Fora Nice Listen, Play This Band | Posted January-15-2013
Brand new Indie rock band, Fora, releases their debut EP, The Gathering. Hailing from Salinas, Calif., this three-piece band has a lot to offer. With a melodic rock sound and a heart for ministry, Fora is on the right path for engaging audiences and gaining new fans.
First track, "Alive," introduces listeners to the band's melodic rock sound and pure tenor vocals. With electric guitars and drums, this track has a definite rock vibe, but the vocal melodies and soft beats are easy on the ears.
"Guardian" has a higher-energy and harder rock feel. With more of a punk rock vibe, as well as a vocal chorus in the background, this track shows the diversity of the band.
First single, "Breakdown," starts off with quiet guitar plucks and vocals. As the song builds, so does the energy. The lyrics are from the perspective of God speaking to us, reminding us that He's always been there and "I love you more than you'll ever know." This track shows the capacity these young musicians have for writing lyrics aimed at encouraging listeners on their path with God.
All in all, this is a good first effort by Fora and they show great promise for the future. Fans of Indie rock will definitely want to take a listen to this band and keep a close eye on what's coming next from them.
This EP More Than Keeps You 'Awake' | Posted November-20-2012
New five-piece pop/rock worship band, Cadence, releases their first EP, Awake, in hopes that listeners will be drawn into God's presence, and as a result, can't help but worship Him. Made up of family members with a variety of musical talents, the band got their start and still remains active at Victory Christian Center in Boca Raton, Fla., where lead singer Donny Karpinen is the worship leader. If Awake is any sign of things to come, this talented group of young musicians could be around for a long time.
First song and title track "Awake" starts out with quiet piano, but quickly progresses with added guitars and drums as Karpinen's pop tenor vocals gain energy with each verse. The chorus rings out as Karpinen sings: "Awake, awake my soul / Pour down like a waterfall / Come play the music loud / Of your heart, heart beating now." This is a great opening track, preparing listener's hearts for God's presence.
"Closer" was co-written with Tenth Avenue North's Michael Donehey and describes our desire to be closer to God. With high-energy guitars and electronic keyboard, the chorus says, "I wanna be closer to the edge / Closer to falling into You / Closer to the truth / There's no life apart from You." This is a great worship song that gets us in the right mindset.
First single, "Forgiveness," begins with strings, but as the chorus approaches, electric guitars and drums are added and the energy builds. Karpinen sings: "I just need forgiveness / I just need assurance / To know that you haven't given up / I'm begging for forgiveness / This is my confession / Can you take this burden?" We all have a hard time truly understanding what it means to be forgiven and living as if we are. This song helps to remind listeners that it's all been taken care of and we have no reason to doubt that.
With a pop-rock sound and lead vocals reminiscent of The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary, Cadence enters the music scene ready to show the world what they've been missing. Each song has a specific purpose and doesn't beat around the bush lyrically. With high-energy and a hopeful vibe, Awake draws listeners into the presence of God without being overtly worshipful. This EP is a great start to what will most likely be a long musical career for this young band.
Alabama native Nick Gill is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who recently signed with Rock Ridge Music. Releasing his fourth album (but his first with the label) Waves Are Only Water, Gill is introduced to a whole new audience. With a pop/folk sound reminiscent of artists like Mat Kearney and Dave Barnes, the theme of the album is something everyone can relate to: "Anything you're going through, it's just waves in the ocean, little ripples you can get through."
First track "By The Way" opens with soft guitar strums and drums, giving the song a slight country vibe. The rhythm is upbeat and catchy as Gill sings the chorus: "By the way / You don't need a pot of gold / To show me that your love is gold / By the way." This song, like several others on the album, is more of a love song, which establishes variety and Gill's ability to write on several topics.
Written about the suicide of a close friend, "How It Feels" takes the pain and sorrow from that situation and puts a hopeful spin on the topic. With upbeat guitar strums, strings, and percussion, Gill sings the chorus, "I know now why we need love and empathy / You never showed the pain and all the shame / And I know how it feels / To lose a friend." Remembering past times together and bringing closure to a devastating circumstance, Gill is able to turn the experience into a way to make himself a better person and friend.
