If there was a distinguishable trend in Christian music this year, it would be "singer in a beloved band releases solo record." With such notable voices as Mike Donehey of Tenth Ave. North and Anberlin's Stephen Christian putting out records in the last few months (and months ahead), notable voices in a new context are a distinct pattern. This nearly always invites questions like "is this current music as good as the artist's work with their band?" or "does this just sound like another release by that band?".
In the case of former Third Day singer Mac Powell, who owns one of the most distinct voices out there -- a gravelly, booming baritone with a decided Southern accent -- the answer is a bit of a yes and a bit of a no...
Just one year after We Are Messengers' sophomore album hit the airwaves, the Irish-turned-American band show a quick turnaround with their third full-length album, titled Wholehearted. I've always seen WAM as kind of a "Rend Collective light," leaning less on their Irish roots musically, yet with more depth lyrically; and these traits are only magnified on Wholehearted...
As we've celebrated 25 years of JFH throughout 2021, one thought has surely struck many of us: "Wow, 25 years is a really long time." Yet, it was actually more than 25 years ago that the quintet of Michael Johnston, Byron Goggin, Danny Stephens, Kevin Breuner, and Miguel DeJesus first came together in Georgia as Villanelle, followed quickly by a well-advised name change to Smalltown Poets. They signed to ForeFront Records and produced a brand of very 1990's Christian lite-alternative rock with a bit of a clever lyrical edge and, particularly on sophomore 1998 release Listen Closely, very Christ-centered lyrics. After the first two albums, numerous lineup changes, and two more albums, the band halted for a 2004 hiatus, but the opportunity to make a Christmas album reunited the five original members (some who had been away from each other more than a decade at this point). And since 2011, Smalltown Poets in its original five-member form has continued to release what I would describe as very pleasant pop rock music, including two Christmas albums, an EP, and 2018's full-length album, Say Hello. Their newest release, NWxSE, is not just a pleasant album, but a great one, and one of the best surprises of the year to date...
After the historic run of Newsboys United, which featured former members Peter Furler and Phil Joel, came to a close (mainly due to the pandemic), the rest of the group took some time to rediscover their identity. It has been five years since the Newsboys released an album without the United label, but they are back with STAND, a ten-track outing that revolves around the assurance we all have in Christ.
The energetic "Magnetic" kicks things off, led by Jody Davis' funky guitar chops. Michael Tait's smooth vocals are on full display, as he sings "I've pushed away, but I can't escape / Your love keeps pulling me back, pulling me back / It's magnetic". "Ain't It Like Jesus" follows suit, with its reggae-inspired composition, and is a solid number. The band's bold desire to stand for Jesus, no matter what, is made clear in the title track...
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