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Album of the Year Material
Posted July 01, 2016
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer

South Carolina's Grammy Nominated band NEEDTOBREATHE hooked me ten years ago with their major label debut Daylight, which featured the single "Shine On." My takeaway review comments were: "Great album. Even better group." Since then, the band has somehow managed to improve with each album, garner an opening slot for Taylor Swift, play on late night television and collaborate with Gavin DeGraw on their biggest hit to date, "Brother," from my Top Album of 2014 Rivers in the Wasteland (which also earned a Grammy nomination for "Multiplied").

Something I take immense joy in discovering with each new NEEDTOBREATHE release is the incredible songwriting and musical excellence with nuggets of lyrical connection weaving their way throughout the tracks. From The Reckoning, I was struck how brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart continued the "outsider" theme with the clever use of the term "victim" and keeping our eyes open in a few songs. 

In this album, the band subtly includes the reference to the "dance" of life in a few contexts, taking us on the journey of life lessons learned in "HARD LOVE"-- including the lyric "Hold on tight, what don't kill you will make you stronger, get back up, cause it's a hard love.

"Money & Fame" is in the style of "Maybe They're Onto Us" and "Where the Money Is," with the wisdom: "What do you kids want to know about now? I've made enough to make a young gun proud / Money and fame bring a man shame, ain't no doubt about it."

I've been married 22 years, and like "Stones Under Rushing Water," the band has again captured my heart's sentiments with the emotive relationship focused song "No Excuses," with Bear's emotive vocals taking us a on journey, and in "Be Here Long" with the lyrics "I gave you the best of me, loved you more than anything / but we don't get to be here long." "Let's Stay Home Tonight" contines the theme with the refrain, "Baby, let's stay home tonight / we can put a couple records on / we can build a fire alright / maybe we can dance 'til dawn."

"Happiness" and "When I Sing" have become personal anthems for me with life lessons for all of us in the vertical focus: "I've got dreams that keep me up in the dead of night / telling me I wasn't made for the simple life... / I'm asking You to show me some forgiveness, it's all for You in my pursuit of happiness" and "When I sing, You're the song that I'm singing / in my moment of weakness, when I sing, it's just my way to tell You I need You." 

Don't miss the worshipful "Testify" in the vein of "Lay 'Em Down" and "Multiplied," which sings, "Come to the fountain and you can be satisfied... / wave after wave, as deep calls to deep. / I will reveal my mystery, as soon as you start to let go."

The album closes with "Clear," a gorgeous track celebrating what is clear in the dance of life: "feels like Heaven is coming down... / once was so lost but now I'm found, when I'm with you. / No one's watching the way you move, bodies dancing under the moon / you always know what to do when I'm with you."

Closing Thoughts:
HARD LOVE is one of the most meaningful albums I've ever heard. I can't get the catchy melodies of many of these songs out of my head, with the perfectly produced tracks and the song order brilliantly inviting listeners to join the band on their journey. 

I honestly didn't think my favorite band could take it up another notch, but after repeated listens, HARD LOVE is my Album of the Year. This project has something for fans of everything the band has ever done, and the pure and exceptional quality of the release should earn them new fans alongside likely Grammy and Dove Award nominations for the standout songs "HARD LOVE," "Money & Fame," No Excuses," "Happiness," "When I Sing," "Be Here Long" and "Testify."

The very relatable and transparent words of these songs perfectly depict our daily walks wrapped around catchy songs. All of the tracks really display the musical and lyrical excellence and intentionality of NEEDTOBREATHE. You'll enjoy the emotive vocals, musical excellence and harmonies layered over one catchy and meaningful song after another. The musical and lyrical excitement of the band's engaging live performance is perfectly captured in these recordings. This album is by far the most energetic and emotionally engaging album I've heard this year, maybe ever.

Song to Download Now:
"No Excuses" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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