After taking a few years off from the music spotlight, the multi-platinum selling and highly accoladed Jaci Velasquez is back. The now happily married wife of Nic Gonzalez (Salvador lead vocalist) and mother of two small boys (Zealand & Soren), the singer's latest project shines as one of the best female vocalist and overall pop projects in the last years and recent. Musically the album embodies a versatile of pop elements, vocally stronger than ever before, and lyrically pure genius.
The album starts with the title track Diamond, a personal testimony of how through our hardships and failures in life God is doing something beautiful.The chorus echoes, “How you take an ordinary life and fill it up with so much life because of your love. And I know you see straight through me and trust what You are doing til I’m shining like a diamond”, creating a perfect picturesque of how, as Jaci states a diamond’s “flaws and imperfections” are what make it sparkle the most. The upbeat Give Them Jesus initiates in a longing for the mission field in order to “change the world”, when many times it is in one’s daily norm where one can shine and give the world Jesus.
Beautifully arrayed, The Sound of Your Voice has radio single written all over, as well as potential future worship song to accompany. The song declares God’s majestic grandeur found in His voice that called all of creation into existence.The fun & jazzy Stay resonates a mother’s wish for her children to pertain as babies forever, consciously knowing and wanting to doubt the day they will grow up and leave home. Fall For You comes through the perspective of God and the infinite grace He has towards His children.
Jaci has always been known for her Spanish music, and sharing her Hispanic heritage enriches even more this already stunning record. Con El Viento En Mi Favor (With the Wind in My Favor) comes as a sequel to the story of her highly successful Spanish single Come Se Cura Una Herida. The earlier single discussed a wounded heart and being amidst the healing process, the later delves into complete restoration.
Inciting in piano flares and slowing in hushing acoustics, Tell Me Again comes as a prayer to be reminded of one’s true identity found as a child of God. The orchestral strings and build up endow this enriching song.The catchy Girl appears to be made for the screen or stage with musical like arrangements mirroring themes of “identify” and “self-worth” calling to embrace one’s uniqueness.
The fast paced Trust in You conjoins pop rock and techno remix elements that alter the album’s already multifaceted shimmer.Similarly, Guilty keeps the fast pace with stronger rock integrates resonating themes of fully accepting God’s grace and letting go of shame. Accompanied with a piano lead and violins, the hushing Good Morning Sunshine dismisses listeners warmly.
Jaci Velasquez was a huge hit in the late 1990s and early 2000s in both English and Spanish markets, and Diamond clearly demonstrates why. Jaci never adheres to one sole genre style, but adroitly exhibits a versatile in musical selections. Surely pop yet embodying its many elements, the album soars as a must have. Diamond takes longtime fans to her early works and is a perfect introduction for new listeners. The album excels as a strong comeback from one of the world's most beloved Christian artists of all time.
Welcome back Jaci, we’ve all dearly missed you. We are beyond thrilled and ready for this new chapter!
Spryly bristled and fused in electronic rock music comes Worth Dying For’s follow-up album “Live Riot”, and as the title suggest in live version format. Based out of Calvary Temple Worship Center in Modesto,CA Worth Dying For not only delves into soothing ears, but awakens worshipers to arise and take action. The album is filled with highly energetic sounds and heart penetrating lyrics.
The first track Rebuild encompasses a powerful message that engraves the hearts of worshipers to “finish the race” by keeping their eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).The anthems commence with the pumping Arise calling this generation to rise up against the strands of this world with God’s fire and power. The upbeat pop rock Never Look Back takes center stage urging to leave all burdens behind at the cross and instead focus on the incredible freedom found in the “Love that saved us”.The 80’s pop rock slat Freedom Rising is rightly place meditating on the freedom found in this awestruck Love. The thriving Love Riot is finely arrayed in techno and rock medley.
The first half tracks are highly energetic and gently strides towards the anthem driven Risen From the Grave and into the anointed Closer. Live Riot consists of 17 tracks, in which all titillate listeners and at the same time cause a “riot”. The “riot” calls believers to wake from the norm and take on the militia of love against the powers of darkness. Live Riot is spruced in intense sounds and words that connect to a loving God that empowers to rise up and change the world.
