You Won't Forget This Album for the Rest of Your Life | Posted November-01-2018 What You Need to Know
Matthew Parker's music becomes more creative with each album. Daydreamer, his sixth studio album and third album released with Drom Records, contains a variety of songs that boast many different sounds, instruments, and emotions.
What It Sounds Like
Daydreamer opens boldly with "Alice," which is completely a capella and sung into a vocoder. "Find Ü" features an electric guitar solo and goes heavy on the dubstep, while "Good Memories" and "Paradise" (the latter of which features artist Holly Starr) are fun pop anthems. For the listener looking for a mellow jam, "Legends" is more minimalist in its production value while still containing floating synths and a beat you'll want to move to.
"Bittersweet" is all about healing found in Jesus after a breakup, while "Blue Diamonds" follows the story of a celebrity who struggles inwardly and needs Jesus. Most of the other songs are either about relationships or the stress of everyday life.
Best Song on the Record
Although many songs on Daydreamers are incredible, my personal favorite is "Find Ü." From its gorgeous chord progression, to its hypnotic beat, to its passionate lyrics ("I call your name into the grey, I'm gonna find you / So far away, but I'll find a way, I'm gonna find you / If ten thousand days is what it takes, I'm gonna find you"), this song impressed me on all levels.
If you love electronic and/or pop music, the tracks on this incredible album are just what you need in the soundtrack of your life. Matthew Parker is clearly passionate about his art and makes it evident in each one of the songs he writes and produces. I look forward to hearing the musical direction he'll take us in next.
The Rocks Cry Out | Posted September-21-2018 What You Need to Know
Any fan of Canadian singer/rapper/skateboarder Manafest knows he's full of crazy energy on stage, love for Jesus, and amazing music. However, his new remix album, Stones Reloaded, showcases a side of him not often heard and producer Doug Weier of Chicago has added gritty dubstep and chilled-out synthesizers to the already amazing Stones of 2017 to make this new album.
What It Sounds Like
Manafest's signature rock-rap hybrid has remained intact, but Doug Weier has taken this sound to the next level by adding auto-tune, different synthesizers, fresh beats, and beat drops. Some of the driving guitars in the originals have been replaced with gravelly synths to emulate the sound of a guitar and create amazing effects.
"Stones" is all about not being affected by the insults of unbelievers because of an identity found in Christ. In addition, "House of Cards" talks about the struggle with failure and the resolve to trust God despite hard times. "Won't Give Up" is about the fight against sin, and "You're Gonna Rise" is about the healing found in Jesus.
Best Song on the Record
Not only is "Find a Way to Fight" lyrically inspiring ("We won't stop till we win the war / We're gonna stand all through the night / We're gonna get what we came here for / We're gonna find a way to fight"), but it also contains some of Doug Weier's most impressive beat drops in the entire album that will get your feet tapping and your head nodding every time.
Stones Reloaded has combined Manafest's trademark musicality with some amazing dubstep production in his partnership with EDM producer Doug Weier. Whether you're a diehard Manafest fan, a lover of electronica, or a first-time listener, you'll want to pick up this album as soon as you get the chance!
Club Music for Christ | Posted June-14-2018 What You Need to Know
Hailing from Colorado, the DJ quartet Transform is committed to creating music for the rave scene that glorifies God. On their latest EP, Wildfire, which consists of the brand new single and three remixes, Transform combines dubstep with revolutionary lyrics as they seek to change the world for Christ one song at a time.
What It Sounds Like
The main single, "Wildfire," is a mixture of heavy EDM, dubstep, and rap. It builds up many times with sick bass drops. The song changes tempo in the bridge during the rap and builds back up to another bass drop to finish. The other versions of this song include an extended play and two different remixes by Kevin Aleksander, both of which contain heavier beats and more synthesizers.
Transform wrote the lyrics to "Wildfire" with the big picture in mind. They urgently exhort members of the Body of Christ to spread the Gospel to everyone possible, since they feel God is still moving powerfully in the lives of many and will continue to do so: "We hear the ground, we see the sound / We know that You're not done / We want some more, we stomp the floor / We call for revolution / There's no more time to waste."
Although more and more Christian artists are releasing music as time goes on, few exist that produce high-quality tracks specifically to be played in clubs. Transform is a rare gem in this way, and they are definitely an artist to watch. If you love EDM and dancing to Christian music, Wildfire is definitely the EP for you.
Clear Skies Ahead | Posted June-08-2018 What You Need to Know
Based in Germany, the five-piece Christian crossover band, Good Weather Forecast, has been releasing music since 2014. Good Weather Forecast consists of three brothers and two of their friends who share a vision of people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures coming together in unity at their concerts.
