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Native Tongue by Switchfoot Native Tongue by Switchfoot
What You Need To Know:
Beyond Here by Salt Of The Sound Beyond Here by Salt Of The Sound
What You Need To Know:
Greater Than (Live) by Gateway Worship Greater Than (Live) by Gateway Worship
What You Need To Know:
Not long after the launch of Gateway Church in the year 2000, 

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Love Is (Still) The Movement | Posted January-16-2019
What You Need To Know:

Switchfoot. A name that needs no introduction to music fans - christian, mainstream, rock, alternative or whatever other genre they might fit into. A hiatus announced in December 2017 cast doubt over what may come next for the San Diego band, but late 2018 brought a sigh of relief and an announcement of their 11th (!) full length album. Here to launch 2019 with a bang is Native Toungue, and it's vintage Switchfoot with sprinkles of the creativity they are known for. 


What It Sounds Like:

Native Tongue sounds like you'd expect Jon, Tim, Chad, Drew, Chad, and Jerome to sound - rock/alternative with dashes of whatever else they decide to add. Always familiar yet also always unique, there are the things that make Switchfoot good - compelling songwriting both lyrically and instrumentally, guitar riffs, soaring vocals, spot on production - anyone who knows the band knows what will be there. However (and as always), there are new touches and surprises. In particular, Native Tongue contains a little more spoken word/rap here and there, a couple songs that are Twenty One Pilots-esque, and Tim Foreman singing a verse to name a few. The list doesn't stop there, as there are endless good things on this record that Switchfoot and rock/alternative fans should appreciate.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Jon Foreman has always been able to write poetic, meaningful songs. Spiritual highlights are all over Native Tongue, but as always with Switchfoot, it never seems pushy or over the top, and the theme of love being the best language we can speak is all over this record. Particularly meaningful are the hook of Joy Invincible which proclaims "Hallelujah/nevertheless/was the song the pain couldn't destroy," and later "Open your eyes/look to the skies/we are the children of the promise." Prodigal Soul is a song that will hold meaning for anyone who has questioned where God may be, or if it's possible to run farther than He can reach. Previously released single Voices is as smooth lyrically as they come, with the absolute earworm line "I used to listen to the radio/but I've got an army of voices in my head."


Best Song On The Record:

Depending on how one feels on a given day, there are several songs that could be considered the best song on Native Toungue. Aformentioned Voices is a great canidate, and it's as catchy a song as you are going to hear. Prodigal Soul is classic Jon Foremen poetry set to music, and will find a place on many playlists. However, the crunchy guitars of Take My Fire are vintage Switchfoot and will make it a favorite.  

Final Word:

The guys in Switchfoot have recently stated that the purpose of Native Tongue is to let anyone who will listen know that love is greater than hatred and fear. It's the reason they didn't stay on hiatus, and the reason they sing the songs they do. This album is full of anthems filled with hope, but it's also not afraid to ask hard questions or make unpopular statements. It's classic Switchfoot from top to bottom, but has enough new ideas sprinkled in to keep the listener coming back for more. Native Tongue desrves a spot in your rotation as soon as you can get your hands on it.

For Fans Of:

House Of HeroesColony House

Buy it on Apple Music or listen on Spotify.

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A Deep And Peaceful Journey | Posted November-03-2018

What You Need To Know:

Salt Of The Sound has been releasing music to soothe the soul since their debut album Journeys in 2013. Always deep, reflective, and soothing, husband and wife team Anita and Ben Tatlow are back with a new collection of songs in Beyond Here. This record is more personal than those that preceded it, and Anita and Ben explore themes of pain, grief, and, losss, all mixed in with the hope we have that never fails.


What It Sounds Like:

Those who are familiar with Salt Of The Sound will find a familiar musical landscape, and those that aren't will find an LP that is overflowing with sound and pristine, washy vocals. This is the type of music one puts on to reflect, relax, or simply spend time reflecting on the heart of God. The lyrics are thoughtful and far reaching throughout.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Beyond Here has lyrical complexity and highlights from beginning to end, but a highlight is For Those Who Wander, which revolves around a telling and powerful statement about God finding us on our darkest days: "Let Your life be found within the shadows/For those who wander will surely reach the sea."

