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Presents The Christmas Classics EP by House Of Heroes Presents The Christmas Classics EP by House Of Heroes
In lieu of last year's turning point for the band, House of Heroes has been doing their darnedest to make sure you remember them, all through a series of three 3-song EPs. First it was acoustic, then it...
Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant by FF5 (formerly Family Force 5) Family Force 5's Christmas Pageant by FF5 (formerly Family Force 5)
It seems that every year I hear yet another person expressing their hate for Christmas music. After all, it's the same classics spelled the same different ways, by the same voices. For these people, there's...
Hello Hurricane by Switchfoot Hello Hurricane by Switchfoot
I'll admit it. After such a long drought of a solid album (their whole career), and the recent draught of even a decent album (Since 'Beautiful Letdown'), I kind of gave up on Switchfoot. Add to that the...

The Lights Are Blinding With This One | Posted July-20-2008
Looking at reviews for this album, I noticed several similarities between them. Not only were they overwhelming positive, but there were comparisons to Anberlin and Relient K, and it was definitely my style of music. So I had to check out this album. And let me say, that folks, the critics are overwhelmingly right on this one. No ifs, ands, or buts, just wows and whoas. This is the next big thing and they certainly have the debut to show for it.

In describing the sound of this band, it would be accurate to say they're a cross of the best elements of Anberlin and Relient K, with a little bit of Metro Station mixed in for extra fun, with hints of Yellowcard. It's pop rock at some of its best. And even though these songs aren't exactly catchy by themselves, you'll remember the general feel of the song, and pick up the chorus after you hear the album a few times.

Picking a favorite track off this album is rather hard to do, because you could basically come to any point in the record and say, "that's an awesome track." But that isn't exactly the best of news for DJ's, which need single material, and none of these songs really stand out as singles that could rock radio out all summer long. So I can see it hard to grow a fan base for this band unless somebody picks up the record, or probably sees them in concert.

This album is all about rock melodies, and they are plenty to be had. The music very pleasing, very rockin', and embodies emotions and feelings. They do sound like something that Yellowcard, The Starting Line or Boys Like Girls would do, but haven't done, which strangely gives this an almost original feel. Maybe it's because these sounds have never sounded this good combined before.

Vocally, all of it is perfect for the songs and the band. It helps give the band their trademark sound. And while I would like a little bit more vocal variety, it all seems to work, just like the rest of the album. But wait, it does change a bit vocally on the electronic/synth extravaganza that is "Mile Away." That song also provides very pleasing lyrics like the rest of the album. And while nothing really seems to stand out one-on-one, it all stands as one and does provide glimpses of really great lyrics, although what is here isn't anything to sneeze at either. Again, it all works.

Overall, while no track exactly stands out, all of them mesh into a cohesive and amazing record. A truly wondrous debut not matched in ages, if ever. It's certainly one of the best albums of the year in any genre, Christian or Mainstream. It all flows, it all rocks, it's fun, it's well-done, well-written and just plain amazing. One thing is for sure, Capital Lights will have a truly wonderful journey ahead of them, and I can't wait to see what they'll throw at us next.

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The 2nd Best Book | Posted July-08-2008
I have read and finished this book. The only book better than this is the Bible. This author is definitely the torch carrier for God. There is no other book on the market today like it. I will carry this book with my Bible. It reveals truths from God no other book has. I am surprised that this book is not a bestseller. Pick up this book and your relationship with God will never be the same again.

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TobyMac: Bringing The Energy | Posted July-08-2008
Concert CD's are a bit hit or miss. Most can succeed by drawing the listener into the audience, and make them part of the experience, with the energy, sing-a-longs and the like. However, if you just do a straight up live CD and don't try to bring the energy or new material, you'll flop every time. Thankfully, when it comes to Christian Music Mistro TobyMac, you don't have to worry about a lack of energy.

During uptempo songs, he'll be jumping on the stage, in the air, and in the concert's most satisfying moment, into the crowd. And it's not just Toby; his band is as energetic and get their party on just as easy, and every member gets their moment. I especially enjoyed Toby's guitarist, Tim Rosenau, with his great work on the guitar and the trumpet. He looked like he was having a pretty good time, getting into the action and the energy, all while strumming at the guitar.

