Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rend Collective: Homemade Worship by Handmade People

Rend Collective Experiment’s new album is an interesting and exciting look into the heart of the core group of the Collective. We find them pursuing a course that walks the line between the hymns of old and contemporary worship music. While listening to the album this becomes evident almost immediately. Some songs are more conducive for quiet moments reflecting on the enormity and beauty of the God we serve and draw us into His peace and love. Others are perfectly suited for the worship services at church and combine powerful, thought provoking lyrics with catchy melody, rhythm, and vocal harmonies that speak to Rend Collective’s professionalism and talent as a group of musicians as well as lyricists.

One highlight from the album includes the powerful message of the cross and is found in the song “Second Chance.” The lyrics are what caught my attention. 
Oh Your cross it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart”

It serves as a timely reminder of the purpose of Christ’s coming to Earth during the hustle and bustle surrounding the holiday season. Tim Hughes mentions in the promotional video for the new album, “His hands made worlds and stars and also chose the pain of human scars.” The cross changes everything and while we celebrate the birth of our Savior lets keep our focus where it belongs, on the freedom and mercy that drove the Son of God to visit Earth, begin His life in the lowest place possible, and eventually suffer the “pain of human scars” so you and I don’t have to.

(Here’s a link to the promotional video for the new album: click.)

Musically, the talent displayed by the five core members of the collective is impressive to say the least. Styles range from a folksy, almost bluegrass feel in some parts to guitar driven worship music is sure to provide enough variety to keep even the most seasoned critic from finding too much similarity from song to song.

Despite the incredible musicianship, tight vocal harmonies, and moving lyrics found throughout this album, the most touching and exciting part of the Rend Collective is their heart. Their goal is to make the kingdom of God greater on this Earth and to do so without elevating one single person over another. Their call to God is not one that is based on a life of ease and simply paying lip service to a greater power. To borrow another quote from the video, “God is not safe or small…He’s got a wild imagination.” That sums up this album. It’s not “safe.” It doesn’t necessarily stick to what sells and it pays homage to the imagination and boundless creativity of our God and the expression of that creativity that the Rend Collective is able to capture in their recordings. It’s a call to worship and deeper relationship with God…Will you listen and respond?

-Reviewed by Michael Henson

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bethel Music: The Loft Sessions

To imagine a group with such great talent and seemingly endless creativity seems to be the essence of this new Bethel project. Bundle this in with a laid back atmosphere of what I think of as a “loft” implied by “The Loft Project” and what do you get; an excellent blend of worship music. Music suited for a more intimate search of the One who created all things is what this project inspires me to do.

If a laid-back yet engaging worship album is what you are looking for, here it is.  The Loft sessions has more of an organic feeling to it in general compared to the more electronic feel that some of their other albums include. I love hearing the incorporation of the banjo and such bluegrass-like and even classical instruments into today’s worship music. I have noticed many such instruments being used by groups such as Gungor and the Rend Collective. Hearing the sounds of undiluted instruments and organic sounds being mixed in with unadulterated worship music make my soul happy.

Hearing undefiled worship, and even just looking on worship music with the most pure mindset may also help with that. I suppose this is part of what the Lord meant when He said, “…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV). Without this childlike mentality, I believe it is impossible to receive the full worship experience of the God and Creator of all things.

The most favored track of mine on this album would be Fall Afresh. I found it particularly easy to enter into the atmosphere of worship with this song. The line “…Pour through the caverns of my soul, pouring me to overflow…” particularly struck a chord in my soul. Letting His Spirit move through every fiber of my life is my hearts desire. To hear that echoed by other writers brings me great joy.

I am happy to hear these sincere messages of hope being published in this topsy-turvy  world in which we live. To have the message of the Gospel being spread through music, give the church of today a breath of fresh air so to speak. Knowing that His truth is being carried to all nations through the art of music is amazing and with groups such as Bethel leading the way, I look to a brighter future.

-Reviewed by Tyler Cummings

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Switchfoot: Vice Verses Hits St. Louis

Switchfoot hit the Pageant in St. Louis on December 6, 2011 for the latest stop on their “Vice Verses” tour. This is a band that feeds on the crowd and I’m not quite sure “St. Louie,” as frontman Jon Foreman refers to us locals, was energetic enough on this Tuesday night to create greatness (whereas their February 15, 2010 show did), but the band always comes through in an energetic, uplifting manner and they did it again here.

Somehow this group has navigated that difficult middle course of remaining unapologetically Christian without alienating non-believers. This could not be proven any truer than the St. Louis show—the concert was sponsored by the local alternative radio station (where “Dark Horses” is their Current No. 1 Song on the playlist), while the audience was shot-through with T-shirts advertising the local family-oriented Christian station (which doesn’t play their music).

The Concert

It will be interesting how this tour is received, because musically the new album is a clear departure from most of their past efforts, with songs featuring almost hyper literate lyrics (“Selling the News,” “the War Inside”) against the backdrop of solid, guitar driven rock and roll that continues to mature. This is obvious when listening to the new CD, but—interestingly enough—not during the concert, where the band blends in the new songs seamlessly.

This is a band confident of their talent and full potential. They’re never slaves to the CD versions of their songs, often adding fresh interpretations to the set list without revinventing the song. When not overtly critiquing American culture, their songs are almost invariably laced with hope, faith, and challenges. It’s no surprise they’ve found a sizable audience, inclusion on the late night talk show circuit (Kimmel, Leno, Conan), covers sung during concerts by the likes of Taylor Swift and the Jonas brothers, and songs regularly embedded into movie soundtracks.

Live concerts always include surprises. They’ll lull you into a fresh dose of Switchfoot before busting out “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys. Later, it is “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction with a guest soloist. (Sorry, I didn’t get his name.). These aren’t tributes, but fun interpretations that keep everyone alert. (During the Hello Hurricane tour, they covered Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.”)

They’re always highly interactive, with Foreman regularly wading into the crowd, and bassist Tim Foreman and lead guitarist Drew Shirley often leaning into the screaming, reaching fans. At this show, as 16-year-old named Tyler got a chance to play “Hello Hurricane” with the band during the Encore set because he held up a sign saying, “All I want for Christmas is to play Hello Hurricane with you.” He got the star treatment he wanted.

It’s an uplifting, energizing night that often includes songs ending with the band pointing to heaven via hands or guitars, as if they want to keep everyone’s eyes where they belong.

Can There Be More?

After a bevy of GMA Dove Awards, the band scored their first Grammy with “Hello Hurricane” in 2010. Every new album consistently adds to a catalog of songs that most bands south of U2 would envy. This is a band that’s still arcing into full maturity. While you might quibble that the venues might get larger, if they don’t, that won’t indicate failure. This is a band marking out a middle course almost no one has taken before, one that reaches believers and non, without sacrificing quality or energy. The real question is why more people don’t recognize that.

-Reviewed by Kent d Curry

NOTE: Susan Loyd shot some amazing pix from earlier in the tour.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Internet: 1996 vs. 2011

Here are some fascinating comparisons between what the internet looked like in its infancy and what it looks like now. Check out the differences between MapQuest & Travelocity, as well as the most popular web sites then (where have you gone AOL?) and now.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Grammy Nomination: Royal Tailor

If you haven't heard, IBC grads Royal Tailor Band received a Grammy nomination for "Black & White."