Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: City Harmonic

The City Harmonic’s new full length release comes as the band prepares to embark on their fall tour. After a full tour of sixty-five cities with Christian music powerhouse, the Newsboys, and enjoying a nomination for “New Artist of the Year” the band hits stages across the country with their first full length album under their belts and massive fan support from their marketing efforts. They have successfully leveraged the medium offered by YouTube resulting in over 1.5 million viewers for the music video for radio single, “Manifesto.” Their particular brand of eclectic style mixed with catchy pop melodies has resulted in a fan base that is very supportive and lends itself to their exciting performances on stage. Their onstage presence is energetic, exciting and a part of what draws fans. They deliver messages of hope and strength while providing an entertaining experience that leaves fans looking forward to their next one.

The feel of The City Harmonic can best be described as euro-pop that, at times, likes to cross over into a folk-rock feel. The differentiating line between the sounds tends to follow the “size” of the song. The bigger, anthem like songs tend to carry a pop-rock feel and rely heavily on drum hooks, well placed piano parts and big, stadium filling rock tones from bass and guitar. When the band comes down to Earth the intimate feel of the songs are perfect for the textured vocals from Elias Dummer. Vocal harmonies provided by the other members of the band are tight and add a lot of depth to tracks that otherwise could quickly become background noise rather than holding one’s attention.

All the songs for the new release were written by the members of the band. The songs focus on the age old struggle between our flesh and our desire to please God. The songs take the tension believers feel in their earthly journey turn them into poetic verses and place them to music. Check out songs Mountaintop, Spark, and Fell Apart. They resonate with the hearts of believers everywhere. They acknowledge the need for His touch, the fire His love ignites in our souls, the battle against a world full of individuals truths with no absolutes, and the journey from the valley to the mountaintop experiences that give us hope in our darkest hours.

I would definitely encourage you to take the time to check out this up and coming band. Check out their website for their concert itinerary for upcoming tour dates. They are sure to be a source of fresh sounds and uplifting lyrics for years to come!

Reviewed by Michael Henson

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Jesus Culture: Emerging Voices

The movement that inspires movements is at it again! Jesus Culture’s newest album released today, July 31, featuring four new worship leaders for this generation. The typical voices expected from Jesus Culture (Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala, and Melissa Wise-Howe) are absent as they allow new leaders to step into the worship spotlight. This album features Justin Jarvis, Mary Kat Ehrenzeller, Nate Ward, and Derek Johnson with original worship songs and is recorded live at the Civic Auditorium in Redding, CA.
While it required some adjusting of the ears to acclimate myself to a Jesus Culture recording without the established leaders, I’ve come to appreciate this departure from the norm. I love the fact that this successful youth movement is visionary enough to pave the way for new worship leaders and songwriters. This allows them to reach a much wider audience than they would normally be able to touch. As a worshiper and wannabe worship leader myself I’m always on the lookout for new songs to learn and worship to and this album release doesn’t disappoint. 
Favorites include, “I Belong to You,” “You Are My God,” and “Let it Go” by Derek Johnson. Of the four new artists on the CD he’s definitely my favorite. His sound is polished (as all of them are) and reminds me of the folk/singer-songwriter feel of John Mark McMillan in his vocal style, melodies and lyrics. Nate Ward is also one that I enjoyed listening to. He has a couple songs included on this album and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
While musically there are a lot of similarities between these artists and they’re all focused on worship the main difference comes from the vocals and spirit of the leader. Justin Jarvis’s semi-operatic vibrato is completely unique. Mary Kat’s style closely resembles that of Kim Walker and is very conducive to worship. Her song, “Mighty Fortress,” is a favorite. It flows from quiet, introspective worship to anthem-like, “bigness” similar to some of the anthems heard on previous Jesus Culture albums.
All in all, this is another quality production from the Jesus Culture team. Musically, it’s as polished and consistent as any other recording you might hear from other worship teams such as, Hillsong, Chris Quilala, etc. The presence of multiple worship leaders gives a unique perspective to the album by providing different insights to a singular message of worship and adoration. I look forward to hearing more from each of these artists and am certain that great things are in store for them and the worship community. It’s always encouraging to have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of a movement. That’s what this CD does. This is a glimpse at the future of modern worship...and it looks promising!

