Soul-stirring and stunning | Posted February-11-2021 What You Need to Know
This long-awaited solo project Departures by Switchfoot’s front man Jon Foreman has captivated my spirit. The album includes standout recordings like the sing at the top of your lungs anthems “Education” and “Red and Gold,” and the reflective and worshipful vibe of “Side by Side,” “A Place Called Earth,” “Jesus, I Have My Doubts” and “Thanks Be To God.”
What it Sounds Like
From my first listen, I wanted to tell others about this great new album which immediately reminded me of some of my favorite emotional alternative rock artists like The Fray, Lifehouse, and Switchfoot’s softer songs. The project opens with “The Ocean Beyond the Sea” which has a reflective and ambient vibe and it builds to an exciting refrain that stirs my soul. I'm really engaged by Jon's emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic and introspective lyrics throughout the album. “Education” is layered with an upbeat alt-rock musical style. The song will have you singing along in one listen. “You lose yourself when you love someone/You lose yourself and you come undone,” is the refrain of the catchy song, which is in some ways the thesis statement of this stellar album.
I can't get enough of the stand-out song “A Place Called Earth.” Jon's emotive vocals and the Kingdom-focused lyrics takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear the song. It also features Lauren Daigle and expresses Jon’s emotional plea, “Oh I long for heaven in a place called earth/Where every son and daughter will know their worth." From the beginning notes of “Jesus, I Have My Doubts,” I was hooked by the reflective musical vibe and prayerful message. The song declares bold confessional and prayerful statements: "Jesus, has the world gone mad? Jesus, feels like the world's in pieces/I'm sure You've got Your reasons/But I've got my doubts/Jesus, I've got my doubts." The song is a gorgeous offering in the style of David’s Psalms. Other spiritual highlights are found in “Thanks Be To God” with the refrain, “Thanks be to God who delivers me, Christ, Christ alone come and set me free.”
Best Song on the Record
All these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest lyrics sung from the perspective of someone like David in the Psalms or Solomon in Ecclesiastes. “Side By Side” is a beautiful song featuring Madison Cunningham, with Jon displaying emotive vocals with the comforting refrain sung as a duet, “You and I will find the ocean we come from.” “Red and Gold” expresses words of comfort, “So hold your faith, you're not alone here/Stay your pace, you're almost home.” The aforementioned “A Place Called Earth” stopped me in my tracks and caused me to immediately replay the song. You’ll get swept up in the emotion and message of the song, causing your heart to ache for heaven. It’s my early choice for song of the year.
This is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith. The songs are poignant and powerful. There are no filler tracks, and this is easily one of my top “gourmet” albums of the year. If you want to experience an uplifting, soul-stirring, stunning and introspective album, look no further than Jon Foreman. These songs will certainly connect with listeners and showcase the multi-talented singer/songwriter's trademark balance of vocal tenderness and intensity, and, above all, a sense of hope and inspiration. This is an incredibly deep, worshipful and emotional album, and Departures is one of my top albums of the year.
His love heals! | Posted December-15-2020 What You Need to Know
Christian contemporary artist Jordan Feliz's debut full-length project, The River, helped put the artist on the map. The album features the very recognizable hit single and We Love Award-winning Song of the Year, "The River." Since then, Jordan has released other hit songs, such as “Never Too Far Gone,” “Best of Me,” “Witness,” and “Faith.” Jordan's music has energy and infectious enthusiasm. His songs also have celebratory messages of faith. Admittedly, I can't help but worship along loudly in spirit and in truth.
What it Sounds Like
The combination of his stellar vocals, up-tempo melody and OneRepublic-like musical inflection really brings home the solid gospel messages. His music really hits home with the message: God's grace washes us clean in the river of His Holy Spirit, and we become a new creation in Christ. I must say Jordan's recent singles “Glorify” and “Next to Me” from his new release, Say It, a nominee for a We Love Award for Album of the Year, has really caught my ear.
Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. "Glorify" reminds me that we need to have the type of faith that Jesus describes in the Bible: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jordan expresses with transparency his walk with the Lord and how he relies on God during his battles with self-doubt and anxiety.
