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The Things That Got Us Here by Sidewalk Prophets The Things That Got Us Here by Sidewalk Prophets
What You Need To Know
Almost five full years after the band's last release,...
Hiding Place by Aaron Hiding Place by Aaron
What You Need To Know
Aaron Rios is a musician, with a penchant for passionate,...
Graves Into Gardens (Deluxe) (Live) by Elevation Worship Graves Into Gardens (Deluxe) (Live) by Elevation Worship
What You Need To Know
Elevation Worship has become one of the fastest-growing...

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Album Review: Sidewalk Prophets - The Things That Got Us Here | Posted June-30-2020
What You Need To Know

Almost five full years after the band's last release, Sidewalk Prophets is back with their 4th full length LP, The Things That Got Us Here. With a deliberate attempt to create a more organic and authentic sound, the band took a grassroots approach to crafting the songs on this album. 



What It Sounds Like

Sidewalk Prophets has always viewed their fans as part of their "great big family." This has developed their sound into one that is both energetic and intimate. If anything, this album finds the band fully comfortable with who they are and what works for them. Lead single "Smile" is the very burst of bubbly energy that has made the band a success. Others like "Where Forgiveness Is" or "You Were There" build to a soaring finish that flirt with terms like epic. Perhaps the band's most signature material is the borderline acoustic numbers in the tradition of "Help Me Find It" and "Come to the Table." "The Light" should be another fine entry in this category. David Frey's vocals have always had this genuine honest quality that makes you pay attention to everything he's singing, and he's at the top of his game once again here. 



Spiritual Highlights

Sidewalk Prophets once again have their finger on the pulse of their fans. Never one to shy away from the struggles their listeners are going through, we have another batch of songs speaking to the anxieties and fears listeners are facing. Songs like "The Comments Section" are so relevant, especially this year. These days, it seems like every social media page is just a post away from an online war. "You Were There" and "Real to Me" impart the wisdom of experience from seasoned veterans. "Smile" has become a very timely entry for a year where it's becoming harder and harder to smile. While nobody could have seen 2020's twists and turns coming, The Things That Got Us Here has managed to be just the album we needed, with the wisdom of good friends there to help encourage us and remind us of how grace has already taken us this far.



Best Song

"The Light"



For Fans Of

Josh Wilson, Mikeschair, Stars Go Dim



Final Word

Sidewalk Prophets bring perhaps the most concise example of their signature sound to date, with an intimate delivery of a timely message that is sure to resonate in these difficult times. 



Check out Sidewalk Prophets on Apple Music and Spotify






 

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Aaron Rios - Hiding Place | Posted June-25-2020
What You Need To Know

Aaron Rios is a musician, with a penchant for passionate, poetic, ambient worship with a pop-rock edge.



What It Sounds Like

With the worship genre drifting more and more into its own sound, it's refreshing to hear a worship releases that incorporates elements of pop and rock in an organic way. "You Alone" captures some groovy electronic hooks and also has rock elements that make the song energetic and exciting. The rest of the EP's songs take a bit more subdued approach, while still mixing in plenty of upbeat energy and slow-building musical goodness. Fans of worship music should still find these melodies more than accessible. But those who crave a bit more musical and vocal dynamics should also come away with more to love.



Spiritual Highlights

Thematically, the album covers familiar worship themes of Christ being our refuge and how we crave Him. With a bit more to say on the topic than the often repetitive choruses of the genre, the songs on this EP do the topics more justice and give the listener more to latch onto than is common in the worship space. 



Best Song

"You Alone Reign"



For Fans Of

Matthew West, Jeremy Camp, David Dunn



Final Word

Worship music fans looking for a little life amidst the genre's common trappings will find a kindred spirit in Aaron Rios and his music. 



Check Out Aaron Rios on Apple Music and Spotify.


 



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Album Review: Elevation Worship - Graves Into Gardens (Deluxe) | Posted May-14-2020
What You Need To Know

Elevation Worship has become one of the fastest-growing names in the growing genre of megachurch worship music. With several iconic hits under their belt, this latest release will most likely have a few more. 



What It Sounds Like

As worship music has evolved, so has its sound. With more and more megachurches starting bands that find great commercial success, this music space isn't just reserved for Hillsong anymore. These songs use the many sonic styles present in contemporary worship. The live setting gives the album's music an intimate feel. Most songs either stay soft and reflective or build to a crescendo of a finish that has the band firing on all cylinders. Some songs have memorable experimentation, like the energetic opener "RATTLE." At times, it feels like it takes inspiration from bands like NEEDTOBREATHE or We Are Messengers, with a chat-like structure and even a pleasing bass hook.