Best Song On The Record:

Lead single Deep Peace is a strong choice for the best song on the album. It mixes well produced organ sounds with synthy drums sounds and claps, while also featuring top notch lyrics. It's a song that the band says follows the album wide theme of finding God in unexpected places, and it certainly takes the listener on a journey.


Final Word:

Beyond Here is a soundscape that has the potential to move you, and an album you can put on repeat, soak in, and trust that peace and the truth of God's promise will be sung over you. It occupies a unique niche in Christian music, and with this album Salt Of The Sound is looking to make more waves than they ever have.

For Fans Of:


Buy it on Apple Music or listen on Spotify.

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Some Of The Best Yet From Gateway | Posted September-28-2018
What You Need To Know:

Not long after the launch of Gateway Church in the year 2000, Gateway Worship began in earnest. They immediately began producing high quality contemporary Praise and Worship music, and a quick YouTube search reads like a who's-who of Christian music, both in recorded music and guest worship leaders. Now releasing their second album headed up by Christian music pioneer Mark HarrisGreater Than, Gateweay Worsip is poised to take their place alongside some of the biggest names in contemporary worship music.


What It Sounds Like:

From the first note of the rousing opener Something Good, it's obvious the bar has been raised. The production is top shelf all the way around, instrumentation is varied and rythmically interesting, and the songs themselves are well written. There are multiple songs by both male and female worship leaders (the album checks in at 14 tracks), and rarely do two songs feel too similar. Also of note is the inclusion of four uptempo songs (Something Good, Faithful, All That I Need, and a great reimagination of Open The Heavens), a rarity for a recent worship record.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Greater Than is full of worshipful and instrospective lyrics, but the bridge of the Mark Harris led title track is a highlight: "No guilt no shame/no sin no stain/is greater than/the Great I Am/no fear no grave/no other name/is greater than/the Great I Am." Steadfast is also a lyrical and overall highlight, with it's contrasting of desert journeys and faith in God.


Best Song On The Record:

Greater Than is an obvious canidate for best track, with a verse and chorus that set the stage for the church as a whole to sing the above mentioned bridge together- it will likely find it's way to modern worship gatherings soon. Honorable mention goes to How Glorious and the uptempo and catchy Faithful.


Final Word:

With Greater Than, Gateway have crafted an album that belongs in the conversation with the latest offerings from Hillsong, Elevation, or any other big name in praise and worship. The songs are well written and the lyrics are deep in places, while at the same time easily accesible and singable for the church as a whole. Gateway Worship has crafted an LP that is among the best of 2018 when it comes contemporary worship!

For Fans Of:

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Y+F Grows Up | Posted July-10-2018
What You Need To Know


Hillsong Young & Free broke down the doors and burst into the Praise and Worship scene of Christian music in 2013 with their single "Alive" from their debut We Are Young And Free. Three years later came Youth Revival, with a trifecta of instant party starters in "Where You Are," "Real Love," and "This Is Living," with the latter featuring an appearance from none other than Lecrae. To call the first two records from Hillsong Church's youth movement a high bar would be an understatement. The latest LP, III, only continues the upward trajectory. 


What It Sounds Like


Sonically, III will be familiar for anyone who is a current Young and Free fan. It's 17 tracks of thick synth and keyboards, with the soaring vocals that we've come to expect of any project associated with Hillsong. However, there are less blazing, bouncing tracks, and many more mid-tempo and worship songs. After a few listens, you get the feeling that this is a Y+F who has lived some life over the past six years and have come out with meaningful songs to sing. The fast, fun songs are still there, but there is an overall maturity to the songwriting.


Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights


Every song the album could be mentioned in this category, but as mentioned above, these songs feel deeper than even some of Young & Free's best songs to date. A favorite lyrically is "First Love," which contains lines like "I won't wash away/like branches and rain/I'd rather by kindling in the light." Deep spiritual imagery is woven throughout, and honest questions are asked and answered throughout III.


Best Song On The Record


Album opener and lead single "Let Go" is a great choice, as is the second song "Every Little Thing." However, there is so much to like throughout this record that listeners will find their favorites changing the more they listen. A particular favorite from the later part of III is "How Deep The Love."


Final Word


Hillsong Young & Free have managed to keep the fun and unique musical style they are known for, while simultaneously going deeper than they ever have. There are songs for every part of the spiritual walk and songs for those who sometimes have more questions than answers, and it's all wrapped in top-notch production.

