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Perspective by Sajan Perspective by Sajan
What You Need To Know
Let The Ground Rest by Chris Let The Ground Rest by Chris
What You Need To Know
Chris...
One Voice by Seth & Nirva One Voice by Seth & Nirva

What You Need To Know:
On their second full-length studio album,...


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An Expanded View | Posted May-21-2020
What You Need To Know


Talented artist Sajan Nauriyal is back with his sophomore project, PERSPECTIVE. This release continues to blend Nauriyal’s smooth vocals with his soul-infused electronic production. The lyrics are thoughtful and seek to open the listener’s eyes through the use of deep metaphor in combination with synesthesia inducing beats. 


    


What It Sounds Like


Sajan has a unique sound that is immediately recognizable. Since his initial release in 2017, he's grown as an artist lyrically while, at the same time, maintaining a sound that is distinctly his. The rhythms are melodic and electronic, infusing aspects of soul, hip-hop, downtempo, and acoustic worship. Each track delivers a new soundscape that is intended to act as a backdrop to the lyrics of the individual song. While each song stands alone, the entire project moves seamlessly from one track to the next.

 

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights


The opening track, "Fight," opens strongly with a focus on God and the need that we have for Him in our lives to help us fight through the harder times. God's plans for us, as well as His promises of provision, is a recurring theme throughout the album, specifically "Trust," "No Worries," and "All I Want."  

 

Best Song On The Record


The intro to "No Worries" invites you to stay awhile. The textures created through the layers of instrumentation, partnered with Nauriyal’s vocals and the change of pace and tone in the second verse with Nogoga’s feature combine into a track that begs to be listened to again and again.

 

For Fans Of




 


Final Word


Following Sajan since his initial full-length album, Always Enough has afforded me the opportunity to see how his production has grown and how his lyrics have matured. It's encouraging to see a young artist grow and learn in his chosen craft, while still staying true to his original roots. In his collective life experience, it's as though his perspective on the things of God has broadened and deepened allowing for his production and vocals to become much more focused. 


 



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A Much Needed Rest | Posted April-24-2020
What You Need To Know

Chris Renzema's sophomore project, Let The Ground Rest, is a follow up to his independently released album, I'll Be The Branches. Let The Ground Rest shows a developed maturity in Chris's songwriting and musicianship, while at the same time, staying true to his folk-Americana style.

    

What It Sounds Like

The acoustically-driven folk style accentuates Chris's voice and vocal style. The timbre of his voice pairs perfectly with the generous acoustic guitar, piano, and cellos. There is never a harshness to sound, but rather a collection of songs that sonically flow seamlessly from one to another. The album is mixed and mastered well, allowing for a listening session that permits the listener to sit with the music and enjoy each and every nuance.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

When we listen to an album, we embrace more than just the music. The lyrics come to life. On this album, there are many lines that make you stop, rewind, and think. In "17," Chris considers what his 17-year-old self would think of the man he's become and what God's response to his overthinking is: "Child stop listening to yourself so much/I have made you worthy of My love/You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that's enough." On "Steal Back Your Joy" the lyrics encourage us, "So, go on, steal back your joy/The destroyer's plans are all that are being destroyed/Go on, take back your life/'Cause death's the only thing that's dying tonight/If the thief comes to steal your flame/Well, go on and steal it back again."



Best Song On The Record

The album starts strongly with "Springtime." It welcomes us to come, sit, and listen. And, as a front door to the record, the song sits high on the list. It's the last song, however, that leaves the biggest impression. "Let The Ground Rest," the title track, gives hope, which will strike a chord with every listener. The song has such a simple melody with Chris's voice accompanied by piano on the first verse, welcoming a bass line in the chorus, and then the guitar and drums for the second verse, which build up to a climax after the second chorus. It all resolves in the stripped-back outro with just the piano and a promise.



