The return of Copeland. It seems more like an ideal than something to be actually excited about. Copeland’s first two records are fantastic and the memory a lot of people have with the band. I always felt like the band got a little lost in itself after In Motion. Too many studio tricks and vocals effects, masking beauty. Which makes the band’s reunion and new album an interesting concept. It’s been six years since You Are My Sunshine. Marsh has been working as an engineer and producer. The other members have been releasing really rest records with States. So what would Copeland’s return look like? The band that myself and many other feel in love with is no more. Which is fine. Everyone gets older and grows and matures. So has Copeland. Which isn’t to say anything disparaging about Ixora. In fact I think it’s some of the band’s best work since In Motion. Yet it’s very different. There’s a nice post rock vibe in the music. From the swing to the instrumentation and guitar tones/riffs, Ixor has a real soundtrack feel to it. Ixora is a beautiful record and one that I truly enjoy listening to. I imagine that on vinyl the record just shines. Ixora’s problem is that nothing stands out. There aren’t songs where I go “goodness, that’s great.” It’s a nice record and one that I imagine listening to often and enjoying. But there’s nothing the “stands out.” 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I root for Solid State Records. It’s the hardcore label I grew up invested in. I loved their bands! And I want them to have more great bands. Of course the good old days are just that, old. Young kids don’t sound like or listen to the bands that I liked or listened to when I was there age. And so what I want and hope for doesn’t exist or get signed. Silent Planet is the labels newest signing. And the band isn’t bad. The Night God Slept is a nice little metalcore record. The shades of bands like The Devil Wears Prada, For Today, Becoming The Archetype cover the record. It’s another heavy band playing heavy music well, wearing their influences on their sleeves. I like it a lot. At times I hear things that really impress me, or at least connect with me from other bands that I love. As I’ve said about countless other records, I enjoy them and as a fan of heavy music they’re records and bands that I will add to my collection and possibly enjoy in the future. But there’s nothing that stands out and makes me say, watch out for this band. 4 out of 5 Stars.
I respect Project 86. They always find new ways to reinvent themselves without ever losing what makes them Project 86. But reinvention isn’t always good and doesn’t always work. And Project 86 has had some missteps in their catalog. The reworked version of the band released an excellent record with Wait For the Sirens. Knives To The Future is a bit up and down. There are some songs that I think are classic Project 86 hits. And others where I kind of shrug and don’t get it. The addition of Darren King from The Overseer as studio guitarist on this album really shines on those moments when King does what he does best. I’ve seen people say that at times Project 86 sounds more The Overseer, Underoath (Disambiguation era) and the Deftones. I’d say… Sort of. It’s still Schwab on vocals and his unique vocal stylings make it Project 86. But the songs that have that ambient hardcore vibe are some of my favorite’s on the record (Ambigram, Genosha). But I honestly think that Knives To The Future is the record Truthless Heroes was supposed to be. It’s a little punk, a little more “pop”, but still heavy and innovative. It’s what I think the band would’ve like to do following Drawing Black Lines but got lost in trying to please a new label and make it big. The title track is a new classic Project 86 anthem, a song with that hook that crowds will go nuts for. Captive Bolt Pistol might be the best song Project 86 has EVER released! Pale Rider is the best example of a Truthless Heroes do over. I think if you put that song randomly into the Truthless Heroes track list, you’d hear it. The gang vocal chorus interplaying with Schwab is perfect! While I think Wait For the Sirens was a better record, there’s more on Knives To The Future that the band can take on the road and play in front of an audience and get an immediate response from. 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
There has been a lot of great hip-hop released this year. But I’m just going to say it, Jackie Hill Perry’s Humble Beast debut, The Art of Joy, is the best of year! I know that’s a lofty statement in a year that saw Lecrae blow up bigger than ever. But The Art of Joy is special. It’s not flashy and at times very understated, but that’s when Perry shines. The production from Courtland Urbano and the Beautiful Eulogy crew creates the perfect score to Perry’s hard hitting and honest lyrics. In the same way that Beautiful Eulogy’s debut had that special quality, so does The Art of Joy. Natalie Lauren’s almost painful hook on Better highlights the want and need of something better than what the world is offering. As a woman Perry brings a different perspective to justice issues that shine on tracks like Miss Fearful. The guest appearances from Eshon Burgundy and JGivens showcase the new breed of the Humble Beast crew and the future is bright! Ode To Lauryn is great song for Lauryn Hill. It’s an appreciation for the great things Lauryn did, as well a concern for her spiritual well being and life. As a spoken word artist, Suffering Servant showcases where Perry came from. There’s an undercurrent of hurt and want throughout the album, so when the upbeat piano on the title track kicks in, you’re instantly uplifted. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel and ending the record on an upbeat note is perfect! You exhale a sigh of joy! Jackie Hill Perry rhyming style is different and that comes from her spoken word past. It’s a fresh voice in hip-hop and you don’t find many women in hip-hop and even less in the christian side of the genre. The Art of Joy is worth your time! 5 out of 5 Stars!
