Todd Agnew [Need]
Posted October 06, 2009
For many, Todd Agnew is an acquired taste. While his past albums have had their moments, it’s also fair to say that they’ve had their challenges as well. Listening to the paradox that exists in Todd’s deep grunge vocals set upon tracks reciting Bible stories and old church hymns is strange to some and sometimes difficult to relate to. Often plagued by slow, wordy ballads sung in a deep baritone, Todd’s recent releases fell flat and had difficulty connecting.
Need, however, is quite different. This time around, Todd Agnew achieves balance. On Need, the best qualities of his signature lyricism and heartfelt vocals are captured within a myriad of listener-friendly hooks and infectious sounds. Much of the unwanted wordiness of past albums has been toned down and replaced with more syncopated rhyme. Todd returns once again to using his full vocal register, allowing choruses to build and reach their true intended climax. As a consequence, much of the music on Need feels natural, less embellished and far more appealing than before.
What’s more, Need offers a clever combination of styles from church hymns to southern gospel and both, classic and modern rock. This spectrum of influences helps keep the album interesting and the anticipation going from one song to the next. Several tracks on the album stand out for me as they remind us again of Todd’s gifts.
First off, tapping into the magic of past hits like “Grace Like Rain” and “This Fragile Breath,” are the tracks “Written On The Wall” and “The Love of God.” The song, “Written On The Wall” is an up-beat, piano-driven piece that includes the highly identifiable sentiment: ”I wish you still spoke through burning bushes...and I wish you still wrote on blocks of stone…‘cause the sound of this world is deafening and I wish your will was still written on the wall.” The song, “The Love of God” is a pacing and haunting alternative rock version of a timeless church hymn based on an old Jewish poem that expresses the endless depth of God’s Love. Dramatic and humble, Todd delivers what may be one of his most timeless covers yet. There is power in the chords as Todd delicately sings: “Oh, the Love of God – how rich and how pure, how measureless and strong. The Love of God – it shall evermore endure, the saints and angels song.”
Not to be outdone, the tracks “Did You Mean Me” and “Gloria” also soar to great heights. In “Did You Mean Me” Todd relates his personal struggle with sin and his own humanity in contrast to God’s eternal promises. Todd’s willingness to expose his own self-doubt in the lyric, “You said all sins can be forgiven, but when You said that, did You mean me? Did You mean me?“ is quite powerful. Also demanding attention, the radio-friendly first track on the album, “Joy Unspeakable” is both lively and sweet, and stylistically reminiscent of the hit song, “Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys. Dynamic as well, are the rocky “Breakable” and the classical hymn “I Need No Other,” which includes the title lyric: “I need no other argument, I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.”
Unlike recent attempts, Need is an album from Todd Agnew that has greater commercial appeal and is far easier to consume. In addition to loyal Todd Agnew fans, I expect general audiences to respond favorably to this solid release. Congratulations to Todd for his superb work!
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If, for whatever reason, you’ve drifted away from Todd Agnew’s music in recent years, it’s time to come back and listen again. In Need, Todd reclaims so much of what originally attracted audiences to his music. His new album, Need offers listeners Todd’s signature depth and power, but more importantly, it recaptures his original artistry in a format that is highly consumable and extremely infectious.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (85%, B)
Review written by: Aaron Hassen | Review can also be found here.
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