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Archive for the category “Music Review”

Album Review: Malcolm Gordon ‘The Cobblers Grandson’

The Cobblers Grandson

The Cobblers Grandson

Often at the start of formal gatherings in New Zealand a mihimihi is given… A mihimihi is a basic introduction to let people know a little bit about yourself. It tells people where you are from and who you are by sharing your whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. To know one’s whakapapa is to know one’s identity.
It’s the story behind the name, it’s the pain behind the smile, it’s the things in your life that have woven themselves to help make you exceptionally YOU.

So what does this have to do with an album review about ‘The Cobblers Grandson”? … well nothing… and everything.

‘The Cobblers Grandson’ is the latest offering from New Zealand worship leader and songwriter Malcolm Gordon. Well known for writing thoughtful, melodic music for use in worship and spiritual reflection, Malcolm has taken a turn down the singer/songwriter alleyway.

And this is his family history… His mihimihi if you like.

Approaching this album, I initially listened to it as if it were any other album. That in itself was beautiful, purely as an album of songs. However the magic of the album was that the more you listen to it,the more it became so much more… a family photo album… a book of family history… a gallery of moments in time that have shaped a family, a generation, a man.

The album starts off with the track ‘Oh My Heart’ that sets the tone for the album with a lyric that both draws you into the story and also seems to challenge you:

“‘You weren’t to know how far you’d gone… adventure called you ever farther on”

It’s clear right from the outset that this is not Malcolm’s typical album.

The album tells a story exploring themes of origins and heritage through Malcolm’s trade mark haunting style that is laced with the celtic tones that echo his previous offerings.

The songs that really work best are the songs like the title track ‘The Cobblers Grandson’ and ‘Ash to Ash’. These are the quieter,  more ‘folky’ songs that are so sparse that you find yourself listening to the track as if it was actually a story being told to you… which of course is exactly what is happening.

Many of the songs are far more sparse than Malcom has dared before. Often the tracks rest on just an acoustic guitar sitting hauntingly behind his vocal with nothing more than the drone of a cello or some piano used sparingly to add more depth or tension. Once again Kirstin Cant adds perfectly timed backing vocals and harmonies.

The pinnacle of the album is the first single ‘Hey Stranger’. This is  the most pop style song on the whole album and is all about being a great neighbour. The chorus has a kids’ choir accompanying Malcolm with the words:

“Hey Stranger, Hey Neighbour, you don’t need wings to be my angel”

Some people might question Malcolm’s new direction on this album.

Why would someone move from a place where they were writing songs for church, and writing them well?

Actually I wonder if the question should be, why aren’t more people doing this?
The obvious answer is simply that not everyone is as talented and theologically grounded as Malcolm.
This direction is a sign of someone who isn’t interested in just having a good idea… but listening to GOD ideas, and having faith that God who gave the vision will also give the provision for it.

I think there is certainly a place for ‘church songs’ or ‘spiritual songs’ but the best way to reach people is through story telling. Wasn’t the best example of a storyteller Jesus himself with his parables and testimonies?
So why won’t we combine it with an international and spiritual language like music?
Doesn’t this seem like the most logical step?

“Let me tell you a story of what has happened to me… the pain, the hardship and this is what gave me the strength to get through it”
This is the best kind of story isn’t it?

I left this album thinking I wish I could see this as a soundtrack to a movie or a stage show… this is already a beautiful back drop to a wonderful story.
I can’t wait to hear the next chapter.

Release date October 4th, and can be ordered at onevoice.org.nz in the meantime
Or after October 4th it can be purchase at iTunes, bandcamp and Manna Christian stores.

Album Review: Switchfoot ‘’The Edge of the Earth’

Switchfoot – ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Have you ever listened to an EP (or album) of B sides and thought, “Wow I know why they left that off the last album”?
Often the songs just aren’t up to the standard of the rest of the album.

This is NOT the case for ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Earlier this year (2014) Switch-foot essentially released a soundtrack to their Rockumentary ‘Fading West’, a film that followed the band on it’s quest for the perfect gig, balancing life and finding the perfect wave.
‘Fading West’ was a departure from some of their heavier rock sound for something more ‘pop’ fueled. While this left a few long term fans wondering if rock and roll had died, those with more of an holistic approached would have seen how well it worked as the back drop to a bigger story for the film.

