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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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Where the Light Shines Through (Deluxe Edition) – Switchfoot
****

Switchfoot is one of my favorite bands, second only to U2. This is their first full-length album since their chart-topping 2014 album Fading West. An EP of songs from the Fading West sessions The Edge of the Earth, was also released in 2014.  Lead singer/songwriter Jon Foreman also released four solo Wonderlands EPs in 2015.

This is the band’s 10th album in their 20-year career. It is also the first time in ten years that the band has worked with producer John Fields, who worked with them on their 2003 breakthrough album The Beautiful Letdown, as well as 2005’s Nothing is Sound and 2006’s Oh! Gravity. Bassist Tim Foreman has said that the band went through a dark season and the record become a source of light in the middle of that dark season. He stated that the album rose organically out of the ashes of adversity.

This is an excellent new release from the band that always sounds fresh. Jon Foreman’s vocals are excellent and Chad Butler’s drums really stand out. I would have liked a few more rockers, but still love the album.

Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the deluxe edition, which debuted on iTunes Top Albums chart at #2:

Holy Water – a strong opener with grungy drums and guitars that reminded me of the band’s raw Oh! Gravity sound. Jon sings that he has fought the fire with fire and he wants to taste the Lord’s love again.

Float – features an infectious funky beat. I liked this song instantly. Jon sings “Turn it up so I can feel it. Loud enough so I can get near it.” He sings don’t let them tell you what to feel like, and that money’s going to leave you broken-hearted. It can’t finish what we started.  A favorite.

Where the Light Shines Through – opens with guitar, then quickly goes into drums and the full band. Jon sings encouragingly that we can’t run away from ourselves. He sings that our scars shine like dark stars and that our wounds are where the light shines through, it’s where the light finds us.  The band describes it as “a gospel song – an open palms altar call – bring your scars and abuse and bruises with you”.

I Won’t Let You Go – opens with acoustic guitar. Jon offers a vulnerable Bono-like vocal as the song builds. This song works on different levels, including being a song in which the Lord is speaking to us about trusting Him.

If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won’t let you go

Another line that was powerful was “pain gives birth to the promise ahead”.

If The House Burns Down Tonight – begins with Jon singing over an acoustic guitar. He sings that the truth is what remains and what you save from the fire. The songs turns into a driving rocker, featuring excellent drums. It could be a song about his wife. He wants passion, the fire. If he loses everything (the house burns down tonight), he still has everything he needs with her by his side. The rest can burn.  A powerful line is “ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains”.Where The Light Shines Through

The Day That I Found God – a lighter song musically, this one starts slow and builds. A key line is “I found out the day I lost myself was the day that I found God”.  Another highlight.

I found strength but it wasn’t what I thought
I found peace in the places I forgot
I found riches ain’t the things that I had bought
I found out
The day I lost myself was the day that I found God

Shake This Feeling – opens with guitars. A mid-tempo rocker about a relationship that is falling apart. You can feel the pain. Words have been said that can’t be taken back. They are going to have to fight to fall back in love again.

Bull in a China Shop – a rocker that starts with a screeching guitar and great drums with good backing vocals. The chorus us “I wanna rock this block like a bull in a china shop”. Jon asks what we are waiting for as the future is here. It’s a bold songs, he sings that fear is all he’s got left to fear.

Live it Well – in this encouraging and uplifting song Jon sings that life is short, he wants to live it well. He wants to burn brighter than the dawn. He wants to take full advantage of what he has been given, and we should as well.

Looking for America – a powerful song featuring Lecrae, this song is about America. The song acknowledges that the Lord knows we need plenty of change in our country. Features a great beat molding Lecrae’s and Switchfoot’s sounds with challenging, bold lyrics. It reminds me thematically of Lecrae’s “Welcome to America” from his Anomaly album.

America, who are you?
Is God still on your side?

Healer of Souls – an out and out rocker with great guitars and drums. Jon acknowledges that we have problems. We are a nation torn by the clashes. We need to turn to the Lord, the healer of souls. This song will sound great in concert.