Reviewed by Michael Henson

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Israel's "Jesus at the Center: Live"

Well, he’s done it again! Israel and company have created another worship experience for the church of today. Available August 14th Israel’s latest live album/DVD, “Jesus At The Center,” is a collection of worship tunes centered around Jesus’ name. He states that the entire focus while preparing for this project was to place Jesus at the center, the focal point and to point to Him. So frequently church is the focus around which the rest of life orbits. We invite people to church rather than to Christ. We focus on the programs, music, polish that we experience in our local congregations rather than the relationship we have with God. It’s refreshing that Israel has taken this approach with this album, Jesus has to be the center of it all...that’s the way God designed it.
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to this album the past couple of weeks and from the first time I’ve had a smile on my face. Every single time Israel releases a new record he raises the bar and provides a new anthem (or two, or three...maybe more) for the Church to unite behind. He’s done it again. This compilation of worship songs showcases the amazing talent and anointing Israel and New Breed bring to the contemporary worship scene. This album is soaked in the anointing of Spirit and lifts you up despite where you find yourself when listening to it.
Musically, it raises the standard again. The musicians and vocalists are phenomenal and provide the musical medium for the message of Christ to arrest your attention and turn your focus back to Him. Lyrically, Jesus is truly at the center. Songs range from the upbeat worship anthem, “Rez (as in resurrection) Power,” to massive choirs songs like, “No Turning Back,” and calls to joy and blessing others in, “More Than Enough.” My favorite songs are Overflow and I Call You Jesus. Overflow reminds us of the overwhelming love that Christ showed us with His sacrifice and declare devotion to Him. I Call You Jesus has served as a welcome reminder to me of the power behind the name of Jesus. The chorus brings perspective that is too easily lost in the bustle of busy lifestyles...
“You’re name is Jesus, risen from the dead
You are the glory, the lifter of our head
You have the only name by which we can be saved
I call you Jesus!”
What a promise! What an encouragement...
I urge you to invest in this project. It will provide inspiration, strength, encouragement, joy and peace. Not because of the name of the person on the album but because of Israel’s willingness to place the focus and glory back where it belongs...on the name of our God and Savior, Jesus!

Reviewed by Michael Henson

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thousand Foot Krutch: "The End is Where We Begin"

In keeping with classic Thousand Foot Krutch style, their latest album “The End is Where We Begin” does not disappoint. I have loved them since I first heard them roughly seven years ago and they still amaze me with the way they continue producing great albums time after time. I also enjoy how much they have kept their tone and have not deviated too much from their initial material and distinctive sound.
The new album is chockfull of high-energy tracks, just as you would expect. Just as previous album tracks have been showcased on video games, such as EA Sports “NHL 2010” as well as televised productions, you can expect this album to be no different. Couple together a fantastic sound and intense adrenalin and TFK is what you get for the most part. The best way to describe this band, if you haven’t heard of them, is one of those bands you have on your iPod to get you pumped up to fight or run or whatever intense activity it is you’re participating in. However, they do have their softer side.
The song “So Far Gone” seemed to stick out to me the most. Despite the rest of the album being energetic, this simpler, more calming song really spoke to me individually. The chorus of the song states, “I want to be so far gone in you, so far nothing else will ever do…” If you imply that to a relationship with God as I did, then those lyrics make perfect sense. You should give the song a listen and let me know your opinion.
If you are looking for a high energy album and music to which you can work out to and will give you that extra adrenalin rush this album is definitely for you. (This also fits for the rest of TFK’s stuff, as well) Also, if you’re looking for a few mellower, acoustic-like songs that have some real meaning behind them, I urge you to check out the new upcoming album.
The End is Where We Begin releases April 17, 2012 so be looking for it and expect to hear some more great music from a great band.

Reviewed by Tyler Cummings

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Muslims See Easter

The New Yorker offers a respectful, if secular, viewpoint of how Muslims view Jesus and Easter. I learned a few things and you might too!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Review: Travis Ryan's Fearless Debut

Travis Ryan’s debut album is an excellent combination of driving rock guitar riffs and a solid message that always manages to refocus our attention on Christ. Collaboration with Grammy award winning producers, OneRepublic’s Brent Kutzle, and songwriters Matt Redman, Jason Ingram, Brenton Brown and Dan Bailey resulted in an awesome album that captures and holds your attention from beginning to end. The quality of musicianship showcased throughout this project is more than enough to keep you interested in what’s going on behind the vocals while not distracting from the message contained in the lyrics.