‘The Edge of the Earth’ is the songs that never made it to the soundtrack album.
As I mentioned before I had gone in expecting an EP of average songs, thinking, “Yep well I can see why THAT song never made the album”. What I discovered were songs that just wouldn’t have fit the rest of the ‘Fading West’ album; they would have been a distraction.

The EP starts off with ‘Fading West’, the song that spawned the idea for the film of the same name. It’s almost a bit comical that it never made the actual album, however it was a good idea hearing the make up of the original soundtrack.

A lot of these newer tracks are a bit darker than what the rest of the full length album has to offer.

‘Against the Voices’ is pretty close to the bone, and it’s great to hear a band really reveal themselves (maybe U2 could learn from Switchfoot).
Jon laments in ‘Against the Voices’, “Cause everybody knows, the hardest war to fight is a fight to be yourself  when the voices try to turn you into someone else”. Then in ‘Skin and Bones’ he sings “Apocalyptic skies, Burning gold
I walk these empty miles, I can’t find a soul”.
These are some of the darkest themes that Switchfoot have confronted… and it’s pretty full on, especially once you have already relaxed to the fun loving Fading West song that starts the album.

The band try something new as Tim Foreman (Jon’s brother) takes the lead vocals for the first time on the song ‘What it Cost’.

This is a great stand alone EP that works as a companion to the Fading West album/Soundtrack. In fact this is what artist should strive to make EP’s sound like. EP’s shouldn’t be an artists throwaways just to get extra cash but a reward to fans to show that they are appreciated but also to show another side of a band that is separate to their larger bodies of work… another glimpse into the story of a band.

This is a great EP showing what a great songwriters the Foreman boys have grown into.
As Janis Joplin famously sung, “Take another little piece of my heart now baby”.
This seems to be what Switchfoot do best… they give it all!

 

Album Review: U2 ‘Songs of Innocence’

u2Have you ever wondered what one of the worlds best bands look like when they lose their creativity?
Or not even lose their creativity, but see a light fade?
When they find it hard to keep up with the new innovators?
It happens to them all right?
When you go to a Rolling Stones concert you want the old tracks don’t you?
You want to hear ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, ‘Satisfaction’ and the list goes on.
Are we seeing this with U2?
I mean, ‘Joshua Tree’ was one of the biggest albums in the 80’s and between ‘Achtung Baby’ and the whole ‘Zoo TV’ experience we were always in touch with what U2 were doing.
Joshua Tree came out of the fabric of life we were all living in… great songs and perfect timing, it almost took us by surprise…’ Achtung Baby’ was confronting and challenging and we couldn’t look away.
So where does this leave ‘Songs of Innocence’?

Lets be honest, shall we?
Now I love U2 and they have formed a large part of my musical library and music based memories, however I’m not going to give a band a great review just because that band just happens to be U2.
That’s fair right???
Credit where credit is due!
In saying this I think U2 still have some amazing things to offer…

We don’t REALLY care about an artists past and, although there are a few songs that mean something to us, it’s the whole dynamic of the song that draws us in.
When I hear that this is the most ‘honest’ album that U2 has put forward I think, “Well, that’s great… but Taylor Swift does the same!!!”
We live in a society that wants us to cry and to go deeper. It wants us to think, to activate, to rally, to shout, to sing like we mean it, to breathe, to smile and to let it get under our skin.
The reality is that all this has done to us is made us shut it all off!
We’re cautious. We’ve been burnt before by people who have promised it was real, and we now feel duped.

We want more than just a nice story. We want blood, and the soul that was poured out for it!

