WILKES Grabs Hold of Hearts with Brilliant New “Shells” EP
Release Date: 11/27/15 Rating: [usr 9.5]
Shells is the first release from WILKES, the solo project of Jason Wilkes, formerly of High Flight Society and Disciple. This EP is the perfect blend of up-tempo pop songs, rockin’ worship songs, and contemplative acoustic songs. There are many layers of meaning behind the title Shells. Partly in memory of Scotty Lockridge, the drummer from High Flight Society who suddenly passed away a few years ago, and the necklace Jason had made out of an empty bullet shell. The title also refers to his drum shells, as well as Jason’s idea that songs themselves can be like shells, encompassing memories from a certain time and place. This is indicative of Jason’s writing style, putting much thought and meaning into everything he creates.
The record starts off with the catchy “You’ve Got a Hold on Me.” Shane Cole lays a solid foundation, his superb bass lines grabbing your attention right away. In much the same way, a relationship with Jesus provides a solid foundation for our life, and His love has a hold on us and will always bring us back, even if there are times when we want to run away and let go. The momentum continues with “One Star,” the keyboard dancing above the music like stars floating above the earth. This song is a thoughtful reflection on the prevalence of God’s magnificence throughout His creation, and how sometimes it only takes something as simple as one star to light up our life and bring our attention back to Him.
“Shelter” especially shows off Jason’s outstanding ability to craft a song. It starts simply, with just a few notes on the keyboard, gradually adding layers, the entire song a crescendo building up to a powerful bridge declaring that when we are safe in the arms of Christ is when we truly come alive. The rest of the song decrescendos, peeling away the layers and ending as simply and beautifully as it began. The next song, “Pursuit,” about God’s relentless pursuit of a relationship with us, continues in this vein of simplicity, displaying Jason’s impassioned vocals and impressive command of the acoustic guitar.
“Come Now Rain Down” brings the energy level back up, with Ike Thurston supplying a driving rhythm on the drums. The last staccato guitar chord ushers in “The Reckoning Prologue,” an ethereal, haunting lament of a soul that has met with the complete and utter holiness of a perfect God, crying out that even the best of human efforts are nothing but dirty rags by comparison. This prologue flows seamlessly into “Wrecked,” which speaks of God’s incomparable power, and how that power can often leave us breathless and at a loss for words, yet at the same time, wanting nothing more than for God to show us the way back to His heart and a close relationship with Him.
Rounding out the EP is “What Are We To Do Now,” expressing the sorrow of losing a close friend so unexpectedly, and asking how it is possible to go on when such a huge piece of one’s heart is suddenly gone. While the lyrics are melancholy and contemplative in nature, the music is somewhat upbeat, offering an air of hope that, with time, it will get better.
Overall, this is an excellent and inspiring album that will appeal to all listeners, whether they are looking for a quiet moment of worship and reflection, or an upbeat song to get them going.