Into the Wild
Manic Drive Ontario-based electronic pop band Manic Drive continues to push their musical boundaries with their sixth studio album, Into the Wild. While their style is still as fresh and funky as ever, the...
Love So Wild
C3 Live The product of C3 Church in San Diego, C3 Live is a dynamic worship team with a heart to touch others for Christ. Their goal is "to create a meeting place where heaven and earth collide and people...
Untraveled Roads (Live)
Thousand Foot Krutch I've always felt that live albums are made for the real fans. For the casual listener, the cheering crowds, interaction from the artist, and name-dropping the city where the show was recorded may distract...
Songs to Make You Think (And Dance) | Posted November-07-2017
Ontario-based electronic pop band Manic Drive continues to push their musical boundaries with their sixth studio album, Into the Wild. While their style is still as fresh and funky as ever, the band shows great maturity throughout this album. The lyrics are deeper and the sound is even more polished, proving that this band just keeps getting better.
Into the Wild opens strong with "Mic Drop," a track that captures the band's signature electric dance/pop sound. "Ceiling" is all about choosing to reject the boundaries of the status quo and choosing to be excellent rather than ordinary: "I'm tired of limits / don't put me in a box / I won't accept it."
The title track is a softer paced yet passionate anthem about overcoming fear and breaking out of your comfort zone. Another beautiful, slower-paced song, "Aviator" carries a similar theme: "I'm overcoming all my fears of heights, and I'm ready for the ride of my life."
Sometimes Christians develop the false idea that the more they trust and rely on God, the easier life gets. The album's exceptional lead single "Easier" challenges this notion, saying that instead of expecting things to get easier, we should ask God to make us stronger. It pairs well with "Singing in the Rain," which could have fallen into cliché in less skilled hands. But instead it comes across as choosing to be bold and fearless, even when things don't seem to be going as planned: "No sunshine, but that's fine / It's the perfect weather to unwind / Even if it starts to rain." The song is a catchy mix of funk and jazz.
"Stilettos" is the perfect theme song for any strong, independent woman. It's a fun dance track about a beautiful, confident woman who knows her worth and won't let anyone take advantage of her. Living up to its name, "Fun-K" brings the funk. At the same time, it's an honest track in which lead singer Shawn shares his struggles with not fitting in completely in either mainstream or strictly Christian circles of music.
The Bottom Line: Into the Wild has a running theme throughout the album of being bold, fearless and strong in your faith. It challenges us to step out of our cozy little barricades and take risks in uncharted territory. The lyrics are raw and honest, displaying spiritual maturity. Manic Drive makes you think, while at the same time the music makes you get up and dance.
Join With Wild Love | Posted October-12-2017
The product of C3 Church in San Diego, C3 Live is a dynamic worship team with a heart to touch others for Christ. Their goal is "to create a meeting place where heaven and earth collide and people walk away changed." This shines through in their first full-length album Love So Wild.
Love So Wild utilizes a handful of synthesized instruments, giving it a modern vibe paired with the same classic praise music sound of Jesus Culture or Hillsong. Throughout the record, we hear themes of surrender, peace and the transforming power of God's relentless love and grace--all drenched in praise and worship.
Most of the songs on the album are five to six minutes long, longer than an average pop song, but fairly normal for the worship genre. The choruses are repeated many times throughout some of the songs, making them easy to pick up and sing along with. You can feel yourself falling into a state of worship with the praise team, allowing distractions to melt away and just focusing on praising Jesus.
The album contains a mix of upbeat songs, such as "Suns," "Power of the Cross" and "Alive in Me," balanced with slower, reflective tracks like "Bring Me Back to Life," "Safe Within Your Name" and "Matchless." The album ends on an upbeat note with "Sweet Surrender," a poppy, electric track that even contains a rap solo.
The Bottom Line: The band shares on their website's about page: "From day one the mission of C3 Live has always been to create an environment where people can experience the life transforming presence and power of God in praise and worship." Thanks to their new album Love So Wild, this San Diego church is able to fulfill that mission as listeners can join in the praise from anywhere in the world.