I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. “Every day we got a reason/Cause church ain’t only on the weekend,” reflects the everyday faith we are called to have in “Glorify.” “Oh, You know I tried to do it on my own/Oh, You say it’s time/For me to come back home/Right next to me,” are the cries of worship in the bridge of the heartfelt and soul-stirring, “Next to Me.”
“Wounds” is a powerful ballad and I love the emotion and biblical truth that Jordan brings to the song. The song features Jordan’s soothing vocals as he prayerfully sings, “I’ve seen the light come in/To my darkest rooms/I can tell you, friend/That His love heals wounds.”
Best Song on the Record
There are several standout songs on the album. Many of the songs are arranged in a very sing-able and catchy style, such as "Jesus Is Coming Back" which is filled with great statements of faith, proclaiming Him as the Lord of our lives. The ballad “Wounds” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart and expresses the theme of the album, “His love heals!” "Glorify" is a comforting message saying that there's always hope. Breathe it in like oxygen. God's hope will turn whatever you are going through into something different for His glory. A song that I can’t get out of my head is "Next to Me" so I’ll highlight that song as the must-download track, but you’ll want the whole album. These songs will have you singing along in one listen.
With a probing spiritual curiosity and imaginative, self-examining lyrics, this album solidifies Jordan Feliz’s place among the finest song crafters of his day. His poignant songwriting is coupled with musical excellence as each song urges me to better see God. This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. I really enjoy the exciting musical vibe of this album, and the melodies and lyrics are all catchy and biblical.
Say It is loaded with great rock beats, catchy melodies, and solid lyrics reflecting unashamed faith in Jesus. Don't miss out on this incredible album, one of the best of the year for sure. Jordan’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my favorite Jordan Feliz album.
Rejoice, Rejoice! | Posted November-19-2020 What You Need to Know
Powerhouse female vocalist Kerrie Roberts, known for her hit CCM pop songs "No Matter What," "Outcast," "Rescue Me (How the Story Ends)" and "What Are You Afraid Of," returns with a powerful rendition of “O Come Emmanuel.” As a pastor's daughter, Kerrie's heart as a worshipper has been heard throughout her albums as her powerful songs "Beautiful to Me," "Savior to Me (Sing Glory)," "In Your Sight" and "Seek Your Face" have all been vertical offerings of praise and worship.
What it Sounds Like
Kerrie’s rendition of “O Holy Night” is my all-time favorite Christmas song recording, and “O Come Emmanuel” is sung in the same worshipful and reverent vein, showcasing Kerrie’s shimmering, emotion-laden voice. Several of Kerrie’s songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs that are deep in meaning and content and this song is no exception. Kerrie’s vocals are strong and pure; and the production is subtle and uplifting.
Kerrie has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. This song is based on Matthew 1:23 (VOICE): "A virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and His name will be Immanuel which is a Hebrew name that means "God with us." Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God, Emmanuel, is with you, always. God's prophesy in Isaiah 7:14 is where God tells us exactly what is going to happen 700 years before the birth of His Son. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." This song captures that emotional, anticipatory feel of being expectant with reverent waiting for this holy day. You can sing this song in preparation this Christmas season, in remembrance of Jesus.
Kerrie has once again captivated me. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a big voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the meaningful lyrics. Kerrie’s vocals will soothe your soul, and these lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus as He is the reason for the season. What’s most amazing about our Savior Jesus is that of all the ways He could have chosen to save us, He chose to come down and be the least among us and a suffering servant. The main message of the song is to hold on to Christ, as something better is coming. We need to sing “Rejoice, Rejoice!” and celebrate the birth of our King and Savior. Ask the Lord Jesus to look inside your heart and receive Him with a childlike wonder. That’s what Christmas is all about.
