Album Review :
John Mark McMillan - Economy

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Band:  John Mark McMillan
Title:  Economy
Label:  Integrity Music
Release Date:  November 1, 2011
Reviewer:  Jessica Cooper

Track Listing:

  1. Sheet Of Night
  2. Daylight
  3. Heart Bleeds
  4. Love You Swore
  5. Murdered Son
  6. Economy
  7. Who Is This
  8. Sins Are Stones
  9. Chemicals
  10. Seen A Darkness

It’s no secret that John Mark McMillan is an incredible songwriter and musician, especially when you examine the poetic fortitude behind the lyrics of “How He Loves” from his album The Medicine. With Economy, the same dynamic and hard-hitting elements of McMillan’s writing carry over to create a sense of familiarity, but in a fresh way.

This release is noticeably different from his last, but still remains true to the identity and style that has been represented across the board by John Mark. Comparably, most of his songs are upbeat, catchy compositions, while the rest really draw you in to deep places of peace and a sense of victory. Economy has an even balance of these two styles, both lyrically and musically.

Economy conveys a heavy, impermeable weight of hope with simple lyrics that are formulated into the most complex concepts of worship that I’ve ever heard. Opening with a tom cadence, “Sheet Of Night” starts this project off with the idea that we all overcome obstacles through the sacrifice of Christ:

“But like diamonds we shine up against the sheet of night, the jet-black sheet of night / We overtake the cityscapes / We scale the heights / We break but we don’t die / Whoa we’ve got a blood / We’ve got a love that’ll brave the flood.”

Then there’s the theme of a promise in “Love You Swore.” This whole album is a progressive list of the journey we embark on when we accept a life centered around Christ, and that’s shown in the desperation of the opening verse and the bridge:

“Chase me down like a lion / Like a bird of prey / Lift me up from the ashes of my heart’s own shallow grave.”

“Harbor me in the eye of the storm / I’m holding on to the love You swore.”

Equally important is the fact that, with his first release being drenched in the transition from death to resurrection, Economy is mostly focused on the idea of trusting God with every aspect of our existence, as a species that naturally wants to control instead of offering life’s outcome up to Him. This is shown in the chorus of the project’s title track, “Economy”:

“But I believe / You can overcome my economy / You can dig me out of the grave.”

The first track I ever heard from this album was “Sins Are Stones” and it still has such an incredibly heavy effect on my heart when I listen to it. From the opening chord progression, through the beautifully layered vocal harmonies, to the reverberating cries at the end, “Sins Are Stones” could easily be matched with “How He Loves” as an anthem of praise:

“All our sins are stones at the bottom of Your oceans / And all our filthy stains have been washed away / By the blood of a Son I have overcome the grave / Recompense is made for the guilty and the shamed / For eternity is gained in the arms of the slain.”

I honestly can’t wrap my head around some of the stuff this guy writes. It’s a bit like a sweet tooth, if you take a moment to relate to what I’m trying to say. When you crave the sweetness of sugar, only one thing abates that calling, and there’s a sense of satisfaction. With music, or poetry, or anything that expresses emotion, analogically your heart is what calls out for fulfillment. When I listen to songs like “Chemicals” or “Heart Bleeds”, it’s like that craving for crafted diction subsides. Call me a word nerd.

“But I want to love you when the blood of my veins don’t know how to call out your name / Yea, I want to love you when the birds don’t hang around.” – from “Chemicals”

“We could be reveling forever in the love You bring / And we could be wasted on You and not count it lost / Like fools in love, we’re bound to make a scene.” – from “Hearts Bleed”

Overall:  Economy is phenomenal, in my opinion, as far as composition goes and the general fact that John Mark McMillan is so dynamically consistent in his writing. With so much music being produced and released, it’s quite difficult to put a rating on anyone’s talent or capabilities, especially when I’m not a musician myself. But this project is unmistakably one of the greater productions of 2011, and it’s apparent in every lyric, line, and chord between. It’s a heart-wrecker for sure, and definitely worth the special order I made at Hastings before its release. If you were a fan of The Medicine, you won’t be disappointed by Economy.