For Fans Of

John Mark McMillan | Cody Carnes | Cory Asbury | Josh Garrels

 

Final Word

In this time of sheltering-in-place and physical distancing, hope can be lost as we hear the daily news updates. What Chris Renzema offers us is a project that speaks to hope. Let The Ground Rest is a prophetic message for such a time as this, an album that focuses on hope and a new season. "He'll finish what He starts. He started this I know/If you saw the plans, maybe you wouldn't go/I watched Him plant a seed, then let the ground rest/So child, oh, believe, 'cause I promise there's a harvest."

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Two Voices, One Heart | Posted March-24-2020

What You Need To Know:

On their second full-length studio album, One Voice, Seth & Nirva deliver soulful pop music. With influences from pop to gospel, and songs old and new, Seth & Nirva combine their collective experiences to deliver an uplifting album in a rough time.

    

What It Sounds Like:

Seth & Nirva bring together a mixture of pop and electronic dance music (EDM) on "Light Up The Sky." This makes way for a pop version of The Brilliance's "Turning Over Tables," which features Newsboys vocalist Michael Tait. Seth & Nirva deliver gospel vibes on the classic "Standing In the Need of Prayer." "Mercy" is a powerful, prayerful worship song that brings ethereal sounds that allow the listener to close their eyes and focus on the lyrics. Interspersed amongst the songs are spoken-word interludes that include sermon outtakes from Dr. Tony Evans and Dr. Rice Brooks, as well as a spoken word poem from Ryan Bomberger.





Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Standing In The Need of Prayer" is a song that dates back to well before the 20th century, but was first published in The Book Of African American Spirituals in 1925. This rendition takes the familiar refrain, "It's me, it's me, O' Lord/Standin' in the need of prayer," and marries it to lyrics that reflect on the times we're in today. It's a powerful song that set's our focus on the Lord, and firmly sets our position as standing in the need of prayer.



Best Song On The Record:

For sheer entertainment value, "Light Up The Sky" delivers an uplifting dance track; however, for those times where you want to focus on the Lord and all of His goodness, "Mercy" delivers a time of prayerful meditation.



For Fans Of:

Newsboys, TobyMac, Blanca, LoveCollide

 

Final Word:

It may be this reviewer's personal bias based on personal circumstances, but I enjoy what Seth & Nirva did with One Voice to use their collective experiences as a couple to deliver an uplifting yet timely album from a point of view that is rarely heard. The interspersed spoken word pieces connect the project thematically and provide for a cohesive album while still allowing for individual radio singles that can find themselves at home in multiple playlists.




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A 4 Minute Mile | Posted February-20-2020
What You Need To Know:

Victory Lap is KJ-52's last album. It is the end of an era. After more than 20 years of giving us quality Christian hip hop, KJ is retiring. At least in terms of producing music as KJ-52. Victory Lap leaves us with a much more mature KJ-52; someone who's much different than the artist we became so familiar with back in the 2000s. Instead of Coke, fries, cheeseburgers, Mountain Dew, and stank breath, we get a seasoned, more mature KJ. The 2020 version of KJ is what we'd expect of a grown man with a wife of more than 20 years, a father of two, and all of the experience that comes with it.

    

What It Sounds Like:

Although the content has matured throughout the years, one thing that has remained consistent is KJ's smooth flows and old school lyricism. His writing continues to be witty. And, his new production partners--PoetiCS, AJ Jenkins, and Theory Hazit--ensure the beats are fresh and modern, yet still paying homage to the school that KJ came from. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The joy in diving into KJ's lyrics is that they are densely-packed rhymes, much like a freestyler. It emotes a different time in hip hop when emcees were lauded for their lyricism, not merely for how they got the dance floor moving. A true emcee can rock the party without a beat. And, when you listen closely, you can find clever lyrics about stinky breath in "Pay Attention": "Ya dirty mouth needs some listerine/Plus, you ought to gargle that junk up with Mr. Clean/It ain't the same since I hit the scene /It ain't about the money or the fame that they give to me/Cause I ain't focused on the little things/Like who's the dopest cuz my hope is in only king."



You can hear rhyme triplets in "I Got This": "I train for the rhyme play like a 5k let the rhyme spray/They look at me sideways cuz I ain't claiming that crime pay/But, I did it my way been rocking and popping since nine trey/So, move to the side way you stopping and clogging the move of the highway." 



