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The Way Home (Deluxe) by The McClures The Way Home (Deluxe) by The McClures
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Sunday School EP by Local Sound Sunday School EP by Local Sound
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Local...
We EP by Quinten We EP by Quinten
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A Beautiful Roadmap | Posted August-30-2019
What You Need To Know:

As members of the Bethel Music Collective, Paul and Hannah McClure, collectively known as The McClures, have graced our earbuds with their heartfelt worship music since 2015. If you are a regular viewer of Bethel TV, you will also be familiar with their passionate worship leading. The Way Home is The McLures’ first full-length album and it blends their familiar acoustic driven worship with a modern country style.



What It Sounds Like:


When the first chord strikes on “Now I See,” the first song on the album, we are welcomed with a happy guitar which is quickly accompanied with an organ and a pounding kick drum. The sound is reminiscent of Irish folk music. The organ stays front and center on “Only Have One.” The sound of the organ lays a foundation on the album. It can vary between a gospel organ to a country organ sound. The steel guitar makes an appearance on songs and it all plays magnificently with Paul and Hannah’s voices.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:


As a worship centered album, each song walks us through a variety of emotions. Whether it’s surrender on “Believe In You” or freedom on “Gone,” with the latter even expressing the freedom found in Christ with a happy whistle. “Tender Hurricane” is a metaphor for the power found in the still small voice of God. This song allows the listener to envision something silent and invisible as something impossibly large and unfathomably loud.  



Best Song On The Record:


In my weakness you are strong, In my weakness you are beautiful, I will rest, I will rest, In the night you are my song, in the silence, you sing on and on, I will rest, I will rest…” These lines are the opening of “Holding On To You.” The range of emotions uncovered in this simple song and the truth is revealed as I listened to this song left me undone and in a new place with a new understanding of the importance of holding on to Jesus through every season of life.



For Fans Of:




The first time I was really introduced to the worship style of The McClures was when I had the pleasure of visiting Bethel Church in the summer of 2016. The honesty and simplicity of their style removed the attention from them and left the congregation to focus wholly on God. This same simplicity and honesty are woven throughout this album. The Way Home is less a typical corporate worship album and more of a personal time of prayer and reflection album and it is in these personal times where we can stop and hear the voice of God as he gently whispers to us to give us the direction we need in our lives.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify.



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Back to the Future | Posted July-26-2019
What You Need To Know:

Local Sound, a modern worship band hailing from Nashville, combines an eclectic mix of pop and electro in their latest EP, Sunday School. The EP is a throwback to the days of yore, otherwise known as the mid-nineties. Millennials will recognize the songs from their days in Sunday school, while Gen Xers will reminisce to their young adult days as they tried to break out from the sounds of eighties worship.

    

What It Sounds Like:

These are modern pop/electro remixes of some of the most popular worship tracks of the mid-nineties/early 2000s. An ethereal intro with a mashup of "Agnus Dei/The Heart of Worship" is followed by a pop version of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." This leads to an upbeat version of Matt Redman's classic "Let My Words Be Few." Paul Baloche's "Open The Eyes of My Heart" gets an updated treatment and perhaps the defining song of the era "Shout to the Lord" as originally popularized by Hillsong Worship/Darlene Zschech, gets chopped and screwed with a lo-fi feel.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

These tracks all hold a special place in my heart. They define the era in which I was saved and first came to know the Lord. There isn't anything that can be written about these iconic worship songs that haven't already been said.



Best Song On The Record:

The modern update of "Shout To The Lord" gets the nod for best song on the record. The lo-fi treatment of the melody while maintaining a tender vocal and the addition of the choir brings this song right into this generation.



For Fans Of:

Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Hillsong, Third Day, Paul Baloche

 

Final Word:

Sunday School is a tribute EP to the start of a movement. These songs define an entire generation of the Worship genre, especially as it pertains to radio play and radio hits. These songs stand the test of time and the majority are still sung on a regular basis in many churches. Local Sound has reintroduced these songs with a fresh, modern, yet a respectful treatment.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify.


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A Look At Us | Posted July-19-2019
What You Need To Know

Quinten Coblentz is a name you should know. If not for his 2017 release Sahara then for his production work for artists like Andy Mineo, Dru Bex, Shope, Deraj and KJ-52. This renaissance man's latest release, We, combines his penchant for smooth vocals, clean production, and pristine engineering while exploring the depth of relationships with ourselves, others and God.