But, to experience this high energy atmosphere, you have to watch the DVD, because this energy is only amplified by the camera works that zips, zooms, jumps, and then zooms again. It's like everybody took a can of Red Bull before starting the concert.

There are some problems with the collection though. You might listen to just the CD portion, maybe twice when you own this collection, even if you're a hardcore Mac fan. By the contrast, the CD actually seems a bit sleepy, and a bit devoid of a jolt. But even if you watch the DVD, there are a few songs that just don't translate to this live CD. "Boomin'" was meant to be boomin' out your car studio in full surround sound stereo in your car. Live, it just sounds like it's missing something.

The song selection is pretty good. All the hits, and a few favorites from DC Talk. However, all those songs you didn't really care for on the albums, your opinion isn't likely to change on them with this CD. While I did like "J-Train" a little better, I only liked that crazy energy with the others.

But wait, that isn't all, I must either criticize the audience, or the sound guy, because when Toby had the crowd sing along to a couple songs, the crowd sounded pretty weak. Whether the mike just didn't catch it, or this was a Monday concert, we might never know.

Overall, a must for Mac fans. It's energetic and you get the feel when you're watching the DVD. And while the CD won't serve you much use, the DVD will be your companion for all those sleepy study nights. I don't know what TobyMac will do next, but he always seems to have something new up his sleeve, and it's usually something pretty good. But next re-mix CD, is going to have a lot of ground to cover.

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Freedom, Justice, America and... Taco Bell | Posted July-03-2008
Ever since I listened to "Mmhmm" back in 2004, my musical eyes have been opened to a whole new light, and things never were the same for me again. I sought out everything Relient K has done, and bought just about every album of theirs ever released. And what I couldn't buy, I borrowed and searched. Now, Relient K comes out with not only their most ambitious EP yet, but also their most ambitious project yet. Does it disappoint? Please, this is Relient K, they NEVER disappoint.

The Nashville Tennis EP:

"Where Do I Go From Here" starts the CD off with banjo's, before quickly shifting into punk blazing guitars. "The Scene and Heard" is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it seems like it was made for MySpace, which is not a good thing, but on the other hand, it really showcases Matty T's sharp lyrics that never slow or let up. In the end, the song thinks it's better than it really is, and ends up one of the overall weaker tracks on the CD. "At Least We Made It This Far" continues the much-appreciated of great segways in-between songs, which really makes the album flow together in a cohesive fashion. The song itself is amazingly written, and seems like a cover of a Bob Dylan song or something. The melody only helps the song.

Don't turn skip the next song, it IS Relient K, and it is not Ace Troubleshooter reborn, nope, welcome to a new experiment. Relient K so chock full of talent aside from Matt Thiessen, they're basically The Beatles, with Paul, Ringo and the rest waiting in the wings itching to show they're equally amazing. And guess what they are. John Warne does an amazing job here, and makes me actually want Ace Troubleshooter to come back from the musical grave.

"The Lining is Silver" is an unknowing plug to Rilo Kiley, and is classic Relient K. It's fun, catchy, rockin' and happy, and sure to please all fans. "There Was No Thief" is a regrouping of "The Thief" from "The Apathetic EP." The original was underwhelming, and the weakest track from that release. Here, it's redone, redesigned, rearranged just plain made better. It ends up as one of the stronger tracks of this release, and wins the award for most improved song of the year.

"No Reaction" is Ethan Luck's introduction to Relient K, which is a cornucopia of punk and ska, a tribute to his roots while looking forward to his future. Matthew Hoopes also gets in on the act, with his long-awaited solo singing debut in a song that he duets with Matt T. who the song must be about, since they've been with each other since the beginning. A great effort by Hoopes and hopefully we'll here a lot more from him in the future.

"There Was Another Time In My Life" is very unfortunately long-titled and repetitive, but great music saves it from a shallow fate. "Beaming" is a short tribute to the band's earlier pop culture reference days, and guess what, they're still as clever as ever, if not more so. "I Just Want You To Know" fits perfectly with the Spring/Summer sound of the album with its sunny melody, and cheerful lyrics.