While I think the track could have probably been several minutes shorter and stronger for a more compact delivery, this was definitely an attention-grabbing way to kick off the album. If anything, I think the live setting may lead to a lot of the songs being a little too extended which, when translated to an at-home listening experience, doesn't quite have the same appeal as in a church setting. There is certainly strong musicianship backing these songs just waiting to breakthrough. 



Spiritual Highlights

Elevation Worship finds some unique topics to mix into the common worship themes, most notably a challenge to the listener for how they'd react if they encountered Christ in "What Would You Do." "RATTLE" highlights the joy of the resurrection, both of Christ's and the resurrection we are promised in Him. 



For Fans Of

Hillsong United, Bethel Music, Passion



Best Song

"RATTLE"



Final Word

As megachurch bands become an even more powerful force in contemporary Christian music than they were in the past, this latest release from Elevation Worship demands to make their name one of the most iconic and recognizable bands in the genre. 



Graves into Gardens is available on Apple Music and Spotify


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Album Review: Rhett Walker - Good To Me | Posted April-16-2020

What You Need To Know

With lead single “Believer” quickly becoming one of the most successful singles of Rhett Walker’s career, he rides this momentum to a third full length album, looking to shoot to the top tier of contemporary Christian music.



What It Sounds Like

Fans may remember Rhett Walker from past hits like “When Mercy Found Me.” Rhett has a powerful southern voice that adds an intensity to the contemporary offerings. Juggling a more blatant Southern style with more standard contemporary Christian radio songs, Good To Me, offers a positive and uplifting listening experience that should please both the Christian radio fans and those who enjoy a bit more country edge to their praise and worship. Lead single "Believer" is made for singing along to on the radio while songs like "Murderer" give more of that country rock edge that Walker excels in.



Spiritual Highlights

Walker sings of how Christ meets us in our darkest places in “You Met Me There.” He calls for “Peace in the Family” to quell the tide of turmoil in our families. “Believer” testifies to the effect of Christ’s work in our lives. All in all, these are typical themes for the average Christian to relate to in their walk with Christ. While the topics have been tackled by many an artist before, Walker’s interpretation should still resonate with his audience.



Best Song

“Believer”



For Fans Of

Third Day, Big Daddy Weave, Jordan Feliz



The Bottom Line

Rhett Walker boasts an impressive balance between Southern flare and contemporary accessibility that make it an essential release of the Spring. 



Good to Me is available on Apple Music and Spotify.



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Red Makes An Intense Declaration | Posted April-01-2020

What You Need To Know

Red burst onto the Christian rock scene in 2006 with End of Silence. With several No. 1 hits from that album alone, Red became an instant icon. 2017’s Gone was a polarizing release for fans, especially because it was to be their last album as a signed band. But as one season closes, another opens. 2019 found Red beginning their chapter as an independent band, releasing The Evening Hate EP. 2020 sees those new songs come to a culmination with their new full length album, Declaration.



What It Sounds Like

Red has always been defined by the juxtaposition of their two extremes: intense, scream-driven hard rock, and melodic and emotional numbers often driven by piano and orchestral backing. These styles would often duel within the same tracks, making for songs that could run the gamut of emotions. Some songs totally embraced one side or the other, making for some true headbangers and others accessible radio hits.



Freed from the influence of a label with demands for commercial viability, Red seems to have leaned all in on the edgier side of their sounds. For sure, the emotional orchestral elements still drive many a chorus on the album. But for the first time ever, Red have dropped an album completely devoid of a ballad. Every song throws in the band’s mix of screams and croons, with vocalist Mike Barnes flawlessly transitioning moment to moment. “The War We Made” serves as the most radio-ready of the bunch, sounding the most like a cut from one of Red’s previous entries. “Sever” also stands as a highlight with a passionate chorus that calls to mind several of the band’s classics. “The Evening Hate” and “From The Ashes” also return from their EP last year and mark noteworthy entries in this era for the band.



Fans of the band’s harder side disillusioned by their swings for accessibility over the years should come away pleased. Others may feel that the needle has swung a bit too far to the chaos side of things, at the expense of the band’s memorable melodies that have made even scream-filled past hits like their signature “Breathe Into Me” iconic.