Live Riot is not your typical “Praise & Worship” album, Worth Dying For takes modern worship music to a whole other level. Musically, it’s able to incorporate varying sound elements from heavy rock, electric pop to gentle worship tunes. Lyrically, it’s not only profound declarations of faith, but anthems that usher to the presence of the Throne, as well as activating believers to put on ammunition and activate as light.
Passionate Portrayal of Love | Posted September-13-2011
In beckoning beauty comes Jeremy Riddle, singer/songwriter and recent new addition to Bethel Church's stable of anointed worship leaders in Redding, Calif. With healing and soaring anthems, Riddle's third album, Furious, is a profound worship experience.
In a hushing and acoustic invitation, “Fall Afresh” calls for the Holy Spirit to not only show up, but fill every part of the individual. The song calls for renewed hunger, seeking, and thirst in Him. An undeniable top of the lung worship tune, “Furious,” comes in rock-fused attire that captures the album's entity.
As Riddle himself states, “It's hard to come up with words that depict the magnitude of Christ's love--the depth and width of it. Furious doesn't work outside of the context of love; we tend to translate the word as angry, but I see it as a super-powerful force; stronger, deeper, broader than our vocabulary can fully describe.”
With Brit piano pop and glistering guitars, the serene “Love Came Down” sings of the love that came down to rescue us. The song reminds one that life and our identity is only truly found in this love. “One Thing Remains” resounds softly that God's unfailing love never gives up nor runs out.
The enthusiastic “Acquitted" declares God's goodness that has removed our trespasses and given us a new hope, and the danceable praise “You Are Good” engagingly contemplates the same truth.
With a hauntingly beautiful piano and string arrangement, “Walk In His Promise” calls upon complete dependence and trust in our Lord. The effulgent “One Thirst and Hunger” excavates the heart of the worshiper seeking God's face with intensity. “Glory to the Lamb” points out that our worship is offering complete surrender and the very best of ourselves.
Galvanized in soft pop texture, “The Lord is My Shepherd” echoes the 23rd Psalm, restoring and ministering to the soul. The tranquilizing “Here” allows one to meditate upon God's kingdom being here on Earth as we fall deeper and deeper in love with our King. In placid folk and gentle electric piano, “Always” evokes a magnificent obsession with Him.
Jeremy Riddle skillfully strides into a new direction. “This record is different because I wasn't intentionally seeking out songs for specific needs or situations," he said. "Worship songwriters should always ask if the content of their songs is really the word offering of our heart or simply a well-crafted lyric. I continuously tried to direct my focus onto delivering authentic expressions of my heart over something catchy and quotable.”
The album is not just a listen-through, but an actual invite to worship and mediate upon God's massive love. Throughout the album one can not but contemplate and be awed by this never-ending, furious love.
It's important to note that more than a third of the songs have appeared in the Bethel Live Be Lifted High album, but in a new studio recording format.
Warr Acres | Posted September-06-2011
Emerging from Oklahoma City's Victory Church comes new worship band Warr Acres's self-titled debut album. Warr Acres is layered with dance pop sounds, rock strokes, & ranging vocals. The album is overly fun and yet a true worship experience.
The record starts off with the electric 80s pop rock "Undignified." The song reminds the worshipper that he/she was created for God's glory, and Him alone. We were created for You and His glory."Sound the Alarm" comes with even stronger pop infused glimmer whose vocal arrangements evokes a Rhianna/Katy Perry feel. This is quite invigorating and unexpected, and for a younger audience serves as a bewildering treat. The track's content is strong to the church to take up and take action and be the "soldiers and saints" bringing light to the darkest of places and being the voice for the voiceless. The song's central theme of social justice is textured in this fast track that keeps people off their feet and prompts them to dance in streets by putting their faith into action.