Hello, Grace! | Posted November-05-2020 What You Need to Know
Veteran trio Selah returns with Step Into My Story, a much-anticipated album following up 2019's Firm Foundation and 2017’s Unbreakable. Those albums featured the standout songs, "Let The Saints Sing" and "I Got Saved." Selah means “pause” in Hebrew. “Our band name means ‘to pause’ — we borrowed it from the Psalms, and it’s appropriate for us right now because we literally paused, reevaluated our past, thought through next steps and are moving forward with the most incredible team and fan base anyone could ask for,” says Selah’s Todd Smith. The group’s 16th album invites listeners to pause, reflect and share their own stories.
What it Sounds Like
From the beginning, Selah has had a desire to make music that matters, that stretches beyond entertainment and stretches the parameters of popular worship music. I greatly enjoy the stirring vocals, prayerful lyrics and the musical arrangements. This worshipful album captivates me with its honesty and stirring lyrics, especially the standout songs, “Step Into My Story,” “When They Hear It” and “Hello, Grace.”
I love how prayers and songs of praise are a communal experience that we can all share. I think the Lord wants us to long for Heaven. When we've been indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we have a personal relationship with the Comforter and a peace that surpasses understanding to know that this fallen world isn't all that we are living for, ultimately. “Hello, Grace” is a worshipful response to our Savior reflecting the blessed hope of someone who understands the Good News of grace. In this post-election haze, being reminded about grace will be more important than ever. Not only receiving grace but granting it to others. The song proclaims, “Hello, Grace, it’s good to see You, I thought I’d have to pray a thousand prayers to reach You, I shouldn’t be surprised, You’re right on time, the way You’ve always been through every chapter of my life, hello, Grace.”
Best Song on the Record
You can sincerely sing these prayerful lyrics, and cling to the truth of these powerful songs. There are several standout songs on the album. Many of the songs are arranged in a very sing-able and catchy style, such as "Step Into My Story" which is filled with great statements of faith. "When They Hear It" is yet another great song. The song has a great worshipful chorus with Selah singing "Sing it, shout it, there’s wonder-working power when they hear it, It changes nations, miracles will happen when they hear it." A song that I can’t get out of my head is "Hello, Grace" so I’ll highlight that song as the must-download track, but you’ll want the whole album.
Something I've long appreciated about Selah's music ministry is the focus on the Word of God in their lyrics, such as in their classics "Wonderful, Merciful Savior," "You Raise Me Up" and "Before the Throne of God Above." Continuing in their traditional style, Step Into My Story is comprised of a mix of song styles. There is newly written material like "Step Into My Story," "When They Hear It" and "Hello Grace," along with new recordings of the older hymns "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," "Nothing But the Blood" and "Shall We Gather At The River/The Water is Wide." There are also modern worship songs done in Selah's signature style, including a new arrangement of "Living Hope." If you’ve always enjoyed Selah’s contemporary style including vocal harmonizing and worshipful lyrics, you’ll love Step Into My Story which will have you singing loudly, “Hello, Grace!”
A Very Special Christmas | Posted October-22-2020 What You Need to Know
GRAMMY-nominated artist and multiple Dove Award-winner Francesca Battistelli has released her second solo Christmas album, This Christmas, on Oct. 23, which includes classics and newly-penned tunes. Since I first heard "Free to be Me" by Francesca Battistelli from My Paper Heart, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of her songs. After an eight year wait since her debut Christmas album, it’s exciting to hear new Christmas music from Francesca. This album was preceded by “Behold Him” as a radio single. The musical vibe of that song sets the tone for this exceptional album, which is not be missed.
What it Sounds Like
As a mother of five, this time of year is also extra special for Francesca and her family, and this album really celebrates that unique holiday spirit. Several of Francesca’s songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs that are deep in meaning and content and this album is no exception with jazz-styled and light-hearted classics such as “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “This Christmas.” So many people can relate to the messages of these songs. The standout songs also include a reverent recording of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and the beautiful “Messiah.” I'm moved by the prayerful song "Behold Him.” The song proclaims my heart's cry to worship our "Defender," Jesus. Francesca’s vocals are so strong and pure and the production on these ultra-catchy songs could easily be featured in mainstream music alongside top-selling artists.
