"The irreligious don't repent at all, and the religious only repent of sins. But Christians also repent of their righteousness."
This quote from Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in NY, resonated with Jimmy Needham so much that he started asking himself honest questions like "do I rely on my nice behavior to gain favor with God?" and "is it possible that my reliance on my righteousness is the opposite of what Christ wants for me?" Needham crafted these vulnerable and thought-provoking reflections and put them to a soundtrack that might prove to be his best work to date, Vice & Virtue.
The title track immediately opens the album with a profound sense of depth, bringing up specific good works and spiritual acts suggesting that each of these can become sinful if we allow our own pride to corrupt our motivation. What does Needham offer as the solution to our prideful attitudes and self-righteousness? The Gospel. This answer is woven throughout the album but nowhere is this clearer than "The Story," where Needham creatively tells the story of the Gospel over spoken word poetry. Needham throws in a couple love songs as well, with "Only You" and "Forever and Ever Amen" being dedicated to his wife Kelly, and "Better Man" speaking about how she helps him to be a more Godly man.
The quality of the album's lyrics and themes is backed to an equally impressive musical backdrop. Groovy baselines, funky beats, and catchy choruses dominate what is arguably Needham's most upbeat record yet. But this album is more than toe-tapping melodies and fluffy pop. The songs are layered with skillful instrumentation, dynamic with tempo changes, and dabble in various genres like soul, jazz, blues, and disco. If the songs weren't distinct enough, small details such as the burst of quickly delivered lyrics on "Sirens" and the choir on album highlight "All We Need Is Need" give each tune even more personality.
If you want creative music with convicting lyrics stuck in your head all day, Vice & Virtue delivers it in spades. But don't just let it stay in your head. Allow it to sharpen your thinking and help bring your heart in humility before God.- Review date: 5/3/15, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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