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A Drummer Boy Christmas by for KING & COUNTRY A Drummer Boy Christmas by for KING & COUNTRY
What You Need To Know
The current kings of Christian pop, the brothers Smallbone...
RICHLIN EP by Richlin RICHLIN EP by Richlin
What You Need To Know
Brandon Richardson, stage name RICHLIN, aims to add his...
Feels Like Joy (Single) by Micah Feels Like Joy (Single) by Micah
What You Need To Know
One of Christian music's brightest up and coming stars...

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Album Review: for King & Country - A Drummer Boy Christmas | Posted October-29-2020
What You Need To Know

The current kings of Christian pop, the brothers Smallbone of for KING & COUNTRY, have slowly been building up their repertoire of Christmas tunes. This culminates in their first full-length Christmas studio album, A Drummer Boy Christmas, themed after their signature rendition of the classic carol. 



What It Sounds Like

For anyone who has followed the band over the past few years, the album's sound should come as little surprise. Many of the carols selected were featured on their Live Christmas album released a few years ago. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and its outro "Won't You Come" make their studio debut here. Bear Reinheart of NEEDTOBREATHE will surprise listeners with a guest appearance. His voice fits perfectly on the track's eerie and spine-tingling atmosphere and will make you long for future collaborations between the two. I still think these two tracks should be a single one as "Won't You Come" is the obvious grand finale to the track and doesn't stand on its own properly. But those are technical footnotes to the quality of the listening experience. "Joy to the World" gets the beautifully bombastic FK&C treatment and the result is unsurprisingly glorious. Other cuts are intimately low key and bring out the worship side of these classics. "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" get upgrades from their previous EP versions and the new versions fit well here.



The highlights for many fans will be the two new cuts. "Heavenly Hosts" is the standout and primed for radio success. With a slow-building approach, the song definitely feels like a classic in the making. While following the formula for many modern worship songs, the execution is filled with more wonder and emotion than comparable tracks. The track is a success of dynamics, with both soothing, reflecting harmonies balancing the grand choral highs. All wrapped in just enough of a Christmassy feel to be at home in the season, but not to distract from the setting of a quiet midnight field in the middle of nowhere where the message of the heavenly hosts occurred. 



"The Carol of Joseph (I Believe In You)" takes a quiet approach to capture the wonder of Joseph, an often overlooked character in the Nativity narrative, at being the caretaker of the newborn king. While the brothers Smallbone are often known to go big in their song's climactic moments, this is an example of them keeping it simple and quiet throughout and successfully replicating the mood of cradling the newborn king in the night.



If there's any gripe, it may be that the 13-track length is a tad deceptive, with one of the tracks being a monologue, and the aforementioned "Won't You Come" being an extension of its lead-in. Add in the "In The Bleak Midwinter" Intro and Outro (both well done but their truncated nature doesn't leave room for either to break out) that bookends the collection, and only about 9 fully-fledged songs are present. With fine originals like "Baby Boy" and "Glorious" available, it would've been nice to see if they got reimagined mixes similar to "Drummer Boy" or "Angels." That said, the album doesn't feel shorted for their exclusion as the songs present still shine bright. 



Spiritual Highlights

Not to knock the sleigh bells and Christmas party side of the season, but I always found that the songs focused on the true meaning tend to have the most replay value. Luckily for me, this album is, start to finish, focused on the birth of Christ. It's a reverent and intimate Christmas pageant of an album. 



The new songs giving the perspectives of the shepherds and Joseph round out the worship themes of the classic carols. While perhaps these songs don't reinvent any perspectives on the birth of Christ, they do offer plenty to meditate on by the fireside this Christmas season. 



I'll add in a special mention for the album art. I've always loved the drummer boy/soldier boy motifs of for KING & COUNTRY's past Christmas EPs and singles and this newest addition definitely captures the mood of the album's music.



