Posted July 26, 2014
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
The latest album from party rockers in Family Force 5 is the first release since the band's announcement that Solomon "Soul Glo Activatur" Olds, lead singer and oldest of the three brothers in the band, would be stepping down to focus on his studio work. Younger brother Jacob "Crouton" Olds (formerly primarily the drummer) stepped up to the plate as frontman, and new member "Hollywood" (Teddy Boldt, formerly of Wavorly) took over drums. The line-up change was the first serious shift in a chemistry the band seemed to have perfected on 2012's release III, leaving fans curious and, in some cases, nervous.
It is undeniable that the band displays a different musical direction on a few tracks, which was evident from release of AC lead single "Let It Be Love" earlier this summer (written with hitmaker Seth Mosley). The song focuses on the John 13:35 concept that followers of Christ should be most easily identified by their love, utilizing a softer sound with less of an edge than fans might expect (although it still definitely offers a solid beat). "Walk On Water" (featuring Melodie Wagner of Hillsong) is in a similar vein, emphasizing melody and a worship-oriented message. Although the band definitely shows impressive mastery of this sound, longtime listeners might struggle with a bit of a disconnect between this and past releases.
Those tracks are exceptions however, and the disconnect is bridged by other tracks on the album, notably openers "Sweep the Leg" and "BZRK." "Sweep the Leg" features vocals crackling with aggression from Joshua "Fatty" Olds and a tight guitar hook from Derek "Chapstique" Mount that will instantly incite headbanging. Lead rock format single "BZRK" employs an instantly likable frenetic energy and call to motion similar to past hit "Cray Button." Later track "Glow In the Dark" is a slick cut with an adrenaline rush inducing bass drop, thematically harkening back to "Radiator" with the words "This heart that is beating with love worth repeating / a fire to be something more / I glow in the dark, You are made of light / glow all day, glow all night."
The most notable shift in direction occurs lyrically rather than musically. Although there are definitely tracks primarily confined to positive energy and feel good vibes (a sound Family Force 5 does better perhaps than anyone else in their genre), tracks like "Time Stands Still" or the surprisingly poignant "XRAY" show a vulnerable and spiritually mature side of the band previously mostly just hinted at. A recurring theme is how vital love is, stressing that love is necessary for the human heart to both give and receive. Instrumentally, these songs lean on the smooth synthesizing skill of Nathan "Nadaddy" Currin, although new addition Hollywood's solid beats ensure that the songs are never without teeth.
Clocking in at 15 tracks long, a surprising duration in an era where most releases are confined to 10 or 12 tracks, the band does face the challenge of holding the listener's attention for the full length. There are however solid selections through the whole project, serving to re-engage the listener's attention span where it might otherwise be lost.
Although there are places where it seems the band is still trying to discover exactly how they will fill the space Soul Glow's voice once occupied, confident offerings towards the end like "Dance Like No One's Watching" and "This Is My Year" definitely prove that the band is ready to continue facing that challenge. The transition is overall surprisingly seamless, due in part to the fact that Soul Glow continued to contribute his writing and arranging skills to many of the songs on the album. Family Force 5's forays into new territory with gentler, more spiritually mature selections are balanced by the hard-hitting party jams longtime fans are sure to love.
One of the album's strong points is its energy. With Time Stands Still, Family Force 5 serves up songs on fire with a passion for life that is instantly infectious. These songs promise to lend themselves well to the group's memorable live shows, and the album forms a solid foundation as the band finds its footing in a new era. FF5's future definitely continues to shine bright with their particular positive radiance.
Song to Download Now:
"Sweep the Leg" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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