Many would say that NEEDTOBREATHE reached a career-defining moment with their previous album “Rivers In The Wasteland”. An album birthed from an experience, in a lot of ways it was the summation of everything the band had experienced up until that point.
Taking a step forward from such a record is usually a tricky thing to do and H A R D L O V E, though being exceptional in its own right, didn’t come without its little hiccups.
The album takes the pop approach, beginning with MOUNTAIN, Pt 1 a short intro that leads us to the title track HARD LOVE. HARD LOVE shows a nice fusion of the band’s southern charm with pop music. The song speaks about holding on till the end and it’s easy to get right into the groove of it. On MONEY & FAME we see the band taking a funky approach as the horns and the organ serve as the backbone of the song. With lyrics “money and fame could bring a man shame, ain’t no doubt about it” the song is pretty self-explanatory.
NO EXCUSES is an acoustic song that slows down the tempo of the album as “Bear” delivers an emotional number that is sure to catch anyone’s attention. WHEN I SING doesn’t strike this reviewer, the message of the song sounds a bit cliché and the delivery was disappointing.
HAPPINESS mixes the choral approach with a nice acoustic pop ballad. Lyrically, it addresses classic themes “the pursuit of happiness” and “forgiveness” and is, in my opinion, one of the better songs on the album. GREAT NIGHT is the only actual Rock song on the album. It’s not exceptionally memorable but after a couple of listens, you start to really get into it.
BE HERE LONG is one of the solemn songs on the album and it almost feels out of place on the entire album. It stands out so clearly that it feels like a song from one of the older albums. DON’T BRING THAT TROUBLE brings the album back to an upbeat and funky pace as the band once again reminds us of their southern roots.
LET’S STAY HOME TONIGHT might be remembered as the greatest love song in Christian music history for years to come. It’s a song about warmth, romance, and companionship that is sure to catch anyone’s attention. TESTIFY stands out as the clearest sounding worship song on the album as Bear sings “There is a peace, there is a love you can get lost inside. Come to the fountain, let me hear you testify.”
CLEAR brings the album to a close. It’s an all-encompassing love song as Bear sings his love for his wife and the lyrics are the most expressive on the entire album.
H A R D L O V E, in my opinion, is a decent album from an incredible band. It’s very different from “Rivers In The Wasteland” and anyone who listens to it trying to make comparisons will miss out on the things that make this album truly unique.
Notwithstanding I do have some issues with this album, particularly the song arrangement and the lyrical depth of some of the tracks. Compared to their previous works, this album is the least cohesive and the tracks seem a bit disjointed. However, it’s a brilliant record capable of standing on its own two feet.