    

What It Sounds Like

Coblentz defines the sound as "upbeat hip-pop [with] subtle EDM layers, and mellowed emotional vibes." One of the highlights of We is his own production of the album which truly shows his artistry and ensures that his own vision for the album is exactly as he wanted it to be.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

"We are fallen, we are broken, You're the one we put our hope in" The closing hook on the title track repeats. It is this truth that sticks deeply. After the vibes of the first tracks of the album, Coblentz brings us into this final track with the deep bassline and choral undertones. "Though you can't tell me this is it, we've fallen far we can't forget, there's a Way, there is Truth, there is Life, we can find, arms open wide." And this sums up the gospel of Christ.



Best Song On The Record

"Lonely + Safe" dives into the depths of our intrapersonal relationship, that is the tension we all feel in this day and age. We are so connected yet so lonely and yet it is when we are lonely that we feel safe. The public eye, social media, is not a safe place, as in, it is not a place where we are safe to be ourselves, yet in our own minds and in our quietest times we can be safe in the loving arms of our Lord and Saviour. We never have to seek His approval, because we are born into it. 



For Fans Of

Roy Tosh, Shope, Joey Vantes, Aaron Cole

 

Final Word

Relationships are complex. Whether it is our relationship with ourselves, our friends, a love interest or with God. It is the tension and releases we feel and the feelings in between those two extremes that Quinten Coblentz explores in We. As much as it is an album you can vibe out to, it is also one that can be used for deeper times of prayer and contemplation.



Get the album on Apple Music or Spotify


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Summer Indie Vibes | Posted May-23-2019
What You Need To Know:

Empty Isles is Zach Lardy and Zach Lardy is Empty Isles. The Nashville based songwriter brings a fresh new sound and project with For When You Need Me. This is the first full-length project for Empty Isles and it is a breath of fresh air in a time when Contemporary Christian Music seems to based on formulas and throwbacks.

 

What It Sounds Like:

Spring. If there was one word to describe this album it would be this current season we are in. As the trees are just now blooming in this writer's neck of the woods, the ethereal sounds and soothing vocals blend perfectly with the fragrance of mayflowers and new grass. It is as though the timing of the release of this project was purposeful in ushering spring and early summer.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As the album is not a typical CCM or even a worship album, the spiritual content comes from one's own interpretation of the incredible lyrics written on this album. However, "In You" stands out as a song clearly directed as a prayer to our Father.



"In you, I find grace and mercy /

In you, I find dreams worth dreaming /

In you I find all that I need and more /

In you, I find beauty and color /

In you, I find love like no other /

In you, I find all that I need and more."




Best Song On The Record:

"Hope Finds Me" continues to stand out to me as the top song on the project. From the lyrics to the overall soundscape that the song creates. It has a familiar sound, yet I've never heard anything like it. Perhaps it's reminiscent of the 80s and some of the popular music that filled soundtracks of movies like Sweet Sixteen and The Breakfast Club.



For Fans Of:

Kings KaleidoscopeCitizensStarflyer 59

 

Final Word:

It isn't often that a new artist gives you a feast of 15 songs. The instrumentation, vocals, sound design and mixing allows for an immersive listening experience. For the sake of the current state of popular CCM, I hope Empty Isles continues to give us such aural feasts.



Find the album on Apple Music and Spotify.


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Worship To Set The Captive Free | Posted May-23-2019
What You Need To Know:

Chicago based Free Worship is back with their third full-length English language album, Already Done. The album is a collection of 11 tracks, 2 of which are Spanish versions of the title track, "Already Done" and "No One But You."



What It Sounds Like:

The album brings a familiar, big-church, congregational worship sound that would be welcome in most evangelical/non-denominational churches on any given Sunday. From the high energy, synth-driven "Other Names Fade" to worshipful, piano-based "No One But You" and the acoustic guitar/piano hymn, "Great I Am." The project is a well-curated collection of worship songs.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As with any worship project, Free Worship stays on theme and delivers worship songs that range on topics from surrender as in the tracks "Fall" and "Give My All" to lifting up the name of God on the tracks "Other Names Fade" and "Great I Am" to declaring the victory of Christ on "Already Done."



Best Song On The Record:

There is not just one best song on this album. But rather 15 minutes of unadulterated worship that left me going back and listening to the two tracks again and again. "No One But You" and "Fall" combine in this beautiful moment that allows the listener to enter into an anointed time of worship of an Almighty God.



For Fans Of:

Elevation Worship; UPPERROOM; Hillsong Worship; Gateway Worship



Final Word:

Free Worship has delivered a sacred moment with Already Done that deserves your time and attention. Perhaps though, it's not so much Free Worship that deserves the attention or the well-curated worship set, but the freedom in worship that they lead us into as co-worshippers with them and the congregation of New Life Covenant.



