- Who You Are
- Reach the Sky
- Second Chances
- Only You
- Faithful to You
- Love Like You
- Forever Yours
- Be There for Me
- Right Here, Right Now
- Beautiful Life
With heartfelt melodies and hopeful prayers, Marlene Brehm’s debut album Reach the Sky is the latest album to be released by Dream Records, home of artists like Evan Craft, Jonathan Thulin and Warr Acres. Originally scheduled for release back in April 2012 (and then pushed back til July and now releasing on September 18th); Marlene moved from Texas to California to pursue her dreams of acting and music. Now releasing her hopefully first of many studio albums, these 10 tracks combine a mixture of pop, rock and reflective ballads as Marlene gives listeners a glimpse into her heart and passion for sharing Christ and alleviating human trafficking. With many songs on the record inspired by her mission trips to India, Reach the Sky thematically delves into giving our whole lives over to Christ, diving in deep into His presence, trusting His love and overcoming challenges as we live our lives sold out for Him. Produced by Dove Award winner Rusty Varenkamp (Tenth Avenue North, Bebo Norman), this is an album full of fun energy and meaningful melodies as listeners immerse themselves into Marlene’s encouraging words of redemption, restoration, and reminders, that ‘…the storm can never keep you down, if you hold on, you can overcome it now…’ (‘Reach the Sky’).
First radio single ‘Only You’ is a dance melody at heart, featuring plenty of electric guitars and looping percussion beats, as Marlene declares at the top of her lungs that ‘…everywhere I go You are with me, nobody like You, You prove it’s You and only You…I’m falling for You, it’s true, it’s You and only You…’, her devotion to Christ ever present throughout this hopeful song about surrendering to the One who first loved us, even in the sinful nature we so long to rid ourselves of. Reminding me vocally a mixture between Britt Nicole and Natalie Grant, Marlene has created a song with a passionate punch of emotional tug as we remember that God ‘…love[s] me to my core…’, with all my faults and mistakes, thus creating a freeing motion as we lay down our barriers between us and Him. This poignant realisation is one of my favourite songs on the album and though only 2:45, this gritty melody is able to impact many listeners, as we listen and immerse ourselves with the knowledge that God loves us as we are, but also encourages us to be transformed daily in Him. Well done Marlene for such an enjoyable first single!
Marlene’s album is filled with many hidden gems, applicable for both the avid Christian music listener, as well as the seeker too. That’s what makes this album special- many tracks on the album are of the motivational and inspirational variety and are able to draw in the casual listener with some positive, uplifting and stirring music; where they listen and the Holy Spirit speaks. ‘Reach the Sky’, the title track, is one of these songs. As the synth keyboard starts up, Marlene offers console and support to those feeling like they can’t move on with their dreams and aspirations. Providing hope in the words ‘…on your knees is where it turns around, cos the shell must break before the bird can fly, you can reach the sky…’, I realise that it is only when we cry out to God (sometimes on our knees through prayer!), that we are able to accomplish in His strength, rather than trying on our own. The motif of a shell breaking and the bird flying is a bitter pill to swallow- to start venturing outside the nest can be scary, but we know that with Christ in us and beside us, we can reach the sky as we travel with Him! Both ‘Who You Are’ and ‘Forever Yours’ are two heartfelt tracks about our relationships with the Father, and how we are able to just stop and take a step back to realise God’s faithfulness, and acknowledge that there are even some aspects of God we haven’t and probably won’t understand until we see Him face to face. Still, we will praise Him and long for Him to ‘…lead me cause I wanna be faithful, believe me – I’m desiring You…’ (‘Who You Are’), thanking Him in the process ‘…for the good times, You fill all my heart’s desires, I’m so happy I’m alive…’ (‘Forever Yours’). Through the use of guitars, great harmonious backing vocals and percussion, these two songs, though each below 3 minutes, are some of the most uplifting and praise songs on the album! Well done Marlene for offering up melodies to God as we sing along in praise as well!
‘Be There For Me’, ‘Second Chances’ and ‘Love Like You’ are all lyrically poignant as Marlene shares some of her most personal experiences through these songs. ‘Be There For Me’ starts with a guitar stirring introduction that leads to scenarios where personas are crying to the Lord, offering ‘…my life, I give in today, all I need is for you to be there for me…’, a simple prayer with an equally profound response as we know that God always hears the cries of the broken-hearted and needy, and always answers regardless of the circumstance. This electric guitar driven song is one of many songs of redemption, comfort, and sometimes confrontation as Marlene stretches lyrical boundaries to pose questions as we listen to the song ‘Second Chances’, inspired by the young women affected by the sex trade. As Marlene offers encouragement, ‘…It’s not too late to make a difference! We can stand together and help in this silent war…’ I am reminded of all those who don’t have a choice that I sometimes take for granted. A sobering thought that places life in perspective, the acoustical riffs draw listeners into this melody that is destined to impact someone’s life, either victims or those who feel like they want to advocate on behalf of another! ‘Love Like You’ is then the impact that ‘Second Chances’ should have on us. Once we realise a desperate need (whether it is providing awareness of slaves or the like), we need to take a stand, and journey together. Loving each other is the first step to changing the world, and through this electronic keyboard-emphasised song, we should all be inspired ‘…to love like You…to live like You…’ What a wonderful gift to give someone as we live our everyday lives; well done Marlene for singing about this ‘understood-yet-not-practiced-nearly-enough’ topic!
Now and again an artist sings a mainstream song, a song not to God but about circumstances in life that need to be sung about. Marlene uses her music to offer hope for those still single in ‘Beautiful Life’ and also sings from the persona of someone in love with their spouse, or their girlfriend or boyfriend in ‘Right Here Right Now’. Something that isn’t really sung in Christian circles, love songs remind us of how much Christ loves His creation (since man and woman are made in His image). The devotion that Marlene sings through ‘Right Here Right Now’ ‘…with you holding me, it’s how life is meant to be. There ain’t nothing we can’t weather…’ is something that I hope to have when I’m singing to my future wife sometime down the track. Just seeing through the media many failing marriages gives me resolve to work hard when I do marry- with this song reminding me that ‘…when times get tough, I know you’ll be there…’ ‘Beautiful Life’ is for the other part of the population, myself included; that are not in a relationship and are single! Sometimes we can be discouraged that we may not find our ‘other half’, but I am certain that God’s timing is perfect! Through looping percussion and Marlene’s serene vocal ability, we are encouraged to hold onto Christ, trusting that His plan is for our good and His glory. Well done Marlene for giving the single guys/girls hope, in God’s perfect timing as we trust His ways!
Overall: Reach the Sky is an album full of motivation and inspiration, stirring songs of surrender and inspirational instances of inward change, moving beyond our comfort zone to tackle issues we may shun ourselves away from that this album draws out through poignant songs like ‘Second Chances’. All the while praising God through the lyrics ‘…no matter what this world will put me through, I am faithful to You…’ (‘Faithful To You’); Marlene’s 10 tracks offer the listener a range of musical genres, from slow ballads to pop-rock anthems and dance melodies. A must buy for anyone who enjoys contemporary power-pop from artists like Natalie Grant, Britt Nicole and Francesca Battistelli; Marlene’s debut is certain to place her on the radar as one of females best new artists since Kerrie Roberts in 2010! Well done Marlene for giving us a glimpse into your world as we see your infectious love for Christ the Saviour!
RIYL: Francesca Battistelli, Britt Nicole, The Afters, Natalie Grant