"Risky Business" is a slower track, but still contains the same theme of hope found throughout the entire project. For Gill, this could easily be a song about his own music career and the struggles he's had to face along the way. With quiet strums and electric guitars, Gill sings the chorus, "When you dive in risky business / You may never come up / When you dive in risky business / Hold onto all of your hopes." Even with slightly solemn lyrics, there's still a feeling of encouragement and hope.
Containing the album's title in the chorus, "Row", is a great reminder of how we can keep the challenges of life in the right perspective. As Gill sings, "Waves are only water / Easily broken without a bother/ And just when you think you've hit a new low / God helps you row," the truth of knowing God is much bigger than what may seem hopeless to us, will help keep us from getting discouraged and overwhelmed.
Nick Gill is a promising new artist with an obvious gift for writing songs that speak to listener's hearts in a variety of ways. Waves Are Only Water is a perfect introduction to new fans and embodies the peaceful hope and catchy pop/folk sound of artists like Mat Kearney and Dave Barnes, yet is unique in its own right. I look forward to hearing even more from Gill and can't wait to see what the future holds for this singer/songwriter.
Brand new act StompTown Revival consists of Americana blues duo Brandon Bee and Gabe Martinez (Circleside frontman). With plenty of soul and a love for a new brand of music they refer to as "spiritual stomp," this duo is creating a sound not found in Christian music today. With the release of their StompTown Revival EP, listeners are introduced to the unique southern stylings of what is hopefully only the beginning of this duo's long stay in the industry.
Debut single "Guiding Me Home" starts things off with rhythmic guitar plucks, but soon electric guitars and kick drum beats enter, giving the song more of a southern rock feel. As Bee and Martinez's harmonies sing the chorus, "You are the reason / Our souls carry on / Beyond this brief life / Through every season / Your beacon of love / Shines in the dark / You're guiding me home," listeners have the urge to clap along and stomp their feet. Reminiscent of a Southern rock, bluesy version of Shane & Shane, it's clear this duo has soul, in more ways than one.
As harmonica takes a prevalent place in "The Sun Will Find A Way," Bon Jovi-esque vocals ring out as they're joined by hard drum beats and echoing electric guitars. The song's hopeful chorus repeats, "And You roll the clouds away / And Your love is like the glorious day / Though there's pain / Oh the sun, the sun will find a way." Reminding listeners that God can make a way even in the darkest of times, these lyrics provide hope when it's hard to find.
With harmonica, slide guitars, kick drums, and the gritty southern vocals of Brandon Bee and Gabe Martinez, every track on StompTown Revival's EP oozes with authenticity and soul. With five original songs and a bluesy cover of "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms," this brand new duo sets the stage for what is hopefully many years of making "spiritual stomp" a well-loved genre in the Christian music world.
Hailing from Minneapolis, Hyland is still considered newcomers to the music scene, but with the release of their second album, Finding Our Way, it may not stay that way for long. With songs full of hope and encouraging reminders of God's love and power, this project is sure to uplift listeners with every spin.
Jumping right into things, first track "Power Of Love" starts off with just drum beats and background vocals. Guitars and electronic keyboards are added as Frontman Jon Lewis sings the chorus, "This is a last stand / A cry for a comeback /The future is still untold / Your story isn't written in stone / Fight your indifference / This is resistance / It's time to live the power of love." The theme of this song is one of hope and the fact that God has a plan for us that cannot be cancelled out just because we've gotten off track. The power of His love is greater than our sin and as long as we're willing to follow, He's willing to lead.
The pop-rock vibe and catchy electronic elements continue into the album's first single, "Beauty In The Broken." Slowing things down a bit with piano and guitar strums, the theme of hope once again rings true. Lewis sings the chorus, "Let Me hold you through it / Let Me carry you / I know it feels you're at the end / But here your story's just beginning / I know your tomorrow / I know where you are / Though you can't see past the moment / I see beauty in the broken." These lyrics are particularly encouraging and serve as a great reminder of God's amazing ability to see beyond our circumstances. That is a comforting truth to hold onto when we're unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Though most tracks on the album contain spiritual themes, "Lucky In Love" was written by Lewis for his wife on their wedding day. Telling the story of being in love, Lewis sings the chorus, "I'm in over my head / You're diving in with your eyes closed / We both know / We're lucky in love." It's honestly nice to hear a personal story on an album once in a while, in order to really understand the heart of the artist, and Lewis' love for his wife is celebrated perfectly on this track.
