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Holy Mystery (Single) by Conley Worship Holy Mystery (Single) by Conley Worship
Conley Worship is the collective formed by Maryland-based worship leader David Conley. The Liberty University graduate just released "Holy Mystery" as the firstfruits of the upcoming album, Are...
New Life x New Vibe (Single) by Red Letter Hymnal New Life x New Vibe (Single) by Red Letter Hymnal
Red Letter Hymnal got its start doing Christian Dubstep/EDM covers of worship songs, garnering more than a million views each on videos for "One Thing Remains" and "God's Not Dead."...
Me Against the World: Vol. 2 by 5ive Me Against the World: Vol. 2 by 5ive
Rapper 5ive, also known as Craig James, has a pretty incredible, radical conversion story of how Jesus met him in a huge way and instantly ended his addictions. Since then, he's been sold-out to God,...

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Conley's Focus is No Mystery | Posted May-16-2018
Conley Worship is the collective formed by Maryland-based worship leader David Conley. The Liberty University graduate just released "Holy Mystery" as the firstfruits of the upcoming album, Are You Ready?. 



What it Sounds Like

Musically speaking, this song has an adult contemporary vibe, with Conley's tender vocals conveying a boldness and a fragility at the same time. The song is piano-driven, with swelling guitars, drum builds and some subtle synth rounding out the sound. Kara Near provides excellent harmonies, and delivers smooth, Jenny Simmons (Addison Road)-like vocals on the bridge. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

This song is a four-and-a-half minute-long expression of the love of God, as well as a prayer to be shown more of that love. "You expose your heart for all the world to see," Conley sings, "with the hands that held the universe nailed upon a tree." 



For Fans Of

Michael W. Smith, Mark Schultz, Chris Rice



Final Word

Conley Worship's "Holy Mystery" is a great introduction to what this new collective is all about: Unabashed praise, bold lyrics, a Sunday-morning accessibility. The song isn't the most congregational in the traditional sense, but I expect the church-based leader will balance the vertical ballads with some power choruses on the new record. Whatever comes next, it'll be sincere, authentic and full of truth. 



Get the song on Spotify and iTunes.







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All the Summer Vibes | Posted May-07-2018
Red Letter Hymnal got its start doing Christian Dubstep/EDM covers of worship songs, garnering more than a million views each on videos for "One Thing Remains" and "God's Not Dead." The independent band released two albums Reach for the Sky and Coastal Kids, but now with new single "New Life X New Vibe," they're showing that they've got some instrumental chops to go along with their EDM prowess 



What it Sounds Like

While there's plenty of pulsating synths (and high-pitched vocal noises) throughout, Red Letter Hymnal nails the beach vibe with '80s-style pad and electric guitar. The smooth vocals of Brad Lebakken flow effortlessly, and well-timed harmonies on the chorus add to the overall feeling of hanging out at the beach on a sunny day. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights

Lyrically speaking, this song is all about that newness that comes with putting one's faith in Christ. Whether new believers just saved or lifelong believers discovering a new facet of God's grace (and molding), this track is a worthy soundtrack for the new life. In the rap bridge, Spener Te'o talks about how we can move on from mistakes: "So new. You bringing up my past, pshh I don't mess with old news / You gonna have to come back when you want the whole truth."



For Fans Of:

Capital Kings, Manic Drive, We Are Leo



Final Word

It feels like Red Letter Hymnal keeps leveling up with each release. We're seeing that although EDM is still their sweet spot and home base, don't count them out to blend a number of genres together for a pleasant listening experience. 



Find the song on Spotify and iTunes













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Don't Sleep on 5ive | Posted April-25-2018
Rapper 5ive, also known as Craig James, has a pretty incredible, radical conversion story of how Jesus met him in a huge way and instantly ended his addictions. Since then, he's been sold-out to God, dedicating his lyrical gifts to a truly unashamed representation of Jesus. A follow-up to last year's Me Against the World EP, this 9-track project continues 5ive's rap campaign against that which would trip up God's people.



What it Sounds Like: 

People who aren't hardcore underground Christian hip-hop fans are just waking up to the treasure that is 5ive. People wanting a break from the trap-saturated (dare I say oversaturated) scene will discover an R&B-flavored project that juxtaposes smooth sounds with rapid-fire rapping. It's a combination that works, and yet is not at all commonplace in Christian hip-hop. Featuring the prowess of Jordan Lucio, J. Carter and on several occasions, 5ive himself, you could be forgiven for calling this an R&B album instead of a rap album. On songs like "#NoFakeLove" and the remix of "#ForeverKing," there's no rapping at all, just singing. "#INeedYouMore" is straight-up CHH worship. There are even a couple of good gospel tracks, such as "#StillWorship" and "#NoFakeLove," and for the trap lovers, he even throws a bone on "#WitnessGreatness."