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An Excellent New Season For Chris August | Posted June-15-2018
What You Need To Know

The Seasons EP is Chris August's first new music in more than three years (2015's The Maker), and, just as important, his first music without a record label in more than ten years. The new perspective and freedom has Chris writing and recording from a different place, and when asked about the inspiration for his new music, Chris said, "I love the journey and the seasons we go through in life. I felt like this release needed to be called Seasons because of where I am in my career, newly stepping out as an independent artist and excited to get this music out into the world." These words ring true from the first notes of Seasons.

What It Sounds Like

Seasons is somewhat of a departure sonically from most of August's work that's familiar to CCM fans. While most of his previous catalog is guitar-heavy pop/rock, (and it has all been good), this EP is closer to a set of pop songs. However, the somewhat different direction is far from a bad change as Seasons is more musical and intricate than much of popular music, while simultaneously accessible and easy to sing along with. The record showcases August's voice like none of his other albums (excellent, as always), and is full of creative chord changes, unexpected yet smooth rhythms, technical instrumental work from top to bottom, and perfect-but-not-overdone production.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

Lyrically creative as anything Chris has ever recorded, Seasons is full of meaningful lines. In particular, "Worry" is a dive into his previously discussed battle with depression, and brimming with hope that God holds even the serious parts of life in His hands with lines like "It's been a minute/been awhile/since I meant it when I smiled/but You hold tomorrow and You're holding me." Every song on Seasons holds noteworthy lyrics, and the EP as a whole strikes a hopeful, but not over the top tone.

Best Song On The Record

It's tough to pick the best song on what is somewhat of a passion project for Chris August, but "Worry" is perfect fun musically while tackling the topic of depression in an honest and hopeful way, and is as good a choice as any.

For Fans Of

Justin Timberlake

Final Word

These feel like the songs that Chris August has always wanted to sing. With honest lyrics and top notch musicality that really can't be overstated (seriously, listen to it with some good headphones), the Seasons EP is a worthy soundtrack to any summer.

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Moments of Worship | Posted May-17-2018
What You Need to Know:

The Moments EP is just what it the title suggests: a collection of recordings from different UPPERROOM services at their worship space in Dallas, TX. Though they've been holding worship services for eight years, UPPERROOM has only recently begun releasing music to the general public. Their EP standout "Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" was chosen as the lead single for Michael W. Smith's latest worship project, bringing their sound to a wider audience. With the Moments EP, UPPERROOM is ready to claim their place in modern worship music.

What It Sounds Like:

The EP is dominated by soaring, worshipful vocals and sprinkled with spontaneous moments of worship throughout. There are two original worship songs and three recordings of other artist's songs (Mosaic's "Tremble," Jeremy Riddle's "All Hail King Jesus," and Rita Springer/Steffany Frizzel- Gretzinger's "Defender"), but all five carry a common musical and sonic theme. Tight pianos and guitars lay a foundation for pitch perfect vocals on every track, highlighted by the aforementioned "Surrounded (Fight My Battles)."

Spiritual Highlights

Powerful and faith-filled lyrics are present on every song. Particularly powerful is the first stanza of "Adoration," where vocalist Meredith Mauldin give thanks: "For the tears you wept for those you long to gather / For the passion for your bride that looked away / For the mercy that you've given without measure / For your arms that never are too short to save." Expect to find similar sentiment in each song on the Moments EP.

Best Song On The Record

"Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" is the runaway album highlight (Grammy-winner Michael W. Smith agrees) with its attention grabbing opening line/chorus and slow (but dynamic) building musical style.

For Fans Of:

Mosaic MSC, Bethel Music, Steffany Gretzinger

Final Word:

UPPERROOM's Moments EP is a strong first effort into the praise and worship space, with faith-filled, powerful vocals and three solid original songs. 

Listen on Spotify and iTunes.


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Igniting a Sci-Fi Epic | Posted March-05-2018
Rapture Ruckus' Ignition EP has an unusual backstory. After finding out that Sci-Fi writer William Hawke had been inspired by Rapture Ruckus' album Invader Vol. 2, the band agreed to write a concept EP to go along with Hawke's new novel Ignition. Stocked with signature rap rock sounds and deceivingly deep lyrics, the EP of the same name is here.


