-called "fame" can distract us from living the life we were created to live: "Super Sweet 16 and Pregnant, fired off of The Apprentice, everything is entertainment here / It's a Hollywood reality, a la-la-land of fakebelieve."
"Just Like You" recounts all the ugly ways we as humans can break the heart of our Creator, but how His radical love for us always takes us back without a second thought: "When I'm a traitor, a faker, a doubter, a failure, You remain so true, it's just like You."
Adam's voice shines on the ballad "Time's Not Waiting," which shows a noticeable maturity in Stellar Kart's songwriting. The convicting tune encourages listeners to stop letting life pass them by when they were meant to take chances and risk it all to see their dreams come true. "Before And After" is written from God's point of view, saying that there isn't anything that can separate us from his extravagant love.
Picking up the blazing pace of the album once more, "Nowhere To Go But Up" is sure to get you off your feet. Bassist Aliegh Shields steps up to the plate for her second go-around on a portion of lead vocals (the first being "Criminals And Kings") and offers her silky, soprano flair against Agee's sharp, attitude driven vocals.
"Ones And Zeros" ends what feels like an all too brief album, but does so on a high note. A rally cry for those who see themselves as the underdog, the song presents the thought that those who feel like they have the least to offer this world might be the ones who have the most to give: "We are the ones, we are the ones and zeroes, the beautiful incomplete / We are the ones, we are the future heroes, a colorful symphony."
I think the question on every Stellar Kart fan's mind is the same: Has the long wait been worth it, and does their cherished band sound the same? I'm here to assure you: Stellar Kart is back, and without a doubt, stronger than ever.
All In carries enough familiarity to appease long time listeners, but also points to a shift in musical direction that I hope the band continues to roll with. The incorporation of a female vocalist in Shields is a wise move. Much like the choice Skillet made with drummer Jen Ledger, I'd love to her vocals incorporated more with Agee's as a co-leader on their next effort. Lyrically, while the band has grown leaps and bounds, they still pen from a relatively young standpoint, leaving room for minor improvement, but regardless, they always point the way to back Jesus and His life-changing love—a message that is never wasted.
A "stellar'" comeback in the making, it's a great joy to have one of CCM's most exciting bands back in the game. The next chapter in the life of Stellar Kart promises to be a sweet one indeed.
Song To Download:
"All In (Apologize)" (Get it on iTunes here
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