What It Sounds Like
GWF's third full-length album Superhumans takes a turn away from the gritty rock and dance music of their past albums and soars into a folk-pop-meets-synths party. Some songs have a more industrial feel in their slow, stomping beats, while others build until the bass drops. Pianos, acoustic guitars, bass licks, and many kinds of rhythms complement the diverse array of sounds on this album.
Because GWF is a crossover band, none of their lyrics explicitly mention Jesus, but all their songs have been written with a Biblical worldview in mind. Many of their songs are love songs ("Next to You," "Breakfast in the Rain," and "Graffiti"), while others address 21st-century concepts such as social media, the mentality of the millennial generation, and dreams about the future ("Running on Air," "Easy," "Superhumans," and "Don't Look Back"). Some lyrical standouts throughout their album include "I'd do anything to wake up next to you," (from "Next to You"), "Always connecting without really connecting / Tired eyes from the screens reflecting / No time for reflection," (from "Easy"), and "We were souls of a different kind / Wildfire is burning from within" (from "Superhumans").
Best Song on the Record
Although many songs on Superhumans caught my attention, "Dancing with Dragons" was the standout track for me. With a Latin-inspired feel during the verses, the synthesizer-driven chorus adds an unexpected flair to this one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
Good Weather Forecast's catchy tunes and thought-provoking lyrics, as heard on Superhumans, serve as a great alternative to the secular pop songs that boast the same musical sounds. The records they release in the years to come will definitely be ones to watch.
Rebranded, Reimagined | Posted September-19-2017
Recently rebranded from Vertical Church Band to Vertical Worship, the team at Chicago's Harvest Bible Chapel has remastered some of their most popular hits to match their new name.
The most noticeable parts of the remastered versions are the catchy intros. The intro to "Open Up the Heavens" is filled with poppy synthesizers and driving percussion, while the opening hook of "Do What You Want To" draws the listener in with the electric guitar riff and sidechained pad. The intro of "The Rock Won't Move" sounds like it's in a different key than the actual song at first listen.
Perfect for corporate worship, all of the songs on this album facilitate unity in the Body of Christ. Meredith Andrews delivers beautifully in "Lamb of God" and "Spirit of the Living God." My personal favorite, which caught me by surprise, was "Found in You," which I have heard many times since Vertical Worship first released it. But all the instruments and vocals were given a complete makeover, just like all the other tracks on this self-titled album.
For fans of larger-than-life worship set openers, the latest version of "1,000 Tongues" is perfect. If mid-tempo reflections are more meaningful to the listener, "Exalted Over All" and "God You Are My God" are sure to please. The album concludes with a live recording of "I'm Going Free (Jailbreak)," which takes the hoedown style of the original to the next level.
The Bottom Line: Vertical Worship has proven, through the remastering of original church favorites of the past, that whatever they release from now on will be of a higher quality than their previous worship albums. In essence, this is one worship group to watch in a new way.
After a six-year hiatus, CCM artist Robert Pierre is back with his fourth studio release, Nothing Without You. Packed with lots of radio-ready hits, this album will delight fans of piano- and synth-driven worship.
Nothing Without You opens with the energetic "I Will Praise You," which worships God for His creation and redemption of both the world and mankind. Along the same lines, "God Most High" and "Holy" also praise God for all He has made.
Piano-driven worship ballads that crescendo into soaring and synthy anthems are central to Pierre's album. "Without You" and "Forever Messiah" follow this pattern. In addition, the constant energy of "The Lord Who Reigns Forever" allows for the listener to become immersed in the worshipful lyrics: "There is no One greater / There is none but You."
By contrast, the theme of surrender is prevalent in ballads "More Like You" and "In Your Hands," the latter of which paints a picture of the journey of surrender to Christ a believer travels. "Your Name" and "On Faith Alone" explore similar themes, as well as the angelic synth-filled "Rest in Jesus," which describes how Jesus replaces fear with His peace. The cover Pierre does of "How Great Thou Art" is unique and catchy, combining folky sounds and synthesizers to make a high-energy rendition David Crowder would certainly enjoy.
The Bottom Line: Robert Pierre's Nothing Without You will certainly touch the hearts of many worshipers. This is one CCM artist to watch!
Adoration From The Bride of Christ | Posted June-19-2017
This live concept album recently released by the prolific songwriting church from South Carolina is one for the ages. Freedom Worship weaves the powerful truth that we are the Bride of Christ throughout the album, focusing on different aspects of this truth.