Get the album now on Apple Music or Spotify


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Moving Forward | Posted March-15-2019
What You Need To Know:

Husband and wife duo Wild Harbors' debut album Monument is a delightful, refreshing album that tackles topics like marriage, mourning, faith and hope. 

  

What It Sounds Like:

On first listen, Wild Harbors has an indie-folk vibe - however, interspersed through the album is a throwback eighties sound. The eclectic sounds play perfectly with the vocals, and the duo's voices harmonize beautifully. Each has a wide range that can play off the other regardless of who is the lead vocalist on the track.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Abigail" is a deeply touching prayer that is grounded in a battle of a family friend. When their twin daughters were born, the friends were told that one daughter wouldn't survive. Abigail survived, and this is the prayer and the praise surrounding a powerful move of God.



"Battle" focuses on spiritual warfare. It is a tremendous confession of weakness, but at the same time trust in a Savior who can fight that battle for us.





Best Song On The Record:

"Come Clean" got my vote for best song on the album when I heard the last line, "Freedom is the presence of the right restrictions." So often we feel that the more we can do and the more we can achieve, the more successful we will be. This track speaks to coming clean from extra burdens, and instead getting back to the bare minimum of what we need in life. The simple message of "Cut back what you want/Get back what you need," reminds me of a past life lived in search of something more, when what I truly needed was much less.



For Fans Of:

John Mark and Sarah McMillan, Josh Garrels, Josh White, The Brilliance, Gungor, All Sons & Daughters 



Final Word:

Chris and Jenna Badeker, the husband and wife duo that make up Wild Harbors, left a decade of other careers behind to focus on God's call for their lives. This debut album is the Monument that marks that step of faith. This album is firmly planted in a position that they will easily be able to revisit; yet it also serves as a jumping off point for the brilliant things to come.





Buy Monument on Apple Music or stream in on Spotify.

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The Movement Continues | Posted February-09-2019
What You Need To Know:

Catch The Fire Music is a collective of artists seeking deeper encounters with God and the Holy Spirit. Their newest project,  Presence (Live From Toronto), was produced in response to the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Blessing. This powerful move of God defined a generation of charismatic Christians who were hungry for more of the presence of God and His Holy Spirit. From this move, Catch The Fire World was birthed along with a new generation of revivalists.



What it Sounds Like:

Presence is a live recorded worship album that leaves room for God to move. It is unadulterated worship that includes the many spontaneous moments that are a regular occurrence in charismatic churches. There are sweeping instrumentals and the voices of the featured artists lead the listener in powerful worship. As the listener focusses in on the music, you can join in with the congregation that was at the recording. It allows us, as listeners, to participate as though we were there in person, allowing our own memories of that night to be built.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As I listened through this project, I was struck by how genuine it all felt. As with the majority of live worship albums, there is a sense of being there. The highlights are the spontaneous moments in each and every song. It is more than chorus, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse, verse. There is a genuine heart of worship and room is left for God to do what he has to do. 



Best Song On The Album:

With the majority of the album being spontaneous moments that weave their ways through a tapestry of the evening, the best song is difficult to identify. "What A Father " is a moment on the album when things center back from spontaneous worship and the virtues and greatness of God as the father are extolled. 



For Fans Of:

Bethel Music, Kari Jobe, Pat Barrett, Elevation Worship




Final Thoughts:

When the Toronto Blessing started in January 1994, I was still in high school, and not yet a Christian, I recall when I was saved by the grace of God exactly a year later, people in the church discussing what was happening in Toronto and even people from the church making the trek across the country to experience it for themselves. To listen to an album that was released to commemorate the historic event 25 years later is both nostalgic and a reminder that God's hand is still moving in these real and powerful ways today, and even though what happened in the past created a shift, that same move continues to echo through the ages and music from that movement is widely accessible to all who wish to hear it. Presence brings the movement of Catch The Fire directly to us and allows us to participate in what God is doing across the earth.


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Second City Not Second Rate | Posted February-09-2019
What You Need To Know:

In his sophomore release, The Second City, Steven Malcolm returns with his unique flow. A project that had a lot of run up with multiple singles released prior to the album, the full album brings the story together and highlights the improved talent of the young artist from Grand Rapids, MI.



What It Sounds Like:

Malcolm artistically blends hip-hop, reggae and worship. These three genres are shown in the first three tracks on the album. "Not To Us/Good Love" is a blend of worship and hip hop. The song opens with a soulful worship chorus/hook and the verses bring in a classic hip hop beat and then Malcolm's lyrics shine through. If "Not To Us/Good Love" blends worship and hip hop, then the title track, "The Second City" perfectly blends worship and reggae. Continuing on the worship front, Malcolm teams up with Leeland on "Even Louder" and Stars Go Dim features on "Overflow."



