2011 has seen the return of many popular music fads, a big one being something the music industry hasn’t seen in early a decade: boy bands. Of course, with the return of classic all male groups such as Backstreet Boys, and New Kids On The Block within the last year, it was almost inevitable that we’d begin to see new bands sprouting up and making their own names. As far as Christian music goes in this category, it’s been nearly seven years since the disbanding (no pun intended) of popular Christian boy bands Plus One and TrueVibe, and since then, the CCM genre has yet to produce anyone that has remotely matched their sound… enter in Anthem Lights.
Consisting of members Chad Graham, Caleb Grimm, Kyle Kupecky and Alan Powell, the group started back in 2008 under the name “Yellow Clavalier”, and changed their name shortly before signing with Reunion Records. I got my first taste of this band during the annual Rock And Worship Roadshow Tour this past March, and I was immediately drawn in by their style. Catchy pop/rock grooves, spot on harmonies, upbeat lyrics, and a positive gospel message. Not to mention, they put on a pretty spectacular show. I knew right away this band was something special, and I looked forward to the May 2011 release of their debut self titled album, to hear more from this up-and-coming group.
The album starts off with the first single, "Can’t Shut Up", which introduces you their sound --pop driven harmonies with a driving rock edginess. It’s a song that could very easily be heard on secular pop radio, which gives this band an imediate likability with unsuspecting listeners. Musically and lyrically, it sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album. The upbeat "I Wanna Know You Like That" talks about a wanting radical life-changing relationship with Jesus, while "Circles", starting off with a beautiful string section, showcases the band’s musical maturity, and their ability to sing pop, as well more contemporary stuff, very well.The worshipful "Can’t Get Over You" transitions seamlessly into "Stranger", a song that follows along the same lines "Circles" lyrically with a techno flair.
The fast paced "Outta My Mind" is instantly going to become a fan favorite to hear live, the song making a bold cry for God to rid us of self-absorption so we can help a broken world in need. "Lifeline" speaks of the saving power of God, while it boasts one of the catchiest choruses on the entire album. It takes a rather unexpected R&B twist mid-song, but it gives it a certain quirkiness that I like. "Lighthouse" is by far my favorite song on the album. With convicting lyrics, it paints a beautiful word picture about how easily we forget the reason we exist (“like ships bound for shipwreck, most people simply drift along and miss the destination without knowing anything is wrong.”) It’s the only song on the album that carries somewhat of an underlying hip-hop beat, but it fits this bands vocals extremely well and blended with signature pop, it’s something I’d like to hear them do more in the future.
"Freedom To Slavery" is a clever and well-written song about how we sometimes think the things God asks us to do chain us down rather than set us free. Is is, lyrically, the deepest track on the record and I hope it’s one that connects with fans struggling with the issue of compromise in their lives. Encouraging and beautifully crafted, "Where The Light Is", brings this energetic album to a calm and melodic close.
Anthem Lights has one of the strongest debut albums I’ve heard in long time. There is no denying the talent this band possesses (see them live and it will prove itself), but it’s the truth in the words that will resonate with you long after you listen. Heartfelt lyrics about going out and living as a light for Jesus brings this band and their message full circle, and it only makes me look forward to what’s to come from these guys. Musically, their straightforward pop sound may not be for everyone, but if your looking for a fun, well made, and Christ-centered alternative to mainstream pop, definitely give this band a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.