Album Review :
Hawk Nelson ".....Is My Friend"

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Artist: HAWK NELSON
Album:…IS MY FRIEND! Special Edition
Label: Tooth & Nail/BEC
Release Date: April 1st, 2008
Review by: Tyler Hess

edit: oops, forgot to rate it. Numbers are weird. B- with the DVD helping the curve.

Track list:
YOU HAVE WHAT I NEED
FRIEND LIKE THAT
TURN IT ON
ONE LITTLE MIRACLE
LET’S DANCE
ANCIENT HISTORY
SOMEBODY ELSE
ARMS AROUND ME
JUST LIKE ME
NOT THE SAME
WORDS WE SPEAK
I STILL MISS YOU

BONUS SONGS:
ONE LITTLE MIRACLE (ACOUSTIC WITH AMY GRANT)
FRIEND LIKE THAT (ACOUSTIC)
’BRING EM OUT

DVD FEATURES:
4 music videos for: California, Zero, Friend like that, Bring ’em Out
Making of Friend Like That video
In the Studio Session with Amy Grant
Video of the band skydiving

Through the twists and turns of marketing and music elitists, I believe that through this album Hawk Nelson fans will truly understand what they are about musically and morally, both good and bad, and hopefully the band will have learned this as well by the time they are ready to make another album. There are things that work really well for this pop rock with a hint of pop-punk quartet, and there are things that fall short of the prize we know as rock awesomeness. The best of Hawk Nelson will come in two varieties, one with a fast pace and power chords with the instruments and the vocals blazing, the other being stripped down to a simple acoustic guitar and/or keyboard and a nice melody. It is the in between section that needs to be tossed into the recycle bin and picked up by waste management never to be seen again. This album has a little bit of all of that mixed in, to give us some tricks, some treats and the apple slices that your parents should have told you not to eat. Maybe this should have come out on Halloween?

“…IS MY FRIEND” starts off strong with three fast tracks that quickly demonstrate front man Jason Dunn’s vocal strengths and his desire to put his faith in God over the hype that the world produces. The firs track, “you have what I need” is one of the strongest, showing us how guitarist Jonathan Steingard (Also known for his solo work with Fox Run and September Satelite) can push us through a song with his handiwork, as the lyrics convey listening to God’s truth as opposed to what the media is giving us. The first single to the album follows in “friend like that”, which is a fun, simple, catchy, sing-a-long song that probably isn’t the most inspiring, but is relatable in that we all have a sense of needing to belong. Turn it on is up next, not giving us anything amazing, but keeps up the pace and keeps the head boppin’ until the first sentimental song of the album, “One Little Miracle”, which works better in the extended edition with Amy Grant offering up her guest vocals. “Let’s dance” picks up the pace where “turn it on” left off, once again shunning the idea that we have to be like everyone else, a good old fashioned anti-idolatry song that a lot of the kids on the scene have always needed to here, that there is more to us than what we look like. “Ancient History” follows suit detailing relationship that just doesn’t click, due to a person caring about only themselves, something that anyone in a bad relationship could probably understand.

This is where the album gets a little rough, trying some different things on for size, where a few songs probably could have been left out without hurting anyone. “Somebody Else” is a so-so song lamenting friends saying he wasn’t who he was before, which a lot of people go through, but was too vague to latch onto. “Arms around me” is a song that simply doesn’t fit, neither fast enough or slow enough to show enough emotion or musical strength, despite being a concept worthy of the Psalms, as he tries to find comfort with God when things are hard. “Just like me” tries to resolve conflict between people who can’t stand each other because they are too much like each other, something that reminds me about something regarding a speck, a plank and an eye, but has a great chorus to bring out the point. By the time we get to “Not the same”, I feel like there is too much back and forth’; fast song, slow song, fast song, slow song, its hard to stay in one mood, as the song is a typical one dedicated to a hometown and the good ole times, but is nothing too grand.

Oh. Oh. I’m interested again with “words we speak”. This is catchy, fast, smooth, and makes me want to listen. It is a little hard to follow, but essentially is going to give us the idea of getting out lives back by giving it up to God. To cap off the album, Hawk leaves us with the touching “I still miss you”, offering up the reminiscence of a grandmother that brought him up to know Jesus and the pain he feels, despite knowing that Jesus is in control of the situation. Honest. Real. Relatable.

So, with an up and down album, I have learned more about the band that is Hawk Nelson, and despite its faults would still recommend this album (for a reasonable price), as there is enough in this album that thanks to technology we can keep the songs on our ipod, zune, etc. to keep us interested. For those who liked one of their previous efforts (Letters to the President and Smile, It’s the end of the world), there is enough similarity to each of them that there has to be something for you to enjoy here, even if you just want to buy a few songs off of Itunes or something similar. For those who thought “Smile…” lacked in spiritual content, “…Is my friend” more than makes up for it.