‘Songs of Innocence’ takes us back. It relives the awe that Adam, Larry, Edge and Bono felt at a Ramones concert – the crunch of the guitar, the rock and roll.
And at times you can almost hear the young soul of U2… the same young soul that gave us albums like Boy and War and October. The soul that dreamed of changing the world…  you can hear it still in there.
The first single ‘Miracle’ brings us in with the fuzzed out crunch guitar of The Edge, and the guitar sounds great in it’s natural habitat… crunching… roaring…
The album continues in this rock vein until it’s broken up by the ‘Song for Someone‘ where Bono reflects:

And I’m a long way from your hill on Calvary
And I’m a long way from where I was, where I need to be

It’s great to hear Bono being honest without all the bravado and mystery.
Sometimes the best way to sound sincere is just to be sincere. Sometimes you just want people to say what they REALLY mean!
A perfect example of this was ‘Sometimes you can’t make it on your own’ from the 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’. Bono just tells it like it is. So Bono, why now all the mystery and rhyme?

It feels like half of this album is U2 struggling to be young and full of energy while somehow dealing with the fact that their bones are creaking and they have to pee more often during the night.
They’re almost there… but not quite!

Raised by Wolves’ is the turning point on this album – everything seems to sit down and U2 find their stride.

‘Songs of Innocence as an album fits somewhere between How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon ,but with sounds that hark back to when ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ was crossing the radiowaves. In fact songs like ‘Raised by Wolves’ sound like more polished versions of some of the all guns blazing songs that came from albums like ‘War’ and ‘Joshua Tree’… almost 80’s in their feel.
And it made me wonder.

Is U2 now confined to the freedom it has made it’s name for?
Sunday Bloody Sunday‘… “This is a revolutionary song…” Bono screams on the live Under a Blood Red Sky album, and at the time, it was ACTUALLY a revolutionary song.
Zoo TV tour took the whole live gig thing and tipped it on it’s head. It was ironic. It was like holding a mirror up to society. It touched a nerve. ‘POP  laughed at our consumerism. U2 laughed with us as we continued to make them famous. Ironic.

However, now they’re known as a political band. They’re a yearly Band-aid concert with just one band.

I like that U2 with this album is choosing to be less.

There are songs on this album that are well crafted. In fact the whole second half of the album could stand alone as an EP.
Is this a good album?
Yes, I think so.
Is it a great album? I think only time will tell, although it’s certainly not U2’s best.
I really hope the band takes time to  “go away and… just dream it all up again”

U2 are best when they are taking on the world, and not a band that is reacting to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: David Lyle Morris ‘Northland’

David Lyle Morris 'Northland'

David Lyle Morris ‘Northland’

In our culture we place a lot of focus on the past, and rightly so.
The past doesn’t define us, but often the past reminds us of the things that are important to us and that knowledge gives us the confidence to step into the future. In ancient cultures they used to make monuments or altars in memory of these important things. We live in culture now that doesn’t do that as much. We are a culture of story tellers and troubadours.

This brings us to ‘Northland’, the latest offering from Kiwi singer/song writer David Lyle Morris, who once again brings his relaxed style to the table….
It seems fitting that David starts the album with looking back and tracing his musical genesis. He gives us a glimpse of how he was shaped by friends and family and events in his life with the song ‘Music in Me’ and ever so gently tips his hat to God to say “But God… through all of this you have placed the music in my heart”.

Those who are used to listening to David ‘s mainly James Taylor-esque acoustic style will be pleased to know that there is plenty here to keep you happy, with tracks like ‘After a While’ and ‘I am yours’. These tracks are simply crafted and beautifully played.
A special track and a real highlight of the album is ‘Bluebird’ – the song full of sorrow and promise all wrapped in one beautiful package. ‘Bluebird’ poetically balances the tensions of the tough times here on Earth with the promise of the freedom of Heaven. This is something that often is mentioned to me about David’s music… how he can take such a tough subject like suffering and death or sickness and place it a real positive light. It’s a tough thing to do however David is able to do it tenderly without making sound cheesy or trivial.

One of the first things that grabbed me about this album was “wow the boy’s found the blues again… and he makes it rock too.”
David fills his latest offering with sound from his past.
You’ll hear sounds influenced by Dire Straights on tracks like ‘Somewhere Someone’ and also some great blues influenced rock shining through on this album too. ‘What Goes Up’ could easily fit into the mix of a Stones album or maybe even  ZZ Top.
Guitarist Teemu Viinikainen really takes the lead on these rockier tracks and forms a great platform of groove and drive for David to sit upon. You know a guitarist understands the brief of the songwriter when you find yourself saying “Mmmm niiice” against your will.