Lastly on this portion, Jon Schneck (love that name :) brings "The Nashville Tennis EP" out with a stunning bang that is the most epic and jam-packed you can get in a minute and thirty seconds. It's a mix of country and bluegrass, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, and that's not all folks. There's also a Tennessee-sized oblige packed with hilarity & laughter. It's great to see the guys haven't lost their humor after all these years... And then there's the Bees. There's buzzing, bee voices, and did I mention Bees? Sadly, Jerry Seinfeld is absent from this track. :(

The Bird and the Bee Sides:

A Relient K Fan's dream CD. All these rare songs you haven't been able to attain, listen to, or shell out the money for. In my quest for everything Relient K, I've heard most of these songs before. Except of course everything from The Vinyl Countdown, which nobody could have heard unless they had a vinyl player. The great thing about all these songs is that they're remastered, which almost makes them sound like they were recorded yesterday. And boy, you can tell the difference.

From "The Creepy EP," you have the amazing "Jefferson Airplane," which is different from the original in the fact that the chorus is distinctly changed. This version itself is completely amazing and certainly one of the best Relient K has ever done. However, if you want the rest of the amazing tracks from this EP, you'll still have to keep looking. But more on that later.

On the other hand from "Employee of the Month EP," you have all its songs. "Wit's All Been Done Before" benefits very well from the remastering, offering a great number with great lyrics and awesome punk/rock sound. "For The Band" is another fun number which showcases the earlier sound of the band, and somebody named Chris who has developed a severe disliking for everything related to Relient K. Haters... Gotta hate them. "A Penny Loafer..." is a light little ditty which makes no sense lyrically, but turns out to somehow be a tribute to the Beach Boys.

"The Vinyl Countdown" is probably the most exiting of this release, because it has never really been heard before. "The Vinyl Countdown," (the title track), is fun ode to the changing formats of music storage, with a special fondness for the vinyl disc. "Nothing Without You" is little bit more hardcore than an early fan would expect. It's a strange mix, but it somehow seems to work, although it is a little repetitive. "Five Iron Frenzy..." is a strange and short tribute to a band which disbanded a few years ago, which I've actually never heard. But I guess Relient K liked them, so that's good enough for me.

As for the other tracks, I got the acoustic version of "Up and Up" when I pre-ordered "Five Score..." from Wal-Mart. It's a great take on the song, and it adds a little bit more depth to an already amazing song. "Hope For Every Fallen Man," is an acoustic version of "Fallen Man" which was on "Must Have Done Something Right EP." The acoustic version was most commonly found on a pre-order of "Five Score..." from Best Buy. I personally think the acoustic version gets a lot closer to the heart of the song and its lyrics. And if you really look at the lyrics close enough, you'll find something really powerful in there.

Along with all those tracks, you get two unreleased tracks. "Here I Go" fits perfectly with Relient K's modern sound. "The Stenographer" is a musical hodgepodge, with pianos and electronic 80's vocals. It's pretty funky, and reminds me of something you might hear in Indie Music.

My most major complaint about this album is strangely the lack of songs. Sure, it has 26 songs, but they could have easily had 10 more! From the songs they left off from "The Creepy EP," including the moving rendition of "Softer To Me," their cover of "Sloop John B," the promised demo version of "Sadie Hawkins Dance," and their "live" version of "Breakdown." They could have easily done a double-disc album, but instead they put 26 songs on one disc. Not complaining, just saying.

Overall, Relient K, like Tiger Woods, is never satisfied with a good thing, and they strive to always improve. So far, and with this release, they never cease to amaze on the fact that they never stop getting better. And even though this CD does have its faults and cracks, they're not big enough to damage California, but they might break your mother's back. This release will be cornerstone for Relient K's future, and I can't wait to see what comes next for the band, because there's no telling just what they'll do.

By the way, my most prized possession in my Relient K collection is the vinyl release of "Mmhmm." Incredibly rare, and so incredibly awesome. And I have NRT to thank for it!!!