I want more than just a crutch to lean on
Yeah I’m looking for that freedom
So let’s go there
To the healer of souls

Hope is the Anthem – a slower song featuring synth, keyboards and light drums.  Jon sings that sometimes what we need is what we fight. He sings that God’s love is what he was running from. The Lord’s hope is the anthem of his soul.

Light and Heavy – was first played live by Jon in 2009, when he dedicated it to a friend and fellow musician who had recently died of cancer. Starts with Jon singing with bass and drum and then builds. Jon sings that he is travelling light with a heavy heart. A personal song, perhaps to a friend, as he sings “I hope you find what you were looking for”.

Begin Forever – A light rocker. It appears to be about a relationship that has gone wrong. Jon sings that it’s never too late to try. It’s never too late to begin forever.

When was the Last Time – a light rocker with a good beat driven by the drums. A key line is “When was the last time you tried something for the first time?” Life is difficult but he would rather be happy than typical. Take chances. Step out. A good challenge to end the album with.

H A R D L O V EH A R D L O V E – NEEDTOBREATHE
***

NEEDTOBREATHE returns with their sixth studio album, following 2014’s excellent Rivers in the Wasteland, which was followed by their hit single “Brother” with Gavin DeGraw.  Although the band was in a dark place when that album was recorded, lead singer Bear Rinehart has stated that the new album is mostly a story of redemption.  Keyboardist Josh Lovelace has spoken about this album being more accessible lyrically and the band taking some chances sonically, using a lot of new sounds and synth throughout.  The album was co-produced by the band and recorded in Charleston, South Carolina.

Below are a few comments about each song on the new album that debuted at #1 on iTunes Top Albums chart:

Mountain, Pt 1 – the album starts with this less than one minute song, with a new sound for the band featuring electronically distorted lyrics. This short song then quickly transitions into the title track.

Hard Love – this driving song features a strong vocal from Bear. It opens with a great line “Trading punches with the heart of darkness”, but we find that his strength is in the love he has found. It features a memorable and encouraging chorus that will sound great in concert:

Hold on tight a little longer
What don’t kill ya, makes ya stronger
Get back up, cuz it’s a hard love

Money & Fame – this song features some great horns. Bear sings with regret, perhaps to young musicians about the negative effects of money and fame. A great line is “I found the bottom from the top somehow.” Perhaps in speaking of personal compromise, he sings that everybody’s got a price, and it’s even lower than you think it is.

What do you kids wanna know about now?
I made enough to make a young gun proud
Money and fame bring a man to shame

No Excuses – this song opens with acoustic guitar, and then builds with bass, keys, hand clap and backing vocals. It’s a sad song. He is singing to a girl he has known since high school. There are no excuses for what she is doing, tightening the rope around his neck.

When I Sing – this song immediately grabs you (and holds you) with a good beat, featuring drums, keys, horns, hand clap and backing vocals.  This one will sound great in concert as the crowd sings along.

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

Happiness – this song opens with hand clap, backing vocals and keys. There is a light he sees, but it’s far in the distance. He is asking for forgiveness, which he states is “all for you in my pursuit of happiness”.  He encourages the listener by singing that the song ain’t nothing if it can’t set you free. He sings:

These days are tough, these days are long
Sometimes it’s hard, you carry on
But I hear a voice singing and I know it’s true

Great Night – this song features Shovels and Rope, a duo from the band’s hometown of Charleston, composed of husband Michael Trent and wife Cary Ann Hearst. It features a driving beat from the beginning, driven by strong drums. This song is fun musically, and will sound great in concert, but is weak lyrically (about having a great night on the dance floor).

Be Here Long – this is a serious song that deals with grief and love lost. It’s a good reminder that our time on earth is short, as we don’t get to be here long. It features keys, light drums and effective backing vocals.