Once again David is able to help craft an album that tells a story…. a story of love, of life,  of the loss of his homeland New Zealand and his friends in other far-flung countries.
I love the mixture of David’s hallmark acoustic style and a rockier edge that is showcased on this album, especially the  really bluesy feel that shines through.

With David I love how the tracks aren’t perfect. That in itself is perfect. It lends to you hearing the emotion and tension of any individual track…. that’s what you want.
You want real life… you want authentic… you want heart… and when an album is over produced you don’t get that.

Welcome to the journey.
Past and present, light and dark…  packaged in this beautiful album.

If you want to by the album check out davidlylemorris.com
(also available on iTunes)

Album Review: Corban Samuels ‘Death To Birth Part 2′

Death To Birth Part IIAn eerie drone builds over the tinkle of what sounds like a toy piano… the  sound building and growing, setting up the start of the second chapter of this dark world… the illusion… the journey… the story… the mystical world of Corban Samuels. Welcome to Part 2 of the dark ‘other worldly’ place that Christchurch songwriter Sam Reed has created with his Death to Birth E.P.’s under the name Corban Samuels.

Keeping true to the first album, Sam has kept the cinematic approach. While this approach has it’s strength, as in the way you read each chapter of a book in order, it means that the album is not really one you listen to for your favourite single. While others have had this sort of approach to writing  ‘concept albums’, I have yet to hear something put together in such a story-like flow as this is. It’s great to know that Sam had the sense not to disrupt the story with what would have only been a filler or hit single. Sam gets it…. when you’re creating something so cinematic, so grand, so dark, you’re taking people on a journey. You can’t let the illusion go, otherwise people will snap out of the world that you have created around them. This is a dark album, although not as dark as Death to Birth Part 1, which in some parts was quiet uncomfortable (especially if you were listening at home alone in the dark).

Sam sets up the album with over four minutes of instrumental. This works well with this style of album. It’s like watching the title sequence of your favourite thriller music, or maybe Harry Potter movie.

The first words that are uttered on the album come at the start of the 3rd song called ‘Tonight’. “Dear Friend, those tears you cry are not wasted at all” . The vulnerability of the song draws you in as Sam sings, “Let me Dance with you, let me hold you tight, let all your cares be forgotten tonight” – it’s sweet, yet it’s dark. It’s like listening to a love song in a Tim Burton movie…. it’s endearing, but like lovers caught in the dark.

For maybe the first time over the 2 E.P.’s ‘On the Outside’ gives us some light, some hope to the story. It feels like the clouds are parting and the rain has stopped. You can almost feel rays of light touching the skin of the players of this story which you have become a part of.

The album finishes with the same cinematic approach to the start of the album… a great book end.

The closest thing I can think of in the concept style of music that Sam comes with is the music that ex-DC Talker Kevin Max has brought out the in the past. Sam brings a very alternative or indie pop rock approach to the table and while it’s great to see someone putting out stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into the mainstream music market, it has to be a lonely road. This is not the kind of music to make friends and influence people… these are albums that challenge you musically, challenge you mentally… challenge you!

Great work Sam for sticking to your guns. You really can’t do concept albums like this half pie and you have taken leap of faith needed for this.

 

(To see the review for Death to Birth Part 1 click HERE)

Album Review: Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Crowder ‘Neon Steeple’

Dear Mr Crowder;

Thank you for the delivery of the album ‘Neon Steeple’, an offering that you pointed to being that of  “… the sound of the Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808.” – phew, that in its self is a huge undertaking. For that alone I tip my hat to you sir.

I have to say that I have been eagerly waiting the arrival of this album. I marveled at what magical collaborations you would be able to put together with such a broad theme… Porch Music meets electronica… wow… the possibilities are endless.

We already knew that you were a great songwriter – the vast catalogue of music that you collected as part of the group David Crowder*Band would attest to that fact. This wasn’t where my intrigue was focused. I was wondering “How are you going to make this work, Mr Crowder?”.
Thinking back to your past work I remember the award winning David Crowder*Band album  ‘A collision or (3+4=7)’. I remember similar combinations with great fondness.

