Album Review: Luke Dowler ‘West’

west_coverWhat is the sign of a great songwriter?

I think it’s when the artist can release an album that when stripped back stands on it’s own merits, both lyrically and melodically… and still makes you feel like it’s relevant and forward focused.

This is why I love Luke’s approach to his music “I try write each song as if it’s my last” says Dowler.
Lets be honest, with all the hype of album releases and hit songs and the occasional craze hit single, isn’t the thing the music buying public is most interested in songs that connect to them?
These new songs from Lukes newest EP ‘West’ are the best he’s produced yet.

The EP starts of with the pulse of the bass drum , and some percussive clicks, before the familiar groove of the acoustic guitar pull the song ‘Revelation Firewater’ in.
I knew when I heard this track that Luke had grown. It was a strange mixture of Dave Matthews and Bruce Springsteen but still uniquely Dowler…

‘Good Enough’ has to be my favourite track on the album… this is the type of track that Luke fits best in. Sure, he can do other styles well (as this album will show) however this type of track is where Luke is G.O.L.D.
‘Good enough’ is a heart felt track that has a swag of a southern song, the gospel feel church and a whole heap of soul… it starts off beautifully with an acoustic guitar and Luke lamenting “You’re taking me for a ride, but I’m doing all the driving”. It’s a soul searching song that leaves Luke asking “Let me know when it’s good enough for you”… as the song grows so does the soul of the song.

‘Hold up the Sky’ a simple bluesy track that again showcases Dowler’s craft of songwriting.  This is the most stripped back track of the album and is what Luke is all about. This is heart and soul. This is about love. This is about adventure. This is about creating. This is about holding on to the things you treasure the most.
“Most people want the best things in life, but they don’t want to watch them grow”

The EP finishes with what I think is a bit of an odd choice. ‘Halfway’ is a track that is heavy on the drum machine beats and is a bit of a distraction from the path the other tracks have laid before it. While I can see the need to try and highlight the fact that Luke is multi-dimensional and can do a variety of styles… it just feels a bit out of place… It’s great that Luke tried to push new ground, however what Luke does best is the heart felt, soul tinged melodies that connect with you when you least expected.

And so ‘West’ seems to show a new ‘all grown up’ version of Luke Dowler.
Luke has discovered his groove, his soul and his heart and this is the most complete album from Luke yet.
If this is the new direction that Luke is going to be going in, I really look forward to see more of it.

 

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Album Review: Ian Yates ‘Really Good News EP’

Ian Yates - Really Good News

Ian Yates – Really Good News

I’m a firm believer that the music that’s in the church should sound like the music that’s being played outside the church only the lyrics are uplifting and God focused… this follows the tradition of people like Martin Luther who used pub songs as the melodies for his hymns or William Booth when he used the Brass band (The Rock band of the day).

Ian Yates seems like he’s standing on the shoulders of these giants when he gives us ‘Really Good News’ or what you could call ‘Good News 1.5’ as it is a follow up EP right on the heals of his last release ‘Good News’.

Now this isn’t a bad thing… it’s almost like Ian is saying “we released our album ‘Good News’, but we couldn’t wait for you to hear some of the new stuff we were working on”.
The great thing about this EP is that it follows on perfectly from the album ‘Good News’, a lot of EP’s of this nature are like random songs that are thrown together and called an EP to bridge a gap between full length albums.

Ian’s strength is his ability to find great melodies and take fairly big subjects and make them simple for people to understand.
I mean it’s one thing to be able to pick up a great melody… but to have a great melody with a lyric that will stick in your brain is a much harder task… however it’s something that Ian manages to do with great ease and then like a magician he also adds this dance type feel to some of the tracks bridging the gap between church and club, chapel and pub… this is the easy part… the hard part is maintaining the gaze on the creator of it all… and Ian’s focus is firmly fixed on him.

All through the album Ian fights this great tension between dance-able poppy church music and something that’s more meaningful… there are times when Ian seamlessly crosses from pop/rock to a kind of dub-step feel (like in Heavens Open) the really cool thing is that he does it well, and by that I mean is that it doesn’t feel forced or out of place.
The message could have been really easily lost in the ideas of the music however the music seems to push the ideas of the songs further… and that’s how it should be.
I like a worship album with tension… the wrestle with the music and lyrics that unmask the emotion of the things we want to say but don’t know where to start.
Ian gives you words simple and true “All we are is found in you” and then gives us a platform in which to direct them to the God he wants to turn your eyes to.

The bottom line is if you are into worship music that you want to sing along with, be challenged by and have songs where you understand what you are actually singing about because all of the church jargon has been removed and replaced with words we actually use… then make sure you check out this EP… and even better… it’s FREE… or you can even pay for it if you think it’s an artist you feel like you should support, because he’s just that good.
Check out the EP HERE… you won’t be disappointed!

Original Music from Goose… “Messy Middle”

On the 1st of September 2012 I was privileged to be able to be given the opportunity to play at HPCC at the 2012 ‘You Are Here’ Art Exhibition. I played a short acoustic set of all originals.