Whatever one’s preferences for Red, the band seems to have made exactly the album they wanted to make with Declaration, freed from the expectations of anyone except their own and their fans’. The elements that made them a household name in Christian rock are all in place, and if you’ve enjoyed any of their past albums, you’d do well to give their latest a spin.



Spiritual Highlights

Red has always had their finger on the pulse of the internal struggles of their audience. The war with our sinful natures seems to be a constant theme of their music and this album is no different. These ten songs all speaks to our struggles with the darkness, and our fight to overcome them. Whether it’s acknowledging our role in our sins or choosing to sever our ties with them, these songs meet the listener where they are at in the darkness, but ultimately point to the way out “from the ashes.



Best Song

“The War We Made”



For Fans Of

Breaking Benjamin, Fight the Fury



Bottom Line

Red has come back unrestrained, touting perhaps their most aggressive blend of chaos and calm yet, with an album sure to win the attention of rock fans.




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A Classic Return To Form | Posted March-06-2020
What You Need To Know

The Classic Crime was a Tooth and Nail (music label) rock band from the 2000s that achieved a lot of success in Christian music circles, while choosing not to adopt the "Christian band" label. Despite this, the band's challenging spiritually-charged lyrics has made them a cult favorite in the industry (Their sophomore album The Silver Cord is widely viewed as one of the best records of the decade). After going independent, The Classic Crime released the critically-acclaimed Phoenix. But, 2017's How To Be Human found them courting controversy with uses of profanity. Three years and another wildly successful Kickstarter campaign later, the band is back with a new album, Patterns in the Static. Shedding the questionable language controversy, the band is no less brutally honest and challenging in their lyrics. 



What It Sounds Like

The Classic Crime has developed an instantly-recognizable signature rock sound. Lead singer Matt MacDonald's vocals carry 12 tunes of different shades of The Classic Crime's past sounds, coupled with some new treats. The lead single, "Take The Moment," is the most danceable the band has ever been, while "Alien" is infectiously catchy (the latter has the album's strongest musical hook). "Cold Loud Dark," "Destroy Create," and the haunting closer, "Before I Woke Up," offer some of the album's hardest moments that call back to The Silver Cord. Other laid-back numbers also evoke the band's most lauded offering, such as the nostalgic yearning of "Summer of '92." But, other albums receive nods as well, including a rather explicit callback to Vagabonds' "Cheap Shots." 



The Classic Crime always challenge genre expectations. While always identifiably rock, they slide between acoustic ballad, energetic pop, and face-melting rock, sometimes in the same song, with effortless freedom many bands dream of. While The Classic Crime's last offering felt a bit stilted compared to their better works,
Patterns in the Static is definitely up there in terms of quality. 



Spiritual Highlights

With the band's dabbling in profanity in the rearview, their profound lyrics can, again, come to the forefront. The album's themes of nostalgia and time are front in center in many tracks. "Highlights" and "Summer of '92" look back on the past with joyful nostalgia, while "The Outside," the title track, and "Destroy Create" take a look at the darknesses in people's lives and hearts. "Before I Woke Up" talks about the devil and God battling for the singer's soul. But, through it all, there's a desire for belonging.



The Classic Crime doesn't come with the easy answers that might be found on Christian radio. But, their honesty presents a lot of spiritual meat for listeners to chew on. "Take the Moment" encourages the listener to share the love in their hearts with others, while "Highlights" reminds listeners to appreciate the smaller things in life. These positive encouragements offer a counterbalance to the darker introspection of other tracks. Through it all, Patterns in the Static is an album about the passage of time and looking inward. And, with fewer songs in the Christian market willing to challenge the listener, this is most welcome.



Best Song

"Alien"



Final Word

Patterns in the Static manages to be both relevant and nostalgic, thought-provoking and engaging, and serious and fun. Those disillusioned by the band's dabbling with profanity should still feel good to give this latest album their attention.


 



 

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A Mosaic of Influences | Posted February-17-2020
What You Need To Know

White Ribbon Day is far from your typical "family band." The band is a buffet of styles that mesh together in unique ways, with members of varied ages and different styles, as well as a large international influence from extensive international touring.



What It Sounds Like

Electronic pop and inspirational sound mesh well to produce tracks that are inspiring, singable, and catchy. Songs, like "Facing Dragons," tackle a more anthemic pop/rock sound that are hit-ready. Other tracks wade into folky waters. White Ribbon Day covers a lot of ground, with their music styles. And, yet, the sound never feels jarring or too out-of-sync with the rest of the record. The album even features a stirring spoken word cut.