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

"That life was put to death when He sent His only son." This simple lyric from "#DestinedForMuch" captures the focus on this record: God's people have been radically saved and the "old person" is gone. He died for new life, so let's get away from that old stuff. Not only does 5ive have so many incredible lyrical moments in this project, but they're often delivered at high-speed... you'll need a few listens. Another standout on "#DestinedForMuch" directly references Reach Records, which has wavered a bit on the meaning of "unashamed" to its growing audience: "When I scream I'm unashamed I'm really talkin' bout the Gospel." 



Best Song on the Record:

"#DestinedForMuch" has the fastest wordplay, but beyond that is full of awesome one-liners (like the ones mentioned above) that tackle the whole concept of being destined for much from several angles. 



For Fans Of: 

FLAME, Tedashii, KB, Canon, Pyrexx



Final Word:

The greater Christian music world needs to wake up to 5ive, who bridges so many musical styles, while providing a lyrical emphasis as overt as any in our industry. This is a great, hard-hitting, discipling piece of music that--bonus!--gives half of its proceeds to a charity that gives shoes to impoverished children. 5ive is the real deal and deserves a listen. 

 

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A Gentle Voice Raising the Stakes | Posted April-03-2018
What You Need to Know:

Ashley Lagunas is a wife, mother and missionary kid from Dallas who has seen the gospel change countless lives. As she has accumulated stories over the years, she has embraced a missionary calling of her own, singing about the life of faith and the tender care of Jesus. With her first EP, Raise the Stakes, she's poised to introduce something fresh to the Christian music conversation.



What it Sounds Like: 

Lagunas presents a calming, acoustic-driven sort of contemporary pop that is fairly simple, arrangement-wise, with acoustic guitar, piano and light drums carrying the songs. But what pushes the song into a realm of its own is Lagunas' indie-friendly, light, airy vocals that could be compared to chart-topper Grace Vanderwaal. See the "For Fans Of" section below to see some other artists in the same musical neighborhood. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The title track, "Raise the Stakes," is an encouragement to put faith into action by taking risks while we have the ability, while similarly themed "Moving Forward" evokes Philippians 3:13. "Lazarus" is a beautiful retelling of Jesus' first resurrection story. "The God Who Sees", "Holding You" and "Baby Moses" focus on the Lord's specific, one size-fits-one provision, attention and destiny.



Best Song on the Record: 

"Baby Moses" ... love the metaphor, and it has this great line: "When your feet greet the sea, when all your past and future meet, raise your hands to the One who made a path for everyone." ​



For Fans Of:

Grace Vanderwaal, Ginny Owens, Regina Spektor, Ellie Holcomb, Sarah Reeves



Final Word:

Ashley Lagunas has given Christian music a unique voice that delivers an earnest, tender message of God's care for His people. The peaceful Raise the Stakes is like talking with a trusted friend, and the music is like nothing else you're hearing in the industry. 



Click here to get the album wherever you listen to music!

 

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Biblical love in focus | Posted March-30-2018
What You Need to Know:

Orlando Rodriguez has been around for quite a while. Once the lead singer of R&B outfit P.U.M.P. before going the gospel/inspirational route, Rodriguez has shared the stage with Backstreet Boys and Destiny's Child, as well as Tamela Mann and Donnie McClurkin, among others. His multicultural background, coupled with his varied experience and love of the Lord has led him to pen the racially unifying anthem, "Colorblind." 



What it Sounds Like: 

Smooth, soft pop meets R&B and gospel elements for a piano-driven slow jam. A gospel choir, electric guitar and the vocal gymnastics of Rodriguez's proven pipes make for a heartfelt delivery of an important theme. 



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The song gives a biblical wake-up call with regard to the racial tension our society is currently facing. Rodriguez begins by announcing "we have all been offended, wounded by somebody's sin." He goes on to quote both 1 Corinthians 13 and 2 Corinthians 5:7, talking about how love is patient and kind, and how we need to walk by faith and not by sight. While the song is declarative to society about how "we need love... peace and acceptance, with grace from above," he makes sure to focus inward, too, praying: "Lord, please save me from my prejudice within... change my vision, open my eyes.



For Fans Of: 

Israel Houghton, Tye Tribbett, R. Kelly



Final Word:

This is a great, inspirational, unifying song of repentance and hope at the same time. Using scripture as our measure, we can't go wrong, and Rodriguez beautifully calls out the tough situation of our times while providing the answer. 