I chose 4 songs to play… really basic… just a guitar… a microphone… and me!

Here is the first song of the set called ‘Messy Middle’.

Messy Middle is about when life throws you a curve ball… something that you didn’t see coming and you’re thinking to yourself “God what are you doing here?… can you just call me???”

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!

Album Review: The Vespers ‘The Fourth Wall’

The Vesper - 'The Fourth Wall'

In a world full of electronic sounds, remakes and dub-overs, remixes and auto tune it is great to hear a sound that doesn’t manufacture a foot tap with a Phat bass line… but a sound that makes your soul smile with the simplicity of the song… the honesty of the band and the melody and rhythm that mirrors life….

There seems to be a ground swelling of people who are looking for ‘real music’ and bands like ‘Rend Collective Experiment’ New Zealand’s ‘Avalanche City’ with their single ‘Love Love Love’ the rawkus ‘Mumford and Sons’ and the list goes on…

Now you can add to this list ‘The Vespers’ Indie music’s new secret weapon… armed with ukulele, banjo, love and some really catchy tunes, you can expect hearing some more from this group.

‘The Fourth Wall’ is the bands second album and it has all the potential to do some great things… and while the album has moments of honey sweet sounds and effervescent bubbles of pop sensitivity there is so much more depth and width to this album that you feel yourself drawn into the music.

Like a lot of bands with siblings (lead vocalists Callie and Phoebe Cryar are sisters and Bruno and Taylor Jones are brothers) there is a sound of familiarity… not familiarity in the music but in the sound that is produced… it doesn’t feel forced but feels ‘worn in’… comfortable… nurtured and it is a real credit to The Vespers to be able to have you pulled into the sound.

This album is rooted in faith and in life… and the sounds echo that.

All through the album there is a real folk and roots sound often tinged with pop… or gospel… or bluegrass or gospel spiritual but it is organic and it is real and it is good.

This band is all about people and connecting with them and the title of the album ‘The Fourth Wall’ is a extension of that belief. The fourth wall, in theatre terms, is the invisible wall between the audience and performers… The Vespers are becoming masters of breaking down those walls… and with their great music… their honest lyrics and melodies to pull you in… this is the album to either break you out of your coldest Winter… or help lift your warmest Summer.

Here’s a taste of what The Vespers do best.

 

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: David Crowder Band’ – ‘Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])

Give Us Rest (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])History is always made by people who are pioneers… people who have decided that they are not happy with how things are… and so they go about changing the landscape. They don’t do it because they are trying to break new ground they are doing it because no one told them it couldn’t be done like that… and if they were told that it couldn’t be done, they kept on working away at it doing it because it just felt right. David Crowder Band are such pioneers… and now the journey has finally come to and end… and what more fitting end than with a Requiem.

This is a massive double albums, and covers the full spectrum of the musical landscape that has been covered over the years by DC*B… they say that when you die your life flashes before your eyes… and this is the closest to a musical flashback as you can get without having a best of album (yet).

Musically ‘Give us Rest’ sits somewhere between ‘Illuminate’ and ‘A Collision’… and along the musical journey that you are taken on you will see the subtle head nod to all of the albums in the DC*B library. The album was always heralded  as ‘an album that showcases the band’s unique music style and touches on worship, pop, rock, bluegrass and electronic genres’ no one ever denied the group couldn’t pull it off… they just wondered how  ANY band pull it off this well.

The album starts with foot steps into a Cathedral or large hall into a Requiem Mass and we hear the words in Latin ‘Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis, Domine ‘ or in English ‘Grant them eternal rest, O Lord’ – before starting into the first song proper ‘Oh Great God give us Rest’ which starts of with a feel like ‘Come and listen’ (from A Collision) or ‘Remedy’ (From Remedy).

As with any DC*B you are set to be left in surprise and awe and wonder as you get drawn into the music… but where I was left most surprised was with the set of sequences (1-7) … I don’t want to give to much away but take the time to listen to each one… and just  listen and get taken away on a ride that will almost leave you… breathless.

So… for two discs, you are pulled and pushed as David and his Merry men take you on a journey that will leave you searching… and I think that is what worship is about… sure worship is about sitting and resting in Gods grace, his goodness, his love… but worship is about discovery, and coming to a deeper understanding of who God really is.

On the journey you may find some of this album hard (both lyrically and Musically)… and you will find parts of the album that naturally resonate with your spirit, take in those songs – for me they were songs like ‘Let me feel you Shine’ and ‘God have Mercy’ – but take time to go back to the songs that you find hard (maybe lyrically and maybe musically… maybe both) but even in those moments rest in God’s wonderful grace and let God speak to your soul… growing in Worship… it sure makes some of the songs we song on Sunday pretty uninspiring.

Buy this album and listen to it first from Top to Tail… let yourself be taken on the journey, and then after that… you’ll never be the same.

Farewell David Crowder Band ‘Thank you for the Music’