I need to have a word with all these Christian musicians. These guys are doing an awful job of evenly distributing their releases. I could’ve done this entire post just on albums that came out the last weekend of October, and it would’ve been a solid list of albums. Two of the albums in my list this week are from October 30, and one is from October 31.
Seriously, Christian music. Get it together. I listened to, like, eight different albums this weekend. That’s a lot. If you’re going to jam pack one release weekend, do it earlier in the month so I can take my time going through everything before cobbling together my JesusWired post.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve got for you.
The Oh Hellos – Dear Wormwood
The latest project from The Oh Hellos is the sequel to their 2012 concept album Through The Deep, Dark Valley. Together, the two albums tell the story of a relationship gone wrong, with the first album focusing on the characters’ past together and the second focusing on their future. Lyrically, both albums are incredibly poetic and filled with biblical imagery. While Through The Deep, Dark Valley used references to the Adam and Eve narrative in Genesis to show a beautiful thing ruined beyond hope of repair, Dear Wormwood relies on references to Revelation, particularly in the second half of the album, to show the hope of redemption and hope in the face of past hurt and tragedy.
I don’t have a clue if this is what The Oh Hellos were going for, but it seems if you listen to both albums back to back, you end up with a beautiful representation of creation, fall, and redemption as told through the lens of a failed relationship. Even without the story, the lyrics are beautifully written, and the accompanying music is fantastic. If you took the lush complexity of The Last Bison and gave it the vocal purity of The Civil Wars, you just might end up with something like Dear Wormwood. Highly recommended for fans of folk that are more than a little tired of the polished, sparkly sound coming out of the folk-pop scene the last couple years.
My first exposure to Capital Kings was on the tobyMac Dubbed & Freq’d remix album. Their remixes were far and away the best tracks on the album. They were aggressive, yet still melodic. They had a real edge that the rest of the remixes, while good, lacked. So when I saw these guys had a full-length album coming out, I was naturally excited.
And, sad as I am to say, I was disappointed by their first offering. It was a solid pop album, but I wasn’t looking for a pop album. I wanted more of the edge that I’d heard on tobyMac’s remix album and the insane Carol of the Bells single they later released. The self-titled debut showed flashes here and there of the band I fell in love with, but at the end of the day, I was listening to a well-constructed EDM pop album and that just wasn’t what I was hoping for.
So when I saw Capital Kings had a second album coming out this year, I was excited, but approached it with a little more wariness.
And boy, does II deliver. This is the album I wanted to hear from these guys since first hearing their remixes. We have the same clear, melodic vocal parts, but the instrumentation is much edgier. The bass is noisy and out of control, the drums are heavy, and nearly every song builds to an electronic breakdown that evokes David Guetta’s signature intense swells of emotion.
In the early 2000’s, pop punk was king, and as far as I was concerned, there were no other genres of music. Something about the nasally vocals, power chords, and aggressive-yet-sickly-sweet melodies resonated with my young teenage soul. Granted, I didn’t listen to the cool pop punk bands. I didn’t own a single Blink 182 album, I think I’m supposed to be embarrassed by how much I jammed Simple Plan’s teenage anthem I’m Just A Kid, and even within the Christian music world, I owned only one album apiece from Relient K and MxPx. I wish I could say this was because I’ve never been into stuff once it gets too mainstream, preferring instead the underground musicians who are true artists, but, sadly, the explanation is nothing nearly that bohemian. The long and short of it is that I am not and never have been a cool person.
That last paragraph is basically a really long way of saying I listened to tons of pop punk in the early 2000’s, and after a few years of two-and-a-half-minute songs, I’d had enough. I thought I’d completely burned myself out on the stuff and I’d never again listen to its oddly perfect juxtaposition of raw aggression and sparkly production.
Then Lights Go Down happened.
Lights Go Down is the project Jason Dunn started after giving up vocal duties with Hawk Nelson. Fans who were disappointed by Hawk Nelson’s post-Dunn move to a more pop-based sound will be excited to know Lights Go Down turns back the clock and revisits the old days of Hawk Nelson. Like, Letters to the President old days.
This album is pure fun. The good news is it’s helped me come full circle and revisit my love of pop punk. The bad news is I checked and Simple Plan released an album in 2013 and I listened to it and I like it and I only kind of feel bad saying that on a Christian music website.
FUN COMIC BOOK FACT: Wolverine is the only Marvel character to appear as a member of the X Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. At least, I think that’s true. I read it on some online comic book trivia page, so I’m guessing it is.
That’s not really important for what I’m saying here except to point out that Kevin Max is dangerously close to being the Wolverine of Christian music. He’s sung for DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline, and if Michael Tait ever gets sick and can’t make a Newsboys tour and calls his old buddy K Max to fill in, then that’s essentially the Triple Crown of 90’s Christian Rock vocalist gigs. In addition to his impressive resume as a lead vocalist, Kevin has also been a prolific solo artist, with projects ranging from radio-ready pop rock to outright experimental. You never know what you’re going to get when Kevin releases an album, and that’s part of the fun of following his career.
The latest Kevin Max album continues in the pattern of not having any discernible pattern as a collection of cover songs. Kevin Max covers everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jiminy Cricket on Starry Eyes Surprise, his unique, powerful voice underscored by jazzy trumpets and romantic strings. The album is a fun listen, as Kevin completely reinterprets some songs, all the while making them fit the new style perfectly. This is the album that will make you believe Corey Hart’s Sunglasses At Night was always supposed to be a jazz standard.
Also, when you go to Kevin Max’s website, you see a big picture of his face with the message, “Kevin Max is watching you.” I think that should count for something.
All Jason Martin does is make good music. As the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter/only consistent member of Starflyer 59, he’s put out the best vaguely Christian shoegaze music (A coveted title, if I do say so myself, what with the heavy competition). With roughly a billion brilliant albums (give or take a few) under his belt as Starflyer 59, you’d think his resume was full enough, but when you start looking at his side projects, he becomes an even more impressive figure. He served as a guitarist on the bizarrely awesome supergroup Neon Horse, collaborated with his brother Ronnie of Joy Electric for the highly underrated Brothers Martin, and, even though he wasn’t credited as a musician on the project, his fingerprints as a producer were all over White Lighter’s brilliant debut last year.
And now, Jason has teamed up with Ryan Clark for Low & Behold.
After embracing his love for electronic music and new wave with NYVES, the Demon Hunter frontman has teamed up with Jason for a project in a similar vein. If the NYVES album embraced the poppier side of Depeche Mode, Low & Behold embraces their darker, heavier side. We still have the synths and Ryan’s deep, haunting, and reverb-drenched vocals, but now Jason’s signature heavy guitars are layered on top. Pairing the man behind Storm The Gates of Hell with the man behind Everybody Makes Mistakes seems like an odd team up, but after listening through this haunting darkwave project, I’m left wondering why it took so long for this to happen. Clark’s vocals and Martin’s guitars are a match made in heaven.