Francesca has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. You'll be blessed by these powerful songs and the standout original anthems with convicting declarations including: “Born to seek and born to save/Born to take our pain away/God with us, Emmanuel/In His arms, all will be well,” in “Behold Him.” Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God, Emmanuel, is with you, always. The comfort and rest offered by Jesus is beautifully captured in “Messiah.” Franny beautifully depicts the message of identity that we all need to hear, “All we longed for/ all we needed; Shining in this child's eyes/Hope forever, death defeated/Because of this one holy night.”
Best Song on the Record
There are several personal songs that melt my heart, especially “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and “Messiah” and fun and upbeat recordings of “This Christmas,” December We’ll Remember,” and “Christmas Valentine.” The message of finding freedom in Christ is found in my favorite song, the stirring “Behold Him” which celebrates, “In your silent night/When you're not alright/Lift your eyes and behold Him/Feel the thrill of hope/You are not alone/In this moment behold Him.” Amen to that.
Franny has once again captivated me as this album features her unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." This Christmas showcases not only Franny's gifts as an artist, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. She is a great role model for girls and moms everywhere and consistently produces music that is both classic and fresh at the same time. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the meaningful lyrics found in these sacred and fun songs alike. Francesca’s vocals will soothe your soul, and many of the lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus as He is the reason for the season. Have yourself a very special Christmas.
Jason Gray’s Best Album | Posted October-15-2020 What You Need to Know
Ever since I heard Jason Gray's "Blessed Be," from his album, All the Lovely Losers, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of his songs. I'm always excited to hear new music from Jason. Last year, Jason released his EP, Order, the first of three EPs Jason Gray has released over a year’s time, mirroring the themes of the pandemic in many ways. The names of each EP are "Order," "Disorder," and "Reorder." Jason tells a story of the process of transformation in three volumes. Order featured the hit songs, "I'm Gonna Let it Go" and "Order Disorder Reorder." Disorder EP was preceded by the hit song, “Remind Me You’re Here.” Now, Reorder EP has released and was preceded by the hit song, “Glory Days” in conjunction with this full album release, Order, Disorder, Reorder. Jason Gray is an anointed songwriter and singer. He has a profound way of piercing my soul with his poignant words, tender singing, and inspirational truths. Like his previous releases, the album's central theme is about finding our identity in Christ, being honest and transparent with ourselves and others to allow God's grace to shine in our lives by demonstrating how in our weakness, His strength is made perfect.
What it Sounds Like
Gray can really write a hooky and truth-filled chorus and the single “Remind Me You’re Here” is catchy, relevant and worshipful like his previous hit songs “Remind Me Who I Am” and "Learning." The song is a great confession of faith. “Glory Days” is a gorgeous offering of praise to the only One who has power to save. It is a very sing-able song, and I love singing the joyful lyrics, “The hard times are where You get the best of me/Yeah, this is where we turn the corner/I’m becoming more than I ever dreamed/In the glory days of my reorder.” “Honesty” features Jason’s tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey like his heart-wrenching song, “Not Right Now.” Every lyric is sung about faith in our God Almighty sprinkled in with Jason’s clever and personal lyrics taking listeners on an emotional journey. If you’ve always liked Jason Gray’s brand of “gourmet” songs, this album will absolutely connect with you.
“Fight For You” reminds us, “The Lord will fight for you, You need only to be still, trust that God will fight for you.” Other spiritual highlights include “I'm Gonna Let It Go,” “Through,” “Remind Me You’re Here,” and “Glory Days.” “I'm Gonna Let It Go” gives me more conviction to not feel worthless or afraid. With many areas in our lives, we spend a lot of time worrying. We need to let that go and allow the Lord to be our redeemer. We all have lies that we believe about ourselves. Be free from those doubts about yourself. And sing, “Oh, 'cause if I trusted, I could move with Your flow/Being carried in the current of Your love/When I lean into Your arms, You're enough/So, I'm gonna let it, I'm gonna let it go.” Like previous Jason Gray albums, these songs are all filled with spiritual truth. The hope of the Gospel is heard loud and clear. “What the Hard Times Taught Me” ties the album’s theme of God’s never-ending faithfulness, grace and hope in the hard times that runs through the album.
