Clearing Out The Temple | Posted January-31-2019 What You Need To Know
No stranger to leading worship, the Voice in My Head Podcast host preps his sophomore worship record, with inspiration from some great names in the business and themes of chasing the merchants out of the temple, Rick Lee James seeks to restore the sacred to the often corporate nature of Praise & Worship.
What It Sounds Like
Scripture readings are peppered throughout the project, grounding the album firmly in Scripture. The title track is the first proper song and is an instant attention-grabber with a bit of a Western feel thanks to an edgy riff. During the song, I couldn't shake a feeling that it was calling to mind something the late, great Rich Mullins would have done, though I couldn't put my finger on just what it was. Sure enough, a little bit of research revealed that the song was a long lost track of Mullins', never released and only left behind through scratchy old recordings. James decided to rescue the track and finally release a properly recorded version to the world. While this undeniably makes one wonder what Mullins' would have sounded like, James does a strong job of bringing to life a lost treasure of one of the industry's greats. The song sets the tone for the entire record, with songs sounding more like something you'd hear at a small country Church than at a packed megachurch arena.
The title track's themes of chasing out merchants from the temple resonate through much of the album. While direct praise is the dominant presence, there is also reflecting on how Christians are called to love our enemies. In the most personal cut, "The Lord is Our Shepherd (To The Babies We Lost)," James sings to the babies who died too soon. The juxtaposition of loss and worship makes for a powerful moment in the record.
Named after a Lord of the Rings character, Eowyn has been around awhile in the background of the Christian rock scene, offering a gothic/industrial-influenced hard rock sound that is fairly unique among the Christian rock scene. Back with her first new album in years, fans will finally have a new gift to unwrap this holiday season.
What It Sounds Like
Shedding some of the harder-edged rock that defined some of her previous hits, Eowyn leans full into the piano-driven side of her sound with this new release. With piercing, haunting vocals and emotive piano-driven hooks, many of these ballads reach strong and powerful musical heights. While not something to headbang to, the music takes you in and paints a raw picture of vulnerability. I’d love to see some of these songs in the background of a television drama.
Ewoyn gives common spiritual themes of rock a unique delivery with a raw and honest approach. Themes of belief and facing the trials of life are given an emotional core. Regaining lost faith drives the quasi-title track while reliance on God is another recurring theme.
A New Beginning | Posted November-10-2018 What You Need To Know
VERIDIA was one of the most promising new voices in Christian Rock a few years ago, with several hits that captured much radio attention. They were seen by many to be the next big thing. When a full-length album never materialized from their many hits, it seemed possible they had missed their window. But, after several hiccups, the band has finally delivered their debut full-length record.
What It Sounds Like
Those familiar with VERIDIA’s previous EPs may take some time to adjust to the band’s new home in techno pop. While the techno angle was always a major part of their sound, VERIDIA was still framed in an accessible rock package. While those influences still remain to a degree on The Beast You Feed, the band has made a definitive move toward their technical side. Some of the technical choruses sound like something from a mainstream pop powerhouse, and sometimes this works better than others. A few of the vocal effects can be an acquired taste, and keep a few of the numbers from popping quite as much as they could. “Reckless” stands out as a highlight on the disc, bringing a bit of the band’s older rock sound back for a song that could’ve fit on one of their early EPs.
Album closer “I’ll Never Be Ready” is the most familiar sounding, a gentle ballad in the tradition of some of the band’s previous offerings. It’s a brief number, but one that is carried by Deena Jakoub’s powerful vocals as well as a guest appearance by Evanesence vocalist Amy Lee. Those vocals remain (and always were) one of VERIDIA’s strongest assets; they carry emotion and sell whatever it is Jakoub is singing.
The songs on this album tread more toward the “positive message” side than anything too blatantly spiritual. The album’s theme (portrayed beautifully on the cover) of choosing which of your inner beasts you will feed carries important spiritual lessons. Elsewhere, there are themes of both challenging us to abandon our darker behaviors along with embracing a positive view of ourselves.
VERIDIA may have drifted from their techno-rock beginnings toward a more commercial techno-pop, but they still retain the driving heart that makes them one of the premier acts of the current musical landscape.
Inspiring, Christ-Centered, and Brimming With Nostalgia | Posted November-02-2018 What You Need To Know
Brothers Jason and Paul Watkins have been in the business awhile with their own respective projects. Joined by old friend Matthew Linton, the trio has produced a standout worship project that could be one of the genre’s better-kept secrets of the year.
What It Sounds Like
With throwback synths and emotive choruses, there’s a good deal of nostalgic throwback sounds here. Much of the music reminded me of songs I grew up with that released in the 80’s and 90’s in CCM, while still coming packaged with enough modern flare to remain in place with the current landscape. From moment to moment, I can pick out different influences without any dominating too much to ever become a ripoff. The slow synth key hook of “Keep The Fire Alive” stands out as one of the album’s more memorable moments, while the energy of the chorus of “Sing!” will shine as one of the most singable.
