Relient K – Collapsible Lung Review

Buy Relient K’s Collapsible Lung today!

It was a long four years between Forget and Not Slow Down and the release of Relient K’s new album Collapsible Lung. Was the wait worth it? Collapsible Lung has certainly received mixed reactions from fans and it largely centers around the lyrical content of the album. Lead singer Matthew Thiessen co-wrote many of the songs from Collapsible Lung with a myriad of songwriters who have mainly worked with secular acts in the past.

The two main byproducts of this pairing are musical diversity and lyrical shallowness. Some fans have criticized the musical diversity but I think it is a welcome change. Relient K has evolved their sound slowly over the years and have been writing more complex songs for several albums now but Collapsible Lung is completely different from anything they have released in the past. One of the things that gives a band a unique feel is the melody choices of the songwriter and lead singer. So when a band that has a large discography under their belt releases an album that has many outside contributors there is often a palpable difference in the type of song melodies that fans are used to. I for one think this is one of the high points of Collapsible Lung. I love Matt Thiessen’s songwriting but hearing him do different things with his voice than we have heard on every other Relient K album is like a breath of fresh air.

The other major departure for Collapsible Lung is the lyrics. Matt Thiessen is one of those rare songwriters that can easily combine lyrical wit with depth of subject matter. Steve Taylor and Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy are two other great examples of this kind of songwriter. So when you have an album that features a lot of songwriters who are accustomed to writing meaningless pop music for superstars, well that is what you will get: Meaningless pop. It is isn’t quite that bad because Thiessen still had his hand in every song but the lyrical depth and wit is sorely missing on much of Collapsible Lung.

I’ve read from a few sources that many of the songs on this album were intended to reflect the shallow kind of life he had been living in recent years and that the title track and album closer “Collapsible” Lung were meant to bring it all together to show that Thiessen is finding his way back from that. I get that and it would explain a lot. However, Relient K has to know that much of their audience is young Christian kids and when they are releasing a song about a one night stand or drinking away your problems there ought to be some indication that the behavior is detrimental to one’s spiritual well being. This is absent on Collapsible Lung however.

Overall, I really enjoy Collapsible Lung. I do miss the sure hand of Matt Thiessen’s lyrics on many of the songs but musically this is a much more fun album than they have put in a long time.

Rating: 4/5

Children 18:3 – On The Run Album Review

Buy It Now!

Today marks the release of Children 18:3′s latest album On The Run. As one should expect by now from this band it’s loud, fast tempo, rock music from start to finish with only a few mid tempo tracks. Their previous album Rain’s A  Comin’ felt like an album full of high points and low points. It featured some of Children 18:3′s best and most dynamic songs but also had so many weak areas in form of needless instrumental tracks and a couple songs that felt completely unfinished.

On The Run feels completely different from that. The highs aren’t quite as high and the lows aren’t nearly as low. The result is an album that on the whole feels more cohesive and enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end. I’ll take songs that aren’t quite as good as some of what was on Rain’s A Comin’ if it means I don’t have to listen songs that are anything like the low points on Rain’s A Comin’.

With On The Run, Children 18:3 ditched some of the acoustic guitar that was featured on their previous album and instead we get loud guitars on almost every song. Somehow though, they are able to make this sound fresh with various rhythms and lead parts that create some interesting dynamics. Lyrically, the songs are less enigmatic and easier to understand which is definitely a positive thing.

Lee Marie has less lead vocals on On The Run which I think is a mixed blessing. On previous albums her lead singing was sometimes great and sometimes hard to listen to. She’s at her best when she can sing lead on the more radio friendly tracks such as “We’ll Never Say Goodbye.”

I’m very pleased that Children 18:3 was able to return with such a solid effort. On The Run is an album that you won’t want to miss. Speaking of On The Run, has anyone counted how many songs across their albums that they sing about “running” in some form or another?

Song highlights include: Moment to Moment, Why Are You Afraid in the Dark?, and All in Your Head.

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy It Now!