Spiritual Highlights

Ready to face a broken world, White Ribbon Day writes about the struggles their audience face, and the healing that comes from Christ. In the midst of our broken emotional states, these songs aim to connect a family of artists who relate to them and can offer a path forward through them.



For Fans Of

Hark The Herons, I Am They



Best Song

"Facing Dragons"



Final Word

White Ribbon Day boasts a sound with interesting experimentation that will ensure a pleasant listening experience.

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A Meaningful Melodic Track | Posted February-05-2020
What You Need To Know

Zachary Ray developed a passion for music, singing in his dad’s church at a young age. His current project is about his journey over the past few years. It's a story and a season in his life full of heartache, doubt, trust, deep love, and healing. But, most of all, it’s a story of the hope, comfort, peace, and confidence that has kept him going.



What It Sounds Like

With a soothing contemporary sound, Zachary Ray wouldn't be out of place among much of the genre's heavy hitters over the past few years. A low tempo melody underscores an emotive and powerful voice that carries the tune to memorable heights.



Spiritual Highlights

"Let Go" speaks of surrendering to Christ's control in the midst of life's struggles. People have always faced challenges and struggles. But, our modern world has zoomed in on so much of it. So much so that it can begin to feel like the world is falling apart. Reminding us to turn to Christ in times of turmoil isn't a new message in Christian music. But, it is one that cannot be repeated enough.



Final Word

"Let Go" is a strong introduction to Zachary Ray. And, hopefully, the beginning of an extensive body of work.

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The Most Enthralling Christmas EP of the Year | Posted December-21-2019
What You Need To Know

Future of Forestry previously released 3 Advent Christmas EPto critical acclaim. They didn’t achieve the commercial success of much of modern Christmas music, but their renditions achieved cult favored status for their artistic value. Now the band is back with a 7-song EP that is sure to follow in the same path.



What It Sounds Like

Title track "Light Has Come" is a melodic delight, calling to mind something for King & Country may have cooked up. Other originals like "This Night" and "We Are Home" offer similar melodic goodness that proves that Christmas music can still be compelling. Forgoing covers of songs most artists do, the band opts for some lesser-known fare like "Wexford Carol" and "I Wonder As I Wander" which fit well within the reflective sonic presentation. Start to finish, this EP is one of the best holiday releases of the season. Without filler or fat, the strength of each track shines.



Spiritual Highlights

It's refreshing to find a Christmas release that is entirely focused on the wonder of the birth of Christ. The traditional songs chosen benefit from their lyrics not being so widely known, allowing their significance to resonate more easily. The originals balance typical expressions of how Christ is light and also reflecting on how Christ is our home at Christmas, in addition to the wonder and beauty of the entire mystery of Christmas. You'd be hard pressed to find a better release this season offering new ways to contemplate the majesty of Christ's birth.



Best Song

"Light Has Come"



Final Word


With a surprising EP that is both invigorating and reflecting, spiritually inspiring and imaginatively engaging, Future of Forestry ups the ante on their previous Christmas EPs and produces one of the sleeper hits of the season.

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Ambient Holiday Cheer | Posted December-05-2019
What You Need To Know 

And on Earth, Peace is the new Christmas-themed release from critically acclaimed husband and wife duo Salt of the Sound (Anita & Ben Tatlow). And on Earth, Peace invites the listener to encounter the Christmas message of hope and peace in the context of contemporary city life.



What It Sounds Like

Haunting vocals and an ambient musical backing drive this EP, evoking feelings of a quiet snowy night. "O Holy Night" foregoes the "bringing down the house" style usually gone for in favor of embracing this "majestic winter night" feeling. "Star of Wonder (Gloria)" shoots to be a highlight of the project, exemplifying all the best traits of the style and creating a Christmas feeling that is more reflective and surreal than standard Christmas fare. 



Spiritual Highlights

While this release is more for quiet contemplation and relaxing, the songs were chosen to point to the true meaning of the season. If one is familiar with the songs, it can definitely make for a great meditation on their deeper meaning.



Best Song

"Star of Wonder (Gloria)"



For Fans Of

Enya, Gungor, The Brilliance



Final Word

This isn't the loudest, most radio-friendly, spirit-soaring release of the holiday season. But it is unlike anything else you'll hear and is a refreshing invite to settle down into quiet contemplation of the real reason for the season, away from the noise and bustle of the Christmas rush.


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