In the age of the Internet, it doesn't take more than a weekend, a computer and few friends to start a band. Due to this, the world is saturated with more music than ever. MySpace, Purevolume, YouTube and other sites have become the destination to find new music, rather than your local club. Some of these bands experience success that blossoms into a full-time career and some don't. Yet, despite the exciting, if not overwhelming, amount of music available, it is still easy to recognize a favorite song or band on the radio. Why? Mainly because bands have the tendency, especially a few albums in, to establish a particular style of songwriting that resonates with their listeners.
Instantly recognizable, a band's "sound" is something unique to them alone. Sometimes impossible to describe with words, the idea of a "sound" is often a point of controversy among critics and fans alike. While some long for change from album-to-album, others hold fast to the idea that something that isn't broken shouldn't be fixed. In other words, a band's discography should sound either like one long album, or a schizophrenic breakdown of sound, with the band reinventing themselves at each opportunity. There is perhaps, a compromise that can be found; one in which a band grows together as musicians all while maintaining the elements that brought fans to them in the first place. With their fourth album, Tooth and Nail/BEC Recordings veteran artist Hawk Nelson attempts to find just this medium.
Live Life Loud has many similar elements to their past releases. The album seems familiar, yet nostalgic, as lead singer Jason Dunn brings to life tracks that would have fit well on any of their albums. Yet, it also has a cheerleader intro, a ukulele song about hockey, a modern adaption of a well-known hymn that includes bagpipes, as well as a secret song. That's not what they're known for, is it? Sure, a hockey song has always been inevitable for these Ontario natives, but Hawk Nelson manages to mix things up in ways that they never have before. What results is a fun-to-listen to, yet occasionally inconsistent effort.
Tracks such as "Live Life Loud," "Long Ago," and "Shaken" are sure to be instant fan favorites. Full of energy and catchy hooks, each of these songs embodies exactly what Hawk Nelson does best. "Shaken," arguably the best track off the album, contains some of the best lyrics by the band to date. As Dunn sings "Lord use me, take me where you want me to go and I'm ready, these hands are dedicated to change," one can't help but feel the raw emotion and long to be closer to God. While the best tracks on Live Life Loud don't stray from the Hawk Nelson mold, they are clearly worthy editions to an already accomplished catalogue.
Perhaps it's fitting then, that these tracks contain little experimentation; they're just "Hawk Nelson." Their "sound" probably doesn't need to change to captivate fans. But that wouldn't be as fun would it? While Hawk Nelson's "sound" has stayed mostly consistent, the newer elements added on Live Life Loud are enjoyable as well. The band's bagpipe-filled rendition of Louisa Stead's 1882 hymn "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" is a beautiful duet that is spiritually uplifting and musically unique to the album as well. While "Ode to Lord Stanley" isn't particularly meaningful in any way, it's short, fun and a great look into something that the band is passionate about. Most Americans will probably even come away from the song with the desire to do a little research (it turns out that TSN is "Canada's Sports Leader").
Live Life Loud is not an album of the year candidate, but it is another solid chapter for the band. While the experimentation should be applauded, songs such as "The Job" and the 80's sounding "Alive" fall flat. Hawk Nelson is a band known for their hooks and these songs are sadly lacking the memorable moments that make the rest of the album so special. Still, as a whole, the album is a great purchase for old fans and newcomers alike. Hawk Nelson's "sound" is, as always, great to listen to, and the experimentation is perhaps an exciting look into the future.- Review date: 9/20/09, written by "Flip" Choquette of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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