And, you can hear the heart of the man exposed in "Victory Lap": "My wife is by my side, but she needs more from me/I know my God has/Promised to supply my needs/But, if I'm being honest, that's getting hard to see/More of me, less of you /I need to flip that up and just embrace the truth." This kind of writing and rhyming doesn't come along every day, and it's something that should truly be appreciated.




Best Song On The Record:

"I Got This" epitomizes KJ-52. The lyrics hit hard. There is just enough braggadocio. And, there is endless wordplay throughout. On top of all of what KJ did on the record, it was greatly pronounced by PoetiCS' production. PoetiCS definitely brought the drums in. 



For Fans Of:

Dru bex, Derek MinorKB, Bizzle 

 

Final Word:

"Hit the lights, I ain't coming back, it's time to run down my victory lap." It is common for artists to quit before their time is up. In following KJ's career throughout the years--especially since his renaissance in 2015--it is clear that this is a man who was only going to hang things up on his own terms. The inability to get signed pushed him to set an example for veterans and freshmen alike with massive success in crowdfunding. Victory Lap is a fitting end to this chapter of KJ-52. I look forward to what we will see from Jonah Sorrentino in the future.



Listen on Apple Music or Spotify


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Hard Hitting and Honest | Posted December-17-2019
What You Need To Know:

A veteran in the Christian Rock and Rap scenes for almost two decades, Manafest continues to deliver his distinct sound and thought-provoking lyrics with his 16th album, This Is Not The End. The album has 10 fresh new tracks that will have fans, old and new, rocking out and crying, and if you sit with the album to just listen, those emotions may happen in the same song.



What It Sounds Like:

Manafest has an unmistakable sound. His vocal timbre hasn't changed much throughout his career making both his singing and rapping very distinguishable. The album contains a mixture of hard-hitting guitars, thumping bass, orchestral strings, and piano. Somehow, the eclectic grouping of instruments works perfectly in their chosen places with the instrumentation adding to the emotion of each song.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Come Back Home" is a powerful song that plays on the story of the Prodigal Son. In the song, Manafest, through the verses, explains the struggle and fall away, while Trevor McNevan (Thousand Foot Krutch), sings the response from the Father in the chorus. It is a powerful song of redemption and their vocals play perfectly off of one another.



Best Song On The Record:

"Plan For Me" is a gutwrenching song about an aborted child. The first verse is from the father to the unborn child, the second verse from the child to the parents. It speaks of forgiveness, especially for repentant parents of aborted children who must not focus on their past, but on the glorious forgiveness of Jesus and find it in their hearts to forgive themselves for the hurt they caused. It is a bold choice of song that I'm sure was as difficult to write and record as it was to release and face the critical voices of those who may hear it.



For Fans Of:

KJ-52, Thousand Foot Krutch, Rapture Ruckus, Disciple



Final Word:

With This Is Not The End, Manafest continues what can only be considered a legacy. He truly has impacted multiple generations of Christians through his hard-hitting and honest songs and his latest offering is no different.



Spotify | Apple Music


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A Beautiful Roadmap | Posted August-30-2019
What You Need To Know:

As members of the Bethel Music Collective, Paul and Hannah McClure, collectively known as The McClures, have graced our earbuds with their heartfelt worship music since 2015. If you are a regular viewer of Bethel TV, you will also be familiar with their passionate worship leading. The Way Home is The McLures’ first full-length album and it blends their familiar acoustic driven worship with a modern country style.



What It Sounds Like:


When the first chord strikes on “Now I See,” the first song on the album, we are welcomed with a happy guitar which is quickly accompanied with an organ and a pounding kick drum. The sound is reminiscent of Irish folk music. The organ stays front and center on “Only Have One.” The sound of the organ lays a foundation on the album. It can vary between a gospel organ to a country organ sound. The steel guitar makes an appearance on songs and it all plays magnificently with Paul and Hannah’s voices.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:


As a worship centered album, each song walks us through a variety of emotions. Whether it’s surrender on “Believe In You” or freedom on “Gone,” with the latter even expressing the freedom found in Christ with a happy whistle. “Tender Hurricane” is a metaphor for the power found in the still small voice of God. This song allows the listener to envision something silent and invisible as something impossibly large and unfathomably loud.  



