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Skyscrapers by Connor Skyscrapers by Connor
What You Need To Know:
Connor Flanagan's...
Greater Than All: Part 1 EP by CRC Music Greater Than All: Part 1 EP by CRC Music
What You Need To Know:
CRC...
Clear The Heir by Christon Clear The Heir by Christon
What You Need To Know:
Christon...

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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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Ard Goes Hard | Posted July-13-2018
What You Need To Know:

When you think of places that your favorite rappers come from, the cities that immediately come to mind are New York, Houston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Rookie CHH artist, Cory Ard, may have been born in Washington DC, but was raised and still lives in Colorado Springs--not exactly hip-hop central.



What It Sounds Like:

Cory has a classic hip-hop sound. The Blackout starts with the worshipful piano vibe "Be Him" but then the sound switches to something more familiar with "Levels" and "Good Fight." Sonically, the album has several flavors of hip-hop, from boom rap to trap and everything in between. There's even the spoken word piece, "12:11," in which Ard gives his full testimony.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"Be Him" encourages us to be like Jesus and not necessarily just good church folk. "No Pain No Gain" gives us several scriptural references. Even though the album is not lyrical theology, it is still very much a Christian Hip Hop album and the gospel message is clearly presented.



Best Song On The Record:

The track that had the most impact for me was "12:11," but since it is a spoken word piece and not necessarily a song, the title on the album would go to "Good Fight." The track hits hard and Cory's talent as a rapper really shines as he stays right in step with the feature by Steven Malcolm.



For Fans Of:

JsonThi'slFlameSteven Malcolm



Final Word:

The existence of several styles on the album does not detract from the cohesiveness of the project. After several listens, the album stays fresh.



Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.

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Acoustic Reflection | Posted June-28-2018
What You Need to Know:

Folk worship artist Brian Campbell brings the church 14 new songs of worship and reflection on his latest offering, Born Again. The album is reminiscent of an early 2000's Vineyard Worship album. This is not a bad thing. There is truth and purity in the simplicity of Campbell's voice paired with rich, loving lyrics. The heart of the artist is on full display as he worships the first artist, the Creator of the Universe.



What it Sounds Like:

Born Again is a meditative worship album. It's not something that would be paired with a large stage show, but rather a simple get together of followers of Christ for an intimate night of worship. Campbell's voice is clearly matched with the prominently featured acoustic guitar. The lyrics are not overtaken by heavy electronic bass lines or other instrumentation. The use of strings is also prevalent throughout the album along with padded keys.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

As a worship album, it does just as it is intended. There is not a big show here. It is something that can accompany a morning devotional with a nice cup of coffee. And as you sit down to your morning devotional, press play on "Speak." This song is a perfect prayer to sing just before diving into the word.



Best Song on the Record:

As soon as you press play on the album, Campbell's voice welcomes us with "Awake, awake, awake, awake my soul, take your place, my heart your home." In our Sunday services, we have become used to the cliched use of a fast, praise song to open up the set. With "My Heart Your Home,"  Campbell get's the start of the album right. Welcome God, prepare yourself for a meeting with the Holy Spirit and receive what God may have for you as we pour out you have to him.



For Fans Of:

Josh Garrels, Samuel Lane, Urban Rescue, NEEDTOBREATHE



Final Word:

Simple and effective worship are often overlooked for a bigger show; do not overlook Brian Campbell's Born Again. This reflective worship album will ensure that you don't miss the most important thing--the biggest show there is. God's power!

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Old School Vibes All Day | Posted June-14-2018

What You Need to Know

5ive continues his grind with his latest offering Me Against The World, Vol. 2. This new album from the veteran artist furthers the gospel message to the lost world around us all while encouraging Christians to be strengthened in their faith.

What it Sounds Like

Me Against The World, Vol. 2 is an old school hip-hop album. No trap here. Just smooth east coast rap reminiscent of a simpler time. The project also includes smooth R&B vibes in "#MatW2 (feat. Victorious & Jordan Lucio)" and a nice gospel choir in "#StillWorship (feat. GHC Choir)." 

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

Each song is filled with a focus on God's power to help us overcome whatever we may be facing. In "#DestinedForMuch (feat. Illuminate, Jordan Lucio & Omar)" the verses focus on the greatness in each of us thanks to the saving grace of Christ. On "#DontMissYou (feat. Dru Bex & Korbvn)" the lyrics speak to how the power of Christ helps us overcome sin in our lives. The thing we don't miss in this glorified life is sin.

