monthly guides, music

September 2010 Monthly Music Guide #7

Looking for something new? Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately…

Anberlin - Dark Is The Way Light Is A Place - Album Cover
Album: Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place (September 7, 2010)
Style: Moody, anthemic rock

Anberlin is back with a vengeance, and from the opening guitar riffs you know they’re knocking the socks off of anyone who thought New Surrender was boring. Overall the music is strong and dark with lots of driving guitar (think Cities) and even a smattering of piano, organ, and acoustic riffs. Stephen Christian’s voice resonates clearly, but unfortunately it’s mostly just resonating angst. New Surrender showed some attempts at broader songwriting, but pretty much every song here is an emotional pity-party begging her to stay or scowling at her for leaving – does the world really need another song with lyrics like “who needs enemies when we’ve got friends like you”? Ultimately, this is another solid album from Anberlin that is sure to satisfy old fans. But as much as I respect Christian and his craft – see this great interview – the lyrics here are too much for me to recommend.

Standout Lyric:Because of you, I’ll never write another love song. /
Was I the greatest in your arsenal? /
Or just the latest in your art of war?
In Case It Interests You: The members of Anberlin are generally known as Christians.

Lakes - The Agreement - Album Cover
Album: The Agreement (September 3, 2010)
Style: Soft acoustic pop with nice instrumentation

Lakes carries a Snow Patrol vibe that’s maybe a little bouncier with an abundant use of keys and even some organ and a bit of accordion, not to mention the acoustic picking that I’m pretty sure is a banjo. If somebody put them in a movie soundtrack, “Oh Lovely” would go in the fireworks part of the relationship, while “The Feeling” would fit perfectly in the part where everything starts to break. Some of the slower anthems are both lush and rough, punctuated by the occasional minor chord that might be what Thrice would sound like if they wrote pop ballads (“Lifting Me Up” is like a 3/4 Jeremy Camp single with less gruff vocals). Sometimes the resonating drum pounding and vocalizing sound more like a Phil-Collins-African-jungle-ride (especially on “When We Were Younger”). Regardless, Lakes keeps things fresh and interesting from beginning to end, and they’re a pleasant surprise waiting just for you.

Standout Lyric: We could go out / We could stay in /
We’ve got this beautiful day /
We could just sing / We could just dance /
We’ve got this beautiful day /
In Case It Interests You: As far as I know the members of Lakes are known as Christians.

The Ember Days - Finger Painting EP - Album Cover
The Ember Days
Album: Finger Painting EP (September 7, 2010)
Style: Worship disguised as a lush, ambient, soft pillow that is mostly instrumental

On this latest release these New Zealand worshippers sound like Explosions In The Sky infused with a bit of Jesus, complete with those constant, dripping, echoing guitar riffs and those soothing build-ups fueled by those rat-a-tat snare rhythms and lazy cymbal rolls. When they add in the lead girl’s vocals, as on the loosely hymn-inspired “It Is Well,” the atmospheric quality is reminiscent of Brooke Fraser singing with Hillsong United. While there’s not much to distinguish the instrumental tracks from each other except that some build up farther than others, the closer “Simple Song” is a little more varied, packing some energy that includes a giant choir repeatedly singing “Hallelujah we praise You, Hallelujah.” Since Ember Days is with the ministry-oriented Come&Live, giving away these five tracks for free, they probably just want you to use this to quietly worship or pray while relaxing (or falling asleep) in God’s presence, and for that it is more than sufficient.

Standout Lyric: I am but a child in the hands of my Lord /
He carries me through rushing rivers, takes me home /
When I cannot see, will my faith sustain? /
I will find my strength in your love, oh, in your love /
In Case It Interests You: The members of The Ember Days are known as Christians.

For Today - Breaker - Album Cover
For Today
Album: Breaker (August 31, 2010)
Style: Charismatic metal

For Today excels at the standards of metal music, what with the carefully arrayed breakdowns and chugs and growls. What’s much less standard is their affinity with charismatic Christianity, as they use the intensity of the music to channel their messages of breakthrough and healing and that kind of power stuff. In fact, at times they almost sound like a metal version of Kirk Franklin, what with the gang vocal choir shouting refrains (“Finally I surrender”) mixed in with the lead guy’s embellishing phrases (“All to you, I give it all to you!”). Not for the faint of heart – unless it’s a faint heart in search of strength – For Today seeks to deliver spiritual freedom along with some physical sweat.

Standout Lyric: To the ones with broken dreams /
And to the lost and hopeless… /
Come meet your King! /
God I declare over my generation: restoration!
In Case It Interests You: The members of For Today are known as Christians.

Insomniac Folklore - LP - Album Cover
Insomniac Folklore
Album: LP (2010)
Style: Likable indie folk with subtle punk roots and clever songwriting

Self-described as “tantrum folk,” these musicians from Portland create a delightful cacophony of acoustic guitars and accordions, sounding sort of like a local version of mewithoutYou playing in your basement. As this indie folk party effortlessly dances through songs that are seriously satirical, songs that are outrageously silly, and songs that may be doing both things at once (see “Kill A Baby, Save A Tree”), you almost wonder if someone like Reese Roper is involved. But this is mostly the brainchild of Tyler Hentschel, whose fascinatingly deep bass vocals wander the somber minor chords with a resonating reverence. Ultimately, though, this is just a group of friends who want to drive to your town, see some good shows, and jump around.

Standout Lyric: We play our anthems on beat up guitars
We sing songs and worship under the stars /
Singing, Thank you Lord / It’s been a good life
It’s been pretty good / It’s been pretty good
Standout Lyric II: We all need something to worship /
Hey look, what’s on TV?
In Case It Interests You: The members of Insomniac Folklore are known as Christians.