Energy and Heart | Posted September-15-2017
I've always felt that live albums are made for the real fans. For the casual listener, the cheering crowds, interaction from the artist, and name-dropping the city where the show was recorded may distract from the listening experience, and they may just opt for the original version of the song if given the choice. But for the true fans, the screams from the crowd transport you back into one of your favorite shows. The memories come rushing back, and you get a taste of that adrenaline that flooded your veins as you danced and screamed and sang along with one of your favorite bands. If you've ever seen one of Thousand Foot Krutch's live shows, you know that they're as high octane as they come. Whether you've experienced the show or not, Untraveled Roads is a perfect representation of the energy and heart that Thousand Foot Krutch pours into their performances.
Recorded during the Winter Jam tour in early 2017, Untraveled Roads is the band's second live album and features songs from their three latest albums. The show begins with unrelenting cheers, we hear the crowd excitedly count down, then Trevor greets the crowd and immediately launches into "Running With Giants" from the band's 2016 release Exhale. Next they transition to "Light Up The Sky" from The End Is Where We Begin, and then back to Exhale with "The River."
The set contains a good mixture of songs, focusing primarily on picks from those two recent albums which were predominantly more rock-based rather than the somewhat softer Oxygen: Inhale. The live album does feature the fast-paced rockers "Born This Way" and "Untraveled Road" from Oxygen: Inhale, the latter of which inspired the title of the live project.
The album doesn't contain any speeches or stories from the stage, as is the case with many live albums, although Trevor does give a short, encouraging message at the end of "Courtesy Call," preceding "Be Somebody." Trevor encourages the crowd to reject the notion that we are only successful if our culture says we are, and that our true value comes from God: "It doesn't matter what our past was, it doesn't matter what our present looks like. He's got a unique, incredible plan for your life and for my life."
Not every artist is able to maintain their signature sound or vocal range during a live show, and as a result there can be a slight disconnect between the music we're used to and the live version. Trevor McNevan, on the other hand, thrives on live music and, if anything, it gives him an even greater opportunity to demonstrate his astonishing vocal range.
The Bottom Line: The songs sound fresh and well-mixed, the crowd sounds engaged--the only thing missing is your own personal mosh pit. After rocking out to the live album, this fan is eager to watch the DVD version of Untraveled Roads.
A Different Side | Posted September-08-2017
Created by the historic Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, 1 Mic 1 Take is a YouTube series that gives artists the opportunity to utilize the studio to perform an acoustic take on some of their songs. No editing, no post production--just raw talent. Early this year, metal-turned-soulful-pop artist Jordan Feliz was invited to the studio for a session of 1 Mic 1 Take, and he took to the set like a fish to water. Jordan's 1 Mic 1 Take EP is a collection of the songs he performed there.
This EP contains stripped down versions of four of Feliz's songs from his 2016 release The River, including the acclaimed title track. A fifth song, "Call On Me," is a cover of the debut single from Australian singer/songwriter Starley. The acoustic tone combined with Jordan's soulful vocals gives the pop song an extra folk flavor. Other tracks include "Never Too Far Gone," "Beloved" and "Satisfied." "Satisfied" is perhaps the most unaltered track on the EP, close to the original version in its mellow, worshipful setting.
Jordan's voice has a naturally soothing quality and his songs are innately beautiful, lending themselves well to an unplugged, acoustic setting. 1 Mic 1 Take may not offer anything new from Feliz, but it does give us a slightly different side of his skillful vocals.
The Bottom Line: If you can't get enough of Jordan Feliz's music, this EP is the perfect bite-size morsel to satiate your hunger until the next full length album.
With music spanning well over a decade, Canadian artist Chris Greenwood (who goes by the rap moniker Manafest) has been a longtime powerhouse in the world of Christian rap and rock. Manafest's latest release, Stones, marks his second independent album and tenth studio release overall. A rock album at its core, Stones hits hard with a message of perseverance and determination in the face of conflict.
The title track starts the album out strong with an infectious rocker about overcoming criticism. Greenwood said in an explanation video about this song, "I want to be annoying to the devil. I want to be annoying to the haters, to say I'm never going to quit... You can judge as much as you want, but I'm gonna keep going."
