Fireflight returns after two years with the emotionally intense Now. The album“is a call to move beyond your circumstances,” explains guitarist Glenn Drennen, “to not accept the way things are because life is difficult or you have been hurt in the past. It points to God as your refuge who not only provides a place of safety and comfort, but who also challenges you to get outside your comfort zone…to join with something greater than yourself.” The lyrics in the song “He Weeps” aren’t unique, but the emotion captures the heart of a hurting soul. Female lead Dawn Michele sings, “Stay by my side, if you leave me, I will die,” in “Stay Close” and declares “Sometimes we become a prisoner to our thoughts. We actually believe that our past pain controls our future…that our choices have been taken away from us. It is important to realize that our only hope is to move forward, trusting that God’s power will heal those things we cannot change.”
Toby Mac: Dubbed & Freq’d
Dubbed & Freq’d, Toby Mac’s first remix project in seven years, provides a quintessential look into the talent and diversity of Mac’s art. His unique blend of rock, pop, hip hop and urban styles create a perfect opportunity to develop an entirely new sound to his already well established songs, including tracks from Tonight and Portable Sounds.
Rhema Soul: RED
Rhema Soul does worship music through Hip Hop. Their latest album (produced by Andy Anderson (TobyMac)) carves a Christian message into the stylings of club music. Rhema Soul encourages commitment through their album RED – commitment to having a voice, commitment to taking a stand in ministry and in love, commitment to beauty and commitment to God. “Whatever you believe in, you should be willing to fight for,” says Butta, the group’s female vocalist. “Whether it is marriage or your faith, when you commit to something, you should do everything in your power to stick with it. When you hold on to your goals and your dreams, you will find victory.”
Thousand Foot Krutch: The End Is Where We Begin
Walk into your own action film soundtrack with Thousand Foot Krutch’s newest album The End Is Where We Begin. The album is reflective of our human nature to crawl back to God after running away from Him and trying things on our own strength. An overriding theme is the dynamics of war – taking a stand, influencing change and choosing God’s desires and plan for life. “Without trying, this record has a very militant theme to it, with songs like ‘War Of Change’ and ‘Courtesy Call’ painting more of a visual for that,” says front man Trevor McNevan. “There’s an urgency to it and I think the timing feels right. This record’s heart can be summed up by ‘Be The Change,’ the album’s lyric and phrase seen throughout the album artwork.”
Ireland-based Bluetree produces their mellow (but not calm) sophomore album, Kingdom, with active beats and driving synths. The album is a reminder of how deserving God is of our praise while simultaneously demonstrating how much God desires to show us His love. “Jesus Healer” is a personal snapshot of singer Aaron Boyd’s journey with his young daughter who has cystic fibrosis.
Travis Ryan: Fearless
Saddleback Church’s worship leader Travis Ryan releases his debut album based on the scripture 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear. “This is a prayer for me and truth that the church must come alive to,” says Ryan, who motivates Christians to face the issues of spiritual emptiness and corrupt leadership by advocating reconciliation and servanthood through his music and church ministry. In his album, Fearless, Ryan reminds listeners of God’s greatness: that there is nothing to fear, because God will overcome.
Esperanza Spalding: Radio Music Society
Female bass player Esperanza Spalding continues to make jazz music alluring in her album Radio Music Society. The use of instrumentals and chorus create a fuller sound to an already robust expression, which bring additional insight into the storytelling and reflective lyrics. Four tracks feature the horn section of the American Music Program, a youth big band of musicians age 12 to 18 directed by Spalding’s longtime mentor and teacher Dr. Memory. “Radio Song” speaks to the time, “when for whatever reason, you turn on the radio and a fragment of a song just grabs you, everything in the world seems to stop, and you sit mesmerized and uplifted by the music. That moment of “being touched” from the radio is a testament to the power of song, and it’s at that magical moment when an artist – even someone we know nothing about – truly connects with their equally unknown listener,” says Spalding.
Now, Now: Threads
In their album Threads, Now, Now presents vulnerable vocals layered over an intimate dance between guitar leads and lingering synths. Now Now is a trio composed of Cacie Dalager (Vocals, Guitar), Jess Abbott (Vocals, Guitar) and Brad Hale (Drums, Synth), “The band feels like an extension of us as people,” explains Dalager – people who are thoughtful and methodic. “What people will specifically notice about the songs on Threads,” says Hale, “is the way that they are put together. We spent a lot of time going through the basic song ideas and restructuring them to make them their best. Since we haven’t released a full-length in so long, we wanted to make sure we were all loving everything about it before we went all the way out there to record.”
Yellow Ostrich: Strange Land
With a sweet, boyish voice, catchy drums, harmonious horns and a bass that drives each song, Strange Land is literal music to the ears with band members who have grown into their roles and identity as Yellow Ostrich. “At some point you wonder if maybe the grass is greener, and then you go somewhere else and you realize it’s not that much greener — so what do you hope for now?” says Alex Schaaf (singer-guitarist), summing up the themes of the band’s album. “It’s about all those pent-up feelings of anticipation you carry throughout your life,” continues Schaaf, “and what happens to those feelings when imagination becomes reality, and you see things maybe [aren’t quite] as magical and easy as you thought they’d be. When your future becomes your present, an explosion happens; that’s where a lot of this came from.”
Fifteen-year-old British prodigy singer/songwriter Birdy (born Jasmine van den Bogaerde) releases her self-titled debut album. With a haunting and graceful voice, she provides a soulful and sophisticated perspective on renditions from Phoenix (1901), Bon Iver (Skinny Love), Cherry Ghost (People Help The People), Fleet Foxes (White Winter Hymnal), The Postal Service (Distric Sleeps Alone Tonight), Francis and the Lights (Never Forget You), Naked and Famous (Young Blood), The xx (Shelter), James Taylor (Fire & Rain) and The National (Terrible Love). Birdy’s articulation rivals that of Adele and Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, making her an artist who shouldn’t be overlooked.
In her sophomore release, Morgan Nagler of Whispertown brings back ‘80s electronica in songs like “Open The Other Eye.” With “Parallel”, Nagler’s spoken precision mixed with a dreamy melody sounds like it should be on the soundtrack to Never Ending Story. In her drawn out musical accompaniment, she creates a new tie to old school rock ballads. “I Bit Into A Peach” is a perfectly peachy song to transition from Spring into a fun, carefree Summer.
Kasper Bjorke: Fool
Kasper Bjørke, a key figure of the Danish music scene, has become a sought out International artist. With his electronic, techno and dance vibe, his work is versatile and eclectically eccentric. His work takes you on a voyage through your imagination and through your dance.
Kimbra is proving to be an international hit with her highly anticipated debut album Vows which includes sensational songs “Good Intent,” “Cameo Lover” and “Settle Down.” Kimbra’s jazz-inflected style, evocative vocals and passionate articulation create a provocative experience with lyrics of love and beats of precision. She grabs the attention of true love with a retro dance party that raises spirits and heart rates!
Brian Lopez: Ultra
Inspired by the Beatles, while musically evocative in the likeness of M. Ward and Jeff Buckley, Brian Lopez arises with his first full-length solo effort, Ultra. Trained in college in classical guitar performance, Lopez now mixes modern with traditional to fuse his own folk sound. “Ultra is the product of a long and winding music highway [that] has been travel[ed] for years through some interesting byways of song and style, with more than a little personal growth occurring along the route,“ exclaims Lopez.