Take a listen on Spotify / iTunes

 

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Nuanced, Unifying Worship | Posted March-05-2018
Although the worship ministry of Minneapolis' River Valley Church has been making records for a while now, the release of Million Lifetimes signifies a new era for both this collective and its new label home. This album is the first released under new BEC Recordings/Tooth & Nail imprint, BEC Worship. 



What it Sounds Like: 

Electronic dance music has been a part of the worship scene for a while now, but what hasn't been mainstreamed in worship music is a good balance of programmed and live elements. River Valley Church does this well, running the gamut between EDM dance party, slower acoustic jams, piano-driven ballads and all places in between. While the sound is youth-friendly, it's not overly "youthy" to the point where older worshippers can't find something to enjoy. Indeed, both the Youth & Free crowd and Tomlin crowd can unite under these songs.



Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Look, it's pretty simple: The Gospel is on display, declaring Jesus' overcoming, overarching victory over death, the grave and hopelessness. "Victory" is a beautiful back and forth juxtaposition of our hopeless situation and Jesus' solution: "My ransomed grave, your grace was greater / Strong were the chains, your grace is stronger / These crimson stains washed by my savior // Victory, Christ in me / My debt is paid, I've been set free." Awesome lyrics abound throughout, including "Hope Has A Name." 



Best Song on the Record:

"Hope Has A Name" incorporates all of the great pieces of this project, blending acoustic and electronic elements, which carry a dramatic, hymnlike structure that points to the supremacy of Jesus as the author and fulfillment of our hopes. People who love the big, anthemic declarations (think "10,000 Reasons" or "The Stand") will adore this.



For Fans Of:

Hillsong Young & Free, Elevation Worship, Passion, Vertical Worship Band



Final Word:

With River Valley Worship, BEC's new imprint is hitting the ground running, bringing us the kind of high-energy, well-crafted songs many worship leaders will feel like they can (and should!) actually execute during Sunday morning services.



Listen to it on Spotify and iTunes. 





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Good Country Storytelling | Posted February-26-2018
What you need to know:

Louisiana's Bradley Bridges has quietly been carving out a new genre in Christian music, merging his Southern/country roots with a deep desire to proclaim the gospel. The singer-songwriter, worship leader and former Air Force Reserve has had a lot of ups and downs over his life, but is walking strong with God and is sharing his heart with this new music. 



What it sounds like: 

This is country music, y'all! This songwriter, who has been making what is being called "Outlaw Christian Music" has a distinct twang, the storytelling delivery and the interplay between acoustic guitar, electric guitar and subtle honky tonk piano. 



Spiritual highlights:

Bridges starts the song by talking about how although he was raised in a Christian home and did all the right things, said the right prayers, "I never got changed." He goes on to say that eventually God got ahold of him, with the chorus resounding: "I know the winding road better than the straight one... I put to death my old life, now I'm hidden in Christ." It's a great testimony song about Bridges' connection to and transformation from singing the broken-heart songs of country music to "singing sermons," as he says. 



Final word:

Bradley Bridges gives us a great example of what "Christian country" could sound like, and makes us confused as to why more people aren't doing it. He shows us it can work, and work beautifully!



For Fans Of:

Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Lonestar



Get it on Spotify or iTunes!





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Fresh, yet Cozy | Posted February-15-2018
Singer-songwriter Jordan Whitmore's first outing as her side project, EUFAULA (her middle name), is a soothing, heartening, Americana-tinged worship record that balances hymnlike rhythm, singer-songwriter emotion and corporate worship accessibility. Full of hopeful themes and vertical, unpredictable lyrics, Whitmore artfully puts her stamp on the worship genre with EUFAULA's debut, Between the Hills



What it Sounds Like:

We're seeing worship infiltrate every area of music these days, and it's pretty awesome to see it find its way to Americana. Acoustic and slide guitars, B3 organ, Opry-style harmonies, fantastic production and a commanding (yet still gentle) vocal performance by Jordan Whitmore make this project stand out sonically. 



Spiritual Highlights:

Between the Hills contains a beautiful back-and-forth of themes, going from a declaration of our need for God, to a resounding song of His power and goodness and grace. This back-and-forth continues throughout the project. The final two songs talk about the day when everything will be made right in Christ, and tenderly detail the "beautiful exchange" of our heaviness for His rest. 



Best Song on the Record:

"You Keep My Life," a beautiful take on Psalm 121, and a song that talks about how, despite dangers and troubles in this world, God has us in His hands. It's one of the more congregational, mid-tempo songs on the record, and thus, easier to sing along to. 



Final Word:

EUFAULA is giving us something fresh (yet cozily familiar) in the worship space, musically speaking, at a time when experiencing something new is hard to come by.