I gave you the best of me
Loved you more than anything
But we don’t get to be here long  

Don’t Bring That Trouble – this song features a screeching guitar, keys and a driving beat. He has been through that fire. He wants us to hold on but not to hold him back. He’s going home and everyone is invited but don’t bring that trouble with you. Features some Creedence-like guitar.

Let’s Stay Home Tonight – this is a personal and romantic song that is simple musically, featuring some good keys and acoustic guitar. It’s a song to his wife about slowing down. He suggests that they just stay home, put some records on, put a fire on and dance till dawn. They don’t even need clothes on.  It’s my least favorite song on the album; maybe leave that genre of music to Barry White.

Testify – this is a wonderful worship song which will find play on Christian radio and be sung in worship services. Come to the fountain and you can be satisfied. Let me hear you testify.

Clear – the closing ballad sounds like it could be a song to a woman or God, but I believe it’s the former as he refers to “Honey”. It features acoustic guitar and keys. It tends to drag on too long and is not one of my favorite songs on the album.

This is another strong album from the band. It features some great songs and a few I didn’t like too much. The pacing could have perhaps been better as my two least favorite songs come near the end.
music news

Chris Tomlin QuoteMusic Quotes:

  • Constructive anger becomes passion to change and fight injustice. Destructive anger becomes rage and reciprocated ignorance. Lecrae

  • No, they did not take his life–he laid it down. And the chains of death could never hope to hold him, so in the night my hope lives on. Andrew Peterson

Song of the Week

Spirit by Amos Lee

This is the title song from Amos Lee’s new album, to be released August 19. About the song, Lee states “‘Spirit’ was written in a New Orleans hotel room, on a loaner guitar, after a night wandering alone in the French Quarter. I connected to this fellow, standing in the shadows on Royal Street, singing his songs behind his open guitar case. Despite very few people paying him any mind, he was there for that moment, for the spirit of creation and connection. Maybe it was also for beer money, but in my mind, this guy was there to play for people and to be heard.

The soulful piano ballad adopts the perspective of the anonymous street singer, who, as Lee imagines him, plays music to “feel the spirit.”

“In my journey, I’ve had lots of luck, and great people to help guide me and these songs, but at the core, it’s always about connection, and trying to share souls, to share burdens and joys, and to feel less alone even though we fully know that we are,” he continues. “With music, I’ve found a muse, a home, a ship to sail, a tormentor, and, most importantly, a vessel of connection. I imagine that this street singer had no idea how much his songs meant to me, but from those shadows, in the midst of that chaos, he changed my life. I wanted to pay tribute to him, and to the friends of mine who persevere through the static, the pain, the disappointment, the self-doubt, the lost dogs and mixed blessings, and keep creating, singing, and connecting.

“When I made my first album, James Gadson, who is a legend, stopped me in the hallway when we were in between takes, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Never let them break your spirit,’ and I want to embody that message in this song, this album, and every performance that I give, because even in the shadows, the songs can send the light.”

Listen to this song here.

Walking down Roy street
Streets sing a symphony
Ain’t been the hardest way
Ain’t had the greatest day
Walking past memory
The pain that she gave me
Don’t you know I’m trying to be a bigger man?

I just want to feel the spiritSpirit - Amos Lee
Washing over me

Me and my damn Levo
Seen some people come and go
Seen a couple storm clouds pass
Seen a couple spells been cast

People tripping down cobble stone
Marching bands and trombones
Everybody out here waiting on the second line
And I’m just fine

I just want to feel the spirit
Washing over me

Storm clouds up ahead
Singing songs of praise, praise the day
I got heart that was born to be
Broken down, oh and free
Johnny came in on a train
With not a dollar to his name
Just an old guitar case
And the bruises on his petty face
Walking down a railroad track
He ain’t never coming back
Said mama ‘I don’t know if I’m ever coming home again’
Ahh til then
I just want to feel the spirit
Washing over me

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence. I’m married to my best friend. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, a manager at a Fortune 100 company, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people determine their callings, develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. My favorite book is the Bible, and some other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

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