Child-Like Faith All Grown Up Posted September 30, 2021 By JoshuaGalla_NRT, Staff Reviewer
What You Need To Know: Seven years (2014) after the original Never LandEP was released and a week delayed from the original drop date, fans are finally blessed with art from Reach Records / Miner League’s Andy Mineo in the form of a full-length album. Never Land II is a concept album inspired by the 1991 Steven Spielberg-directed film Hook. The movie’s storyline runs parallel with Mineo’s journey of life, faith, and art while exposing his internal struggle to protect a child-like sense of imagination and adventure while growing older. The album is a place of re-discovery for Mineo as he reclaims childhood memories hoping listeners do the same.
Never Land II’s feature list gathers a few long-time friends (Lecrae, Wordsplayed, Joseph Solomon) while engaging some artistic gems (Chandler Moore, JVKE, Ink) to join in the musical adventure. Also, the album is narrated by Mineo’s mother, Fran Mineo. In 2018, she passed away after a battle with Leukemia. He discovered some unused material leftover from Saturday Morning Car-Tunez, Season 3 (2015) retooled to fit the narration piece. The project contains some of the most vulnerable and transparent content Mineo’s released to date proving to nearly guarantee an instant connection to fans and their own faith walk with Christ.
What it Sounds Like: Bridging over from the 2018 two-pack of EPs titled, the Arrow and the Sword, Never Land II is a continuation of that transparent internal display Mineo captures through intense emotion, personal struggles, and artistic expression lyrically as well as sonically. He welcomes his fanbase into his own thought process and trials of the heart navigating through a pandemic, daily life, and the trials created throughout daily situations. The first impression of sound listeners acquire will be echoes of Mineo’s heart poured into every bar.
Mineo is not only a superb songwriter, but a killer producer who assisted with production on four tracks and solely produced “Not Gon’ Do” featuring Joseph Solomon. This track happens to be one of my favorites as I love how Mineo chopped up Solomon’s vocals and inserted them into his own rhyme schemes. It’s a mixture of personal truths and Mineo’s stance on various life situations.
To be honest, the creative affirmations kick off from the first two introduction tracks and follow throughout. Listeners are treated to innovation from start to finish. Another standout track is “Nobody’s Coming” as we find Mineo harmonizing melodies while exposing vulnerable statements line for line, some of his deepest expressions to date. The simplicity of riding the melodies with production stripped to solely an acoustic guitar adds to the overall beauty.
For “Working On It” featuring Chandler Moore, Mineo’s creative juices are magnified and exemplified ten times over as he brings a different vibe and flavor to the track. It’s always a creative risk to step outside typical rapping over trap beats for an entire record. This risk pays off several times over. It’s different, unique and one of the stars of the project. The plethora of sound included forces fans onto their feet to erratically move to the infectious compilation of ear candy.
I could talk endlessly about each track as I love all of them for particular qualities, but just do yourself a favor and run this album all the way through countless times.
Spiritual Highlights: This album is an explosion of emotional deconstruction while Mineo wrestles through faith, maturity, retaining child-like tendencies and adventures combined with artistic expression. Never Land represents a safe space reserved for self-expression, vulnerability, honesty, and the ability to question everything. It encapsulates the child-like wonder of youth with a vision free of judgment, condemnation, hypocrisy, and boundaries. Imagination at its finest.
Mineo correlates what faith should be in comparison to what Never Land represents as opposed to all that is dysfunctional with Christian believers. In theory, Christ-followers are to mirror Jesus. His purity. His endless love. His attention to the beauty which surrounds us in God’s Creation. His empathy for the entire human race. Never Land, to me, is a piece of what heaven has been described as.
Listeners are not going to get 101 references to the bible, the trinity, or theology. That’s reserved for teachings from your local pastor in the eyes of Mineo (and rightfully so). What fans will receive is uncensored truth about day-to-day life and how a man of faith navigates daily noise as a believer. Its lyrics are dominated by real-life applications. The wholesome approach to the trials and tribulations faced as Christians possesses a prominent place within art too.
Best Song on the Record: Personally, I must agree with Mineo’s own declaration of his favorite from the project. “Trying” contains examples of his best songwriting in the past decade laced with levels of vulnerability rarely communicated anymore. The essence of the record is a million things we exhaust ourselves trying to accomplish. From the inclusion of a Son Lux sample to the acapella-like feel of Mineo’s delivery is exceptional. Run this track back a few times to capture the witty wordplay and brilliant cadence articulated. He bounces between the motions of any given day to passions and inner thoughts as well as goals and aspirations. Anymore, it’s far less often a record renders me speechless. This is one of those moments.
Final Word: Never Land II conjures a multitude of relatable material, expressed through precise delivery connected from the innermost depth of Mineo’s heart. His continuous creative grind for the last decade pays off in massive dividends as this album ranks amongst his best. Mineo puts on his visionary hat with this one overseeing every little detail. As close as Mineo was with his mother Fran, the tribute of her narration contribution is not only fitting but a perfect compliment to Mineo’s ingenious creation. Never Land II doesn’t contain a skippable track, as each has lasting appeal and value regardless of the audience.