There must’ve been a concept behind the new Tourniquet record that I missed when they kickstarted the record. It’s really a solo record, but Ted’s always written and recorded the music for the band anyway. And Luke and Aaron still appear on the album, so it’s not like “they’re out.” So… It’s Tourniquet… With guests. Which is a great concept. Write and record a great metal record and invite all my friends to come sing and play guitar solos on the record. The only combination that I thought didn’t work as well as I had hoped was on the album opener and title trac. Onward to Freedom (the song) features both Mattie Montgomery from For Today and Michael Sweet from Stryper. I love Sweet’s vocals and it matches with the song beautifully. But Mattie Montgomery’s part just feel like an add on to a different song. Luckily Montgomery gets a second chance and nails it on The Slave Ring. Some of the vocal and vocal combinations seem weird, and probably just different for a “Tourniquet” record. But musically, it’s what you’d expect. The guitar solos are all amazing! Some of the band’s best guitar solos ever! A lot of people aren’t happy about it being a themed record, with each song being about animal rights, but that’s always been a passion of Tourniquet’s and it’s not surprise that the band choose to focus an entire an album on the subject. Musically it’s top notch. A lot of instrumental and weird moments that keep this record from being perfect, but it’s very good! 4 out of 5 Stars.
An acoustic record from P.O.D. Honestly, I was looking forward to the SoCal Sessions. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Acoustic renditions of P.O.D. songs. Some hits, some nice deeper cuts that make good acoustic songs. Maybe more hits would’ve been nicer, but there’s nothing wrong with the songs the band chose. The new version of Youth of The Nation is great and actually makes me like the song again! Alive is always great! And going back to The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, the band closes the record with Set Your Eyes To Zion. Panic and Run was an interesting choice, but it’s a nice reggae take on the song. Lost In Forever and Higher are both nice but don’t really give you anything new to the track. Strength Of My Life might be the best new rendition of any song on the album. I mean, it’s hard to really say much about the album because it’s P.O.D. doing acoustic versions of their songs. If you like P.O.D. you’ll probably enjoy this album. 4 out of 5 Stars.
I’ve listened to a handful of Brooke Fraser’s solo work but never really given it much thought. So I’m not sure compelled me to check out Brutal Romantic. It seems cheap to call what Fraser is doing pop music. But there’s also no better term for it. Pop in the same way Lorde or Florence and the Machine are pop. But more electronic. There are the super catchy, radio friendly pop tunes you might want or expect from a pop record (although Kings & Queens has been working it’s way into my brain the last couple of days). But what you get is a very intelligent and smart pop record that more sophisticated listeners can enjoy without having to dive into another genre. There’s an art to the complexities of Fraser’s music that’s Radiohead esque (a high compliment). Using drum machines to change dynamics, keeping instrumentation simple to highlight it’s point and need when it arrives and leaves. Using melodies, harmonies, and choirs to bring attention to the importance of the vocal. Of course there are more “commercial” numbers on the album. Songs like Kings and Queens, Start A War, Bloodrush, and Magical Machine offer a little more depth of sound and a hook that gives the album it’s “accessibility” but even in their arrangement, the songs would still put Taylor Swift’s most artsy moments to shame. This is pop music fro adults! 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
The reason I love christian music is much has a lot to do with my dad. Steve Taylor always sticks out in my head as the artist my dad really introduced me to. Goliath is Taylor’s first record since 1993’s Squint. Talk about waiting for a follow-up! I love Squint! It would probably rank as one of my top 20 favorite albums of all-time. Possibly top 10. So yes, I was excited for Goliath! Goliath is a rock and roll record that sounds like it’s the follow-up to Squint. It’s almost classic in sound. Which is another way of just saying it’s a simple rock and roll record. Mixed with Taylor’s fun loving but never without meaning and purpose lyrics and demeanor, Goliath is a great record. It might be nostalgia, but I love this record! 5 out of 5 Stars!