New Children 18:3 Album On The Run, On The Way

Children 18:3 will be releasing their third full length record label release On The Run on June 19th. If the new song Moment to Moment, which you can listen to here, is any indication this will hopefully be their best album to date. You can listen to samples of all of the songs here. The three siblings have been touring constantly ever since their 2008 debut which was then followed up by their sophomore album Rain’s A Comin’. On The Run is available now for pre-order and will be available everywhere on June 19th.

Pre-order it today!

12 Stones – Beneath The Scars Album Review

Buy It Now!

12 Stones release their newest album Beneath the Scars this week and their first apart from former record label Wind-Up Records. Admittedly I haven’t listened to 12 Stones since their debut album ten years ago. That album while solid for a debut, didn’t hold my attention very long. That’s the risk every artist has on their debut album: Even if people like it, they might not pay any attention to future releases if they don’t love the album. Such was the case for me. When I saw that 12 Stones had a new album out I decided to check it out, without really any kind of expectation of liking Beneath the Scars.

Much to my surprise, I love Beneath the Scars. 12 Stones has grown and matured into something that sounds so different from their debut self-titled album 10 years ago. It’s raw and edgy while still having some more radio friendly moments. It’s the rawness that really makes this album shine though. Beneath the Scars opens with the raw energy of Infected which is then followed up by the heavy song Bulletproof. Following that is For The Night which is a bit of generic pop which feels out of place but sometimes that sound is what sells records.

Bands that have lasted more than a decade often see some transition along the way. For 12 Stones that transition has been manifested in member changes and a maturing musical style. The result can be heard on Beneath the Scars and is a successful evolution of this band.

Buy It Now!

Newsboys – God’s Not Dead Album Review

But It Now!

Following up their hit record Born Again the Newsboys have released a new worship album entitled God’s Not Dead. This marks the second album with Michael Tait as lead singer and also the second with returning guitarist Jody Davis.

The title track is hands down the best on the album and feels very much like the song Born Again. The song God’s Not Dead features Kevin Max on vocals which sounds really good in the song. He’s also featured on the album closer I Am Second.

The first four songs on the album make up the most enjoyable section of God’s Not Dead. Tracks 5 through 9 are completely devoid of anything memorable and should have never been included in this project. Speaking of songs that should have been dropped, the tenth song is Mighty To Save. The song has simply been ripped right from the album Born Again with maybe just a slight variation in the final mix. There was no real reason to include it here other than maybe they knew that half of the other songs on the album were so weak.

God’s Not Dead does manage to end on a strong note with All The Way and I Am Second. All The Way offers up some pretty generic lyrics like much of the rest of the album but the chorus is strong enough musically to make it listenable. I Am Second is one of the heavier tracks on the album and as mentioned before it also features Kevin Max on vocals. Just as he does on the song God’s Not Dead, Max definitely compliments Michael Tait’s voice.

Aside from the disappointment that is the entire middle section of this album, the other major disappointment factor is that it’s just another album of cover songs. The band members and their PR people are quick to point out that there are three original songs on God’s Not Dead but what they don’t mention is that those three songs were written by professional songwriters. So the new Newsboys sans-Peter Furler have somehow morphed into a group of performers rather than artists. In the last several years of Peter Furler’s tenure with the band, the other band members had all but stopped contributing to the songwriting anyway. But in his absence, they’ve pretty much given up all attempts at writing any songs for themselves.

With that in mind this collection of worship song covers certainly feels like it lacks sincerity. God’s Not Dead has its highlights but overall it feels like it was rushed through production with lackluster songs and missing the one thing that should be evident most of all on a worship album: Heart.

Song highlights include: God’s Not Dead, Your Love Never Fails and I Am Second.

Rating: 2/5

But It Now!

Peter Furler – On Fire Album Review

Buy It Today!

After spending a couple years away from the music industry after his departure from the Newsboys, Peter Furler returns with a stellar full length solo album. On Fire feels like a classic Newsboys album filled with catchy melodies and memorable songs. It’s upbeat and fun throughout all 11 songs.