What It Sounds Like:

Ignition EP is sonically (and happily) exactly what Ruckus fans would expect. It's filled with synth hooks that drop into big rock sounding choruses, and the lyrics are smooth at every turn. Brad Dring's singing and rapping are truly on point throughout.


Spiritual Highlights:

As mentioned above, this is a theme album for a Sci-Fi book, and as a result Ignition EP is thematically different than much of Rapture Ruckus' previous work. The lyrics aren't as overtly spiritual, but there are many poignant references to real world issues--for example "Checking on the status quo / A million followers but he's still alone" on "Proof Of Life." However, it must be mentioned that there is mild profanity on the song "Fictional" with the line "Get yourself together / get your a** into gear," so proceed with caution if necessary.


Best Song On The Record:

"Proof Of Life" is a showcase for Brad's rapping, all wrapped around a catchy synth line that knits the song together.  It's also lyrically deep with themes that certainly complement the book it was written to accompany while it also speaks to the realities of every day life in 2018 through references to both school shootings and the place of social media in our lives.


For Fans Of:

NF, Lecrae, Linkin Park


Final Word:

Though thematically different than their most recent work, Ignition EP is classic Rapture Ruckus, the lyrical caveat on "Fictional" not withstanding.


Listen on Spotify or iTunes.


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An Unmistakable Voice | Posted October-19-2017

Michael English is a voice that needs no introduction to longtime Christian music fans. His breakthrough performance of "I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy" in the mid-eighties catapulted him to a role as lead vocalist of The Gaither Vocal Band, and he's also recorded a string of successful solo albums over nearly three decades. Though his life has been touched by what many would call career ending or disqualifying mistakes during that time (detailed in his 2007 book The Prodigal Comes Home), he has experienced deep restoration. With Love is the Golden Rule he is back again with a record full of songs about grace and redemption, and his unmistakable voice is as present as ever.

The opening track "My Love" lets us know that we are in comfortable CCM territory; however, that's not a bad thing as English's voice sits perfectly in the smooth arrangement and the groundwork of Love Is The Golden Rule is laid. "Little Is Much" is a poignant reminder of how God values our everyday lives, and it even takes an honest look at Christian culture with the lines "No TV shows / no books to sell / just a voice in the wilderness living to tell the simple truth / preaching the good good news." The first part of the album finishes with the classic and oft covered Mike and the Mechanics song "The Living Years," and English's voice (especially in the second half) sets his version apart.

The middle section of Love Is The Golden Rule has some more upbeat songs sprinkled in, highlighted by "None Of Us Are Free" and "One Drop Of Love." The latter in particular is held together with tight and varied instrumentation, and Michael's voice is at its soaring best throughout. 

Though it's a remake of perhaps Michael English's best know song, "Cry Holy" is worth the re-listen, and it bears all the hallmarks of what made it a Christian music classic in the first place. The second half specifically is a reminder of the pure power of Michael's voice. LP closer "Let Me Hold You" is a song that finds English singing from what is surely personal experience as he sings of the unending, never failing love of God.

The Bottom Line: Though Love Is The Golden Rule is certainly not new territory for Michael English, it is a solid CCM album that will be satisfying for longtime fans. It showcases his unique and powerful voice and even sprinkles in the occasional Southern Gospel touch, speaking often of the grace and love that every Christ-follower needs. For longtime Christian music fans, this one is a must listen!

Song to Download Now

"One Drop Of Love" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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A Heartfelt Entrance | Posted September-11-2017
Red Rocks Worship, born out of Red Rocks Church in Colorado, has been recording and releasing original worship music since 2014. Starting with the acoustically focused The Rooftops EP, they've released a short project annually for the last three years, but are ready in 2017 to release their first full-length album of original worship songs. Their new record Here is full of new songs and new voices that are more than ready to contribute to the modern worship movement.

LP opener "Fill This Place" is a great up-tempo song that announces the intentions of the project quite clearly: heartfelt lyrics, tight and creative melodies and spot on instrumentation (specifically guitars). The song drops into a solid half time chorus that sets the tone for the rest of the album. 

"Heaven Is Here" opens with a solid guitar hook, features a memorable chorus and is one of several good mid-tempo songs sprinkled throughout Here. "Nobody Like You" opens with one of the more memorable verses on the album, serving to lead into the standout song of the project "Always And Only." Verse lyrics "The dreamer and the dream / the heart and the beat / the flame that starts a fire in me" lead into a chorus that beautifully declares our reliance upon God. A bridge sung over the top of a perfectly placed guitar part completes a truly memorable worship song.