"Well Done" is the slowest track on the album, with just strings and guitar, as Lewis sings about the strained relationship between he and his father. As the song continues on and grows in energy, Lewis' need for approval is redirected to God, his heavenly Father. Singing the chorus, "Well done / Well done / You're the one I love / Even when life gets tough," Lewis reminds us that the only words of approval that truly matter, are those we hear from God on the day we see Him face to face.
Though Hyland may still be considered newcomers to the industry, the musical and lyrical quality of Finding Our Way would fool any listener into thinking these guys are old pros. With pure tenor vocals, and a catchy pop rock vibe, every track rings with hope and truth of a God who loves His children and has an amazing plan for their lives. As Hyland continues to grow their fan base and produce more music, I have no doubt they'll be sticking around for a long time.
Since bursting onto the Christian music scene in 1997, Smalltown Poets has been making upbeat, thought-provoking music. After taking a hiatus since 2006, the band is back and has released a new EP, entitled Under The New Sun. Old and new fans alike will be happy to hear these creative musicians are making music once again.
The title track, "Under The New Sun," starts off the album with quiet electronic strings, piano plunks, and rhythmic drum beats. As a purely instrumental track, it serves as an intro to the rest of the album, preparing listeners for what's to come.
"Turn Around" contains the signature pop/rock sound of Smalltown Poets as their upbeat, smooth vocals and light guitars, drums, and hand clapping continue throughout the track. Very reminiscent of Jars of Clay and Caedmon's Call--not only in sound, but also in symbolic, occasionally vague lyrics--listeners are left to determine their own meaning of several songs.
With a new take on hymn favorite, "Jesus, I Come," lead singer Michael Johnston's clear tenor voice adds a haunting, yet sweet twist. With piano and guitar strums, Johnston's voice echoes as he sings the familiar chorus, "Out of my bondage / Sorrow and night / Jesus I come, Jesus I come / Into that freedom / Gladness and light / Jesus I come to thee." Though many of us have sung this song a million times, by adding their own musical stylings, Smalltown Poets makes this familiar tune more thought-provoking and contemplative.
The band takes a similar approach to "I'll Fly Away," taking a well-known congregation favorite and making it their own. With strumming guitars, drums, and a slightly bluegrass feel, the song takes on a softer tone. While still containing the hopefulness and celebration of the lyrics, Smalltown Poets adds their own unique spin.
Fans will be glad to know Smalltown Poets is back at it. With lead singer Michael Johnston's unique tenor vocals and a sweet, pop/rock sound, Under the New Sun gives listeners a great taste of what they've been missing and leaves them looking forward to what's coming next from the band. If you're looking for something different than what's currently being played on most Christian contemporary radio stations these days, I recommend giving this project a listen.
Get in the Christmas Spirit! | Posted October-14-2012
Acclaimed worship leader, songwriter and talented guitarist Lincoln Brewster releases his first (and highly anticipated) Christmas album, Joy To The World. Featuring seasonal favorites as well as three original tracks, Brewster's unmistakable worship with a rock flare permeates each song.
"Sometimes Christmas music can slip by as festive, and what we're singing about can be marginalized," Brewster said, "so with Joy To The World, I wanted to try-as often as possible-to make the music sound like what the lyrics were saying."
Starting off the album with title track, "Joy To The World," Brewster stays true to the original melody and energy of the well-known Christmas anthem, but incorporates his own twist musically. With Brewster's unmistakable guitar solos, the occasional orchestral strings, and a tone of pure celebration, this first track is a perfect introduction to what's to come.
"Little Drummer Boy" is the first debut single off the album and features KJ-52's rapping talents. With an evident rock/pop vibe and drums taking a prominent spot, this track is much more upbeat than the original. While this particular track doesn't stick as close to the carol we're all used to singing, it definitely adds more of a hopefulness, which in essence is what the lyrics are actually promoting.