Best Song on the Record
I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. "Order Disorder Reorder" is a great reminder that our circumstances do not define our joy. Our position in Christ and His unending faithfulness is worthy of our gratitude and adoration. This song gives me more conviction to not feel worthless or afraid. With many areas in our lives, we spend a lot of time worrying. So, let your worries go. Let the Lord be your redeemer. Those prayerful words capture the hopeful tone for these songs that are filled with the truth of God’s unending grace in our disorder. “Through” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart, “I can’t keep pretending everything’s okay, I need You to lead me through.” There are several stand-out songs, and my favorite song “Remind Me You’re Here” is a gorgeous offering of praise to the only One who has power to save. It is a very sing-able song, and I love singing the Book of Job-inspired introspective lyrics, “I won't ask You for reasons, 'Cause a reason can't wipe away tears, No, I don't need all the answers, Just be here beside me, Father, remind me You're here.”
With a probing spiritual curiosity and imaginative, self-examining lyrics, this album once again solidifies Gray’s place among the finest song crafters of his day. Gray’s poignant songwriting is coupled with musical excellence as each song urges me to better see God. This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. Jason invites you into his life in such an authentic and relatable way, you’ll feel like you are a lifelong friend after you hear this album. Once again, Jason has invited listeners into his story of faith. Each song features his unique brand of lyrical phrasing, embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." Jason is one of my favorite Christian music singer-songwriters. His songs are so emotional, vulnerable and authentic. If you like singer-songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves and sing about the truth of what it means to walk with God and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, then don't miss out on one of Christian music's most treasured artists. Order, Disorder, Reorder is Jason Gray’s best album and one of my top albums of the year.
Redemptive and Moving | Posted September-24-2020 What You Need to Know
Melanie Penn writes pop songs at the crossroads of faith and culture. A singer/songwriter now based in Manhattan, Melanie was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Falls Church, Virginia. Following several years in the theater scene, Penn’s attention turned to songwriting and becoming a solo artist. She started collaborating with producer Ben Shive and has released four albums, with More Alive Vol. 1 becoming her fifth project. It is exciting to hear new music from Melanie. This album was preceded by "I Want to Know You," "Don’t Worry," "He Will Redeem it All," "Avenue of the Americas" and the title track.
The musical vibe of those songs sets the tone for this exceptional album, which is not be missed. Melanie has once again captivated me as it features her unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." More Alive Vol. 1 showcases not only Melanie's gifts as a songwriter, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. She is a great role model for girls. This album is loaded with positive grace-filled messages of hope. Her songs address the pressures of life and she understands that true happiness and her identity only comes from her relationship with God.
What it Sounds Like
In the style of my favorite singer-songwriters, I can’t get enough of Melanie’s thought-provoking songs. Several of Melanie’s songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs that are deep in meaning and content and this album is no exception. So many people can relate to the messages of these songs. The standout songs also include “You’re Not Absent,” “Grace,” “One Word” and “When One Door Closes.” I'm moved by the prayerful song, "Thank You.”
All these songs and their dependence on God have perfectly poetic biblical descriptions of God and our identity in Him as His sons and daughters. So many people can relate to the messages of these songs. He is a God of infinite second chances. These songs are loaded with comforting messages that there is always hope. Breathe it in like oxygen, and God's hope will turn whatever you are going through into something different for His glory, a message we all need, especially during this pandemic. Melanie’s vocals are so strong and pure.
Melanie has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. You'll be blessed by these powerful songs which are all stand-out anthems with convicting declarations including: “Grace, is making us clean, Grace is setting us free, even someone like me, like you and me.” I get welled up as Melanie ends that song with that message of “Grace.” The message of “I Want to know You” is based on several biblical truths, including Philippians 3:8: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God is with you, always. The comfort and rest offered by Jesus is beautifully captured in “He Will Redeem it All.” Melanie beautifully depicts the message of our blessed hope that God is making all things new that we all need to hear, “But through it all my hope is in the one/Who says all pain will be undone/We’ll never cry again/And in the end/He will redeem it all.”