Taking the feel back up slightly is "Right Here Right Now," with a nicely melodic guitar hook on the chorus. It is at this point in the LP that the focus on good guitar parts and tone becomes even more apparent as the classic U2 dotted eighth feel anchors the next track up, "How Beautiful Your Grace." Another album standout is next in "Not Afraid" as a soaring second verse and pulsing synth part leads us into a declarative chorus and bridge that proclaims our reliance on God in times of trouble. 

The final part of Here begins with "Come Taste And See," a song about the Lord's goodness and faithfulness in our lives. One of the few prominent acoustic parts anchors "Overflow," which contains some of the better vocals on the album in the second verse. A slight stylistic changeup is in store for "I Am Home" as the intro channels something like the Fugees, with vocals throughout that are indeed reminiscent of Lauryn Hill. However, instead of singing of long lost love or heartbreak, this song sings of how we are never alone with Christ in our lives.  

Final track "Love Changes Everything" celebrates that a life touched by God can't help but be changed, with the same perfect vocals and tight instrumentation that mark the whole project closing things on a high note.

The Bottom Line: Here certainly announces the arrival of Red Rocks Church onto the modern worship scene, and their full-length debut is well produced and full of heartfelt worship songs for the church. Taking a cue at times from either Vertical Church or Jesus Culture, it's well done from beginning to end, and the aforementioned spot-on guitar work and soaring harmonies are worth the price of admission!

Song to Download Now

"Always And Only

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The Next Worship Heavy-Hitter | Posted June-26-2017
North Point InsideOut, the student worship ministry born out of Pastor Andy Stanley's megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia, has been releasing quality worship music since their debut album No One Higher in 2012. Both No One Higher and subsequent release Hear (2015) found their way onto the Billboard charts, and the InsideOut band is back with a new batch of songs for 2017. Nothing Ordinary Live EP 1 is a live recording containing two songs from the recent Nothing Ordinary EP and three tracks that are newly recorded. Together they are right at home with some of the best the praise and worship scene has to offer.

EP opener "We Are Royals" is a blazing dance-infused rock song, complete with a rap breakdown in the middle reminiscent of Young and Free's "This Is Living."  That's not to say it's a copy of the classic 2016 hit; in fact, it more than stands on its own merits with tight instrumentation and a celebratory chorus that leaves you singing even when it's over. 

"Holy" is next, a mid-tempo gem in the vein of Bethel and Leeland's "Lion And The Lamb" or Jesus Culture's "Fierce," with a chorus that's just as reverent and singable: "Holy holy / To the One who scattered the stars / Holy holy / to the One who holds every heart." "I Fall" changes the tempo and feel, with a simple piano intro framing Seth Condrey's honest lyrics. The opening verse is particularly poignant and relevant to the daily life of many Christians, and it's followed by a few lines from the classic hymn "I Surrender All" before building to a powerful conclusion. "Sons and Daughters (featuring Emily Harrison)" continues the feel introduced on the previous track, but with acoustic guitar driving the song instrumentally. The song retains a contemplative feel throughout, while focusing on the role of God as Father.

Final song "Death Was Arrested" is the unquestioned highlight. Though it's been given the studio treatment by North Point already and also has been recorded by both Laura Story and Aaron Schust, this is the first proper live recording of Seth Condrey himself leading it. The audience is engaged from the start, and Condrey leads them expertly through a rhythmically unique verse that changes back and forth between 9/8 and 6/8. The final line of verse two sums up the theme perfectly: "He canceled my debt / He called me His friend / When death was arrested / And my life began." One of the more powerful endings in recent worship song memory helps close the song. 

Live EP 1 feels like a bit of an introductory party for North Point Inside Out, as they've released a five song EP that stands up with some of the best recent live recordings from any of the big hitters in the worship movement. "Death Was Arrested," with any focused distribution, could easily become one of the next most widely sung congregational worship songs.

The Bottom Line: North Point's Nothing Ordinary Live EP 1 is full of thoughtful lyrics and heartfelt moments of worship. If this and the previous EP Nothing Ordinary are any indication, there are more songs in the pipeline, and it will be fun to see what comes next from North Point's student ministry.

Song to Download Now:

"Death Was Arrested" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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