This City's Got Heart
Posted August 08, 2013
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer
The City Harmonic has been making a name for themselves in the CCM arena with popular radio hits such as "Manifesto" and "Mountaintop." Their signature harmonic sound has poised them to become a major player in the industry, and just another hit or two could easily launch them into the top tier of their genre. Their latest release, Heart, definitely comes full of such potential hits.
One thing you'll instantly notice about The City Harmonic is that their big appeal is explained in their name. On paper, the band seems like any other straightforward contemporary Christian pop act. Everything from the songwriting to the melodies could easily give you the impression that these songs could be sung by just about anybody in the business. Yet, when you actually hear how the band does it, you begin to understand the uniqueness this band brings to the musical table.
After a brief piano interlude, the first track "Here and There" kicks into a rousing orchestral anthem. The song balances delicate quiet moments in its beginning with the soaring instrumental and choral segments that come in later to form an excellent opener that grabs your attention and prepares you for the album that is to follow. And so we see the "harmonic" part of the band's name accurately describes the music. Not only are there spine-tingling vocal harmonies throughout this song (and the entire album), but the music seems to harmonize both a light rock sound, an orchestral anthemic sound, and a softer ballad sound. Together, it creates quite a unique and powerful listening experience.
"Praise The Lord" continues this pattern, and the result is an inspiring worship track that benefits from the big sound the band has crafted and stands out a lot more than comparable tracks in the genre. "Strong" has an emotional piano intro to a song that from the first verse promises to be a standout track. With a great balance between an inspiring chorus and beat-driven verses, this is an excellent option for radio. Definitely another potential hit here and I'm hoping it sees radio play down the road. Born out of band member Eric Fusilier's struggle with cancer, the song is a passionate and heartfelt reminder of how "when I am weak / You're strong." The message itself is one we're used to in CCM, but the heartfelt story behind this gives it a new layer of depth.
"Take Heart" and "Alive, Alive" both continue the soaring potential hits and keep the album's momentum speeding along. "Love Heal Me" and the borderline interlude "Songs of Longing, Joy, and Peace" offer a nice slowdown to the big sounds with a more acoustic sound driving each. However, there's still enough of the harmonies to keep this "breather" interesting. The latter leads into the surprisingly peppy "Glory." The tune's chorus has the band's signature harmonized vocals displayed to perfection and, coupled with the pep of the verses, it makes another standout track worthy of radio. This is something I could've seen The Newsboys doing back in the day.
Lead single "A City on a Hill" follows with lyrics inspired by The Beatitudes and is a fine example of everything there is to love about The City Harmonic, making it a great single choice. As the chorus proclaims, "Like a city on a hill / Lighting up the way / For the glory of the lord / Rise and shine," one can't help but feel that theme radiating throughout much of Heart, the theme of lighting up the way for the glory of Christ, who lights our way. This one is easy to picture on the radio while still feeling fresh and passionate.
"Long Walk Home" and "Brand New" return to the stripped-down sound and show that The City Harmonic is perfectly capable of excelling at a slowed down approach as well. The songs offer a more intimate portrait of Christ's presence in our lives.
Lastly, "My Jesus, I Love Thee" wraps things up fairly quietly, with a piano intro and a softer ballad approach to the song, the signature harmonies returning once more towards the end to properly conclude the album. As a simple moment of praise to Our Lord and Savior, the song excels and helps wrap the "heart" of the message up nicely, serving as one last reminder of where ours hearts should be always focused: on knowing, loving, and serving Christ.
With many potential hits and an uninterrupted inspirational feel, Heart may prove to be one of the strongest contemporary Christian albums released in the second half of the year. The band seems to know who they are and what they want to do, and this shows in how well they do the music. Heart excels where it's supposed to and reinvigorates the promise this band has shown in the past.
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