Album Review :
for KING AND COUNTRY - Hope is What We Crave (DVD/CD)

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Title: Hope is What We Crave (DVD/CD)
Label: Fervent Records
Release Date: 8/27/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre


Disc One – DVD

  1. Fine Fine Life – Live Performance
  2. Light It Up: From the Rooftop – Live Performance
  3. Middle Of Your Heart – Live Performance
  4. Missing – Live Performance
  5. Pushing On A Pull Door – Live Performance
  6. Busted Heart (Hold On To Me) – Live Performance
  7. Baby Boy – Live Performance
  8. Crave – Live Performance
  9. The Proof Of Your Love (The Monologue Mix) – Live Performance
  10. The Proof Of Your Love Official Music Video
  11. An Inside Look: Making The Music Video
  12. An Inside Look: The Song + Music Video
  13. An Inside Look: A Busted Heart
  14. An Inside Look: Love’s To Blame, Missing, and People Change
  15. Busted heart (Hold On To Me) – In-Studio Acoustic Performance (Recorded Live at KLOVE Studios in Rocklin, CA)
  16. The Proof Of Your Love – In-Studio Acoustic Performance (Recorded Live at KLOVE Studios in Rocklin, CA)
  17. Middle Of Your Heart – In-Studio Acoustic Performance (Recorded Live at KLOVE Studios in Rocklin, CA)

Disc Two – CD: Live audio from Hope Is What We Crave | LIVE

  1. Fine Fine Life
  2. Light It Up
  3. Middle Of Your Heart
  4. Missing
  5. Pushing On A Pull Door
  6. Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)
  7. Baby Boy
  8. Crave
  9. The Proof Of Your Love (The Monologue Mix)

Nominated for New Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards in October, for KING AND COUNTRY’s rise to fame and acclaim has been quite quick. Since starting the band and known as CCM/pop artist Rebecca St. James’s younger brothers, the duo of Joel and Luke Smallbone have been one a rollercoaster ride all the way to the top- with appreciation and universal praise coming along with hit songs and encouraging messages ever since their Fervent Records debut album Crave released in 2012. Recently named ‘Breakthrough artist of the Year’ at the first annual K-Love fan awards in May, as well as the band being on the list of 17 artists to watch as named by Billboard; it is the comment by American Songwriter that declares that ‘for KING & COUNTRY may just be Australia’s answer to Coldplay’ that I’m sure will increase interest in the band in the upcoming months. Signed to the same record label (Fervent Records) as Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Dara Maclean and Group 1 Crew; this Australian duo’s anticipated live album, featuring 8 out of the 11 tracks from their debut, as well as their Christmas song, ‘Baby Boy’, is something to behold. With both CD and DVD, Hope is What We Crave features the live concert of 9 songs, the music video of ‘Proof of Your Love’, acoustic K-Love videos of their three radio singles (‘Busted Heart’, ‘Middle of Your Heart’, ‘Proof of Your Love’), as well as some behind the scenes documentaries and stories behind the songs. Add to this DVD set a CD featuring the 9 tracks from the night and then you get a double disc album that’s certainly worth it if you enjoy the songs from the band’s album, or enjoy music similar to artists like Coldplay, The City Harmonic, Downhere and Jars of Clay.

As I sat down to watch the DVD around a week ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many DVD’s of artist’s live concerts can certainly be hit and miss, and even if the concert is good, dodgy cinematography or camera angles that don’t fit can ruin the whole entire experience. Thankfully, for KING AND COUNTRY’s DVD Hope is What we Crave doesn’t fall into the category of DVD’s that are ‘boring’ or ‘just ok’. Starting off the night with the explosive guitar driven ‘Fine Fine Life’; both Joel and Luke declare out powerfully to the words ‘…it’s a fine, fine life…’, a reminder to listeners that it is when we bring our worries to Christ that we can discover and enjoy the fine life we have fully to the potential Christ longs for us to enjoy it. While I must admit that they flashing lights (not only during this song, but throughout the DVD) can be a bit of a distraction from the music, it does however create great entertainment and theatrics, bringing in the younger generation as they try to appeal to that crowd, with energetic music, lights and a variety of musical instruments- Luke primarily plays the drums as well as sings, not one of the traditional drum sets, but those big side drums that marching bands play. A feat that even I myself can’t do even if I tried, Joel also plays some unique instruments on the night, from xylophone, glockenspiel and a keyboard-accordion hybrid, to the keytar, an instrument most famous to me from the David Crowder*Band during some of their live sets. for KING AND COUNTRY’s energy and atmosphere on stage is certainly electric and energising to see, with the concert as a whole a glimpse into what live concerts were like with for KING AND COUNTRY on stage.

