Every so often you find that something doesn't have to be radically different to be satisfying. Like a great hamburger or romantic comedy at just the right time, sometimes an album comes along that is familiar and poppy, but still very good in its context.
Diamonds is that kind of album. Hawk Nelson made a bit of a stylistic turn (but not as radical a departure as it may appear) from pop-punk to mainstream contemporary CCM with their last album, Made. But that album contained its punky moments and overall energy. Likewise with Diamonds, an album chock-full of bouncy, infectious nuggets that may not re-write the pop playbook, but are excellent and solid nonetheless.
The title track is the best thing here, and it kicks off the album with a dose of rhythmic goodness and vocal gymnastics on the part of front man Jonathan Steingard. Reminiscent of the band Fun, "Diamonds" is the kind of tune that is both a bit of a departure for the band and instantly arresting. It will no doubt make a great concert number for many years and festivals to come. Lead single "Drops In The Ocean" employs another interesting rhythmic dynamic, and features the album's best lyric in the chorus; "if you want to know how my love can go, just how deep, just how wide, if you want to see how much you mean to me, look at my hands, look at my side, if you could count the times I say you are forgiven, it's more than the drops in the ocean." With a great message and a solid delivery, "Drops" soars in all the right ways. The fun "Just Getting Started" features a clever hand-clapping rhythm, slight bass solo and a happy, chirpy keyboard line in the chorus that lift the whole tune up a notch or two. "Live Like You're Loved" is a shouted anthem of recognition that in Christ we are free and loved, and sometimes the challenge is to believe it.
Unfortunately, the following few tunes after this seem like lost Backstreet Boys tunes circa 1998. "Sold Out" is both slightly cloying and overly-confident in its lyric about being "on a mission that is heaven sent" with a soul that "is like a stadium" (in that it is sold out, like a concert or sporting event). The fact that this dud of a song comes after four particularly good ones is disappointing and a bit mystifying. Likewise, the well meaning "Thank God For Something" suffers from a few juvenile lyrics, such as "you gotta' see the good if you're good at looking." Thankfully, the album rights the ship a bit in the last few songs. "Straight Line" has the same message as "Sold Out," but delivers it in a slightly more humble way. "Made To Live" makes great use of a crowd of voices, and these multiple voices add a unique twist to the song, lifting it into a praise and worship moment that is welcome. "Only You" ends the album nicely with a quieter, reflective moment of worship and a bit of silent space.
With a few mis-steps aside, Diamonds severs up a meal that is hearty, well made and worth your time to hear.- Review date: 3/15/15, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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