Best Song On The Record:


In my weakness you are strong, In my weakness you are beautiful, I will rest, I will rest, In the night you are my song, in the silence, you sing on and on, I will rest, I will rest…” These lines are the opening of “Holding On To You.” The range of emotions uncovered in this simple song and the truth is revealed as I listened to this song left me undone and in a new place with a new understanding of the importance of holding on to Jesus through every season of life.



For Fans Of:




The first time I was really introduced to the worship style of The McClures was when I had the pleasure of visiting Bethel Church in the summer of 2016. The honesty and simplicity of their style removed the attention from them and left the congregation to focus wholly on God. This same simplicity and honesty are woven throughout this album. The Way Home is less a typical corporate worship album and more of a personal time of prayer and reflection album and it is in these personal times where we can stop and hear the voice of God as he gently whispers to us to give us the direction we need in our lives.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify.



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Back to the Future | Posted July-26-2019
What You Need To Know:

Local Sound, a modern worship band hailing from Nashville, combines an eclectic mix of pop and electro in their latest EP, Sunday School. The EP is a throwback to the days of yore, otherwise known as the mid-nineties. Millennials will recognize the songs from their days in Sunday school, while Gen Xers will reminisce to their young adult days as they tried to break out from the sounds of eighties worship.

    

What It Sounds Like:

These are modern pop/electro remixes of some of the most popular worship tracks of the mid-nineties/early 2000s. An ethereal intro with a mashup of "Agnus Dei/The Heart of Worship" is followed by a pop version of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." This leads to an upbeat version of Matt Redman's classic "Let My Words Be Few." Paul Baloche's "Open The Eyes of My Heart" gets an updated treatment and perhaps the defining song of the era "Shout to the Lord" as originally popularized by Hillsong Worship/Darlene Zschech, gets chopped and screwed with a lo-fi feel.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

These tracks all hold a special place in my heart. They define the era in which I was saved and first came to know the Lord. There isn't anything that can be written about these iconic worship songs that haven't already been said.



Best Song On The Record:

The modern update of "Shout To The Lord" gets the nod for best song on the record. The lo-fi treatment of the melody while maintaining a tender vocal and the addition of the choir brings this song right into this generation.



For Fans Of:

Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Hillsong, Third Day, Paul Baloche

 

Final Word:

Sunday School is a tribute EP to the start of a movement. These songs define an entire generation of the Worship genre, especially as it pertains to radio play and radio hits. These songs stand the test of time and the majority are still sung on a regular basis in many churches. Local Sound has reintroduced these songs with a fresh, modern, yet a respectful treatment.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify.


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A Look At Us | Posted July-19-2019
What You Need To Know

Quinten Coblentz is a name you should know. If not for his 2017 release Sahara then for his production work for artists like Andy Mineo, Dru Bex, Shope, Deraj and KJ-52. This renaissance man's latest release, We, combines his penchant for smooth vocals, clean production, and pristine engineering while exploring the depth of relationships with ourselves, others and God.

    

What It Sounds Like

Coblentz defines the sound as "upbeat hip-pop [with] subtle EDM layers, and mellowed emotional vibes." One of the highlights of We is his own production of the album which truly shows his artistry and ensures that his own vision for the album is exactly as he wanted it to be.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

"We are fallen, we are broken, You're the one we put our hope in" The closing hook on the title track repeats. It is this truth that sticks deeply. After the vibes of the first tracks of the album, Coblentz brings us into this final track with the deep bassline and choral undertones. "Though you can't tell me this is it, we've fallen far we can't forget, there's a Way, there is Truth, there is Life, we can find, arms open wide." And this sums up the gospel of Christ.