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For Those Who Don't Listen To Lyrics | Posted November-19-2007
There's almost nothing worse than a political artist i.e. Dixie "We hate George Bush" Chicks, Kanye "George Bush hates black people" West. The problem is we listen to music to get away from the troubles of the world i.e. politics. Do it once, we skip. Do it twice, we drop. The thing is the listener isn't going to agree, and with political matters the artist isn't likely to budge anybody. So what's the point? My point exactly.

Derek Webb's whole album is nothing but controversial politics. Sure the guy makes great beats, but for anybody that's lyric conscious, you won't touch this album with a 10-foot pole. It's a grinchy album for grinchy people like Mr. Webb. Good music, bad lyrics.

Note: The music also doesn't fit. An upbeat song about torture doesn't work.

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The Greatest Holiday Album of All Time | Posted November-18-2007
Next to Charlie Brown, this is a must have for your Christmas collection, because if you listen to any Christmas album nowadays, they all seem the same, no deph, no substance, what you see is what you get, and what you've heard a million times before. This album on the other hand, defies all conventional Christmas music logic, because I guarantee you Harry Connick Jr. never put out a song that had lyrics like, "Rudolph's puking ball of holly, and ole St. Nick ain't all that jolly."

For those of you who are long-time Relient K fans, and got their Deck The Halls CD back in the day (a few years ago), you already have half the album. Unfortunately, I became a fan like most, after listening to MMHMM, therefore, we never had a copy of the CD, I had listened to most of it in various places, but it still remains one the most elusive Relient K Cd's I don't have. So, the packaging together benefits people like me who did not own the previous CD.

The first song off this album might not be the most eye-catching song off the album, but it's nice in it's own little way. "Sleigh Ride" is great on this album, but even better live with the whole experience the band creates for the audience. The song starts off a little jazzy and slow, than to its normal pace, than it rockets toward the finish in true Relient K fashion.

Song like "12 Days of Christmas," "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" are what made their first Christmas album such a success, amazingly Christmas music seems to be the only time of the year when rock is not openly welcomed, well, that's not the case here. These songs are short punk-rock styled Christmas classics, and they work brilliantly. Why hasn't anybody done this before? "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' For Christmas" is a new addition that seems to go perfect with this group of songs, with this fast-paced novelty. The best part is the little part at the end of the song, listen for it, Santa Clause is mad.

The before mentioned "Santa Clause Is Thumbing To Town" is truly a Relient K original, and while not one you'll want to carol to the local nursing home, it's a fun blasting stereo listen. "Handel's Messiah" is great for any time of the year, since the first 20 seconds is the hallelujah chorus, and perfect for any triumphant moment. However, there's a tale of two sides of the album, in that it goes from punk-rock to emotional stunning ballads, and back again. This is my biggest quibble about the album: the flow.

"Merry Christmas, Here's To Many More" is a great song with heart, soul, and hope for the holidays. A perfect original by the band. The melody of Silent Night and Away in a Manger is perfect together, and is a sweet ballad that really showcases Matt Thiessen's vocal talents. The next song flows into another great Christmas original that really puts the focus on Christ, but really shines in the last 30 seconds. "In Like A Lion (Always Winter)" isn't really a Christmas song, as much as it is a winter song. Written for the mediocre album inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia movie, but rejected, the band put it on Apathetic EP, and now finally two years later, on its first full length album. A bit out of place, but still nice nonetheless.

"I Hate Christmas Parties" is a very emotional song about a breakup at Christmas time. I wonder if something like it really happened, because the emotion really seeps through Matt Thiessen's voice. "Boxing Day" is a somber song about the boxing of Christmas lights, reflection of the past year, and the hope of a new one, "Christmas, it makes way for spring." This is a great New Year's song, and really conveys the thoughts you have when Christmas is over, a new year is upon you, and you stop and think where you've been since the last time.

Before I rant on the flow of this album, among other things, let me just say, skip tracks 16 and 17, because there really is no point to them. Anyways, this album is not a Christmas album, as much as it is a Holiday album, from Christmas to New Year's, and maybe a little after.

This album in terms of song quality is second to none, the album quality on the other hand, is rushed. While 1, 2, 3 flow fine, as does 7, 8, 9, they belong at the end of the album, instead of going fast, slow, slow, fast. This method doesn't leave any room for the listener to get into the music, there's no flow of emotion flowing throughout the album, it's visible here and there, but it's quickly interrupted. I would have greatly liked the album to flow a whole lot better, and in my book keeps it from being the best Christmas album ever, Holiday album yes, but not Christmas. Sorry, Charlie Brown keeps that distention another year longer. Good Grief.