This is pure, vertical music. The topics tackled are common themes in the genre, singing of the great acts or God and their effect in our lives. However, the delivery is a bit more alive than the common offerings. Whether it’s outright worship or encouragement for the Christian walk, the material should be appealing to CCM fans everywhere.
EDM-Infused Worship | Posted October-24-2018 What You Need To Know
Formerly touring as part of the Esther Melody Band, brother/sister duo Esther Smith and Caleb Eversmith have embarked on a new project, combining their love of several genres into a dynamic new sound.
What It Sounds Like
EDM influence dominates much of the sound of the 2 songs that make up the Rapt In You Ep. The heavy EDM beats also bear traces of rock in their arrangement. While the melodies themselves fall comfortably within much of the modern worship/pop sound, the strong EDM framework gives these tracks some identity that sits above the standard genre offerings.
With entirely vertical lyrics, listeners looking for uncompromising praise and worship will be able to count Embassy as an act to watch. The themes of remaining close to Christ and setting our hearts on fire for Him should resonate with listeners.
Genuine and Heartfelt Worship | Posted October-02-2018 What You Need To Know
Abbie George Maggio is a worship leader from Redemption Church in Mobile, AL. Her debut EP, There Is No Shadow, released in early Spring, 2018.
What It Sounds Like
The Hillsong effect on praise and worship is definitely felt throughout the EP, with extended instrumental bridges, reflective verses, and strong climactic finishes. Her collaberation with Ryan Jackson on “Rising on the Wind” feels like it could fit into many modern Sunday morning services. Closing track “Shepherd” adds a burst of worshipful energy into the mostly laid-back offerings and is a strong finish to the EP.
Standard and accessible worship themes populate the record, reflecting on the different roles of Christ and the greatness of His saving power in our lives. One may not discover a new perspective or understanding on theological themes here, but there is genuine and relevant praise present throughout that will encourage any open spirit.
String Driven Worship | Posted September-11-2018 What You Need To Know:
A songwriter and worship leader based out of Alaska, Austin Mark Adams is here to deliver his debut worship EP.
What It Sounds Like:
Driven by strings, this simple EP takes a standard approach to worship and gives it an ethereal twist. While the style and melodies evoke common trends in stripped down praise and worship, the EP is at it's strongest when it leans into the more ambient violin and fiddle-based sounds. The sections that let the guitar carry the song also fare well in creating a relaxing and atmospheric worship experience.
Praise and worship themes that have endured populate the album, including a cover of traditional favorite "Come Thou Fount." I was most personally struck by the honest meditation on the crucifixion present in "My Savior There."
A Timely Contemporary Pop Offering | Posted September-11-2018 What You Need To Know
Rising from the challenges of a childhood filled with loss, Nathan Sheridan offers a pop debut that draws on the sonic footwork tread by many of his contemporaries, while employing an honest perspective that gives the production a fresh angle.
What's It Sounds Like
Mixing some slightly bluesy toe-tapping pop in the first few tracks with quieter reflective moments and more standard contemporary fare, the songs here never cease to be accessible to fans of modern Christian radio. The varied styles keep the album from becoming stale, and debut single "Loves Like That" is a fine example of Sheridan at his best with a catchy and rousing number.
The album's primary theme is encouragement, whether it's dealing with struggle ("Minute By Minute") or what it's like to be loved by Christ ("Loves Like That"). But, the album also deals with calls to action ("Starts With You and Me") and rejecting the need to live for the opinion of others ("Don't Get It"). These are all fairly standard CCM themes, but Sheridan's background and emotive voice sell the familiar messages in a fresh, new way.
Check Out This Great New Voice | Posted July-30-2018 What You Need To Know:
Drew Greenway has quietly developed a following online through a series of covers and other performance video. Debut single "Walk in the Light" is his shot at breaking out and making a mark on the greater CCM world.
What it Sounds Like:
With a mix of an acoustic guitar driven sound and modern dance-pop production, "Walk in the Light" is both a refreshing reminder that some music is actually still performed with real instruments and a relevant and musically modern song that fits well into what's popular on radio right now. Add in an impossibly engaging melody, and Greenway has a real chance to break out in Christian music with this song.
The song's theme is pretty graspable from the title, offering a relevant message to Christians about keeping close to Christ in times of struggle.
A Fun Summer Ditty | Posted June-22-2018 What You Need To Know:
"California" is the debut single from Aaron Bucks, the newest face to the BEC Music roster. The single was produced in partnership with Ian Eskelin's Radiate Music.
What It Sounds Like:
The song practically oozes "summer." A light guitar beat and easygoing vocal performance, combined with the chorus's laid back and friendly vibes, combine to create a song made for dancing on the beach or backyard BBQs.
The song encourages "Church on Sunday Morning" and offers encouragement to its listeners going through trials. The song's themes trend more toward positive and accessible than a deep faith statement, but its encouragement still makes for recommended listening.