Best Song on the Record
This album is filled with several of my new favorite songs by Melanie Penn. I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that’s every song. “I Want to Know You” stirs my heart and increases my convictions to grow closer to God during my worship and devotional time. We all love our comforts, and this song challenges me to think more of others and to share Christ more than to focus on myself. The cost of discipleship is to make Him the Lord of our lives. One of my daily devotionals in trying to grow in my walk with Jesus is to sing to Him at least one praise song every day. I suggest we spend time with the Lord and try praying and singing along with this great song of praise and adoration. The lyrics of this song completely wreck me: “Everything I have/I’d give it all away/Count it all as loss/Compared to what I’ve gained.”
I actually can’t listen to “One Word” or “He Will Redeem it All” without welling up, and you’ll get emotionally swept up in “One Word’s” lyrics which takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear the song. These anthems are the cry of my heart with the much-needed call to action messages for Christians looking at the injustice around us. You’ll raise your hands and voice and sing along, “In an ocean of chaos/And in the waves of doubt/With one word/You’re gonna drown it out.” “Don’t Worry” is another standout anthem, reminding us that “Every bird on a wing or any flower that grows/Is never anxious for a single thing/My confidence is in the only One who can know How to give me everything I need in.”
I absolutely love Melanie’s intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a tender voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. These songs all have biblically-based lyrics that poignantly capture life's simple yet vital messages. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs that are redemptive and moving. Melanie’s vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. There are several personal songs that melt my heart. If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, More Alive Vol. 1 is for you. I have three daughters, and this is a solid upbeat pop album with positive biblical messages which is a great alternative to mainstream pop artists. This is one of my top albums of the year in any genre.
Profound Worship | Posted September-23-2020 What You Need to Know
Following a five year wait after her album Be One, it’s exciting to hear new music from Natalie Grant. Following her hit song, “My Weapon,” she has released No Stranger, her tenth studio album. The album showcases Natalie’s shimmering, emotion-laden voice. Natalie has consistently impressed me with her mature faith, and a sincere desire for the presence of God. These songs are ultimately about proclaiming our dependence on God, which stir my heart, mind and soul to seek Jesus in this coronavirus pandemic that we are all facing.
What it Sounds Like
From the beginning, Natalie Grant has had a desire to make music that matters, that stretches beyond entertainment and stretches the parameters of popular worship music. She strives to be a listener first, and then to create music that reflects the Gospel and communicates honest experiences in a fresh and artful way. Natalie slays me with her confessional and prayerful vocal style.
This very worshipful album continues Natalie’s desire to provide words for the church to sing about our Lord, to edify and build up believers with her anointed voice and transparent faith. Several songs are in the worshipful style of “Your Great Name” such as “Face to Face,” “My Weapon,” “Who Else,” “Isn’t He (This Jesus),” “No Stranger” and “Presence of the King.”
“Face to Face” beautifully sets the tone for this worshipful offering with Natalie’s signature powerful and emotive singing style. You’ll be raising your heart and hands in worship along with the song. This can be gorgeous background music, but don't miss out on what Natalie has to say in each song. I can’t get enough of the lyrics in the chorus: “Here I am, I’m reaching out/I need You always oh I need You now/My hope is found in Your embrace/Hand in hand until we stand face to face.”
"My Weapon" is one of the most inspirational songs I've ever heard. It encourages me. Being a Christian means that we walk by faith, not by sight. Faith requires people to rely on the unseen. We walk by faith every day. The beauty of walking by faith and not by sight is that we can learn to trust God more with our lives. The grace and promise that God is with us, proclaimed ultimately in the lyrics, “Your presence is my greatest weapon/Pushing back the darkness/Breaking every chain.” This message is what really moves me and guides me in my Christian walk.
