This Is Mikeschair's Moment
Posted March 19, 2014
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Third albums are often a defining album of a band's career. Past the novelty of their debut and the scrutiny of the highly-anticipated follow-up release, the third album brings with it an intimidating mixture of expectations that are seemingly at odds with each other: the expectation to settle into your musical identity and the expectation to spread your wings and try new things. It's essentially the beginning of the main part of the story, after the opening scenes set the pace.
Mikeschair has quietly built themselves up a good numbers of radio hits and has always come off as a genuinely likable band. Their sound was CCM-safe, and Mike Grayson's honest, emotional vocals coupled with tight musicianship sold every note as something fresh and important. Their third album, All or Nothing, does well to continue the trend of mixing a light pop/rock sound with contemporary worship for that sweet spot that's become Mikeschair's signature.
The album opens with the solid hook and gang chants of title track "All or Nothing" that scream everything you love about Mikeschair. With an upbeat light rock edge, it manages to be the most engaging Mikeschair opening track yet and helps kickstart the album's momentum. The exciting anthems continue for several tracks with "Loved by You" and the peppy "Everything You Say" bringing their energy to the party.
Lead single "All I Can Do (Thank You)" is a memorable nod to how we can never truly repay God for all he's done for us and we're left with merely with our gratitude. It might feel "old" now since it's going on a year of being available, but it's nice to have the hit finally get an album to call home.
"People Like Me" is the second single and follows in the tradition of "Let The Waters Rise" and "Someone Worth Dying For." You can always count on one truly standout softer cut at around this point in a Mikeschair album and this one doesn't disappoint. Its message was designed to relate to the struggling sinner in all of us, reminding us that no matter what our circumstances, God's grace is meant for us. Its chorus boasts standout lyrics in Mikeschair's career and among the musical year thus far: "Show me a life that's broken can be redeemed / show me that you can handle my honesty / and help me to know you'll never let go / your love won't ever leave / show me that grace was made for people like me."
"How Many Times" and "Over and Over" both boast soft and engaging hooks in their openings that precede the pleasantly mellow ballads that Mikeschair has made an art out of crafting. Both songs continue the albums themes of how God's grace is always at work in our lives. At this point, what seemed to be a fairly standard album thematically definitely starts taking on a clearer picture. These aren't just vertical lyrics but rather a look at how God is there in our broken lives. "How many times have you been faithful / and how many times have you carried me / I run, I fight, I try to hide / You stay here by my side / you carry me still no matter how many times."
"Over and over you call my name / and you over and over you love me the same / even when I break your heart / you show me open arms / pulling me closer / over and over." These exemplify themes present throughout the album of how Christ is always at work in our lives and we can always come to Him. And through Him, we're made stronger.
"I Can Wait"reaches some new thematic depth for Mikeschair at declaring that God can give us the strength to wait for our problems to pass and not looking for an easy out. But perhaps one the most standout cuts is the superb "This is Our Moment." The track grabs you from the start and never lets go, proclaiming a desire to take life now and live it to the fullest in Christ. This was one of the earlier cuts fans were introduced to and it still remains one of the stronger tracks of this already strong bunch.
"All To Jesus (I Surrender)" is the softest Mikeschair has ever gotten with a quiet and introspective worship song that is backed by little more than light strings and a soothing piano hook.
I've always liked Mikeschair and this album only solidifies that more. However I did think that their previous release, A Beautiful Life, ventured a bit too much into the territory of the songs starting to sound a bit too much alike. This time around, Mikeschair improves the differentiation between their tracks and thus the album as a whole feels a lot fuller and more dynamic. There's also a lot more piano/key influence to many of the tracks, which gives a new, more delicate veneer to the approach. Songs like "This Is Our Moment" and "People Like Me" are destined to be Mikeschair classics. But the true measure of this album's quality lies not in recognizing the hits, but in seeing that every song is pulling its weight and earning it's place in the collection.
Mikeschair have crafted another winner that is full of potential hits from start to finish. Mikeschair masters an art few bands can do well: Pulling off a sound that is relaxed and chill without ever venturing into bland or uninspired formulaic ruts. Mikeschair's music sounds fresh, vibrant, emotional, and honest, at every point of the album. From the soaring highs of the upbeat choruses to the reflective notes of the softer tracks, All or Nothing is the kind of album you can listen to at any time to feel better. It might not crack many best-of lists due to the kind of album it is, but it's the kind of album that's never anything less than rewarding, and gives nothing less than the band's all. This is truly Mikeschair's moment and hopefully it'll be one to continue for several albums to come.
Song to Download Now:
"People Like Me" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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