Here we are at another month. August has felt ridiculously long, and I can’t figure out why. July should’ve been the long month with everything that went down. All I did in August is get my stitches out (leaving some sweet scars that magically didn’t ruin my tattoo) and release a book.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT: The book is the second in a trilogy about pirates who harvest water illegally while trying to evade a corrupt government, mercenaries, and creepy monster-things. So if you’re the type of person who likes Christian music and post-apocalyptic/pirate/supernatural young adult novels, you can find more info about the first book here.
Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to the albums.
Gungor – One Wild Life: Soul
Man, it feels like forever since I first listened to this album. Not to brag or anything, but I got this sucker, like, a whole month early. It’s mostly because I’m awesome and way cooler than you. Also because I paid the subscriber fee to get the album early. But mostly because I’m better than you.
Going back to their days as The Michael Gungor Band, Gungor has been through a lot of sounds. They’ve been radio-ready worship pop, experimental orchestrated folk, and they’ve even tried on some hints of new wave. All these sounds came together in their most recent album I Am Mountain, which was one of my favorites of 2013. Gungor has followed up this masterpiece with not one, but three new albums.
One Wild Life: Soul is the first installment of these albums. It finds Gungor digging into its pop influences, with layers of synth and melodic vocals. At their heart, the songs are still written and constructed within the unique Gungor framework, but the sound and style are still fresh. Lyrically, this is a very personal album, dealing with issues from vocalists Michael and Lisa Gungor’s new child, born with Down Syndrome and two heart conditions, to the fallout from when Michael posted a blog with some honest reflections on his faith.
It’s funny. With all the (in my opinion, overblown) recent controversy about where the Gungors stand with their faith, this latest album has been their most powerful in terms of impact on my own personal faith.
Buy One Wild Life: Soul on iTunes here
TobyMac – This Is Not A Test
I’ll be perfectly honest. I was not expecting to like this album. Can I say that? Am I still allowed to write Christian music reviews?
I’ve always had a lot of respect for TobyMac, but I just haven’t been able to get into his stuff since 2010’s Tonight. So when he announced the release of This Is Not A Test, I knew I’d listen, but I didn’t think I’d last more than a song.
Instead, I listened from start to finish.
And then a couple hours later, I did it again.
This Is Not A Test is nothing groundbreaking or original. There’s no experimentation with sounds and instruments or unique harmonies. It’s simply a really, really good pop album. In a sense, it’s just as hard to pull off a pop album of this caliber than it is to do something really unique. The margin for error in a genre with so much representation is incredibly slim. This Is Not A Test has great punch and energy, and it’s just plain fun to listen to. Plus, there’s a mini-DC Talk reunion on the album, with Kevin Max and Michael Tait performing on one song. But you already heard that, right? Any Christian music fan is required to be fully updated on all news DC Talk related. Duh.
Buy This Is Not A Test on iTunes here
Janae Schirle – Cave Songs
Janae Schirle’s debut album is an impressive offering by itself, but what really surprised me was her Kickstarter campaign. With a tiny goal like $5,500, I almost immediately assume Janae had some of her own money to pour into the project, because it sounds way better than a $5,500 album has any business sounding. From the atmospheric pop of Never Felt Such Love to the acoustic intimacy of Cave Song, the album has enough variety to keep things interesting, but enough consistency in overall personality that it feels cohesive. Janae has a beautiful voice that drips with passion, which is an obvious plus for the whole album.
Buy Cave Songs on iTunes here
Strahan – Feel the Night
Being a football fan, my first instinct was to pronounce Strahan’s name like the legendary New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. STRAY-han. But this isn’t Michael Strahan the football player. This is Strahan Coleman the singer-songwriter, and his name is pronounced STRAW-n.
Strahan describes himself as a folk psalmist, and that’s just about right. His lyrics read like modern day psalms, dealing with pain and heartache in a way that never takes the focus off the goodness of God. The vulnerable, honest lyrics are underscored with atmospheric, acoustic instrumentation and a great vocal performance. I would love to hear a full-length album from this guy. I’ll be keeping my eye on him.
Buy Feel the Night on iTunes here
Sidewalk Prophets – Something Different
Sidewalk Prophets is one of those bands that I always had a lot of respect for, but was never quite able to get into. They’ve clearly been doing great work, but it just never connected for me beyond a couple radio singles. Something Different changed that. It’s like the band has finally unleashed themselves. Vocalist Dave Frey lets loose on this album, with a healthy dose of grit in just the right places. Musically, the band leans more and more heavily into the southern rock influences they’ve been hinting at since they first started. I’d Rather Have You sounds like it could’ve been on a .38 Special album. If this is the direction Sidewalk Prophets is headed in, I’ll definitely be following.
Buy Something Different on iTunes here
And that’s it for another month. What have you been digging lately?