Written by Brewster and songwriting heavyweights Paul Baloche and Jason Ingram, "Shout For Joy" quietly begins with strings, ringing bells, and a choir. The energy quickly builds with drums and electric guitars as Brewster sings the chorus, "Shout for joy / For the Son of God / Is the saving One / He's the saving One / Shout for joy / See what love has done / He has come for us / He's the saving One." This could easily be sung during a worship or special service as congregations prepare their hearts for celebrating the Christmas season. After only listening to this track a couple times, I find myself already singing along.
The only instrumental track on the album, "Miraculum," incorporates several well-known Christmas favorites into a 6:20 minute arrangement. Very reminiscent of something you might hear from Mannheim Steamroller or Tran Siberian Orchestra, this track is one of my favorites on the entire record.
Lincoln Brewster's debut Christmas album, Joy To The World, is a great addition to the variety of seasonal projects already out there. Whether you're a fan of classic Christmas carols or enjoy hearing someone else's interpretation of your favorites, the message of each song remains front and center. With a celebratory tone and Brewster's unmistakable rock flare, this album is a must-have for anyone looking for a worthy addition to their Christmas collection.
An Album As Diverse As the Stories Within | Posted October-08-2012
With his sixth studio album, Into The Light, Matthew West continues his proven method of writing songs based on the personal stories of fans that continue to pour in day after day. As a gifted storyteller and songwriter, West's ability to take circumstances and weave them into a song, time and time again, are unparalleled.
With an undeniable voice and strum of a guitar, the stories of people all over the world are bringing hope and light to others needing exactly that. "That's what Into The Light is about. It's about bringing these stories into the light and realizing how contagious it can be," West says. "When people hear Into The Light, they are going to realize that maybe they aren't the only one struggling, and I hope they'll find the courage to discover the freedom that's promised when we step into the light."
First song and title track, "Into The Light," starts off with just piano, drums, and the strum of a guitar. Written about a woman escaping a violent situation and finding hope on the other side, there's a definite uplifting energy throughout the song from beginning to end. As West sings the chorus--"Come on, come on / Out of the darkness / Come on, come on / Out of the night / No more, no more / Living in the shadows now / Step into the light"--he is joined with other voices seemingly to encourage the one who is trying to find the courage to step into the light. As with every song on this album, this track speaks directly to a specific circumstance or struggle that every person can relate to in some way.
"Forgiveness" is the album's first single and based on the story of a mother who chose to forgive the drunk driver who killed her daughter. With strings, guitars, and quiet drums, West sings about one of the hardest things we as Christians are ever asked to do: forgive someone undeserving of forgiveness. Reaching the chorus, the energy builds as West asks God to "Show me how to love the unlovable / Show me how to reach the unreachable / Help me now to do the impossible / Forgiveness." There are so many great lyrics in this song, I could easily quote the entire thing. The story of this mother who was able to forgive the unforgiveable is powerful and the song completely envelops that.
While "Moved By Mercy" has more of a pop/rock feel, "Waiting On A Miracle" has a Country slant, and "We Are The Broken" could easily be sung as a worship song in church or at a conference. With a wide range of musical styles and tones, this project is not lacking in variety.
Final track, "The Power Of Prayer," relays the story of a boy who prayed for his parents to stop fighting and for the healing of his relationship with his father. With just a quiet piano and West's voice, listeners hear the prayers of the boy and his mother as they bring the situation to God. With a surprise ending, this song will leave you teary-eyed and hopeful that God does in fact hear our prayers.
It's rare when I can honestly say every song on an album has the ability to be a single, but in the case of Into The Light, it's true. Every track is different from the others, but contains the same thought-provoking and challenging lyrics that drive listeners to want to change who they are. Once again, Matthew West has taken the stories of life and created a project that is well worth the "repeat" button. Whether you're a longtime fan or have only heard his music on the radio, Matthew West's Into The Light deserves a listen, or two, or three.
