Title: Call Out
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Review By: Scott L
- Call Out
- Can’t Miss That
- Now You’re Found
- Freedom Is Here
- El Shaddai
- The Lord Is Good
Having family that lives in other states is kinda the norm in our highly mobile society. Not that I’m in any way complaining about distant in-laws… but it certainly can make a family get-together a major shock to the system. Because no one lives a static existence. Everyone changes. One-time toddlers taking their first wobbly steps are suddenly transformed into real little people. Pesky tweens are now young adults that can actually participate in a meaningful conversation. And that favorite uncle who always acted so crazy, you know the one, is amazingly morphed into a respectable businessman with a wife and kids of his own. Time and distance can make for awkward reunions in even the closest of relationships. And that was the general feeling I got when I dropped this CD in for the first time. There was a certain familiarity there. I could identify who it was readily enough, but man-oh-man, had these boys grown up.
I first learned about Esterlyn, a 4-piece alt-rock band out of Boise, Idaho on this very website. Not long thereafter I tracked down their debut release ‘Lamps’. Having then discovered their previous incarnation as Grand Prize, I tracked down that CD as well. Shortly after that I had the opportunity to see them live at Creation Northwest. I’ll never forget that show. It wasn’t that the setting was breathtaking, although it was. It wasn’t that the stage was decorated with lamps or that the band was wearing tweed and polyester business attire in the blistering heat. What made that show stand out was the spirit that they so effortlessly seemed to project. You just knew without a doubt that these guys really did love God and that’s why they were there. They had come to worship and to lead others in doing the same.
This new 8-song release, aptly titled ‘Call Out’, very adeptly captures that same feel. As much as I loved ‘Lamps’, ‘Call Out’ is a giant step forward in every possible way. From the instrumentation, to the technical arrangement, and even to the overall message conveyed. Their sound has been refined to incorporate a tinge of pop into the mix that very succinctly compliments the underlying alt-rock vibe. The overall feel is still there, but it’s more foundational this time out. To be honest, some of the songs held an almost OneRepublic meets The Wrecking sorta sound which I found to be smoother on the ears. It has just enough polish to sparkle out of the speakers without coming across as gaudy and overdone.
I can see Esterlyn being bunched into the same general category as bands like Storyside:B and Telecast simply because, in the broadest sense, they fit… but they’re actually just as different as they are similar to today’s modern praise type bands. This goes back to a very distilled sound that doesn’t come across like just another run-of-the-mill CCM band cranked out to keep a label’s name on a Tuesday release date. This release contains eight pieces of this band’s heart. Bare and on display. And that’s what makes this CD so moving. This isn’t just about putting together some catchy tunes… it’s about something that these guys are passionate about. Musically, I’d say that Esterlyn would be right at home along side bands like The War and Between The Trees. At least stylistically.
Lyrically, Esterlyn is all about conveying gospel truths in accessible packages. I’m gonna say that they spent a good deal of time in their Bibles when they were putting this album together. Kind of a novel approach today. No songs about a movie they saw or their favorite TV show. No songs about a girlfriend that dumped them or about life in a tour bus. The messages here are positive and uplifting. It’s not all about mountaintop experiences, but it is all about living by faith and keeping your eyes on Jesus. Consider the song ‘The Lord Is Good’ which says, ‘I can see the Spirit move again / stirring hearts and calling us within / to a greater purpose than we’ve known / seeing this world with His eyes / the Lord is gracious and full of compassion / the Lord is good to all / slow to anger and great in mercy / the Lord is good to all’. Or how about ‘Now You’re Found’ which says, ‘when you’re feeling forgotten / on your own / when your soul is searching out / and your whole world’s turned around / when your faith is burning out / and love leaves you in doubt / and you know there’s something more / come to Me now / lay your burdens down / come rest in My arms / let My love abound / come to Me now / lay your burdens down / come rest in My arms / you were lost but now you’re found’. The songs are clear, passionate, and genuine. Each seems to build on the previous one and maintain momentum throughout the CD until it closes with the line ‘He knows your name’. That line alone is major food for thought to anyone going through a tough time.
The standout track for me was ‘Freedom Is Here’. This song is so infectious that it’s almost scary. Trying to escape it’s allure is an exercise in futility. But then, who’d want to escape it anyway? A close second was ‘El Shaddai’, and no, it’s not an Amy Grant cover tune. It’s funny because as I’m putting this review together, I realize that I could just go on and on about each song. They’re all unique in their own way and there really isn’t a downer in the bunch. That alone is a testament to just how good this release is.
Overall: Named after a precious little girl who herself is an amazing testimony of God’s profound grace and unending love, Esterlyn has managed to build on their previous efforts and release a stunning album. It’s not easy to capture the heart of worship in a song… let alone 8 songs, but these guys do it in style. I’ve never given a CD a perfect score in a review before… but here it is. This is simply not an album that anyone should pass up.