Best Song

"Heavenly Hosts"


 



For Fans Of

We Are Messengers, Needtobreathe, Hillsong UNITED



Final Word

for KING & COUNTRY have become the gold standard of popular Christian music this past decade. On paper, they more or less do what their contemporaries do, albeit sometimes a lot bigger. But their execution tends to have more emotion, more genuity, more passion. You can feel the authenticity in every note of their work. This Christmas album is no exception. While there isn't anything here you really wouldn't expect if you're familiar with the current conventions of the genre, it's hard to find much here that isn't flawlessly executed. This could be the Christmas classic album to kick off the new decade of Christmas music.



Check out for King & Country on 
Apple Music and Spotify

 



 

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Album Review: RICHLIN EP | Posted October-28-2020
What You Need To Know

Brandon Richardson, stage name RICHLIN, aims to add his voice to the Christian Pop scene. He starts this journey with his debut EP. With several singles released throughout the year, this album gathers them into a cohesive collection for listeners. 



What It Sounds Like

There's a little something for every Christian pop fan on this release. "Royal Blood" boasts a foot-tapping base beat to its chorus that makes you want to get up and move. A softer, more-worship oriented version is also included. This version shifts the mood to a slower and more reflective listening atmosphere.



Three of the four unique songs are included twice, a notable feature of this EP. Hearing these songs delivered in two different styles allows listeners to contemplate the lyrics in different ways. The anthemic "Love Like Thunder" does this well, flawlessly executing the pop anthem and reflective ballad approach. The fittingly titled pop anthem "One and Only" is the only song that doesn't have two versions. Once again, with a groovy singable chorus that would sound great on the radio, "One and Only" captures the listener's attention with chants and abundant hooks. 



Spiritual Highlights

"Royal Blood" praises God for the gift of his blood saving us. "Love Like Thunder" marvels at the power of God's love. "You're The Wine" and "One and Only" continue the worship focus of the lyrics. While the music's sound may be rooted heavily in moveable beats and accessible pop melodies, it's topical and lyrical focus is squarely on the love of Christ and its work in our lives. 



For Fans Of 

Ryan Stevenson, Jordan Feliz, Unspoken, Austin French



Best Song

"Love Like Thunder"



Final Word

Richlin manages to capture a lot of the famous sounds of Christian pop in 2020. Whether it's the bold and anthemic choruses with just a hint of hip-hop or the soaring worship anthems, Richlin manages to give listeners a sampling of all of it. And, it works well to make his songs pop and engage the listener. 


 



Check out RICHLIN on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Micah Tyler - Feels Like Joy (Single) Review | Posted October-21-2020
What You Need To Know

One of Christian music's brightest up and coming stars releases his first Christmas single.



What It Sounds Like

"Feels Like Christmas" is a fun, toe-tapping Christmas song. While some songs make you want to sit by a fireside, this one is a "get up and decorate the house" type of song. With a trumpet solo in the bridge and a sugary holiday sounding hook, this is a great song to get you in the festive mood. 



Spiritual Highlights

Taking a sort of "kitchen sink" thematic approach, the song balances traditional Christmas imagery like lights on a tree and snow in the air with the more faith-centric motifs about the newborn baby and joy. There're so many holiday motifs of both the mainstream and faith variety thrown so effortlessly into the music mix. It's commendable it all pulls together into such a cohesive idea. There's not a swing for new spiritual depth, but that's not really the aim of this track. Tyler aimed to deliver a fun tune to get people in the mood for the holiday season. The Christmassy imagery overflowing from every line of the track is sure to deliver. 



For Fans Of 

Sidewalk Prophets, Jordan Feliz, Matthew West



Final Word

Tyler's Christmas single is sure to get fans into the festive mood. This is definitely a worthy soundtrack to your house decorating, cocoa drinking fun for this year. 



Check out Micah Tyler on Apple Music and Spotify.


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Austin French - Peace On Earth Review | Posted October-16-2020
What You Need To Know

After establishing himself as a name to watch in the Christian music scene, Austin French introduces his first ever Christmas single. 



What It Sounds Like

"Peace on Earth" takes all of the best hallmarks of Austin's style for an enjoyable spin. The slow-building structure allows for both Austin's vulnerable soft vocals to shine, as well as his knack for creating a rousing anthemic chorus. Some production flourishes give the track enough of a Christmassy feel to be relevant in the season. But, since it isn't dripping in sugar plums and sleigh bells, the song may very well find itself at home in non-Christmas playlists, as well. 