One thing I appreciate about this album is the fact that Freedom Worship includes several instrumental interludes that set the mood for the following group of songs, but that also are titled to match the theme of a wedding (between Jesus and the Church, in this case). Act I focuses on Jesus, Act II describes the Church and Act III unites the two together. The Veil sounds very much like a typical 21st century worship service, but it also contains synthesizers intertwined with a folky sound (in the style of Avicii) as well as plenty of acoustic ballads. Throughout the whole album I could picture the band performing the songs at an evening wedding reception inside a barn filled with twinkly lights and candles.
"Forever Alive" begins the album after an instrumental introduction to Act I, filling listeners with the hope that accompanies true freedom in Christ. "Christ the Lord" emphasizes Jesus' worthiness of utmost praise and is frosted with a subtle synth pad that gives the song an ethereal quality. To slow things down, "Always With Me" is an acoustic-guitar driven ballad that erupts into driving beats and spacey electric guitar chords: "In the valley / In the shadows / I will fear no, I will fear no evil / When there's no way / When it's hopeless / You are more than, You are more than able." To conclude the first act, "Revival" unites the congregation as they cry out to Jesus to revive their hearts. The plucked synth adds a fresh finishing touch.
Act II begins with a planetarium-like ambient intro which crescendos into the contemplative and joyful "Finished at the Cross." Freedom Worship includes a surprising element after this: Pastor Shawn Wood gives a short message on what the death and resurrection of Jesus means for each human individually. This is followed by "The Veil," which puts Pastor Shawn Wood's message into song. The finale of Act II, "A Little Longer Here," is a sweet love song to Jesus. The vocalist sings, "A hundred years from now, I just want to be with You / No fears that haunt my mind will ever be true." The bridge is the refrain of the well-loved hymn, "When We All Get to Heaven."
At the start of Act III, the instrumental track almost sounds like it could be a wedding march into heaven, continuing seamlessly into "Wild and Free." This song re-emphasizes the new identity and freedom in Christ found when we surrender our life to Him. "Glory Rising" is a worship anthem that rises and falls in intensity, and "You Deserve" finishes the album with a high-energy celebration of God's faithfulness.
The Bottom Line: Freedom Worship has truly produced a masterpiece. They convey their message of Jesus' love for His Church beautifully and artfully. Every song on The Veil leads listeners into the presence of God, which makes the whole album a must-have.
Song to Download Now:
"A Little Longer Here" (You can download this song here.)
Worship at Its Finest | Posted April-14-2017
Hailing from New York City, sibling duo citylovemusic seeks to proclaim the Gospel in every song they write. Jonathan Singh and Kristina Plush just released their second, self-titled EP. As a mixture of acoustic and AC worship, this EP clearly conveys their passion to reach the hearts of many with the love of Jesus.
The opening track "Satisfy" is a bold declaration of surrender: "Lord, we offer up our lives / offer up our lives / as a living sacrifice." Ambient synth pads echo the song's longing to be filled with the presence of God. Similarly, the acoustic "Exalt Your Name" is a corporate acknowledgement of God and His majesty, as well as an excellent song for congregational worship.
Covering Hillsong Worship, "Look to the Son" is a high-energy version of the original. On the subject of high-energy songs, the alternate version of "Satisfy," which features Young Noah's rapping skill in the bridge, also contains an added element of hip-hop beats and synthesizers that complement the worshipful lyrics.
Rounding out the EP is praise anthem "Nothing Worth More," which was originally recorded solo by Jonathan before Kristina joined him to form citylovemusic. Building up to a breathtaking chorus, the duo cries out "There's nothing worth more / it's Your Name I will adore / Your love gives me life / Jesus, I will run to You."
The Bottom Line: citylovemusic is the latest and greatest duo to come out of the woodwork in the ever-growing dominance of worship music. These songs of sacrifice and adoration for our Savior will uplift the weary soul and remind the broken-hearted of the victory found in Jesus.
A Fresh Take on Worship | Posted February-21-2017
Hailing from Montana, the worship team at acclaimed Christian pastor and author Levi Lusko's church has done it again. Fresh Life Worship has crafted an incredible worship album filled with musical and lyrical innovation. The fourteen original songs in this LP delight the soul and draw the listener into a worship experience like no other.
