Album Review: Luke Dowler “Polarized”

Luke Dowler ‘Polorized’ – released Sept 18th

I love hearing new music so when I was given the opportunity to hear the latest offering from Montana born Luke Dowler, I jumped at the chance. In a world where music is more about the strength of your computer programs than true talent it’s refreshing to hear music again that’s  raw and passionate…

“Polarized” starts off with the grunt and drive of a stadium rock anthem with the track ‘Coming Alive’ with a stadium style chant, a great way to start of an album and it’s the perfect entree to what Luke’s about to serve up… melodic, honest music that’s not leaving anything behind… there is blood on this record.

One thing I love about this record the more I listen to it… is the fact that it’s polished to the point of quality but still raw to the point of emotional integrity… and like a chameleon Luke molds and sculpts his favourite artist and influences through the album like a tightly knitted sweater.

“I wanna soul like a kerosene cocktail” rocks Luke before he heads into the chorus of ‘Perseus’ – or “I’m not afraid to sink or swim, I’m a collider” from the track ‘collider’ you see  these are the rawest of emotions that Luke isn’t afraid to take  head on and it’s that passion that is the motor that drives this album.

Just when you think that Luke is only a rocker… he breaks out a track like “Gun” that talks about how everyone wants to be King… everyone wants to rule the world “but you can’t change the world with a Gun”… it’s all temporary, it has to start with love.
And then to make sure he’s got you fooled he breaks out a great little pop ditty like “Umbrella” a fun song with a deeper layered lyric.

This is a great album, that has tracks on here that some bigger known artists would have loved to have on their own albums… it’s great to be able to listen to music that you know have been thought through and patiently worked on… crafted.

Luke talks about the things that are not only on his mind… but on the minds of those around him… Suicide, divorce, war on terror… even church and politics gets a look in. As Luke continues to grow in his craft it’s plain to see that this is an artist to keep an eye on, this is good… however I have a feeling there is something better stored up inside this rising star.
Watch this space!

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Album Review: Parachute Band ‘Matins : Vespers’

Matins : Vespers

Those who know me will know that I have a love hate relationship with concept albums… some albums by the best artist can we somewhat average, while other albums by average bands can be awesome and awe inspiring… so when Parachute Band said they had a ‘concept album’ I was a little nervous.

I shouldn’t have been because the concept was solid.

The idea of the albums is two discs… one of Matins (morning songs of praise) and a disc of Vespers (night prayers often of reflection). Now when I heard the idea for the album I have to admit I was looking forward to hearing it, especially as we see more and more churches forgetting their history (and what we have learnt from history) and deconstructing the Gospel message… here is a group of young men who are looking back at our Christian heritage and grabbing morsels to carry forward into our every day lives.

The first disc ‘Matins’ is 7 songs of praise… and to be honest there is a great mixture of styles and textures on this disc… without being distracting… In fact in a few of the tracks there is a great mixing of styles especially with acoustics and electronic merging. The first disc has a great drive to it, and the lead song “Keep the fires burning” is most certainly the highlight… However the track ‘City of the Lord’ is also a great track starting of very simple.

The second disc ‘Vespers’ is certainly more reflective, and I wonder if the band has taken the relective nature a bit too far… a bit too literally. The reason I ask this is that you will hear a lot of synth… almost dolphin noises in some parts… synth choir in a long angelic ‘Ahhhhh’ and piano slowly painting tinkles of colour… it’s an album full of the type of music you’ll hear in some churches while someone is praying. However… as you continue to listen you can’t help but reflect… you can’t help but be drawn into a sense of relaxation and you find yourself breathing slower… a time to refocus. And there are no words… this is disc is designed to make you unwind and look upward… as the ambient tunes float around you in a calming mood… helping you reflect on God and all he has done.

This is a brave move by a band clearly not afraid to listen to God and put out something that others aren’t.

A group that understands that by looking back at their past they know their steps are secure in their future… and a group that understands that moving with the day is a natural thing… especially as we move into business in our day to day lives.

Morning and evenings may never be the same again…

 

Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Vice Verses’

Switchfoot 'Vice Verses'

The album starts off with the screaming of a wall of sound… Jon yells “I’ve tasted fire I’m ready to come alive’… it’s clear Switchfoot are back and they’ve got something to say… and they’re gonna leave a piece of themselves on this album.

Switchfoots latest album starts of with all the bravado in the world… the attitude of a punk band, the cool of a 80’s rock band with all the riffs in the world to burn, buckle up this album isn’t about comfort and being nice… this album is about the tensions we live in, and the best way to do this it seems is AT HIGH VOLUME… and the boys are not holding back punches with lyrics like

Eyes open open wide
I can feel it like a crack in my spine
I can feel it like the back of my mind
I am the war inside

After a big start to the album Switchfoot give you a chance to rest musically with the song ‘Restless’, but they’re not about to let you rest on what they are wanting to say…  this album deals with what we all deal with, the battle of our soul, the battle of our minds and ‘Restless’ tells us about the search that goes on…

Switchfoot are sounding like a band that have finally found a sound that ‘fits’ them and songs like ‘Blinding Lights’ show they’re not afraid to pull from their sound treasure trove with tonal colours in their music reminiscent of albums like 2003’s ‘Beautiful letdown’

And to add to the tension of the album they boys through in ‘Selling the news’ – when i first heard this on the album  though someone changed the album, vocally it sounds like Jon is somewhere between some kind of circus ringmaster, and a newsboy on the corner

‘I wanna believe you, I wanna believe
But everything is in-between
The fact is fiction
Suspicion is the new religion’

Lyrically this album is so powerful, and the music only adds to the power of the words which just goes to show the strength of Switchfoots songwriting, and the fact that they are at the peak of their powers… and yet they are brave enough to look into themselves and sing ‘I know i’m not right’…

As the album prepares for a landing the band lays it down on the line with the track ‘Rise above it’ a glimpse that we are born for more than this, and yet we’re living in this world that is not perfect and we’re living everyday with the fact that we’re not perfect either, still dealing with our own vices.