Throughout the concert, we hear some of the most loved and some of the most powerful songs they’ve ever written. The meaning behind their song ‘Light it Up’ sneaks into the song itself as they performed it live on the night. With Joel sharing that they wrote the song for someone who was suffering from depression, it is a testimony in and of itself when we hear Joel say that their friend told them that writing the song was one of the best things that has ever happened to him throughout the ordeal, reminding ourselves that even in the moments where we may seem like we’re the only ones experiencing our issue, we are met with the encourager that ‘…don’t you see that you are not alone…’ ‘Light It Up’, both song and video, is one of my favourites on the project. ‘Middle of Your Heart’, also providing us comfort and encouragement through the words of how we long for God to ‘…take me to the middle of Your heart, lead me to wherever Your love starts…’; showcases both Joel and Luke giving out enthusiasm and emotion as we watch their music performance on DVD. With Luke simultaneously singing and pounding the big side drum and Joel using the unique instrument which is the xylophone; the third single from Crave is a prayer to the Lord, offering up ourselves as we allow God to take us to His heart, aligning our thoughts and actions with His, even if it means for us to be confronted with the worst of ourselves and our decisions in the process. With the band stripping the music down to perform an acoustic version of their song ‘Missing’ next, it is the mainstream song where Joel reminisces on a previous relationship that went awry and how he wishes he could’ve done something better, that seems to be slightly out of place on the project. While the cinematography is great as we see the lights dimmed down and the camera angles on both Luke and Joel’s faces to convey the emotion being brought out by the song, I can’t help but wonder whether this song would be great to sing moving forward, considering that Joel is now married to CCM recording artist Moriah Peters (if I were to witness and hear every night my spouse’s song about a previous relationship and how they wished they had done things better, I don’t know if I would feel entirely comfortable about it).

Throughout the rest of both the live CD album and the DVD concert, both Joel and Luke deliver to us some poignant melodies full of hope, and certainly some of the most popular songs on both the album as a whole, and throughout their music career. ‘Pushing on a Pull Door’, while not very well known to the general public, is a song that is full of energy and power as we witness both Joel and Luke showing us another track about surrender (complete with lots of strings, rising percussion, keyboard and drums). We need to understand to let go of our lives, and give control over to the one who made it, when all we are doing is ‘…pushing on a pull door…’. Sung from God’s point of view, this is a reminder to the control freak in all of us to just give everything to God, knowing that ‘…I’m your wake-up call…’ Add to this the remainder four tracks (arguably the four most famous songs sung by for KING AND COUNTRY ever) of ‘Crave’, ‘Baby Boy’, ‘Busted Heart’ and the monologue mix of ‘Proof of Your Love’; it is great to see both Luke and Joel having fun on stage, enjoying their moments of worship and praise as we see interesting and unique instruments take the foreground in each of the songs.

While not delivered in the way the radio single was produced (with guitars, drums etc), the piano rendition of ‘Crave’ is a calling for something better and bigger than ourselves, reminding us that the insatiable desire of some to fulfil our own needs before someone else’s is gravely unhealthy, both for ourselves, but also for the people we are in communion and fellowship with every day. The passion exuberated on screen (and on the CD) when we hear and see the stringed instruments on the introduction of ‘Proof of Your Love’ is quite riveting, as we witness an anthem taking off about us declaring that our lives are a reflection and proof of what God has done within us. Both ‘Busted Heart’ and ‘Baby Boy’ were great songs, and great live performances of them too, but sadly, compared to the rest of these seven tracks, these two songs sadly came in near the bottom in terms of enjoyability and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the concert as a whole is a great moment to see on screen and hear on the CD album, reminding us that live performances can easily be captured on film, especially for listeners and viewers of the band who may not have enough cash or time to trek out to see them live when they visit their area.