And so it was with much anticipation that I played through the album ‘Neon Steeple’ for the first time.

I love how the album starts off with a brief acoustic song as an intro… it was great.
However when you used synthesized hand claps at the start of the song ‘My beloved’ I became a bit weary. I had heard this sound before, and then to my shock you took me to somewhere between 1994 and 1999. I didn’t know if I was about to shuffle to ‘Cotton eye Joe’ by the Rednex or ‘We like to party’ by the Venga Boys.
Fortunately the insanity is brought back to the ground with the single ‘I AM’ – this Mr Crowder is a great song. Do more if this!

My poor heart… More synthesized clap like rhythms start the song ‘Come Alive’ . Thank you so much for not rehashing the late 90’s for this. This actually feels like a ‘Church Music’ tune from your past band. ‘Church Music’ with a country tip…
(I’m sorry to bring up the past band however this is a good reference, I believe)

Bless your heart… More synthesized hand claps!
Mr Crowder you do understand that just because you have said that you want to make the album both digital and electronic that you can still have people actually clapping their hands?
I love the music. I love the lyrics. I love the depth of the song. Please Mr Crowder, sir, give us rest from claps that are manipulated by the robots that will someday take over this world.

Come as you Are is a wonderful song, a powerful song. It showcases songwriting in it’s purest form.
It’s simple. It’s both majestic and humbling.
“So lay down your burdens, Lay down your shame, All who are broken, Lift up your face”
Great work Mr Crowder.

(Mr Crowder, I’m not sure if you realise this but The Wiggles or some other kids band invaded your album.’Hands of Love’ – please Mr Crowder lets not do this again or better still lets save this type of song for your kids album. This may be a great plan B if you are starting to consider retirement.)

The Song ‘My Sweet Lord’  is so nice… Miss Emmylou Harris still has it doesn’t she?
What a wonderful thing it is to hear those sweet harmonies… She’s a keeper Mr Crowder!!!

Everything was going great until ‘You Are’. I hear the song building up and I find my self yelling “Don’t go ooonse ooonse”
But my cries fell on the def ears of the 90’s nightclub gods, who not only gave me the obvious ‘on the floor beat’ but slapped me in the face with syncopated synthesized hand claps.
Mr Crowder you are both a saint and villain in one small package.

Some songs on this album just work because of their simpleness… and because of this they become more powerful.

In conclusion Mr Crowder I’m not sure if this album is more  human like Luke Sky-walker or More Robot like Darth Vader.
Lyrically it magical, it’s whimsical, it’s poetic.
Musically it’s melodic, it’s southern, it’s full of toe tappers.
I’m not always convinced that the marriage of the 1’s and 0’s (as you put it Mr Crowder) always work with the soul and heart of the south.  However, in saying that, this may be like any good marriage and need time to develop.

Thank you Mr Crowder for taking the time to bless us with your music.
I look forward to hearing more in the future.

Peace and Grace
Goose

 

 

Album Review: Passion ‘Take it All’

Passion ‘Take it All’

There was a time when I used to look out for the latest Passion CD.
I mean, what wasn’t there to love?
It was a collection of some of the top Worship leaders and innovators in the Christian music scene. It was new, it was daring, it was radical. It was almost like it wasn’t church, yet you found yourself singing along. You were singing praises and you were worshiping.

However, sadly you will notice that it is all mentioned in past tense.

The Collection of leaders are great and we are fortunate to have so many on one album. However,  the song selection on this album makes all the churches’ songs sound the same.  I don’t know why these songs were chosen or who chose them but I think it was most likely a combination of a couple of things.

  • Conference moments: after all it was recorded at a conference and while the recordings may trigger a reminder to the people that were there of a God moment, for the rest of the world it almost feel like a joke that we missed the punchline for.
  • Commercial success: Songs that are going to be a highlight for the leaders (and bands) involved – after all they do need to make a living.
  • Record labels: People in suits and ties sitting around a table and talking about the album as a whole… what songs fit, which songs don’t… which songs are strong and will be picked up by the wider public and which songs won’t.