In a much slower pace comes the orchestral/string arranged "You Are My Joy." The lyrics beautifully accompany the already soothing music which are life breathing and reminds us that when one goes through storms, God promises to never leave His children alone. "Maker of Miracles" swiftly comes in a calm pace, yet still carrys a pop texturized beat. The song declares that Christ is still is a "maker of miracles", giving sight to the blind and healing the broken hearted. "Hymn of Remembrance" carries the traditional old fashioned hymn sound decorated with light church organs and accompanying vocals that remember God's great unconditional love that is timeless.
"Shout Your Love" breaks in abrupt array, with a somewhat rock country fused energy, both musically and vocally. As the title suggests, the worship anthem declares shouting God's love to all that will listen, and telling the "whole world" and praising Him "without conditions."
Coming with strong frenzy energy, the dance pop track "Heaven Bound" is reminiscent to Lady Gaga. Lyrically, the song revolves around meditating on what awaits those who put their complete trust in Jesus. "To dwell in paradise with you forever for all eternity we'll be together."
"Saviour, Crucified" soothes the dance album, yet it's still carries its foundation in a solid pop sound. The track talks about the ultimate sacrifice with penetrating lyrics of us being the very ones who were the nails that were placed in His hands and feet. The song doesn't just end there but brings about the power of the Resurrection.
Musically similar to the previous, "Hold To This Truth" calls worshippers to fix their eyes on a "vital truth" that "His Love made a way", giving life and peace to all who believe.
"Shadow of the Steeple," starts with church bells and transcends to pop/rock. The words are clear, that as Christians we are commanded to serve and love others. The track is an epitome of the album's intent, putting faith into action and reaching the lost, living a radical life of a true worshipper, not just by song.
The last track "Our God Reigns" is rightly placed, ending in a distant sound imbuing a folky "worship" appeal. The song ends glorifying Him and His eternal reign.
For most ears, worship music has become a stylistic genre. Warr Acres changes all of this, as Chris Crow of the group states, "This isn't your normal worship sound, but yet God is so glorified throughout it that you can't help but enter in to His prescence!" The album does exactly that--breaks musical barriers and creates a worship atmosphere, not only in song and voice, but in hands and feet. Warr Acres can best be described as a mixture of Worth Dying For (Modesto,CA) and Planetshakers meets mainstream pop, yet still has a unique prescence. Warr Acres is able to step out of the common and expectant delving into a new territory with riveting aplomb and energy.
Drink In This Impressive Debut | Posted August-01-2011
Lavished in luminous color, newcomer Matthew Reed presents his refreshing worship EP, Come & Drink, for a generation seeking for something deeper. The album is set in a singable anthem manner and rock-driven array. The EP comes from producer Michael Rossback (Gungor, Jared Anderson, Paul Baloche) and comes between a mixture of Rossback's previous works, plus hints of Mat Kearney and Knoxville's rising worship team, United Pursuit Band (Will Reagan).
Surrealistically embellished, the project is filled with rally and folk like anthems with clinging thumps, a soft touch of Southern edge, and soaring, soulful vocals. The boylike voice is assuring and serene. Lyrically, it's penetrating, profound and inviting.
The EP begins with the melodic “Awake, Awake,” which is able to purge piano swifts and electrifying sounds in a hooking appeal. The track calls forth to “make way for the Lord,” as well as a call for the Church to “rise up.” The album transfuses a call for holiness, echoing “Have you not heard? He's coming for a pure bride. Like a thief in the night, He's coming quickly.”
The following track, “Come and Drink,”is a thriving and harmonious invite to drink from the “healing river.” The song evokes the listener to invite others in the chorus: “Come you thirsty, come you sinners.” The bridge is an engaging singalong that makes one ponder, “Can we count the things He's done?” The song is gorgeously paced and structured, forging a sprinkle of '70s light pop rock and a somewhat Michael Gungor resonance, in all creating an assertive appeal.
Both “Crash This Place” and “Come Now” are invitations for the presence of the Holy Spirit to invade, fill, and dwell amidst. “Crash This Place” carries a Southern rock edge and at the same time a harmonious and structured congregational anthem. “Come Now” comes with a softer touch, with additional declarations as children of God. The lyrics penetrate a tangible experience that beautifully call out, “bring forth Your rain into these dry and thirsty bones. Come now upon us, upon Your people, You are the light that shines. Darkness is no more.”