It’s always good to see behind the scenes footages of music videos, music videos themselves, as well as story behind the song documentaries, so it is a great addition, to have the music video of ‘Proof of Your Love’, the stories behind ‘Proof of Your Love’ and ‘Busted Heart’, as well as the making of the music video and the K-Love performances of the band’s three radio singles as bonus features on the DVD. The music video for ‘Proof of Your Love’, directed by Joel and Luke’s brother Ben Smallbone, tells a mini-story about an institutionalised underground prison, and about a revolt that leads to the inmates being awakened to the atrocities done to them by the guards, and them escaping into the light of the world. As we are reminded by the video and song, as we speak the love of God and become the proof that everyone needs to see and hear, it is the love of God that comes to convict those we meet, setting them free from their own prisons as we as Christians collectively sing out for God to ‘…let my life be the proof, the proof of Your love…’ Shot in a cinematic way with darker colour frames and great costuming; it is also nice to have the behind the scenes video about how the music video came, from storyboard to screen if you will. But the real gems from the bonus features are the story behind the songs. While on the official tracklisting, there were story-behind-the-songs videos on a number of songs (‘Busted Heart’, ‘Proof of Your Love’, ‘Love’s to Blame’, ‘Missing’ and ‘People Change’); on my version that I received, there was only ‘Busted Heart’ and ‘Proof of Your Love’ song stories. Nevertheless, what I did receive was great, with Joel discussing in each of these two videos the meaning behind the songs and what they meant to him.

While Joel reminded us to be vulnerable and that it’s ok for us to admit that our hearts are busted in the story behind ‘Busted Heart’; it is the story behind ‘Proof of Your Love’ that really spoke to me personally. In it, Joel asks the question ‘…when in my life has culture swallowed me up? And I don’t know if I’ve ever had that moment when I’ve come to that realisation that I’ve been swallowed up completely…but I’ve realised my potential issue is work…the tool that I want to use to encourage people and spur people on and inspire people to do something great and be someone great is the very thing that ultimately, ironically, could be the demise of me as a person if I’m not very careful…’ Looking at that quote, I myself can sometimes realise that even in what I do (reviewing, going to church, study, university, catching up with friends and socialising with bible study group members) can also be the demise of me as well…if I don’t have love when I’m in those moments carrying out those tasks and conversing with those people. As Joel explains and reminds us that if we’re achieving things for the wrong motivations, our result can be void if we don’t have our priorities in check. With this story behind the song giving us a sobering reminder to always keep in mind the reason why we do and accomplish things, it is great to hear the stories that inspire some of these tracks on the album. Add to this unique acoustic performances from inside the K-Love studio, for KING AND COUNTRY’s CD, DVD concert and bonus features is a perfect gift, whether you have known the band for a while, or if you’re just a newer fan to their music!

Overall: for KING AND COUNTRY’s ability to utilise everything on the stage (the instruments, jumping around, the lights) make for a good live show, and one that when you sit down to watch it, you’re almost immersed in it, feeling like you’re there with them. While the concert was on the tad shorter side, this is a great introduction to a band that I tip will win the New Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards held in October 2013. From ‘Middle of Your Heart’, to ‘Proof of Your Love’ and ‘Crave’; this is a live album not to be missed or even be unsure about- this is a great album, no matter what your genre of music that you listen to. With CCM, pop, acoustic, rock anthems and praise moments all on the album, Hope is What We Crave is also my pick for a nomination for Long Form Music Video of the Year at the 2014 Dove Awards. Basically being superstars and popular artists overnight with their hit single ‘Busted Heart’; this project is sure to propel them to newer and higher heights as we witness one of the most exponential growths (in popularity) of a Christian artist since Chris August and Sidewalk Prophets in 2010/11. Well done guys for such an inspired and powerful performance (both on DVD and CD)!

RIYL: Jars of Clay, Coldplay, The City Harmonic, Sanctus Real, Downhere

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3