Best Song on the Record

There is something about a feature from J. Carter that just makes me groove a little more. On "#iNeedYouMore (feat. J. Carter)," 5ive's bars mixed with J. Carter's lyrics, all combined with an honest prayer asking for more of God, gives the listener a hip-hop song that can easily become a worship song



For Fans Of

Json, Datin, Eshon Burgundy, Bizzle

Final Word

In a time when the culture is delivering turn up tracks and fun party tracks, Me Against The World, Vol. 2 puts the C back into CHH. 



Find it on Spotify and iTunes.




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Without Challenge | Posted May-08-2018


What You Need to Know:

Jackie Hill Perry is not your average CHH artist. First of all, she is a she in middle of the misogynistic rap game. The secular world is offering us Cardi B who, although making moves of her own, continues to personify women (at least outwardly) as something to look at rather than to be heard. Secondly, the Christian church can too often come across as a misogynistic culture in general where women are still fighting to be seen as equals. The mold-breaking Jackie Hill Perry is returning with her sophomore album Crescendo almost four years after her initial release, The Art of Joy. This new project re-acquaints us with a familiar voice as her first album was an instant classic, raising the game for all emcees.



What it Sounds Like:

Crescendo is a hard-hitting hip hop album. It harkens back to a day where lyricism was put above "getting turnt." Crescendo is not youth group rap or merely a collection of random songs that needed to be rushed in order to meet a contract deadline. The album tells a story, starting with a person in despair in "Lamentations" and moving along their journey of faith, which ends in a "Crescendo" of praise.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

If you are familiar with Jackie's body of work, including her poetry and other feature verses, then you will immediately know that what is being presented is something that has depth and meaning. A clear example of her lyricism is on display on her collaboration with Ambassador, DA Truth, Shai Linne and Humble Beast labelmate Braille, titled "Hymn." Here she raps: "You can't afford the price for life, like you little rich with the keys / Between them black bars, lying flat, that's a major key. / He's the best, you can bet ain't no change in Him. / Penny pinching freedom / it ain't Lincoln that slaves needed, the grave beat it / and moonwalked when he raised. / Even the stars know his fame stays daily, it's reign season, His name's Jesus."



Best Song on the Record:

If albums were to have bonus levels that only get unlocked after listening to the whole album, then "Crescendo" is that track. I cannot remember the last time that a rapper spit such a strong verse. When Jackie got to the final 16 bars of "Crescendo," I found myself awestruck at each and every component: the beat, the flow, the lyrics, her breath control and her ability to just get locked in the pocket and go until the beat stopped.



For Fans Of:

Propaganda, Da T.R.U.T.H., Beautiful Eulogy, Eshon Burgundy



Final Word:

Crescendo from Jackie Hill Perry is easily the best hip-hop album, front-to-back, of 2018. 



Listen on Spotify or iTunes.





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Powerful Praise | Posted April-10-2018


What You Need to Know:

When you ask most people at church about Australian Worship Music, their first reaction will be Hillsong, or maybe the brothers Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY. However, if you want all of the depth of worship of Hillsong but with the stage presence of fK&C, you have to look no further than Planetshakers. This latest release, Heaven on Earth - Part One (Live In Asia), delivers on both the fronts of powerful worship and high energy praise. Probably best known for "The Anthem," which released in 2008, Planetshakers delivers a succinct little package with this 4 song EP.



What it Sounds Like:

Heaven on Earth is classic Planetshakers. The EP contains 2 high energy worship tracks which will have you dancing, and 2 worshipful tracks which will leave you on your knees before a mighty God. The theme is consistent throughout the 4 songs, which makes it an excellent worship set for a home group or even a time of personal worship. At 24 minutes in length, it is easily digestible on a morning commute or, with the high energy tracks, a fast 5k run. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The constant theme throughout is the faithfulness of God and His promise to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). High praise is reserved for "The Greatest." This song is pure praise and worship and all about lifting up the name of Jesus. The comfort of God is the core theme of "Not Alone."



Best Song on the Record:

"The Greatest" is just a great song to jam out to. Turn it up loud, gather the entire family together and have a worship dance party. Even have a contest to see who shouts "you're the greatest!" the loudest.



For Fans Of:

Hillsong Worship, Passion, Mosaic MSC



Final Word:

Heaven On Earth is a refreshing worship album that is full of power and praise. I am looking forward to part two.



Listen on Spotify and iTunes.



 



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