So pick up the album, even if you have Deck The Halls, because the new songs are truly worth it. If you don't own that album, this is a must-have. To not listen or buy, would be a crime.

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Now That's The Jars of Clay I Fell In Love With | Posted October-09-2007
Your wild Christmas party is starting to slow down, everybody's is getting over their party mood, and starting to settle down, maybe they're feeling the Christmas love, maybe they're taking in the festive atmosphere. You just finished your new Relient K Christmas album, so what do you put in for your quieting party? What do you put on to set a mood for love, reflection, peace, and some time with God? Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay.

As with any great Christmas album, this is mixed with a few of new tracks, along a few old classic that set your clock back to the day of ole, and there's a quite a few classics that you won't remember, but this album changes that.

The first classic is "Wonderful Christmastime" originally done by Sir Paul McCartney. You know you've heard it, it kind of has a electronic flavoring? Well this version differentiates itself by having a more piano flavoring to it. But what really makes it a classic version is Dan Haseltine's amazing, soothing vocals. It also smoothly integrates "We Three Kings" into the song.

"Love Came Down At Christmas" is a great original tune with it's folk feel, and great instrumental work. "Hibernation Day" is the highlight of the album with it's soft musical style. A sweet snow-day lovesong, this is a great piece of work by Jars of Clay, both vocally, and musically. "Peace Is Here" is another amazing song, with it's epic type buildup, leading up to a magnificent chorus. In fact, the whole song is epic in it's nature, lyrically, vocally, musically.

It's from this point on that the album really starts slowing down, especially with tracks like "Evergreen" which are great for sitting in a comfy chair drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying a nice crackling fire.

Remember the excellent "Drummer Boy" album that came out about ten years ago by the band? The one that built up the anticipation for this album so much? Well the track are here too, but reinterpreted. "Drummer Boy" now has a constant drum sound throughout the song, giving a whole new feel to the song.

With a label change, Jars of Clay enters a whole new era for the band. And what a way to kick it off, the album is simply amazing. A array of emotions fill the album, but as in songs like "In The Bleak Midwinter," the focus is never taken off of God.

This album is really about the finer things of the Christmas season, not about presents, and food, but of love, peace, reflection, and God. You could even say this album's theme is the true meaning of Christmas. So when looking on the shelves of the music store, and you're clouded with the fragments materialism, commercialism, party planning, and other things, just look for the album with the shining star in a Rockwellian portrait. The cover says it all.

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Galaxy Conquered | Posted October-01-2007
The genre of Pop/Punk is very crowded i.e. Relient K, Stellar Kart. In this genre, bands like Eleventyseven were lost in the crowd, so they totally changed their sound. The result is an amazing CD that might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it's original.

"Love In Your Arms" is probably the highlight of the CD, and like the rest of the CD it is a great ringtone song. I mean the rock mixed with electronic is something never heard in CCM. The new sound is continued in "Happiness," but only every once in a while. The band has matured enough to keep things interesting and catchy throughout the whole album. "How It Feels (To Be With You)" is a well crafted song that builds up interest until unleashing on the chorus, satisfying to the utmost.

"It's Beautiful" is a great radio acoustic song, and it really shows the band's maturity. The lowlight is "12 Step Programs" which isn't bad, it just doesn't have the feel of the rest of the album, and feels out of place. "Conan" on the other hand is a great candidate for best pop culture reference song of the year. I first thought the song was about Conan The Barbarian, but it's actually Conan O' Brien (the guy who's taking over the Tonight Show). I won't spoil the lyrics, but they'll make you laugh. And the most surprising thing is they haven't been a guest on the guy's show. I mean they make a song about him, and he doesn't even care.

My personal favorite song off the album is "Galaxies Collide," a heavy electronic song in the style of HelloGoodbye, in that it's a electronic voice lovesong. The chorus is great, and the music is the most refreshing in years.