This is the first album in a very very long time that i think hits the mark not only lyrically, but muscially and not only that… but being real and truthful and not willing to pull any punches… there is a sense that blood was left on the mat for this one… and it’s powerful in it’s humbleness…

the album end with this;

And when I reach the other side
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I’ve arrived
In a world where I belong

Where I belong

10/10

Album Review: Planetshakers ‘Nothing is Impossible’

Planetshakers

Aqua made it big with a song with the lyrics “If I could turn back time”… and it seems very apt for Planetshakers new live worship album ‘Nothing is Impossible”.

Planetshakers certainly has a different sound to the other big worship albums coming out this year… while Matt Redman and Hillsong United are starting to lean more towards a ‘Indie’ sound… Planetshakers has taken a step back in time releasing their first studio album in 5 years and has given the album a more  pop/rock album and it sounds good. What they loose in conference energy the more than make up for it in sound.

The album starts off with three songs that seem to be a blend of 80’s glam rock and 90’s pop sounds, the track ‘Power’ even feels like it should have the artist Prince breaking into a guitar solo.

But the album’s feel isn’t the only thing that makes this album a time travelers dream… the title track ‘Nothing is Impossible’ is actually a track taken from the 2009 Planetshakers album ‘Deeper’… this is not a bad thing and extra energy has been added to it with the dynamic vocals of Grammy Award winning artist, Israel Houghton.

The musicality on the album is polished, clean and arranged well… but as professional as it sounds there seems to be a real innocence to the album… someone walked in as I was doing one of my listening for the review and said it had the feel of a Hillsongs album about 10 years ago… and she wouldn’t be wrong.

Even the slower song like ‘You are God’ and ‘No one like you’ have a through back feel… kind of like a boy band pop feel to them. A well polished pop sound.

‘Song of Victory’ is pretty cool song however it has the feel of a song that would fit on a Spice girls or Pussycat Dolls album (if they were to do a worship album)… and ‘Sound of praise’ does it’s very best ‘Eye of the tiger’ or Van Halen impersonation complete with guitar riffs and piano riff… certainly 80’s rock inspired… even if they do add a rap half way through to make it feel more up to date.

I think this is a great album… it’s simple themes and familiar sounds make it kind of endearing…

Does church want to rock how they did 10 years ago?

I guess Nothing is Impossible.

7/10

Album Review: Third Day – ‘Move’

Album Due October 19th 2010

Third-Day-Move October 19th 2010

2010 seems to be the year for all big acts of the Christian scene to rediscover, reinvent and redefine themselves… we have seen Toby Mac tip his hat to the 80’s with songs like ‘Hey Devil’, we’ve seen Newsboys reinvent themselves with new singer Michael Tait formerly of DCtalk, and Jars of Clay collaborative effort ‘The Shelter’ is due out in a couple of days….

And so we all turn our eyes to look at the new album by Third Day another of the Christian music scenes Heavy weights. The band has gone through it’s own changes and delivers an album as a foursome for the first time in a while (after original guitarist Brad Avery left to pursue other interests)… and it is clear from the outset that Third Day are here to ROCK.

When I first started listening to this album my mind flicked back to the first time I heard them way back in 1996 with their self titled album… it sounded like they had just started this new album where they left of their last album 14 years ago… and it was cool.

‘Lift Up your face’ is the perfect way to start and album… It has all the elements that make southern guitar rock so much fun to listen to… a rocking guitar… Mac Powells southern drawl… and a cool melody. In fact 3 out of the first 4 tracks have that, cool rockin’ tunes that demand for you to listen to them. The song ‘surrender’ could have easily fit on the ‘young guns movies soundtrack alongside Jon Bon Jovi‘s tracks, or on one of Mac Powell collaborative ‘Glory Revealed’ albums.

Where this album falls flat is that 6 of the 12 tracks sound like they’re just the same song or at the very least a variation of the same song, it’s a real disappointment as you walk out of the room, and walk back in thinking you’ve just missed half of a REALLY long track… only to find it’s a totally different song.

The Album doesn’t pick up it’s true pedigree again until it reaches ‘Gone’ with those smooth rockin’ melodies highlighted in full when you get to the chorus.

If Third Day build on how this album starts and how it ends and they strap the songs in the middle they will be at the start of a great new era of Christian southern rock… however they are also very close to being a band that tours with a greatest hits package.

Good thing they’re a great live act.

With the way you can purchase music these days bands like Third Day have to be careful not to hide average songs in the middle of an album – an old industry trick – because all it means is people will by single track rather than whole albums.

5/10