- Center of It
- The Upside of Down
- This Side of Heaven
- Let There Be Light
- I Believe
- Unashamed of You
- A Little More Jesus
- Let the Music Play
- Water into Wine
- Meant to Be
- Truth is Still True
Winning Best New Artist at the 2010-11 Dove Awards, Chris August has garnered many fans since his inception into the Christian music genre with his radio single ‘Starry Night’ back in 2010. Initially a mainstream artist, this soul-pop Christian artist has captured many listeners and gained much critical acclaim with his poignant lyrics and hopeful melodies of honesty. Now back on Fervent Records with his second label album in The Upside Of Down, Chris’s stellar radio single ‘Center of It’ has reminded even him at how Christ is at the centre of our lives. Just recently recovering after a horrific skateboarding accident that left him unable to remember anything related to the incident; Chris has been able to stay strong and rely on God during moments of confusion in the weeks and months after. As listeners are able to take a glimpse into Chris’s life and see what kind of faith drives him to keep making the music he does, this soulful album is something different to the contemporary pop many listeners are used to hearing, which is a good thing as I come to appreciate Chris’s musical style and assert him as one of my favourite new artists over the past few years!
Starting the album with his chart-topping single ‘Center of It’, Chris is able to weave together lines of poetic imagery to create a song that more people are feeling than they’re expressing. Featuring a riveting keyboard baseline, Chris relays how he can sometimes feel ‘…like I can’t win, can’t get it right and it don’t matter how hard I try, today is not my day…’, a feeling that comes over us at least once in our lives. However, what is spoken about time again in these uplifting melodies, and specifically in this song, is that Christ is in the midst of everything that we do and everything we are, lifting us up and encouraging us that ‘…when I rise, when I fall, You’ll be there, through it all, at the start, at the end, in the center of it…’ Though short at 3:03, the heartfelt melody offers hope through these words of inspiration, with the listener certain of Christ’s involvement, for our good and His glory as we trust His ways above ours! Well done Chris for this vulnerable song, and one of my favourite of the year alongside Matthew West’s ‘Forgiveness’, MercyMe’s ‘The Hurt and the Healer’ and Karyn Williams’ ‘Rest in the Hope’!
With the folk-soul genre weaving throughout each song, listening to the album has been refreshing, adding to my appreciation of the music style. The title track ‘The Upside of Down’ further expands on themes brought to light in ‘Center of It’, complete with a looping percussion and a grooving melodic undertone, guaranteed to leap listeners off their seats to sway to the music. As Chris starts to sing, ‘…funny how we figure out where happiness is found, in the midst of this sadness I’m closer to You now and that’s the upside of down…’, we are reminded that sometimes in the moments when difficulty strikes, we are able to draw close to Christ in the moments of crippling fear, where the only person we can rely on is God. Living the Christian life can seem an upside-down thing, which this song expounds upon. ‘Restore’ is another melody that gives us reassurance that Christ is in control of situations that we aren’t. With a running theme of the Lord in the centre of moments beyond any control, we are introduced to a marriage situation in desperate need of help. Filled with a strong keyboard atmosphere and a hauntingly refreshing vocal, Chris offers the solution, that ‘…you’re feeling like it’s falling apart and it can’t go on anymore, but God is a God who knows how to heal…and He will restore…’ What a freeing understanding that God is able to step in and fix the unfixable. Well done Chris for these hopeful melodies!
A mixture of thematic elements thread through the album: all leading to God’s promise for our future in light of our present circumstances. ‘Amen’ features a gospel choir towards the end as it speaks about the coming of Jesus and that ‘…the troubles of this world, they’re comin’ to an end and all my brothers and my sisters let me hear it…amen…’ and is one of the many songs that not necessarily as appealing from first listen (maybe because I’m not that familiar with the gospel genre) but after a few listen, it certainly grows on me. Also giving hope about this life is ‘This Side of Heaven’, a 2:57 acoustically driven melody about how we ought to just stop all the worrying about ‘…the things we think we know but honestly we really don’t…’ This light and musically refreshing song of being content and free from stress is a welcomed addition to an album clear at creating an atmosphere where God is at the centre of our lives, urging us to give all our troubles to Him. ‘Unashamed of You’ is one of the very few upbeat bundles of joy on this album as Chris gives us his motivation and declaration that he will only sing about what Christ has done in his life. Featuring hand-claps and a stirring guitar strumming chords, we are able to listen to how as Christians, we ought to make the moments in our lives count, and that ‘…I could talk about the weather, could talk about nothing all day, I’d rather talk about what lasts forever…’ Giving a sobering reminder of what we do and whether it counts for eternity, this song is a declaration; just as much as a ‘wake-up’ call for Christians to stand for our faith in the moments when we might cave.
Both ‘Water into Wine’ and ‘A Little More Jesus’ appeal to more of a reflective listener as Chris shows that Christ longs for our hearts and if we give it to Him, He will ‘…take these broken wings and teach them to fly…changing me from water into wine…’ (‘Water into Wine’) With an acoustic guitar and percussion, Chris takes us on a journey of renewal and restoration as we are met with a promise that God continues to make us anew, transforming our hearts to His likeness on our journey through life. ‘A Little More Jesus’ also reminds us about less of us and more of Him as we understand His role as the centre of our lives. Also fitting in a gospel setting, Chris has transformed this melody into one of my favourites, singing along with Chris as I’m constantly reassured that ‘…I could use a little more Jesus and a little bit less of me…’ But it is the two melodies ‘Let There Be Light’ and ‘Truth is Still True’ that have been instrumental of late in shining on the theme of living out the gospel wherever we are, and as we understand the truth of who we are in Christ, we ought to ‘…start living what I’ve been believing, what I got I want the whole world seein’, let there be light…’ (‘Let There Be Light’) As I soak in Chris’s hopeful words about how freeing it would be to open up about the God of the universe and His impact in my life, I am able to understand that ‘…no matter how I feel, I know Your truth is still true…’ (‘Truth is Still True’). Well done Chris for these acoustic melodies that speak to the heart of our motivation behind our faith and why we share what we believe!
Overall: There is a line in the melody in ‘I Believe’ that hits the nail on the head in terms of the take-home message from this album. As Chris cries out that ‘…sometimes I won’t feel it, but that don’t change a thing, cause it’s by faith that I believe…’, I’m reminded of the ‘footprints in the sand’ story and how God is always with us no matter the situation. With a heart of hope and heartfelt melodies of hopefulness; Chris August’s The Upside of Down creates a musical freshness, introducing listeners like me to soul/pop/acoustic; a mix of genres that leads to the album leading the way as one of the most poetically poignant collection of songs released in August 2012! Well done Chris for these 14 tracks of praise to Christ the King!
RIYL: newworldson, Jimmy Needham, The City Harmonic, Chris Tomlin