Monday, November 29, 2010

Album Recommend: Christmas 2010

ONCE Upon a time, there was The Almost. As you likely already know, The Almost is a band starred by Aaron Gillespie, famed drummer of Underoath, a Christian metalcore band hailing from Florida. An offshoot of Underoath, The Almost is a more personalized project of Gillespie's. If you have been a fan of The Almost for any length of time, you don't need me to put into words why their Christmas album from 2008 happens to be my pick of the season for holiday listening. It was almost superseded by Josh Groban's Noel (2007) or (in spirit of the fact that I've been listening to it all year anyway,) Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant by Family Force 5 (2009). But what cut through all the opera and bells and synth beats for me this year was the simple prettiness of The Almost's No Gift To Bring, a compilation drawn up of only five songs. And no, it's not an extended play. It's as simple as it's cover, and in irony to its title, it actually brings the meaning of Christmas home.
      Gillespie is already an icon in his listening audience for his lyric writing and instrumental talents. (As if Underoath wasn't enough already.) Listeners will appreciate the way he keeps it real and raw and involves a sort of story-telling effect in these tracks that make you want to play them once over. Herein does he make up for only offering five tracks, I feel. And what I like to describe as "acoustic/acidic" vocals are the staple of this album, as well as a signature sound with The Almost. It may come across as histrionic at first, but Aaron Gillespie puts his heart where his mouth is in this little gift of an album.
   All in all, I would say this five-track appetizer ends up being a full course experience of strumming for the soul. I don't care if it's not a new release, go get it! Oh and by the way, here's another gift from Aaron.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Abandon: Lighting The Way

AS I Write this review on the Christian/alt/rock band "Abandon", I am giving them a listen. As the Brit-rock worthy croons and guitar waves fill my ears, I am glimpsing Abandon's music page. Their sample playlist is more than pleasing, ranging from Coldplay-ish piano driven melodies to Modest Mouse-esque beats to The Killers...well, just The Killers. And all in all, the lyrics are refreshingly electric and devoid of shallow sentences and half-thought meanings. At this point, my favorite might just be the track "Safe In Your Arms" from Abandon's debut full-length album Searchlights. Based in San Antonio, Texas, the group offers a strong, dynamic voice to their faith in Jesus Christ and His rescuing personality. Their full-length album's title gathers this concept in a single word. Abandon currently consists of five members: Josh, Justin, Bryan, Stevan, and last but not least, Dave. On a side note, the band offers support to several good causes, including Blood Water Mission and Emerge Experience. Give them a try, I doubt you will be disappointed. I think they do their genre justice.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Plan B: The Manafest Manifesto

In 1998, a young Canadian named Chris Greenwood was injured in a skateboarding accident, (it was the 90's, everyone was getting in skateboarding accidents)
and it was after this event that Chris began to listen to an inspiration inside him to focus on writing rap songs. He wrote what he knew; he wrote about his life, his experiences with God, relationships, and pain. And he had plenty of subject matter to draw from.
Fast-forward some 12 years and four full-length albums later, Chris is now known as the talented rap/rock artist dubbed "Manafest", and most beautifully, a believer in the saving grace of God. But life hasn't always been what Chris wanted it to be.

Chris experienced things that no young person should have to; for example,he personally discovered his own father's basement suicide, and his mother's grief that ensued.
He experimented with drugs and drinking, and in an interview said "But God kind of changed me in terms of that stuff. I stopped doing that. I found that it all didn’t really push me forward in excellence and skating. Skateboarding kind of kept me away from that.” (Thus the skateboarding accident.)
God was doing a work in Chris' life.
“I went to this camp for a month in Cobourg, and this guy was talking about God and stuff. He was asking us if we knew where we were going to go when we die and stuff. So that pulled me out, and I started thinking where I was going." Chris went on to say, in an interview with Curb_Sidemag,

“That’s when I found I could have a relationship with God, without those religious rules. I was never about the hymns, but I wanted to find out how God could change my life and other people’s lives."

And what about the name "Manafest"?
“It’s totally the same meaning. You know, when something’s made manifest, it’s exposed to the light. That’s the meaning of it.”

His current tour zig-zags across Canada,the U.S., and Japan (where his music BOMBED, by the way). Manafest gives Jesus the credit for his musical and personal success. His latest album, "The Chase", is a fine-tuned project incorporating rock, rap, guitar driven, and electronic elements. Lyrically, it's like colorful liquid graffiti, just pouring through your ears. As in all his music I've heard so far, the lyrics are life-relevant and worthy of listening to.

What I love about Chris and his music is his transparency, his "outness", his grateful approach to life (check out his song "Live On")and his comfort in simply being himself. He paints an honest portrait of himself in songs such as "Impossible" and "My Life". My personal new favorite, his new single "No Plan B", is a manafesto, if you will, about his determination.
-Bethany Pace

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sufjan Stevens: the asthmatic kitty can sing

SUFJAN. The name (which, by the way, is Armenian and means "comes with a sword")alone conjures thoughts of tea, sitars, beanie hats, woven rugs, blue skies and possibly hookah.

Wait till you hear his music.

In all his musical existence, somehow Michigan native Sufjan Stevens evaded my general knowledge until recent times. And I have to say,
I'm glad I met him.

Still somewhat "under the bridge" in the mainstream music world, and originally signed under Asthmatic Kitty Records, Stevens has garnered a state-of-the-art cult following among indie, folk, ethnic and alternative Christian listeners.

What's neat to me, about him, is the way he carries himself as a personality in the modern music industry. The titles he gives his songs often declare open rebellion to any form that you can make sense of, as well as rooted familiarity with Biblical faith. He successfully pulled past disheartening criticism of his music early on, and carries on to this day in a confident and uncharted manner. Even the photographic expression in his eyes matches the cool, unrushed, untethered, vintage depth of his songs.

At times, such as when listening to "The Avalanche", I found myself slightly annoyed by some peaks and shrills in his demure voice, or possibly the repetitious floating twangs. But in spite of that, he grew on me. His signature voice is overall very calming in accompaniment with the eastern-ish folk instrumentals.

Ranging lyrically with subject matter about everything from Christmas to God to backyards to Chicago to dresses, Sufjan has truly bloomed in his God-given talents and I have a feeling, is on the way to a bigger and brighter future than his contemporaries may have expected.
-Bethany Pace