"House of Cards" is an anthem for those who feel like they've lost their shot in life, like they've missed their chance or that everything they touch falls apart. This song is a rally cry to stand up and refuse to quit even when you feel like a failure. A track worthy of the repeat button, "Firestarter" captures Manafest's passion for igniting a spark in his listeners, encouraging them to follow him in stepping out of their comfort zones.
"You're Gonna Rise" assumes a slower pace, encouraging those going through depression or heartache that it's possible to rise from the darkness. The lyrics explore these feelings to some degree and let the listener know that it's okay to feel broken: "You hide your scars cause you're ashamed, but it's okay to admit you're not okay. You want to be healed but don't know where to start, when you feel like a body with a broken heart." The song then builds to a triumphant chorus, telling the listener that healing is in reach and offering a helping hand along the way.
Heavy electric guitar riffs dominate "Blow You Away," a track that particularly seems to capture Manafest's journey as an independent artist. Similar in theme to "Stones," "Blow You Away" is committed to silencing the cynics: "You can talk loud, you can get wild, just a dark cloud. Imma step out and blow you away."
"Merry Go Round" takes on a heavier tone, exploring the ups and downs of a relationship, while "Amplifier" gives us more of a dance track vibe and compares the excitement of love to the adrenaline-inducing beat of a good song. Manafest wraps up the album by giving us a taste of his signature rhyming skills in "Won't Give Up." This track brings the album's theme of bold perseverance full-circle by giving God the glory for the artist's courage.
The Bottom Line: After nearly twenty years of writing music, Manafest has certainly reached the point in his career of knowing what his fans like and exuding confidence in his unique style. Stones is all about unapologetically pursuing your God-given talents and passions despite the voices telling you to stop, whether they be from the devil, the overly critical or from inside your own head.
Pop and Soul | Posted June-22-2017
In 2011, the four-man pop band Royal Tailor emerged on the Christian music scene with their hit debut album Black and White. Led by frontman Tauren Wells, Royal Tailor brought fresh, genre-bending skill to Christian radio. The band released their self-titled sophomore album in 2013 before making the difficult decision to disband two years later. But the end of Royal Tailor was by no means the end of Wells' music career as he set out to make music and perform shows at his own pace.
Hills and Valleys marks Tauren's first full-length solo album, a collection of songs covering themes of grace, unconditional love and divine providence that beautifully captures both Tauren's songwriting and vocal skills.
The album starts off with "When We Pray," a poppy installment about the world-changing power of prayer, followed by "All About You," featuring the soulful vocals of Gotee artist Hollyn. Tauren and Hollyn harmonize seamlessly in a song about using their talents to bring glory to Christ. In "Never Gonna Let Me Go" Tauren expresses his desire to step out in faith and let God take care of the details: "I wanted to see behind the scenes, but now I'm letting go / Cause the safest place that I could be is in your great unknown."
The title track and hit single "Hills and Valleys" takes on a bit of a worshipful tone with lyrics to match. When expressing the heart behind the song, Tauren said, "No matter where we're at, we're standing in God's grace. And no matter what we have, his grace is enough." The song captures that message well.
Featuring a cameo by rapper Davies, "Nothing But You" focuses on chasing God rather than fame. Accompanied almost entirely by acoustic guitar, "Known" is beautiful and comforting, like a long hug from a loved one as it offers a simple reminder of God's amazing love. This song is about God seeing us and knowing us completely, and loving us fully despite our flaws. "It's not one or the other, it's hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known, fully known, and loved by you."
Stepping on the gas, "Love is Action" speeds up the pace with a dance track reminiscent of Royal Tailor's pop-meets-R&B style. Another dance-heavy track, "Undefeated" incorporates a tantalizing mix of EDM and hip hop. "Undefeated" was the first single from Tauren's EP of the same name last fall.
"September" delivers an old school taste as Tauren utilizes his silky vocals and ability to deftly hit high notes in a cover of the classic from 70's funk group Earth, Wind & Fire. "Supernatural" makes a great follow up to the classic song with its funk/techno feel.