Spiritual Highlights

The song's theme plays to a well-respected one for Christian Christmas originals. This is that the newborn King is the ultimate bringer of peace. In a year that has seen more than its share of turmoil, the reminder of the peace that only comes with Christ is needed more than ever. 



For Fans Of 

Colton Dixon, Tenth Avenue North, Matthew West



Final Word

This one should connect with fans of popular Christian music. If you're a fan of some of Contemporary Christian music's recent output of Christmas hits, be sure to add this one to your 2020 Christmas playlists. 



Check out Austin French on Apple Music and Spotify.


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Album Review: Skillet - Victorious: The Aftermath | Posted September-09-2020
What You Need To Know

Deluxe Editions of Skillet albums have become par for the course. Dating all the way to Collide, every album has either been re-released as or co-released with a version featuring extra songs. When the very first song Skillet played live in advance of Victorious called "Dead Man Walking" ended up not making the final tracklisting, fans immediately knew we were in for another "Deluxe Edition" of some sort to come about a year after the new album released.



Sure enough, here we are about 13 months since Victorious blasted onto the scene and Victorious: The Aftermath is ready to keep the victory coming. (Which, if I may say, is the best name yet I've seen for a Deluxe Edition.) The album's 12-track listing is expanded to 20 with three new songs and five alternate versions of popular cuts from the standard listing. 



What It Sounds Like 

"Dead Man Walking" translates well to the studio. Those who've heard the live videos floating around YouTube likely know what to expect. The song is a classic Skillet amp-up rocker that will certainly become a workout jam for many. "Sick and Empty" is probably the standout of the new tracks, offering an electric number that juxtaposes laid back verses against a rocking chorus to rousing success. This definitely has fan favorite written all over it. It was already a favorite of Ledger's, who had expressed disappointment it wasn't included in the album's standard release. 



The previously released "Dreaming of Eden" is a terrific anthem that balances the ballad and rocker sensibilities into one of the band's catchiest songs to date. It also makes a great theme song to the band's graphic novel series. 



The reimagined songs that make up the other new inclusions will likely be more polarizing to fans. While "Legendary" gets a bit of a standard remix treatment, several of the album's rockers get turned into piano ballads. The title track gets a cinematic version that highlights its melodic strengths. The previously released "Save Me (Reimagined)" offers a slow-building epic ballad take on the piano rocker that highlights the song's emotive core. But, perhaps the standout of the bunch is the "Reach (Falling Deep Mix)." A stark departure from the original's aggressive rock structure, this version is pure haunting piano ballad, with Ledger taking over a whole verse of the song, adding in a whole new layer of meaning to the words. This was stated to be a favored arrangement of Korey Cooper's and one need not listen long to see why. It's quite refreshing to see a song that is billed as a reimagining actually come out drastically different than its original. While the original was a favorite of mine on Victorious, I cannot deny that this version is also one of my top picks of this whole collection. 



The single "Terrify The Dark (Reimagined)" closes out the project. And, while the song is still a strong ballad, one will need to listen closely to catch the subtle differences in the mixing between this and the original. In contrast to the drastic changes, some of the other remixes underwent, many listeners may come away a bit disappointed that there weren't a few more risks taken to differentiate this version from its original album arrangement. 



For those craving new Skillet, The Aftermath delivers in spades. 




 







Spiritual Highlights

Some of the new cuts on The Aftermath probe some meatier spiritual waters than the standard Skillet pump-up or "man versus society" anthem. While "Dead Man Walking" fits nicely into the themes blazed by "Reach" or "Back to Life," "Sick and Empty" digs deeper. Exploring themes of self-loathing over one's sinfulness, the song serves as one of the darker entries of Skillet's catalogue, while still offering hope. Standout lyrics include, "I don't deserve Your tears/Or to be happy here/This ended when You gave Yourself to me." 



"Dreaming of Eden" sings of the joy and reward we will find when we get to heaven and are free from our sinful state. 