“Emmanuel” has an acoustic appeal and gentler rendition, discussing God's infinite love that “has no bounds.” From all tracks, this one seems to fully carry the Southern roots of Reed in a hushing lullaby like manner. The final track, “Pour Out,” comes in a more energetic upbeat swift and cries out for revival. The song calls unto God's presence to fill one's cup and overflow, in so creating a triggering effect resulting in “revival.”
Undoubtedly the album carries the touch of producer Rossback's previous works, yet still presenting a unique rendition to the already giant rising “worship scene.” Reed has something unique to offer, as he is keenly able to carry out Southern rock edge and folk with a modern youthful touch, resulting in singable anthems. The music does not seem to center on Reed, but create a rally of worshipers united in “Spirit and in Truth.”
Reed's EP is able to go much deeper than just proclaim, but create a healing and Spirit filled atmosphere. Beauty is transcended from beginning to end, and it is not necessarily the music and lyrics, which in all honesty are all contagious, but the heart of this sincere young worshiper that is felt and penetrated.
Warrior Cry | Posted June-09-2011
From the heart of Bethel Church, the well known epic center of Jesus Culture, Brian & Jenn Johnson, Kim Walker and others comes Jake Hamilton. Already a resonant voice of the Redding,CA movement, Hamilton is a cry of a warrior. The project Freedom Calling emerges from a fresh sound and perspective, Hamilton's unique southern like classic rock sound adds volume and rawness to worship. His sound is anything but tame, it is warrior like. The sound brings about sounds that are familiar to that of Keith Green, Led Zeppelin, and The White Stripes. Hamilton cries out for a generation to seek God's face with passion and militia.
In “War Drums” comes a rally-like song settling for battle, with drums beatings and thematic cues of classic rock. The second track “New Song” comes in at a much alleviating sound declaring a new song and revival that is coming to shake the earth. The song declares to “prepare the way for the Lord”. The track seems like a prophecy that is being unfolded.
“Supernatural Revolution” declares His kingdom being on earth and being revealed through the use of the “supernatural” gifts given to the church. A call for holiness and for the church to take stand of what God has given them to go and revolutionize the world, the track still holds Hamilton's unique persona.
“You” and “Take It All”come as passionately felt worship tunes still holding that riveting classic rock edge. “It's a Garden” comes as cry to be a burning fire and all that God has called us to be. “Looking For One” shows a much gentler side of Hamilton delving in themes of justice and being the “one” that can hear God's heart beat and be willing to be His hands and feet.
“Breakout”, “Freedom Calling”, and “Darkest Before the Dawn” excavate liberty in Christ with heavy vibrates of rock renditions. The album ends with the victorious “Hallelujah”, a familiar melodic sing-a-long closure.
Freedom Calling is intensifying. This is anything but typical, even from former Bethel recordings. Although fairly acquainted with worshipers from this emerging church (Chris Quilala, Kim Walker, Brian Johnson), Jake Hamilton has something completely new in a very invigorating and intense way. Hamilton's unique rock edge is something not so very accommodated in the “worship scene”, and he does a splendid way of weaving new sounds to a worship experience.
Awakening | Posted May-30-2011
Appearing to slowly supersede, it appears that pop music is making a comeback in the world of Christian music. Lacking the typical CCM feel and acoustic mellow driven appeal, it's a different shift and quite luring. That is in no sense degrading the typical scene, but point out a new direction that was in desperate need of more attention. The album "Black & White" storms in with the flourishing vocals and heavy pop alludes of Royal Tailor,a group composed of four young men: Tauren Wells (lead vocals) D.J. Cox (guitar), Blake Hubbard (bass guitar), and Jarrod Ingram (drums). The album is energetically layered with R&B, pop, and rock. The sound evokes somewhat hints of Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars, yet still maintaining a refreshing texture.
