Archives For Need To Breathe

As the great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘Life is a conflict, & thou needest battle music’ [i]. In addition to this, I recently came across a fitting quote from John Calvin in his commentary on Exodus:

calvin-quote

So, with these words in mind, here’s the top November additions to my high rotation, “A-List” on Spotify.

1. ‘Song of Deliverance’, Zac Williams

Zac Williams is more country-rock than cliché CCM. That’s why ‘Song of Deliverance’ stands out. I haven’t had the chance to listen closer to Zac’s other work, but if that reflects the huge effort found here, then it’s worth a closer look. The lyrical content alone, pushes this song above and beyond any mainstream contemporary country. I’m fond of the ‘Chain Breaker’ theme, the slide guitar and the careful placement of the harmonica.

“Get behind me satan; no more fear and no more shame; My debts been paid I am no longer your slave” – Amen..

2. ‘Great Night’, Need To Breathe

As I strongly implied in October’s A-list, outside Lacey Sturm and Toby Mac, Need to Breathe take the standard for Christians in the music industry higher. I’m still listening to ‘Hard Love’ and consider tracks 2,3,7,9,10,11,12. on the album to be some of the best work I’ve heard from a band born in the wilds of the Christian Contemporary Music scene. ‘Great Night’ is a fun song. It has a great riff, has a beat that would pass off as electronic; rides a solid melody and sits on the back of guitar work (that in my biased opinion) makes listening to this like watching a fireworks spectacular. There’s not much more to it than that.

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3.’Lazarus’, Bellarive

Bellarive were a surprise find. There’s something unique in the mix and it’s the uniqueness that gives me reason to add it to the November A-List. I’ve listened to some of their other work, but consider ‘Lazarus’ to be their best. In all fairness, I haven’t had the time to give them the full attention they deserve. The list of qualities in ‘Lazarus’ hinge on its dynamics. Starting with the piano, rising with the lyrics and finishing with the full rock compliment, the song is carried to it’s quiet conclusion with precision. I’m a fan of the video work. What really wins me, though, is the depth of theology at work in the simplicity of the song. I hear myself praying the words and only wish I had room to link all of them.

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“So, take a breath and break the night
Stranger to the Light
Wind of God, dig up the graves
And breathe into the slain”

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4. ‘Lunatics & Slaves’, Sin Shake Sin

Sin Shake Sin drive thoughtfulness. The whole album exploits this artistic edge with pointed lyrics matched by a catchy melody. They aren’t from the CCM scene and I doubt that they’d share the same perspective as many who are. Sin Shake Sin is a band that I’d expect to hear playing as a musical bed for TV shows like Chuck or Suits. There’s a crisp coolness to the blunt challenge in each song that, lyrically anyway, reminds me of Guns n’ Roses. ‘Lunatics & Slaves’ showcases what this band is about and what this band is capable of.

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5. ‘Heroes’, Zayde WØlf

Surprisingly, some of the best music of recent years comes from the video game and TV/movie soundtrack scene. Assassins Creed, Halo and Skyrim stand out as quintessential examples of this. ‘Ezio’s Theme’ or ‘Past to Present‘ have engraved a standard that is tough to beat. ‘Heroes’ meets this. The song has a strong presence. Like Lazarus, the real strength of ‘Heroes’ is in its dynamics. From quiet to loud; verse to chorus each line is complimented with inspiring lyrics that follow a clear theme. In addition, the cinematic soundtrack feel that echoes a Hans Zimmer, Steve Jablonsky-esk orchestra and electronic baritone minor adds some real weight.

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Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden

[ii] Calvin. J Commentary on Exodus

Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I did not receive payment of any kind to review or post these songs.

As the great 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon wrote, ‘Life is a conflict, & thou needest battle music’ [i]. In addition to this, I recently came across a fitting quote from Ludwig Von Mises:

‘a [creative] genius is precisely a man or a woman who defies all schools and rules, who deviates from the traditional roads of routine and opens up new paths through land inaccessible before.’ [ii]

So, with these words in mind, here’s the top October additions to my high rotation, “A-List” on Spotify.