The deluxe edition of Hills and Valleys features three extra songs: a demo and two remixes. The original demo version of "God's Not Done with You" is a stripped down, acoustic form of the song. Next we have the Hills remix of "Hills and Valleys." It has a slightly heavier beat, but overall is mostly indistinguishable from the original. Lastly, the Valleys version is an acoustic, piano-driven version of the song. Given the fact that Tauren first thought of the lyrics and chords for the song while playing on his church's piano, the acoustic sound feels very fitting.
The Bottom Line: With offerings of pop, funk, electronic dance and rap, Hills and Valleys continues the musical diversity we saw from Tauren in Royal Tailor. Whether you're looking for encouragement in your spiritual walk from the rich Biblical themes on the album or you just need some positive dance music, Tauren Wells has you covered.
An Engaging EP | Posted April-28-2017
Birthed by North Point Ministries in 2010, North Point Music was created with the goal to unite local worship leaders and songwriters with the purpose of creating soul-lifting worship music for the church. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia and led by famed author and pastor Andy Stanley, North Point Ministries is comprised of six separate church branches, united in their desire to be the voice of Christ for this generation. Out of this passion emerged the music of North Point InsideOut. Featuring the local Atlanta vocal talent of Seth Condrey, Chris Cauley and Brett Stanfill, the five-song EP Nothing Ordinary marks the church-based worship band's third release.
The EP starts out with the anthem "We Are Royals," which proclaims our spiritual heritage as children of the King. The song's chorus declares, "All the rich, all the poor, all the people, all yours. We are daughters, we are sons. More than mortals. We are royals. We are yours." The EP also gets its title from the verse: "This is nothing ordinary, there is power in the Name we carry."
"Death Was Arrested," the first single released from the EP, is a beautiful guitar-driven melody praising the sacrifice of Christ and His victory over death. You may already be familiar with it as a strong presence at Easter services this year.
"Every Beat" begins with an appropriate steady drumbeat and an upbeat for King & Country-esque chant. The vocalists go on to sing about dedicating every beat of their heart to the Lord. Slowing the pace down a bit, "Enough for Me" washes over the listener, filling them with gratitude for their Savior. Upbeat and energetic, "Love Come Down" is a song that would have a congregation clapping and praising with joy.
The Bottom Line: Somewhat reminiscent to I Am They, North Point InsideOut has an upbeat style and modern worship sound. Their songs are bursting with messages of grace, hope and an overwhelming love and gratefulness to the God who gave His life for us. Nothing Ordinary stands out not just as a great worship album, but also as engaging music in its own right.
Reason to Dance | Posted April-22-2016
Six months after giving us a small taste of new music in her Hearts Up Ep, V.Rose is back on the scene with some of her best work to date. Describing her musical origins, V.Rose recently told NRT, "I've always been sort of a worshiper, but at the same time I've loved to listen to hip hop music or pop music... I've always wanted to make music that people can dance to." In this full length album, V. stretches her musical wings, offering us a variety of music ranging from rap and R&B to pop and heartfelt worship-- all the while giving us something fun that we can dance to.
The album starts out with "Take A Broken Heart" featuring Derek Minor, a song about giving your brokenness over to God. In this track, V.Rose introduces us to her rap skills, drawing her inspiration from mentors such as Flame and Tripp Lee, who also collaborated on the new album. Flame appears on "Money$ On You," which showcases total faith in God despite doubt from critics. Tripp Lee lends his iconic skills in "I Love You So Much," which is perhaps one of the heaviest rap tracks on Young Dangerous Heart.
"Fairy Tale Ending" transitions into the pop side of the album with a fun and hopeful vibe. "Love Shaped Heart" follows a similar musical pattern, with its own unique message.
In a song relatable to females of all ages, "We're Girls" takes a look into the oftentimes tumultuous emotional world of women, while at the same time encouraging us to love and accept the way God made us. On a slightly different note, "Emotional" admonishes us not to give into our every emotion. In a world of hot-tempers, rants and pointless fights, this is a message that needs to be taken to heart.