I understand that when putting an album like this together it could be technically difficult to find the right songs. You need to get the right balance and the right feel while deciding which artists get the prime spots on an album. (Interesting to note that Chris Tomlin features as the first track on at almost half of Passion albums).

So why has a recording that everyone once looked forward to so much suddenly became average? The reality is that the world has caught up. While these songs would have caught the minds and inspirations of thousands of young people who have attended these conferences they almost get lost in translation outside that setting. I mean, how awesome is it standing with thousands of people singing these songs, with once voice and one mission? There is a synergy that happens and it’s inspiring. However in your bedroom or in the car it’s almost out of context. To be honest it could have been a lot of other Christian worship compilations I have listened to.

Now I know I seem to be bagging this album but I’m not.There are truly some great tracks on here and my personal highlights would be Crowder’s ‘I Am’ and Matt Redman’s ‘Mercy’.

I’m not saying that God can’t use the other songs.
God can (and will) use these songs to touch hearts. My question  is, what is the purpose of this album these days?

Is it just a conference audio scrapbook so that you can relive those conference moments?
Is it to help sell albums for six steps records and sparrow? After all these songs are also going to be on each of the worship leaders albums too.

Is it to create new songs for a new generation?
If so the album and the songs presented are starting to feel a little bit “been there and done that” when once these were songs that caught imagination.
I remember hearing artists like Charlie Hall sing “Salvation Raise up from the ground” and I thought “wow I’ve never heard someone say that in a church song before”, or David Crowder Band when they sang “You made everything Glorious… so what does that  make me?”
These were pointed, different, artistic, creative and innovative.
The thing with innovation is that if everyone else is doing it, it’s not innovation anymore. It’s the norm. If what you are doing is the norm you aren’t innovating… you’re just like everyone else.
I don’t think the church was designed to be ‘just like everyone else’ and therefore it goes to say that neither should our music be. Sure our music should sound like the music we hear in the street and the radio but it’s different too… it has a life saving message for a start.
What is sparking the imagination of our younger generation if the church isn’t?

I understand that hearing this loved series of albums has become average may be hard for some to read… however we don’t want to get into the habit of giving good reviews just because the artists are our favourite leaders and bands.
Our job as reviewers is to critique and push artists to greater excellence, we praise when there is need to praise, and we point out when there is a need for artists to push forward to greater things..

Album Review: Propaganda ‘Crimson Cord’

Propaganda ‘Crimson Cord’

Hip-Hop is changing.
When once it was found in two camps – you were either a gangsta, a hustler where you were all about the bling, the colours on your bandana, and the hood you ‘rolled’ in. Your women were there for one thing, and if anyone stepped on your turf you would “cap their a##”
OR…
You were a fun loving creative type. You were about drinking, about smoking things that made you creative. You spoke of love as if it was something that you understood when the actions showed it was only skin deep.

But now Hip-hop is becoming a game changer. It’s the soap box of choice. It’s found everywhere… but is it any good and does it have a social conscience that is livable?

Coming out of the Humble Beast label is hip-hop artist Propaganda.
Propaganda has paved a way for himself with really organic sounding beats, creative hooks and a good ‘turn of phrase’.

The thing that stands out on a Propaganda album is that it’s all not strictly hip-hop. Some of the hardest hitting tracks are more technically ‘spoken word’ poems and it gives Propaganda the ability to really stretch his creative and clever lyrics… and it’s always challenging.

The album starts off with ‘You Mock Me’ – it’s typical Propaganda and a spoken word piece with layers of sounds and beats to give you a setting to place the words on. Propaganda is clever as he constructs the belief that he’s talking about someone, a father?… a girlfriend? … a child? … but this is a poem about ‘The Past’. Welcome to the 2nd album, this is going to be a musical mind trip.

The album really starts to take off when hip-hop artist Lecrae comes to the party on ‘Daywalker’.
‘Daywalker’ is a real foot tapper with Propaganda declaring that “this is what you get when you mix Tony Hawk and Ice Cube NWA and the Bones Brigade” – it’s a fun track that talks about the culture you are living in.