From beginning to end, each track is in no way a sleep drifter, but awakening. Lyrically the album discusses themes of identity, redemption, and growing in a sincere relationship with God. The first track, “Death of Me” initiates with thumping beats discussing the death of the old man and one being made fully alive and clothed in Christ. “Make a Move” calls the church to put “faith into action” and “do more than just believe”. In a much soother setting the third track “Freefall” discusses relying and finding security in God's arms whenever one is in the lowest of moments of life. The fourth track “Control” is probably the peak of the entire project, heavy electric dance pop sounds that are reminiscent of Justin Timberlake and with references to hits by Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Kate Perry, the band calls Christians to not allow popular culture to infiltrate and ultimately take control of them.
The next track “Gravity (Pulling Heaven Down)” comes in a much slower stance. Beautifully composed, the song reveals that behind our dark moments we have a refuge and are drawn closer to Him, finding beauty behind darkness. “Hold Me Together”, the album's first radio single, is a harmonic inviting tune for listeners as a cry out to God, recognizing our frailty and for Him to hold us completely safe.
“Wannabe” comes in a more static matter which discusses not allowing the world to tells us what and who to be and by finding the complete freedom in our identity in Christ.
Laden with fragments of groove and soul , the title track “Black and White” comes as a prayer to the Father crying for forgiveness, reminding one that there is no in between when it comes to our relationship with Christ. There is only black and white, hot and cold, and no lukewarm. “Run to Love” is a reminder that every individual carries loads and scars and that there is complete healing when running to God's open arms. The song is a voice to run to Him, despite whatever we've done and finding restoration. “Hope” and “Love Is Here” both bring about themes of hope and love being freely available to all.
Not necessarily a boy band, but drawing towards a strong mainstream sound appeal, this kind of music is undoubtedly needed in the CCM industry. The vocals are impeccable and the music catchy. I applaud all four band members for creating music that is relevant for a forgotten audience. As Tauren states, “This record is pressing against the flow of the mainstream market. We have nothing against mainstream artists, but some of the messages and values coming out of mainstream music today are poisoning the culture. We hope to be a remedy to that, to stand up against that and show people this is not normal. There's something greater for you than just partying. We hope to press back against that and create some awareness and awakening in our listeners.” That is exactly what the album creates: awareness and awakening among listeners. It is a fight for our young people to not get lost in a perverted and crooked generation, and a call to be a light and draw this generation to the arms of Christ.
Medicine to the Heart | Posted May-22-2011
Sophomore album of one of today's rising Christian pop female vocalist is medicine to the heart. Simplicity and purity is brewed in this listen. That's the feel when it comes to listening to Battistelli's music, it's naturally beautiful without any needed tainting effects. The music is simple with superb songwriting, while heavily relying on the Battistelli soulful voice.
"This Is the Stuff" invites listeners in a most friendly folk manner to the musical diary of a young woman realizing that God uses the things in our daily lives to mold us into His image. "Constant" shares God's faithfulness, that He is the only constant in our lives. With strong vocals and lyrics Battistelli is able to captivate listeners to reflect on every details of their lives, take hold of every moment, love God, trust in His faithfulness, and enjoy those very dear to us. The theme in this album as in the track title “Don’t Miss It” heavily revolve around valuing life and every moment. "Hundred More Years" is rightfully placed as the final track encapsulating the themes in the album into a gentle lullaby that beautifully drifts into the hearts of listeners. The final track invites individuals to live the now and create everlasting memories that will last for a hundred more years.
Aftermath is a finely crafted, surprising and mesmerizing musical experience. The album initiates with Take Heart in slow rendition with the all familiar voice of Joel Houston, ending in soothing violins as it transcends to the second track. Go captivates the all familiar energetic praise & worship sound of Hillsong United. Beautiful refreshing, from heavy electronic keys with hints of 80s pop sound, as in Bones & Search My Heart to the soothing Aftermath, and in all still maintaining its riveting rock edge. Every release from the Hillsong United is heavily expected, and one clearly sees why. The album is not as congregational as previous works, which may disappoint few. The music tends to shift towards another direction from earlier projects but the message remains the same, unchanged.