This is due to Ryan’s approach. His tenure as worship leader for Saddleback Church has cultivated a true minister’s heart that results in a message the church needs to hear. Beginning with the title track, “Fearless,” Travis encourages the church to shake itself awake and drive out all fear by working to perfect the love of Christ in our lives. Another indication of the heart behind this project is the fact that he calls this album his “altar.” Married with two young sons, Travis says, “If I died, these are the songs I would want my children to point to and say: that was my dad; my dad believed that. This is an altar to God.” He’s done an excellent job.

While the message is strong and it’s clear the songs were clearly written with a deeper purpose, the musicianship did not suffer. The primary musical drive comes from the interplay between rock guitar riffs and the driving drums generously sprinkled throughout the album. While there are no screaming guitar solos to speak of, those who enjoy a good rock guitar riff will definitely enjoy the feel of these songs. However, if you prefer a softer, more mellow approach you’ll that as well. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about this album Ryan does an excellent job of balancing musically interesting, driving material with the lyrical aspect of songwriting. You’ll find worship songs, uplifting messages, and challenges for personal growth. A couple favorites are “Awaken Us” and “Devotion” each for different reasons. The primary focus on “Awaken Us” is the lyrical encouragement to lift our eyes to God and contains this prayer:

“This is my desire, come like a fire, awaken us, awaken us”

Devotion is more of a personal declaration that, “I’m gonna sing forever, sing forever, gonna find you...” It’s a focus on personal relationship and friendship and devotion to the one that walks on water and paid our ransom.

When you think about it, isn’t that what it’s all about? I don’t know about you but if you’re anything like me life is crazy, busy, and incredibly distracting, making it easy to lose perspective. That’s where albums like this come in. Every time it plays I’m immersed in a worship experience that drives my focus from the distractions of this crazy life to the joy, friendship, and grace I experience in the presence of the Lord. To me that’s exactly what it’s all about...           

Reviewed by Michael Henson.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Paul Baloche: The Same Love

Paul Baloche’s latest album, “The Same Love,” is a refreshing approach to worship whether you’re looking for something to enhance your personal time and provide a worship filled atmosphere to your life or if you lead worship in your local congregation. It is filled with songs that transcend generations and echoes the popular sounds of worship groups like Hillsong, United, or Jesus Culture, followed by simple, folksy arrangements of simple, worshipful declarations complete with the requisite banjo.

Evidence of the spirit and intention of this album is the fact that it features other very well known artists and worship leaders without detracting from the message of grace and salvation echoed throughout. Kari Jobe and songwriter Jason Ingram provide support on a couple songs and worship leader, Lincoln Brewster, co-wrote “Loved By You.”

Musically, this album provides enough musical talent to keep your attention without distracting from the message and the heart of the lyrics. Paul’s tenure as worship pastor for Community Christian Fellowship leads to a style that leaves space for worship to take place rather than focusing on creating something that’s focused on showmanship. This approach is surprisingly refreshing and has had me listening to this album repeatedly for the past couple weeks. It ushers God’s presence and reminds me of the sacrifice and purpose of Calvary that provides salvation and hope that we would never be able to purchase or earn for ourselves.

From the opening notes of the album, encouragement pours out and lifts up your heart and mind. The message of “The Same Love” states that,

            The same love that set the captives free,
            The same love that opened eyes to see,
            Is calling us all by name

It is a timely reminder that we are chosen as God’s children and that a life of victory awaits those that kneel at the foot of the cross and accept the gift given to humanity when Jesus gave His life for ours. This is echoed in “We Are Saved” with the lyrics,

            We stand amazed at the work of the cross,
            We are saved, we are saved,
            Our sin has been forgiven, you have broken every chain
            We are saved, we are saved

No matter where we are in life, or our circumstances, we can appreciate the message of the cross and encouragement found on this album. If you’re looking for encouragement, worship, or new material for your congregation you’ll find it here...Thanks to Paul Baloche for pouring his heart and spirit into my new favorite album.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vid: Cell Phones in Church

