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