Overall, a must-have for anybody looking for original Christian music. The style is great and Eleventyseven have really found their niche. I mean, nobody else does it, and they do it perfectly. I would love to see the style throughout their next album, but this is one of my favorites for the year.

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A Thousand Times Better Than The Previous Foot Krutch | Posted September-26-2007
The most noticeable change right off the bat is less screaming, and less anger. Sure there's still lots of emotion, it's just less angry. You're not going to find any songs like "Rawkfist" or "Hit The Floor," but there's still some harder rock, i.e. "Falls Apart," "My Own Entity," and "Inhuman." These songs and others are usual TFK fare. Sure they might be toned down just a bit, and depending on your love for the group, this is either good or bad.

The lowest point in the album is "Broken Wing" which is a... well, I don't know what it is. But it doesn't work. "The Safest Place" comes a close second with the strange voice in the background. I won't even try to figure out what noise he's making.

Sure, TFK had slower songs like "Breathe You In," but this album completely departs from that, and has a good 3 songs that are slow. And when I say good, I mean great. If you haven't heard this album, imagine Trevor McNeven singing with violins in the background, in a slow and steady song, with, get this, acoustic instruments. WHOA! That's different. The change in my eyes is very welcome, and breaks TFK out of their hard rock shell. The results are excellent.

"What Do We Know" is supposed to be about the recent disasters in the world, and about how God's in control, and we're not. The result comes out interesting. The chorus gets repetitive, and the children's choir in the background is very out of place for a TFK album. But the musical style is great. It's very similar to another song on the album, which brings us to.

The HIGHLIGHT! 15 seconds after "Wish You Well," comes literally, "The Last Song." This is the best serious hidden track of all time. It's better than the whole album, combined, for me at least. The lyrics, the vocals, the musical style, the catchiness all succeed in amazing ways, and makes for the most surprising and best track of the record.

Hopefully it isn't the last song for TFK. They hit their stride in this album, and it'll please long time fans. The new shift with some of the songs is a breath of fresh air, and there's enough hard rock for the TFK fans. Disappointment on anybody's part? Nope. If you don't like hard rock, get the album off of I-Tunes. If you do, buy it, you won't be disappointed in the least bit.

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David Crowder Comes Full Circle | Posted September-24-2007
Great modern, inventive worship music is hard to come by these days, after all, it seems like you've heard it all before. But all that changed when David Crowder Band first hit shelves. And this release finally cements his place in CCM history. From start to finish, this is the best praise and worship album of the past two years, no contest. Yeah, it's that good.

For those of you who were fans of "A Collision" this is not B Collision. In fact, this album takes the best parts of the first section of "A", and cranks it up to 11, for ten songs. All the songs are number 1 hit material, but it doesn't feel like it. Every song has that Crowder touch to them, and they stick in your head long after listening.

"The Glory of It All" is your typical church worship song, it immediately sets up a worshipful mood, only to move to more of a youth group praise song with "Can You Feel It." "Everything Glorious" is a simple and catchy song, that's pretty lite in feel. It has a pretty great easy listening feel to it in the car. "...Neverending..." has the feel of "Forever and Ever etc" from the last album, which is weird, because it's basically the same type of song, and the same basic message.

But where Crowder really shines in this album is the ballad type songs like "You Never Let Go." These type of songs have a great feel to them, and Crowder really takes the cake here letting his vocals really shine, but never taking the glory off of God.

"O, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing" has that familiar element too since it's a classic hymn. This is a great update, and the listener is never lost in the song.

It's hard to pick a highlight, but "We Won't Be Quiet" is a good pick. It's a great upbeat tune that is a jumble from every element from the last album, minus "I Saw The Light". However, it's so good, it could have lasted longer, like the rest of the album.

Overall, if you're looking for some fresh worship music, look here. It's probably the best of the past two years. The whole album continually carries a hint of familiarity, yet makes every song new at the same time. I only buy a praise and worship album if it's one that's truly original, and redefines the genre, and this album certainly fits that criteria. Expect it in my CD collection very soon.

The last line from the album is "The whole world is about to change." Well, I can't argue with that, especially after they listen to "Remedy." It raises the bar for all praise and worship albums to come.

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