Furler’s last album with the Newsboys was In The Hands of God which was far from their best and looking back you’ve got to wonder if the fatigue of being in the band was already working against him when he was writing songs for that album.

A couple years away though seems to have done the trick as On Fire is full of energy and is fun to listen to from start to finish. If there’s any weak point on the album its “Closer.” The song features Steve Taylor taking lead vocals on the bridge. While its great to hear Taylor singing again, the song itself isn’t the strongest though but not weak enough that you’ll be skipping it right away.

The high point of On Fire is the song “Greater Is He” which features Phil Joel sharing lead vocals with Peter Furler. The Newsboys always sounded best with Furler singing and Joel backing him up with great harmonies. The same is true here on Furler’s solo album, Phil Joel just makes things better. He also contributes backing vocals to the songs I’m Alive and Reach.

Fans of classic Newsboys will love On Fire as it shares so many similarities and showcases just how much Peter Furler was responsible for the Newsboys sound.

Song highlights include: I’m Alive, Glory To The King, Matter of Faith, and Greater is He.

Rating: 5/5

Buy It Today!

Newsboys – Born Again Album Review

On July 13th, 2010 the Newsboys released their much anticipated new album Born Again. Whether it was fans eagerly waiting to hear what the band would sound like with new lead singer Michael Tait at the helm or the scoffers who thought the band would fade away with this new direction. Either way Born Again was one of the most anticipated releases of the year in Christian music.

The album kicks off with the title track, which has been a huge radio hit for the Newsboys and is easily one of the best songs on the album. Following that is another upbeat tune titled “One Shot”. This is a fun little tune but it does suffer from some shallow lyrics in the second verse, with mentions of Facebook and Twitter. The overall lyrical theme of “One Shot” is built on questionable theology. The chorus declares “all around the world every boy every girl’s got one shot, to prove what they’re all about.” The God I read of in the Bible is the God who loves losers and screw-ups. He’s the God of second chances, not the God of “One Shot.”

The third track is “Way Beyond Myself” which is a highly digitized memorable pop song which features some guest vocals from independent artist Chanel. There are parts of the vocals throughout the song that are digitized and auto-tuned beyond humanity. And in fact the use of digitized vocals appears through several songs on the album which seems odd with how much the rest of the band members have been touting how great it is to have a vocalist like Michael Tait in the band.

Following that is a quieter track named “Impossible” which is enjoyable enough and here again is the addition of guest vocals from Chanel. I actually really enjoy her voice and it mixes well with Michael’s but two songs in a row with a guest vocalist only serves to highlight something the Newsboys have failed to address in the last couple years. They don’t have the vocal depth in the band that they used to years ago with Phil Joel on background vocals.

We do get to enjoy some vocal parts by guitarist Jody Davis on a few of the songs which is something that had been missed during his five year hiatus from the band.

“When the Boys Light Up” is fun to listen to but I think ultimately it’s a forgettable song. The lyrical theme feels very similar to songs like “The Way We Roll” and “Wherever We Go”.

“Build Us Back” takes the music and lyrics more into pop/adult contemporary territory and I don’t always enjoy those kind of songs from the Newsboys but this one works well and has a little more lyrical depth than some of the other songs.

The next two songs “Escape” and “Miracle” bring the electric guitars more into the forefront and shed some of the digitized pop that is so heavily featured on some other tracks. One thing I’ve seen from other reviews is a complaint that the Newsboys just sound like Tait’s solo work now, but I would contend that Born Again is much better than anything Tait ever put out before. That being said though, these two songs are probably the closest to sounding like Tait as a solo artist.

“Running to You” also has more of a Tait feel than a Newsboys feel to it but this track goes the opposite direction musically and is more of an over-produced pop song.The song “On Your Knees” highlights Michael Tait’s ability to carry a certain vocal rhythm when he sings, specifically on the verses. Musically it’s very similar to “Running To You”.

Overall Born Again is a solid effort from the revamped Newsboys and it will be exciting to see where they go from here.

Buy It Today!