Best Song

"Reach (Falling Deep Mix)" 


 







For Fans Of

Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, Seventh Day Slumber



Final Word

The new material on The Aftermath is mostly strong additions to the Skillet cannon. Fans would do well to add these new tracks to their streaming and download playlists. These new cuts will likely cement themselves as an integral part of the Victorious legacy. Those jaded by re-releases are unlikely to be moved by the bonus material, whereas those of us still clinging to the charm of physical copies will have to weigh whether or not the new inclusions merit a repurchase. Regardless of one's feelings on the idea of Deluxe Editions, The Aftermath offers enough new content to give Skillet fans something to ease the sting of a rough 2020 and hold us over until we can get another full-length project from one of the most iconic bands in the business. 








Check out Skillet on Apple Music and Spotify.


 

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Album Review: Graham Jones - The Story's Still Alive | Posted September-09-2020
What You Need To Know

With an aim to uncover the spiritual in the everyday, singer-songwriter Graham Jones puts thoughtful lyrics to gentle and memorable melodies in this worshipful offering.



What It Sounds Like

With an acoustic guitar driving the album coupled with Jones's soft vocals, the album takes a much more atmospheric approach to music than the trends of the genre currently allow. These are the kinds of songs that could easily be sonically placed in the background of a commercial or television drama. But, far from being sombre, there is a lot of joy to be had here, such is in the upbeat "I Am Here For You." "Carry Your Heart" brings in a faster pace to add variety to the album's approach, while still feeling right at home. 



Spiritual Highlights

Far from the easy worship of most in the genre, Graham Jones both encourages weary listeners ("Carry Your Heart," "The Story's Still Alive") and also challenges their preconceptions ("God Loves People Everywhere"). "I Am Here For You" and "Resurrection Song" offer examples of common themes of the genre, but done with a more thoughtful and personal execution. 



Best Song

"Resurrection Song"



For Fans Of

Jon Foreman, Andrew Peterson, Elliot



Final Word

Graham Jones is an excellent find for those looking for new acoustic/atmospheric pop the likes of Jon Foreman with the worshipful heart of Andrew Peterson. 




 



Check out Graham Jones on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Album Review: Kim Walker-Smith - Wildheart (Live) | Posted August-15-2020
What You Need To Know

Jesus Culture's Kim Walker-Smith has released her first solo project in three years. Her new worship album, Wild Heart, explores life, new beginnings, and returning to one's first love.



What It Sounds Like

Kim Walker-Smith has one of the biggest voices in Christian worship. Both powerful and soft, her voice carries these worship songs to new heights. Musically, each song takes the melodic, slow-build approach popularized in recent years by the Hillsongs and Jesus Cultures of the business. The title track is one of the best examples of this style working well, with a musically complex and dynamic chorus, culminating in a rousing finish. While some of the songs would benefit from being truncated some, songs like "Wild Heart" are stronger for their tighter runtime. 



Spiritual Highlights

Being a praise album, listeners would not be surprised by the fairly straightforward nature of the album's spiritual themes. In the title track, Kim sings of God's wild heart in pursuit of us. Others praise the wondrous works He's done for us. The themes should feel familiar to fans of the worship genre, carried to new depths on the strength of Walker-Smith's vocal delivery. 



For Fans Of

Darlene Zsechech, Hillsong Worship, Jesus Culture



Best Song

"Wild Heart"



Final Word

Kim Walker-Smith puts her powerful voice to the most worthy of causes in praising the Savior in this collection of moving worship music. 


 



Check out Kim Walker-Smith on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Seventh Day Slumer - Unseen: The Lion EP | Posted August-10-2020
What You Need To Know

Seventh Day Slumber has developed a reputation for producing both quality crunchy hard rock as well as passionately delivered rock worship. The band spent the better part of the last decade or so mixing these two styles. After a slew of rock-driven releases, the band's worship side is ready to roar back with a vengeance with a two-part rock worship release that hits many of the genre's biggest hits of the past decade.



What It Sounds Like

While these worship cuts don't dial up the energy quite as much as the originals, Seventh Day Slumber, nevertheless, injects some of their signature style of guitar-driven rock into these popular worship tunes. "Reckless Love," in particular, sounds great with its new amped-up makeover. The song's iconic hook translates very well into a rock setting. Francesca Battistelli's "Holy Spirit" also gets the rock treatment. Initially a slow-building worship epic, this cover features punchy guitars and edgy vocals. "Eternity" offers an original break amidst the popular worship tunes; the song is one of the more low-key of the tracks. Nevertheless, "Eternity" fits in fairly well with some of the biggest worship hits of the decade. 