Church of the Highlands--located in Birmingham, Ala.--has an awesome worship ministry, as evidenced of their latest album, Place Of Freedom. Recorded live, each song lifts up the name of Jesus and brings the listener into a time of pure worship to the only One deserving of our praise.
First track, "We Are," starts out quiet and slow as you can hear the audience clapping with the drumbeat. As the song progresses to the chorus, the tone becomes more energetic and uplifting as the worship leader sings, "We are called to be Your hands and feet / We are set free, moving to the rhythm of Your heartbeat / We are the children of the light for the world to see / We are." This is a great song for a church to sing as one, as a reminder that we are unified under the common goal of being Jesus to the world.
"Emmanuel" describes the characteristics of God as the female vocalist sings, "Emmanuel / You are gracious / Slow to anger / Rich in love / Compassionate / You are faithful / God with us." Sometimes we forget how unique God is in that He possesses every good quality in its perfect state. The tone of this track is quiet and contemplative with mostly guitar and piano, but towards the end, the energy builds in recognition of Who God is.
Final song and title track, "Place Of Freedom," begins with just the notes of a piano and as the first verse is sung, you can feel the audience singing with anticipation of each word. The worship leader sings the chorus as the audience sings along, "I'm gonna lift my hands 'til I can reach heaven / I'm gonna shout Your name 'til the walls come falling down / I've come to worship." Without even being there, you can feel the genuine desire of each voice to worship God with all of their being.
The worship team at Church of the Highlands knows how to worship and their latest release, Place Of Freedom proves it. The entire album ebbs and flows from high energy songs of celebration, to slower, contemplative tracks that lead listeners into quiet times of worship. With a variety of worship leaders, giving their own unique voice to each song, Place Of Freedom is a must-have for anyone desiring new tunes for their personal worship times.
When brothers, Ben and Bill Kristijanto, Tim Barnes, and Wesley Holt decided to come together as Bread Of Stone, their mission was much more than creating music. As Independent musicians, they not only write, produce, and perform their own music, but they also promote "The Light Project", a ministry they founded for the underprivileged in Indonesia. With the release of The Real Life, Bread Of Stone aims to remind listeners that though the world constantly tries to pull us in different directions, our lives should stay centered on Christ and His truths.
"Hold On" is not only the first track, but also the first single of the album. Serving as a great introduction to the band’s electronic rock vibe and rhythmic guitars, Ben Kristijanto sings the encouraging chorus, "Hold on / When you just can’t face another day / Hang on / When your faith is gone and you don’t know why / Stand on / What you believe / Follow the One that leads / Never let go / Just hold on." With a variation of rhythms amidst guitar, piano, and drums, sounds that don’t seem like they should go together, actually do and make for a very interesting mixture of instruments and electronic distortions.
Title track, "The Real Life" starts out with piano and electronic strings as Kristijanto questions, "Are you ready for the real life / For all the questions in your world / Are you looking for an answer / There’s only One / There’s only One." This entire record, is about the daily struggles we all go through, but this song in particular cuts to the heart of the matter--what is at the center of it all? Ending in echoes of "Are you looking for the real life?" the lyric leaves the listener to answer that question for themselves.
Slower tracks, "The Line" and "I’ll Be" have more of a contemplative feel, as well as less of an electronic vibe, but still keep the same hopeful and truth-laden lyrics as the other tracks.
"Supernatural" starts out slow with echoing guitars and distorted static sounds, then gets more upbeat and rhythmic as Kristijanto sings the chorus, "When you touched me I got a feeling / Something within my soul / It was like no other feeling / Like a love bomb falling in the dead of night / A supernova of healing light / I got a feeling / It’s supernatural healing." Though I haven’t heard anyone describe this kind of experience in these exact terms, it definitely paints an accurate picture of how God’s healing power can have such an impact and at times be overwhelming.
If Michael Tait (Newsboys and dcTalk) and David Zach (Remedy Drive) decided to create a record together, it may sound something like The Real Life. With truth-laden lyrics and a symphony of sounds, each song is different and unique, which is hard to come by these days. Bread Of Stone may not be a band many have heard of yet, but if The Real Life is any example of the creative musicianship this quartet has to offer, don’t be surprised if you start hearing much more from them.