Start Monday with a laugh! this is exactly how to handle the problem:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dawkins: Not an Atheist Actually

Richard Dawkins talks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and admits he can't prove there is not a God (whew!) and he's actually at an agnostic during a festival of public discussion about religion in Great Britain.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Muslims Team Up with Catholics on Campus

Did you know that Muslim attendance has doubled at Catholic Universities - because of modesty? Read this and you'll understand why that fact makes sense.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Four Artists: Diaz, Bare, Dutton, Echoing Angels

Jonny Diaz
     With his success from his hit single “Beauty of the Cross” Jonny Diaz had a great array of musical diversity. Just listening through his self-titled cd, I find him going from a smooth jazz feel, to a contemporary worship aura, to a country/gospel feel and then to a comedic type artist. I love the diversity of the album. I definitely would recommend the album to anyone looking for a great, chill, fun, positive feeling when listening to his or her music. He seems to be a great advocate for charity work and concerts, a quality which I admire in an artist. A great overall album to listen to, that’s for sure. Check it out:

Jason Bare
    Jason Bare, an artist I had never heard of before I was presented the opportunity to review his album, has an interesting feature about his singing. . His music has a great message and I enjoy the music aspect of his album, but his voice is one thing that I couldn’t seem to get over. I, personally didn’t care much for his voice. No, it wasn’t the tone or enunciation, but the vibrato. He seemed to always be singing through a fan or a leslie. His rolling vibrato is incredible don’t get me wrong, but in opinion it doesn’t need to be engaged all the time. Great songs, catchy melodies, riffs, and messages, but It was all I could do to get through listening to it once through. It’s not often I find music or a voice that I don’t really care for, but unfortunately this is one of those times. He seems like a pretty cool guy regardless judging from his promo videos. I would encourage you to check him out at and let me know what you think.
*Hint: check out the track, “Touch the Sky”

        If you’re on the search for some great new worship choruses to add to your repertoire, this I a band that you might like.  With a Hillsong feel in a sense minus the Australian accents, Dutton Brings a great perspective on sharing the Gospel around the world with their song entitled “Share.”  They have a great mix of encouraging evangelistic songs as well mixed with worshipful ones such as “Jesus, Be Lifted Higher” and “Out of the Depths.” If uplifting Christian music is what you’re searching for, I definitely would encourage you to check them out:

Echoing Angels
     Last but certainly not least is the band Echoing Angels. If I were to categorize them I would classify them as of a Christian southern rock genre. I would have to say out of the four artists reviewed, they would have to be my most favored. From the very first song, “Say What You Believe” I found myself bobbing my head right along with the catchy guitar rhythms. I love the vibe that the band gives through their music. It also seems to me that their music has much more felling built into it than some of the others I have reviewed. Fantastic vocals mixed with soulful guitar licks and a positive Christian message does it for me. Great job Echoing Angels; I can’t wait to hear more:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teaser Ads for Super Bowl Commercials?

It is perhaps a telling note on the centrality of the Super Bowl in America that we are now getting teaser ads for Super Bowl commercials. Of course these ads are ridiculously expensive ($3m-$3.5m for 30 seconds), so it only makes sense that companies want to get as much PR as possible for their money. Still, this is a new one, even for extravagantly combining the web with television.

VW, after releasing the most successful commercial at last year's Super Bowl, now offers a teaser to their next commercial, since both are Star Wars themed. It's tracking at roughly 1 million views a day!

Plus, it appears Ferris Bueller is making a comeback. Stay tuned, soon it will not just be countless web sites running variations on the "Best Commercials from the Super Bowl" the next day, but countless web sites offering running variation on the "Best Super Bowl Commercial Teaser Ads."  Capitalism never rests. (And that's not always a good thing.)

Apologies to Momo's Musings for not posting this in our sports blog, but this seemed more culturally related.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The State of American Religion

RealClearReligion offers their "State of American Religion" by winnowing through the polls & trends, coming to some reasonable conclusions:

"We might best describe the state of American religion today as "robust but confusing." Relative youths are having a harder time navigating it than past generations. Pew tells us that "Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion."

Check it out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011: The Year in Tweets

What better way to remember 2011 than to view Tweets that mattered?