"Even Louder" is a song, a prayer, and a call for revival in our hearts. Believers can all sing: "Even if the drum stops beating/My soul will keep on singing/Even louder, even louder/Even when my eyes can't see it/I will sing till I believe it/Even louder, even louder."
Best Song on the Record
“No Stranger” has quickly become one of my personal worship anthems, and I hear in her stellar vocals a sincere yearning for Jesus and thankfulness in her heart for God's mercy and grace. I'm completely convicted by the strong lyrics and find immense comfort in this song filled with biblical truth. I am especially comforted by the truth of the lyrics: “You are no stranger to the grave/You laid still beneath its weight/But You have conquered death’s domain/You have rescued me from shame/And here I am, a soul You saved/Redemption’s mine, and mine always/I am Yours for all eternity/For I’m no stranger, no stranger Lord to Thee/No stranger Lord to Thee.” Amen to that.
Every song will have you hanging on each word that Natalie tenderly sings. Her vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. This is a completely worshipful album. There are several personal songs that melt my heart. Natalie has blessed listeners by writing and singing such piercing and moving songs.
Natalie writes and sings songs with an amazing passion and with unashamed praise and gratitude to our Savior that is very inspiring and emotionally moving. This album soothes, moves and challenges listeners. Don’t miss this profound worship experience. No Stranger is a worshipful offering with compelling music and lyrics and stellar singing. Give the album a few deep listens and you'll love it. I hang on every single word and the stirring vocals, prayerful lyrics and musical arrangements are breath-taking.
Personal and worshipful | Posted September-17-2020 What You Need to Know
For worship leader and speaker Tasha Layton, the road to discovering her artistry has been a long, exhilarating one. And the journey that’s led her to the present has been hard, exciting, painful and incredible all at the same time. From her small-town roots to being on the road with Katy Perry and working as an in-demand session singer in L.A. to moving to Nashville and recording her debut Christian album, Love Running Wild in 2019, Tasha’s story is as vibrant and strong as the singer herself. Into the Sea is her follow-up release and was preceded by the stirring title track.
What it Sounds Like
Into the Sea is best described as an intimate personal worship experience with an inspirational and uplifting tone. The album tells the story of redemption and relying on God’s plans being higher than our plans as each song gives a glimpse of how Tasha offers her Psalm-like prayers to God. The reflective opener is a wonderful prayer-song capturing Tasha’s heart for God, allowing us to eavesdrop on her deep thoughts and musings about God’s goodness. Tasha’s engaging music and thought-provoking lyrics are something to truly savor, and her powerful vocals will remind you of some of my favorite up and coming artists, Riley Clemmons, Leanna Crawford and Caitie Hurst, both in vocal tone and subject matter.
A sincere desire for the presence of God and to see His Kingdom on earth is found in every song. Each of her songs are about proclaiming her dependence on God throughout this stirring album, which stirs my heart, mind and soul to bow before Jesus, our Savior. God’s promises us in His Word that His mercies are new every morning. Whatever situation you are facing you can know that God is with you, always. That truth is tenderly portrayed in “Good Things” as she prays, “I know that You have good things planned for me.” Many of the lyrics in “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be Ok)” give me words to pray such as “Though the mountains may be moved into the sea/Though the ground beneath might crumble and give way/I can hear my Father singing over me/It’s gonna be ok,” which is especially comforting in this time of anxiety as we all face this pandemic together. These songs give insight into Tasha’s walk as a fellow believer.
Best Song on the Record
I generally rank my favorite songs based on how they move me emotionally. On this album, that's the acoustic recording of “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be Ok),” which I can't listen to without welling up. Tasha’s emotive and powerful vocals take listeners on an emotional journey that gives me goose bumps every time I hear the song, filled with truth. I also can’t get enough of the tender acoustic version of “Safe Here” and I lift my eyes and heart to Heaven every time I hear the song. You can sincerely sing these prayerful lyrics, and cling to the truth of these powerful songs. Every song will have you hanging on each word that Tasha tenderly sings. Her vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus.