There are so many wonderful musical themes that do nothing but add to the overall worshipful quality of More / Enough. The opener, "Worth," contains a sparkling groove that blends well with the synths used throughout. It sets the tone for the entire album. "Stand Alone" is a hypnotic dance-worship track filled with '80s synths and shimmery textures. "This Rock" proclaims the powerful truth that Jesus is always faithful to us. Glistening atmospheric pads and driving electronic beats complete this catchy song. The whimsical "Can't Contain the Wonder" portrays the experience of an enthralled worshiper through a whirlwind of staccato synths. The fun groove of "You Are In Love" hooks the listener right away with its funky beats.
Even though Fresh Life's innovative musical approach to worship is what initially grabs the listener's attention, this album is packed with profound reflections on Jesus. "Valor" is an epic, angelic and energetic song that reminded me of "Revelation Song." In the chorus, the vocalists passionately sing, "You draw me out of the shadows / my life is filled with Your color / You light my path with Your valor / I want to know You, I want to know You." "Never Stop" contains this lyrical gem: "Jesus, be here and now / be close enough for me to know / You will never stop loving, never stop loving me."
As far as congregational worship is concerned, "More Than Enough" and "Still" are both excellent choices. The former contains a wonderfully syncopated beat with soaring melody lines: "You are more than enough for me / More than enough." The latter is a musically spacious and lyrically heartfelt prayer about God's unconditional love with a soaring climax.
"Heaven Come" sounds a little like Hillsong Young & Free with the way the pulsating synths drive the worship experience: "You are alive inside us now / we believe it, we can feel it." The Stropko remix of this track brings an element of funk into the original with grooving bass lines and syncopated piano chords. Also of note are the Psalm 139 contemplation "Know My Heart," the soaring "Never-Ending," the piano-driven "Be" and the minimalist "The Waiting (Linger)."
The Bottom Line: It is my hope that current worship artists will take both musical and lyrical cues from Fresh Life Worship, because More / Enough raises the standard for worship music tenfold. The direction this band (and church) is going in is incredibly exciting to witness and will surely be one of the defining worship albums of this generation.
A Tropical Journey | Posted October-10-2016
This month sees the release of celebrated Christian EDM artist Matthew Parker's second full-length release under DROM (the EDM branch of Dream Records). Infused with elements of tropical house, this top-40-ready album will have listeners grooving in no time.
Opening with the title track "Adventure," the album begins in a whirlwind of new and exciting sounds. The catchy "Ghost" provides the perfect trance soundtrack to a weekend drive. "Unstoppable" gives an arcade-like, techno feel similar to that of Capital Kings. "I Ain't Got No Money" is by far the most poppy and feel-good track. All about having a good time without needing to buy anything, featured guest vocalist Spencer Kane confidently belts out "Imma do me tonight, and the best part is I ain't got no money."
The most musically complex track (and my personal favorite) is the energetic "Down in Flames," which is jam-packed with synths and electric guitar riffs. Followed by the wistful "Heaven Calling," Parker yearns for the day he will enter eternity: "I can hear heaven calling from the distance / Hold on, I'm coming soon."
"Night Sky" starts off unassuming, but suddenly transforms into a hypnotic dance track embellished by the sound of chirping crickets. Parker confesses his love for his significant other amidst the flute-like hip hop of "Remember Me:" "I may be out of my mind, but that's 'cause you're on my mind / I think about you every day." The song ends with a hidden track-- a groovy tune with B. Reith vibes.
The next few tracks are musical and lyrical anthems. HillaryJane aids Parker in a metallic jab at the music industry in "System Victim," and Brad Dring of Rapture Ruckus sprinkles a touch of funk over the busy swing rhythms of "Spark" as he proclaims "There is nothing that can take this light away / We are ablaze with an eternal flame."
On a more somber note, "Gone" is about the loss of a loved one, and is complemented by bass drops, symphonic hits and lyrical cello phrases. The most worshipful track is "Dynasty," which expresses one's need for God, accompanied by a plucked synth, an on-fire rap courtesy of Cash Hollistah and an epic bass drop. "Tidal Wave" contains the best combination of lyrics and music. Watery tracks and deep bass notes drift in the background while featured artist Micah Ariss declares "Oh, King of the world / You're coming one day / With thunder You reign / Like a tidal wave."
The last two songs are adorable professions of romantic love. "Fly" is mellow and warm, complete with an unforeseen bass drop. "My Love" is the unassuming finale, complete with sappy and heartwarming lyrics: "I'm by your side until the end of the world / We'll make it together, my love / It'll be an adventure, my love."
The Bottom Line: Matthew Parker has created a dreamscape of colorful synths, whimsical melodies, tropical house and larger-than-life bass drops that will sweep listeners off their feet. He has truly set a new standard for Christian-crossover EDM that could take the industry by storm.