For Fans Of:

Ellie Holcomb, Hillary Scott, Reba McEntire, Cindy Morgan, Ginny Owens



Listen on Spotify or iTunes





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A Golden Debut | Posted February-15-2018
Andrew Serino is a Portland, Ore.-based singer/songwriter who has made quite the entrance with the release of his debut record, The Golden Thread. Unabashedly bringing back harmonic, post-punk alternative music, Serino masters the medium while telling deeply autobiographical stories about his hopes, dreams and struggles. You simply can't let this record exist in an ether; it's dying to be heard. 



What it sounds like

Look, I'll tell you this right now: The music Andrew Serino is making isn't in the public consciousness anymore, but he's proving it should be. Leaning heavily from the emo-punk/alternative bands of the mid-'00s, Serino evokes the harmonic acumen of House of Heroes, the soaring lead vocals of Paramore, the pop aftertastes of Anberlin's Stephen Christian and the rock edge of The Almost. All of this comes together quite nicely, thanks to up and coming Northwest producer Justin Abel (who himself is featured on the project). 



Spiritual highlights

Serino, a worship leader, has been part of a number of Christian bands--including fronting the exciting upstarts His Legacy--so that commitment to Christ leaks out in his music. As far as overt references to His faith, it's an Anberlin-style approach as he references a lot of themes about his growth as a person, his confidence and the relationships he's trusted with. It's a very practical Christianity that he works out in these songs as he clings to the hope he has.



Best song on the record

Extremely hard to pick one, but I'll have to go with "Wake Up" (Track 2), because it's got the best mix of all the incredible bands I reference below, with the driving pace of "Readyfuels." Just behind it is "Barriers," arguably the most personal and relatable track on the project, and the harder-rocking "Deal With It." 



For Fans Of

Anberlin, Paramore, The Almost, House of Heroes, Blindside, Capital Lights



Final Word

Andrew Serino is further proof that the indie scene is an infinite frontier of incredible artists doing stuff that's as good, if not better, than we're hearing out of the label system. He comes out of the gate like a seasoned veteran, filling a musical void we forgot we missed (but do!). 







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Chasing Down a Sound | Posted January-24-2018
Jared Miller is a Houston-based artist who has been working in the church for most of his life. The Worship Pastor of New Covenant Church has been songwriting for a very long time, and has released collaborative projects, but it's been a while since listeners have had the chance to hear new solo music. 



Walking the line between contemporary worship leader and post-modern electronic pop artist, the Chasing Me Down EP walks a tightrope between two very different styles. Lyrically, however, the project paints an overall picture of a relentless, loving, involved God who is worthy to be praised. 



Album highlights include "Loved by You," which perhaps is the song that best executes Miller's vision of bringing congregational/acoustic-based worship sounds together with the EDM format. Harkening back to vintage Tree63 with a modern flair, "Loved by You" showcases Miller's vocals at their most tender, and in their most comfortable range. 



"Taking Me Higher" is probably the strongest overall song on the record, giving listeners a little less of the EDM vibe and projecting a more live recording-type feel. With atmospheric guitars and soaring vocals evoking shades of U2, this song lauds God's triumphant love: "If all the earth would shake / Love would still remain / If all the ground would quake / My heart would rest the same.



Fans looking to throw a worship dance party should look no further than the two opening tracks. "Lift up the Name" carries the overall feel of a worship set opener, but with plenty of EDM production--four-on-the-floor drum machines, synths, and a healthy dose of distortion vocal echoes and autotune embellishments. 



Title track "Chasing Me Down" feels a little less congregational but still carries plenty of the worship vibe, singing: "Goodness all around / There's no place I could go / Where Your love's not found / Surrounding my heart with Yours." Chill, ethereal verses project many nuanced layers of production that provide plenty of aural interest. Fans of Planetshakers would love this track.



There are other live-style songs on the record that really project Miller's prowess as an every-Sunday worship leader. "I Will Be Still" is a chill number that just focuses on guitar and vocals, declaring a surrender to God's ultimate design. "Faithful" closes out the project with a familiar-sounding refrain that would find its home in any Sunday worship set.



The Bottom Line:

Chasing Me Down by Jared Miller is a great revving back up for the worship pastor solo artist. While his merging of styles isn't always consistent, and doesn't always fly, it's exciting to see an artist who will take those kinds of risks to be relevant and accessible. When the EP hits, it hits hard, evoking some of Christian music's most beloved bands, past and present, while presenting something entirely its own. I'm excited to see where this independent artist goes next. Usually with these first projects (or first projects after a break), there's a degree of experimentation to see what sticks. Hopefully he'll see what his sweet spot is (I think it's more in the vein of the big-sounding "Taking Me Higher"), and continue to make heartfelt, vibrant worship. 



Song to Download Now:

"Taking Me Higher" (iTunes / Spotify





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