1. ‘Hard Love’, Need to Breathe

Need to Breathe hadn’t really caught me ear beyond a song or two. Hard Love did. The song, also the album’s namesake, overtakes most tunes in the CCM market at the moment. Toby Mac’s album, ‘This is Not a Test’ still holds first place and if that’s the new standard by which artists within the Christian contemporary music arena are measured, then Need To Breathe nail it.

2. ‘Rot’, Lacey Sturm

Lacey and her husband, Josh, team up on an album that makes my top five albums of 2016. Lacey has the ability to communicate God’s message of grace through an art filled with scars, mostly visible only to those who wear the same, or similar. What’s important about this is that the past doesn’t dominate. Jesus is Victor and that’s exactly what is pierced into each well-considered lyric. For those who just hear and rock to the music, the guitar work is mostly rhythmic, the bass line strong and the drums consistent. What I like about ‘Rot’ (and the album in general) is that Josh’s guitar work is on par with Lacey’s vocals. The former compliments the latter.

(Related post: Review: ‘The Reason’, Lacey Sturm)

3. ‘Die Tezte Fahrt (The Last Ride)’, Santiano

I’ve listened to some European folk bands before, but among them German band, Santiano rules all. My German is rudimentary and needs improving. What better way to do that than with one of the coolest songs of the genre. The Last Ride reminds me of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s weighty, reflective and melodic. The violin solo, baritone harmonies and solid chorus make this song. Of special note is the chorus and it’s final two sentences:

“Die letzte Fahrt Du bleibst uns Freund und Kamerad”
(The last ride. You will stay with us friend and comrade)

4. ‘Phoenix’ – Unikron Remix, We Are Leo

We Are Leo seem to have a better run with remixes than they do with their conventional songs. Two things make this song and the band itself appealing. First, the lyrics, melody and depth of imagery. Second, is the fact that the band isn’t afraid to expand on what they’ve already created. The remix of Phoenix is reminiscent of the synth keys used by Styx and Rush. The song itself lends to the early Christian use of the Phoenix as a symbol of the resurrection and future hope that the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings.

5. ‘The River’,  Jordan Feliz

For a Gospel song, or Gospel music in general, it’s difficult to break free from the standard Christian Radio friendly status quo that streams out from CCM (Christian Contemporary Music). Worship music is blurred together in sound and repetitive lyrics are wrapped in bad theology with a beat. Jordan Feliz clears that Charybdis. Following in the footsteps of Crowder, vocally, Feliz stands out. The style could easily find an ear on mainstream secular radio as it would in a church. In that light, Feliz stands among the many who cross borders with their art. I like everything about this song.

6. ‘Karate’,  Baby Metal

Rock/metal opera is a genre that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream airplay, if any. It’s likely that you haven’t heard of Baby Metal, outside social media. That the band comes from Japan makes their art and music all the more intriguing, it also adds a great deal to their appeal. The music is outstanding, highly professional, and not overly produced. One of the stands outs are the vocals. Lyrically, the theme of ‘Karate’ is played out in the video, and has my vote. This said, as for the rest of the album, I’m still trying to figure it out.

7. ‘Higher’,  Unspoken

This isn’t in my usual taste, as far a musical style goes, but I like the rhythm. Musically, the bass is alive. The harmonies are okay, and the keys light everything else up. Lyrically it’s full of hope and points to a far greater source of hope than anything we as humans can conjure up or invent. I’m a fan of lyrics that speak of this as a lived reality.

8. ‘Bizzare’, Michael Sweet

Quite simply, the vocals, lyrics, tempo, and bass-line are spectacular. All those good things, though, pale in comparison to the precision of the lead guitar. Along side some of Oz Fox’s recent work on the newer Stryper albums, Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, gives one of the best melodic lead parts for guitar I’ve heard in recent years. All we need now is a Slash and Sweet collaboration.


Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden

[ii] Mises, L. 1945, Bureaucracy Stellar Books, 2014

Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I did not receive payment of any kind to review or present these songs.