V. puts her beautiful vocals to work in "Not Afraid of the Midnight," which is a bit of a love song to Jesus, comparing herself to Cinderella who was loved and sought after though she had nothing to offer her royal suitor. In "Sinking Deep" and "Storms," Vienna explores her worship side with some soul-searching songs about trust in God.
The title track brings us to the "heart" of the album, a fun, bouncy tune with a theme of learning who God wants you to be as you enter each new stage of your life.
The Bottom Line: Throughout Young Dangerous Heart, V.Rose displays a beautiful blend of innocence and wisdom. She relates well to the young, but her message is ageless. And it's definitely one that people can dance to.
A New Model | Posted March-10-2016
You may recognize this Illinois-based band from their chart-topping singles "Should've Been Me" or "How Sweet the Sound." Citizen Way gained the attention of Christian music fans everywhere with their 2013 debut album Love is the Evidence. Their smooth but lively style is one that left listeners wanting more. Do they deliver in their sophomore album? That's a question answered by what Citizen Way's 2.0 has to offer.
The opening track, "Elevated," immediately knocked me off my feet and pulled me in, raising my expectations for the rest of the album. The song is driven by catchy guitar riffs and a steady beat. The overall energy and style of the track is reminiscent of fellow pop rock band Manic Drive.
"Rivals" starts off a bit slower, the lyrics provoking a bit of introspection about those times when you feel discouraged and just want to give up, then building to a triumphant chorus stating that we have no rivals that Christ cannot overcome.
Characterized by lead singer Ben Calhoun's buttery vocals, "When I'm with You" describes the perfect peace that can be found in the arms of the Savior. This song feels like the warm, comforting hug of a loved one after a long, stressful day. In a similar vein content-wise, "All My Cares" expresses the emotional freedom that comes from handing your cares over to the Master.
"Set It On Fire" gives us a glimpse into the album's purpose with the line, "This is a heart reset, this is the 2.0 / this is the wave goodbye, or is it hello?" This song is about change, about the metamorphosis of discarding the negative parts of ourselves and allowing our lives to be changed from the inside out.
If you're looking for a song to dance to on this album, "Bulletproof" is the one. This song carries all the pep and spunk of Maroon 5's hit "Sugar." It's fun, catchy and upbeat with a positive message to top it off. The dance party vibe makes it a great ending track for 2.0.
2.0 has a pleasant flow to its music, interrupted only slightly by a few songs with over-repeated choruses which are remedied by how overall enjoyable this album is.
Redemption is often an understandably common theme in the Christian music world. Citizen Way takes it a step further and digs into what life looks like after redemption. Salvation doesn't make us a finished product; it's only the beginning. What comes next is reformation and the journey of becoming a new version of ourselves-- a 2.0 model, if you will. Citizen Way takes that journey with you, and entertains you with some catchy tunes on the way.
Scripture Drenched Worship | Posted February-14-2016
What is worship? No doubt there have been countless debates about this subject over the years. But when you really break it down, I believe that worship is any manifestation of gratitude and praise toward our Creator, in whatever form that takes. Ultimately, the purpose of worship is to draw our hearts closer in unity to God.
In her fifth studio album Deeper, Meredith Andrews continues writing songs from her heart that truly worship her Creator. "Spirit of the Living God" and "Impossible" focus on the power of God to work in our lives.
"Soar" draws its strength from Isaiah 40:31, encouraging us to maintain faith and joy while waiting on God. The song shares that we all encounter trying situations, but rather than sinking under the weight of these burdens, God gives us the option to soar. Not necessarily to soar above our troubles, but to strengthen our faith by spreading our wings and flying through the storm. "Trusted" tells us that Jesus knows when those storms of our lives will come, and that he's prepared to take care of us in the midst of them.
With the possible exception of "Take Me Back" (a song about recapturing a love for Jesus), the album mostly shies away from evidence of any deeply personal lyrics reflecting the artist's struggles and life. However, it succeeds in providing listeners with an array of Scripture-filled melodies that are relatable to almost every Christian.
The Bottom Line:Deeper carries the classic worship album sound and feel. It's soft, positive and drenched in Scripture. Andrew's attitude of praise toward God is one that is heartfelt and genuine, and there's no doubt that it is one that will encourage you to worship along with her in song.