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Steven Malcolm's content is first and foremost Christian. Tracks would be as welcome in a church as on a dance floor. Although not lyrical theology in the vain of Shai Linne or Hazakim, Steven Malcolm brings us songs that deal with Christian life, and uplifting God throughout all we do. "Devil is a Liar" takes on the subject of spiritual warfare that is so real in the life of each and every Christian, and that even though the devil may be whispering (sometimes shouting) lies in our ears, God has delivered us from those thoughts.



Best Song On The Record:

Although I'm a fan of the diversity on the album with the reggae and worship vibes, "Fadeaway", a strict hip hop banger featuring Zauntee, gets my vote as best song on this record. It is modern trap beat layered with Malcolm and Zauntee's vocals that blend perfectly together. 



For Fans Of:

Zauntee, KB, Social Club Misfits, nobigdyl, WHATUPRG 



Final Word:

Steven Malcolm has secured his place among CHH's elite with this project. Steven Malcolm was the first signee to 4against5 (an imprint of Word Records) and the gamble on the young artist has paid off. As Malcolm continues to grow into the veteran on the label, his future definitely looks bright. The Second City shows his range of genres and skills and positions him perfectly for bigger things in the future. 

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Looking Up | Posted November-09-2018
What You Need To Know:

Connor Flanagan's newest EP SKYSCRAPERS keeps thing fresh as we move into the doldrums of fall. The Cleveland, OH native's third album blends hip-hop, house, and techno in a sonic buffet.

 

What It Sounds Like:

The album opens strong with "Make A Way," where there is a modern hip-hop sound with a slight techno influence. Flanagan's vocals are clear throughout the album and the production on the first track sets off the vocals as the highlight. "Landslide" has an electronic worship feel that is quite different from the opening track. "Into The Wild" feels a little like NF's earlier musicthe flow is similar and the sung hook is definitely reminiscent.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Connor Flanagan's tagline is "Where Hip Hop Meets Worship" and the album lacks in neither aspect, from "Make A Way" where there is a shout of victory, to "Anchor" where Flanagan raps about God's security and presence in a life filled by self.



Best Song On The Record:

The title track "Skyscrapers" has a nice vibe. It is about looking up to God and not merely looking at earthly things. This song has the potential to be a commercial success on CCM radio; however, given the different sounds throughout the album, the song still fits perfectly.

 

For Fans Of:

Roy Tosh, TobyMac, Matthew Parker, Chris Howland 



Final Word:

With his third studio project, Connor Flanagan is finding his sound, and his versatility is reminiscent of other multi-genre artists. His sound is welcoming for every mood from turn up to worship, and Flanagan gives us a sound for each floor in our own personal high rise.



Buy Skyscrapers on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Uplifting Praise | Posted November-02-2018
What You Need To Know:

CRC Music is relatively new, with one previously released full-length album, Explosion. Greater Than All: Part 1, their sophomore release, is an uplifting, energetic praise and worship EP.



What It Sounds Like:

On first listen, Greater Than All has a similar sound to somethign like Planetshakers. Electric guitar and drum driven praise kick off the album on "You Are Good" and "Unto Forever." This is followed up with the electronic sound of "Praise on My Lips," while the final three songs move from high energy praise music to a more acoustic driven worship section.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Worship music never makes us wonder whether or not the music is completely directed to God, and none of the songs on this EP can be misconstrued or taken out of context - The focus is the Father. "I'm Letting Go" gives a powerful message of surrender, and the chorus simply states, "I'm letting go/All my heart and soul/I surrender all/That you would be the Lord of all/I lose control/Into your arms I fall/I surrender all/That you would be the Lord of all." The start of our Christian walk does not get any simpler than that, and as we continue to die daily to ourselves, this is a prayer we can all sing out.



Best Song On The Record:

"Oh How I Love You" is a beautiful song of worship, and is an honest prayer to God. It reflects on the attributes of the Father and is a declaration of devotion to the One who created heaven and earth. 



For Fans Of:

Planetshakers, Elevation Worship, Worship Central 



Final Word:

CRC Music has a powerful ministry, and Greater Than All: Part 1 should find itself in your regular rotation. Use the first half of the EP to encourage you and the second half as part of your devotion time. There is praise to get you to dance, and worship to bring you to your knees.





Buy Greater Than All: Part 1 on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.


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