Tasha Layton is an anointed singer-songwriter, and she has a profound way of examining the deeper feelings buried in my heart and bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths. If you are looking for the words to express your feelings to God in times of hurting and pain, these songs are a wonderful companion. All the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful. The songs express her prayers to God allowing listeners to eavesdrop on her vertical offerings and captivating ballads, one of Tasha’s strengths. I get welled up singing along with several of the emotion-laden songs. Tasha’s tender and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings. She invites listeners into her life by sharing what's on her heart. She has captivating and catchy songs filled with inspirational lyrics. Tasha brings sincerity and relatable themes that get deeper with each listen. This is truly a moving and prayerful album.
Album of the Year | Posted August-26-2020 What You Need to Know
South Carolina's Grammy-nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE hooked me 14 years ago with their major-label debut Daylight, which featured the single "Shine On." My takeaway review comments were "Great album. Even better group." Since then, the band has managed to improve their craft with each album, garner an opening slot for Taylor Swift, play on late-night television, and collaborate with Gavin DeGraw on one of their biggest hits to date, "Brother," from my Top Album of 2014, Rivers in the Wasteland. That album earned a Grammy nomination for "Multiplied" and features the standout song “Difference Maker.”In their album H A R D L O V E—my Top Album of 2016—the band subtly includes the reference to the dance of life in a few contexts, taking us on the journey of life lessons learned in "HARD LOVE." After a four-year wait, the band is returning with the full-length album Out of Body in August 2020.
What it Sounds Like
This long-awaited new studio album has captivated my spirit. The album includes standout recordings like the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthems “Hang On,” “Alive” and “Survival,” along with the reflective vibe of “Who Am I,” “Banks” and “Seasons.” I have long been hooked by their enthusiastic songs, layered with a southern rock musical vibe. I've felt the band has improved with each new album. I can’t get enough of the emotional vocals and the sincere, enthusiastic and thought-provoking lyrics throughout the album, which has echoes of Rivers in the Wasteland both in content and musical vibe as the band has undergone a transformation to a trio-Bear Rinehart [vocals, guitar], Seth Bolt [bass, vocals], and Josh Lovelace [keys, vocals].
We're fearfully, wonderfully and perfectly made, which is expressed in the standout “Who Am I”: “Somehow You really love who I really am/I push You away/Still You won’t let go…Who am I to be loved by You? It's clear that the themes of relying on God's grace and mercy and seeking and speaking truth flows throughout this excellent album, highlighted by several of my new favorite songs, “Mercy’s Shore,” “Alive,” “Hang On,” and “Banks.” You'll be hooked right from the opening notes of "Mercy’s Shore," which really sets the tone for this album. As Christians, we can all relate to the vulnerable and sincere crying out: "One day we’ll wash up on mercy’s shore!”
Best Song on the Record
“Who Am I” is a daily prayer, asking God to come and change our hearts and our lives. Only Jesus can give us our identity. What a powerful expression of what it means to accept that God never leaves or forsakes us. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, inspirational lyrics throughout the album. There are several standout songs I can’t wait to hear in concert including “Alive,” “Survival” and “Riding High.” If you've always enjoyed NEEDTOBREATHE’s soulful anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat rockers and reflective songs. Many of these songs express my emo feelings, and yet remind me that I wasn't made for this world. These songs will have you singing along in one listen. “Banks” connects deeply with the lyrics, “I wanna be there when the darkness closes in/To make the truth a little clearer/I wanna hold you close but never hold you back/I'll be the banks for your river.”
NEEDTOBREATHE consistently makes songs that remind us to get to that place where we're in humble submission to God. Don't play it safe. Ask for God to be real in your life. You'll never see true beauty if you don't fully submit to God. This is one of my top albums of the year from both the Christian and mainstream music markets. They have long been my favorite band. I truly enjoy their entire catalog and especially their stand-out hit songs "Something Beautiful," "Happiness" and "Multiplied." If you like those songs, you'll love this new album. Out of Body is one of the catchiest, most energetic and emotionally engaging albums I've heard this year and is my album of the year.