‘Bored of Education’ is a spoken word based piece that cleverly starts of with “Dear bored of education… so are we… so  are we” as he explains why the brightest stars in the education system start to fall and fail because the system isn’t made to look after the kids that are considered ‘not normal’. He points out: “Nick Luvanno runs his own design firm. And he failed the exit exams twice. FAILED”

The most hard hitting track on the album has to be the track ‘I don’t see it’ which is a real mixture of the clever and intellectual spoken word and more traditional hip-hop.
It’s a track that starts to make you uncomfortable. Propaganda asks the questions such as “one day you will make it… but what is it?”
and “You’re looking for new mountains to climb when you haven’t even conquered the first one, you ain’t done, you’re just comfy”

You see that’s where hip-hop cuts deep… it goes straight to the heart… it catches you off guard… and Propaganda is the maestro. He draws you in with clever lyrics and gravitational spins of word play and rhythm before slapping you in the face with your own realization of who you are by forcing you to look in the mirror… but also motions to what you could be and, more importantly, who you were designed to be.

I love an album that challenges you and that’s what drew me to this album. It ticks all the boxes and with a mixture of spoken word and hip-hop it keeps you engaged, alert and vulnerable.
There are tracks like ‘Daywalker’ and ‘How Did We Get Here’ that distract and you forget that you don’t want to be challenged, you want to be entertained… and that’s the whole point isn’t it? We want to be inspired. We want to be challenged. We want to know who we are… and so for that we are thankful that Propaganda asks the hard questions and gets us to look at ourselves.

Sometimes being caught off guard is the best way to discover who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Rivers in the Wasteland’

NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Waters in the Wasteland’

Sometimes for something to to come to life you have to let it die… and dying isn’t always easy.

For NEEDTOBREATHE (NTB) everything seemed to be going right… they were getting what everyone in the music world would gauge as success.
They were being asked to perform high profile gigs with the likes of Taylor Swift, they were on TV, they were on radio…
But what they also discovered is that with that comes the pressures of it all… and the band almost collapsed because of it… success almost killed NTB (as shown in the documentary style film ‘Prove the Poets Wrong’).
The result was the band redefining ‘success’… they realized they were already successful – as individuals, they didn’t need to prove that to anyone else… so they gave that dream of success driven glory away.
They already had a purpose they just needed to re-find it!

The problem with giving away a dream… is that often it comes true at that point…

Everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to be in a situation where they would need one.

Rivers in the Wasteland is the result of that miracle.

You can tell from the first strum that a burden has been lifted…
The album starts of with the track ‘Wasteland’ and NTB are almost defiant in the fact that “If God is on my side, who can be against me”… a slow song to build into a big chorus making way for the second track.
‘State I’m in’  starts off with slightly distorted southern tinged Beach Boy like vocals before rocking into the song in what can only be described as the best Chris Isaak impersonation, a kind of southern rock meets Elvis sound.
Beating drums and hand claps keep your foot tapping… in the blues infused southern rocker ‘Feet, don’t fail me now’… it’s infectious, it’s like a southern virus has entered your body and the side effects are a constant foot tapping. It’s a southern blues church experience. NTB have built you up to this point… they aren’t about to take the foot of the throat just yet and ‘Oh Carolina’ is the perfect remedy to keep the declaration of intention going, there is a stomp revival happening here.

This is becoming something of a southern release of tension… the best way to come out of tough times… is to let it go and celebrate.

NTB  at this point ironically ‘need to breathe’ and the album pulls back with great tracks like ‘The Difference Maker’ and ‘Rise again’. The highlight of this reprieve from the stomp revival is that it shines a beam of light on the fact that these are great songs, well crafted, great lyrics. These are great songs without big production and studio tricks… these are songs that stand on merit alone.

There is a reason ‘The Heart’ was a lead single… it shines in the middle of this album like a beckon, it is in fact the literal heart of this album.  It’s fun, it’s big, it’s personal and it’s a solid track. You really can’t argue with lyrics that say “Don’t waste time when it comes time to dance”

It was a nice touch adding the track ‘Brother’ as Bear and Bo Rinehart are the brothers responsible for the existence of NTB. It’s a touching tribute and although it may be referring to the obvious connection of these sibling lyrically it extends further than that.