Best Song On The Record

"Lonely + Safe" dives into the depths of our intrapersonal relationship, that is the tension we all feel in this day and age. We are so connected yet so lonely and yet it is when we are lonely that we feel safe. The public eye, social media, is not a safe place, as in, it is not a place where we are safe to be ourselves, yet in our own minds and in our quietest times we can be safe in the loving arms of our Lord and Saviour. We never have to seek His approval, because we are born into it. 



For Fans Of

Roy Tosh, Shope, Joey Vantes, Aaron Cole

 

Final Word

Relationships are complex. Whether it is our relationship with ourselves, our friends, a love interest or with God. It is the tension and releases we feel and the feelings in between those two extremes that Quinten Coblentz explores in We. As much as it is an album you can vibe out to, it is also one that can be used for deeper times of prayer and contemplation.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify


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Summer Indie Vibes | Posted May-23-2019
What You Need To Know:

Empty Isles is Zach Lardy and Zach Lardy is Empty Isles. The Nashville based songwriter brings a fresh new sound and project with For When You Need Me. This is the first full-length project for Empty Isles and it is a breath of fresh air in a time when Contemporary Christian Music seems to based on formulas and throwbacks.

 

What It Sounds Like:

Spring. If there was one word to describe this album it would be this current season we are in. As the trees are just now blooming in this writer's neck of the woods, the ethereal sounds and soothing vocals blend perfectly with the fragrance of mayflowers and new grass. It is as though the timing of the release of this project was purposeful in ushering spring and early summer.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As the album is not a typical CCM or even a worship album, the spiritual content comes from one's own interpretation of the incredible lyrics written on this album. However, "In You" stands out as a song clearly directed as a prayer to our Father.



"In you, I find grace and mercy /

In you, I find dreams worth dreaming /

In you I find all that I need and more /

In you, I find beauty and color /

In you, I find love like no other /

In you, I find all that I need and more."




Best Song On The Record:

"Hope Finds Me" continues to stand out to me as the top song on the project. From the lyrics to the overall soundscape that the song creates. It has a familiar sound, yet I've never heard anything like it. Perhaps it's reminiscent of the 80s and some of the popular music that filled soundtracks of movies like Sweet Sixteen and The Breakfast Club.



For Fans Of:

Kings KaleidoscopeCitizensStarflyer 59

 

Final Word:

It isn't often that a new artist gives you a feast of 15 songs. The instrumentation, vocals, sound design and mixing allows for an immersive listening experience. For the sake of the current state of popular CCM, I hope Empty Isles continues to give us such aural feasts.



Find the album on Apple Music and Spotify.


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Worship To Set The Captive Free | Posted May-23-2019
What You Need To Know:

Chicago based Free Worship is back with their third full-length English language album, Already Done. The album is a collection of 11 tracks, 2 of which are Spanish versions of the title track, "Already Done" and "No One But You."



What It Sounds Like:

The album brings a familiar, big-church, congregational worship sound that would be welcome in most evangelical/non-denominational churches on any given Sunday. From the high energy, synth-driven "Other Names Fade" to worshipful, piano-based "No One But You" and the acoustic guitar/piano hymn, "Great I Am." The project is a well-curated collection of worship songs.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As with any worship project, Free Worship stays on theme and delivers worship songs that range on topics from surrender as in the tracks "Fall" and "Give My All" to lifting up the name of God on the tracks "Other Names Fade" and "Great I Am" to declaring the victory of Christ on "Already Done."



Best Song On The Record:

There is not just one best song on this album. But rather 15 minutes of unadulterated worship that left me going back and listening to the two tracks again and again. "No One But You" and "Fall" combine in this beautiful moment that allows the listener to enter into an anointed time of worship of an Almighty God.



For Fans Of:

Elevation Worship; UPPERROOM; Hillsong Worship; Gateway Worship



Final Word:

Free Worship has delivered a sacred moment with Already Done that deserves your time and attention. Perhaps though, it's not so much Free Worship that deserves the attention or the well-curated worship set, but the freedom in worship that they lead us into as co-worshippers with them and the congregation of New Life Covenant.



Get the album now on Apple Music or Spotify


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