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Already Done by Free Worship Already Done by Free Worship
What You Need To Know:
Chicago based Free...
For When You Need Me by Empty Isles For When You Need Me by Empty Isles
What You Need To Know:
Empty Isles is Zach Lardy and Zach Lardy is...
Monument by Wild Harbors Monument by Wild Harbors
What You Need To Know:
Husband and wife duo Wild...

Showing 1-10 of 108 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews
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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We're All Human | Posted October-12-2018
What You Need To Know:

Christon Gray quietly flies under the radar of most people. A talented crooner and rapper, Gray show's all sides of his talents - singing, rapping, writing and producing - on Clear The Heir. Whether it's Christian Hip Hop, Gospel, or Soul, no genre clearly defines what Gray does.  But, this new genre is all amour.



What It Sounds Like:

Clear The Heir is reminiscent of Gray's first release, Even With Evil With Me. The piano-driven ballads with impeccable vocal range are the centerpiece;  however, they do not put Christon in a box. The man can spit bars for days, as "Gray," "Grow Up," "Time Out" and "You and I (Sampson's Lament)" make crystal clear.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Take Me To The Water" highlights a desire to be washed clean from sin. But, more than just being washed, it is about the struggle we feel when we feel the tug of God's call on our hearts. "You and I" touches on a struggle with sin and the spiritual warfare involved. The track cleverly lays out what could have been Sampson's lament over Delilah. 



Best Song On The Record:

"Gray" has incredible depth lyrically, and it touches on recent social issues while calling the church to more action. It is also an Ohio all-star show featuring Gray's brother Taelor and Tragic Hero. It isn't a song that can be listened to once; instead It is a song to sit with. The chorus is an exhortation to the listener - "There's a Heaven and we all wanna go/Does anybody wanna fall on the sword/Take my hand, I just want you to know/Healing begins when you call on the Lord."

 

For Fans Of:

Stevie Wonder, Brian Reith, Trip Lee, KB 



Final Word:

Christon Gray is a rule breaker, and he doesn't fit neatly within one genre. Rather, he blends them together, making something that can only be his own. His journey over the years has been the tale of the underdog, but this is an artist that should not be counted out or brushed aside. Clear The Heir is an album that will be revisited years from now and considered groundbreaking in its own right.





But it on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Undeniably Steady | Posted September-13-2018
What You Need To Know

Although she has never left CCM radio rotation, Blanca's latest release, Shattered, (her first full-length album since 2015), firmly reminds us why she continues to burn up the charts. This new album gives us the seven tracks that have yet to be released.



What It Sounds Like

Shattered mixes powerful ballads like "Real Love," "Heaven," and "Shattered" with upbeat dance tracks "Run To The River" and "Give It All," as well as pop songs "Remind Me" and "Undeniable." What we end up with is music for all moods.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

"Real Love" is an incredible power ballad about the love of God, and "Shattered" speaks to how God can repair a broken life. Blanca's voice shines brightest when she is delivering a powerful gospel message.



Best Song On The Record

For my ears, "Give It All (feat. Redimi2)" takes top honors as the best song on the record, and the upbeat dance track would be at home in a club as much as in a church. The reggaeton vibes with the added bonus of Redimi2, a Christian Hip Hop veteran from the Dominican Republic, make this song an all-day jam.



For Fans Of

TobyMac, Mandisa, Tauren Wells, for KING & COUNTRY, Tori Kelly



Final Word

Blanca is a powerful vocalist, and her voice is exquisite on this album and she plays to many crowds with her versatility of styles.

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The Fire Life | Posted August-24-2018
What You Need To Know:

Jesus Culture has been giving us modern worship classics for a generation. From their time as the youth worship band at Bethel Church to the newest project Living With A Fire, Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala and newer members Chis McClarney, Derek Johnsosn and Brian and Katie Torwalt have continually given the church singable worship anthems for today.



What It Sounds Like:

Jesus Culture has always had a unique sound. Those tha are new to the band may think they sound like Elevation Worship- however, Jesus Culture has been pioneering in the modern worship movement and will always sound like Jesus Culture. With Kim Walker-Smith's indistinguishable, "ha ha," Chris Quilala's smooth voice, and the unmistakeable guitar style of Jeffery Kunde, Jesus Culture sounds just like they should.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Not Afraid" speaks to power of the hand of God and the perfect promises of His word. The title track "Living With A Fire" is about life in Christ and how when we are filled with Christ, it is like a fire that burns deep within us- an all consuming fire and a surrendered life.



Best Song On The Record:

Katie Torwalt delivers a stunning performance of "Defender." The simple yet powerful song is over 12 minutes of deep, contemplative worship. The song ebbs and flows with the move of the spirit. It encompasses the beauty of live worship, and is something that cannot be recreated in a studio.



For Fans Of:

Hillsong United; Bethel Music; Elevation Worship; Kari Jobe; Misty Edwards



Final Word:

Live worship alums should be the only worship albums that are allowed to be released, and Jesus Culture does not disappoint on Living With A Fire. The gang from Sacramento, CA continues to deliver powerful worship that crosses generations and is meant for the whole church.

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