Brother let me be your shelter
I’ll never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low

The great thing about this track is the bigness of it and it’s soul.
Half way through the song, a piano glides over the top of the track paving a way for a new focus of the groove, that makes it more soulful and heralding a soul choir to take the song to a whole other level and give it wings.

NEEDTOBREATHE have found their feet.
This is an album with soul… this is an album with heart… this is an album with history without burdening you with all the dirty details… this is an album of songs that have been crafted by experience, by pain, by laughter and by faith.

This is the most complete album that NTB have brought to the table.
There was a Reckoning (their last album) and from the ashes of that a phoenix has risen, that not only has lit a new fire and a renewed purpose for NTB but brought water into a wasteland.
NTB have had a weight lifted from their shoulders and it shows.

If you are looking for an album that encourages you to be lifted during the driest of places, then stop here for a drink.

Album Review: Sam Watson ‘Home’

I’ve had the privilege to have been able to review some great international bands from all over the world… and have had contact with some award winning bands, bands with large budgets, bands that are at the top of the charts, and at the top of their game. However there is something special about hearing what is coming out of the Indie music scene and even better than that is hearing what is coming out of the local scene…

sam watson

Sam Watson ‘HOME’ EP

You see, it’s often that the bands who are doing the hard yards in the Indie scene are the bands that are inspiring the top bands with new sounds. The indie scene is full of people trying new things because they have nothing to lose. The indie scene is filled with people trying to find new a new way to say the same old things… love, loss and life.
You can almost map that when a new sound hits the Indie scene it’s  only a year or two before that sound is main stream… and so the circle continues.

And that’s how I’ve stumbled across Christchurch songwriter Sam Watson.
It’s so great to hear great music coming out of someone who is trying to do the hard yards… there’s no trying to tailor to the masses… there is no swooning pop songs on YouTube… this is acoustic… this is real music.

So what does it sound like?

This is the kind of music that you would expect to hear live, as you have a couple of quiet drinks in a bar that is filled with the new moderns, the sophisticated but still gounded type that wear suits to the office but after hours it’s jeans and a t-shirt…
OR
If you are having dinner in a really cool cafe- you know the ones with candles and atmosphere, not the pretentious ones that are all about the food and nothing else.
This music is atmosphere.

The Home EP starts off with the title track, a tasty song that reminds me of something that would sit nicely between Jason Mraz  and Bruno Mars in style. It’s a great song to set up the rest of the album… it relaxes… it calms you… it fools you into thinking that the rest of the album is going to be pushed into the ‘Easy Listening’ genre… It’s not!

‘Trying to Find’ is the next track and it sounds like we’re about to go into more of the same laid back feel as ‘Home’, however 52 seconds into the song and the mood changes. This is a real LA style California cafe type song, like an acoustic Orson set. The song’s modern acoustic style, which tips its hat to past influences, is refreshing to hear among a barrage of folk and bluegrass influenced pop songs.

As the album progresses you slowly get pulled into songs that seem to be drawing from influences such as Ryan Adams, Radiohead and Jeff Buckley.
‘Let it burn’ starts in such an unassuming way with a quiet acoustic guitar and by the end of the song Sam is wailing in a Buckley-esque  style falsetto “She’s on fire….” . This is a great song to have in the middle of the EP a great balance between safety and pushing boundaries.

The last couple of songs follow the change of mood and style, a bit gentler than ‘Let it Burn’ but still filled with the same emotion…

This is a great first little EP…
It’s hard not to hear albums by untalented people, who only sound good in a studio with songs that 12 of the top songwriters in the world got to write for a top record label.
This is not a perfect EP by any stretch of the imagination… and that’s GREAT.
There is a more of a live vibe to this EP than lots of LIVE albums by big name artists… you can almost feel the emotion here… you can hear the voice crack every now and then as you hear the pain of a story being told.
If this is the start I’m glad to say I was a part of a select few who heard it before the crowds and the accolades.

To hear the EP click HERE
You can buy the album from here too!

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