Spiritual Highlights

"Eternity," being the song listeners are least familiar with, offers the most spiritual meat to chew on. Its chorus feels so relevant in what has been an unquestionably turbulent year, "Looking for flashing signs and wonders/Looking for saviors on our screen/But you are a God who speaks in whispers/Echoing through eternity/You echo through eternity." Whether it's the remarking on the depths of God's love for us or how God carries us when our feet won't, these songs touch on both our human experience and praise for the creator of it all. 



Best Song

"Eternity"



For Fans Of 

Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Kutless



Final Word

Seventh Day Slumber faithfully delivers a fine collection of some of the most popular current worship songs, using their signature brand of guitar-driven rock energy. Definitely, a must-listen.



Check out Seventh Day Slumber on Apple Music and Spotify.


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Single Review: Caleb Crino - Lord Jesus Come | Posted July-31-2020
What You Need To Know

For rising singer-songwriter Caleb Crino, music is a product of a life surrendered to God. His music is reflective of that surrender, full of pop-influenced gems delivered by smooth vocals that all reflect back on a trustworthy God.



What It Sounds Like

With a simple beat and a lush sound, "Lord Jesus Come" is a radio-ready hit that manages to sound at home with other hits of the day while also sounding more alive and less overproduced than other music that tops the charts. With a sound like this, expect to see Crino's songs spun with other A-listers.



Spiritual Highlights

Life has been difficult for everyone in 2020. And this song is a reflection of that. This song's plea for Lord Jesus to come and conquer our worldly troubles is one that I think most of us can relate to--even on a good year.



For Fans Of

Chris August, Josh Wilson, Brandon Heath



Final Word

Caleb Crino has a definite hit on his hands that should find a lot of fans.


 



Check out Caleb Crino on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Album Review: Sidewalk Prophets - The Things That Got Us Here | Posted June-30-2020
What You Need To Know

Almost five full years after the band's last release, Sidewalk Prophets is back with their 4th full length LP, The Things That Got Us Here. With a deliberate attempt to create a more organic and authentic sound, the band took a grassroots approach to crafting the songs on this album. 



What It Sounds Like

Sidewalk Prophets has always viewed their fans as part of their "great big family." This has developed their sound into one that is both energetic and intimate. If anything, this album finds the band fully comfortable with who they are and what works for them. Lead single "Smile" is the very burst of bubbly energy that has made the band a success. Others like "Where Forgiveness Is" or "You Were There" build to a soaring finish that flirt with terms like epic. Perhaps the band's most signature material is the borderline acoustic numbers in the tradition of "Help Me Find It" and "Come to the Table." "The Light" should be another fine entry in this category. David Frey's vocals have always had this genuine honest quality that makes you pay attention to everything he's singing, and he's at the top of his game once again here. 



Spiritual Highlights

Sidewalk Prophets once again have their finger on the pulse of their fans. Never one to shy away from the struggles their listeners are going through, we have another batch of songs speaking to the anxieties and fears listeners are facing. Songs like "The Comments Section" are so relevant, especially this year. These days, it seems like every social media page is just a post away from an online war. "You Were There" and "Real to Me" impart the wisdom of experience from seasoned veterans. "Smile" has become a very timely entry for a year where it's becoming harder and harder to smile. While nobody could have seen 2020's twists and turns coming, The Things That Got Us Here has managed to be just the album we needed, with the wisdom of good friends there to help encourage us and remind us of how grace has already taken us this far.



Best Song

"The Light"



For Fans Of

Josh Wilson, Mikeschair, Stars Go Dim



Final Word

Sidewalk Prophets bring perhaps the most concise example of their signature sound to date, with an intimate delivery of a timely message that is sure to resonate in these difficult times. 



Check out Sidewalk Prophets on Apple Music and Spotify






 

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Showing 1-10 of 244 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews

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