Artist: Josh Garrels
Release Date: 04/7/15
Reviewer: Ian Zandi
- Born Again
- A Long Way
- The Arrow
- Heaven’s Knife
- Morning Light
- Always Be
- Home At Last
- At the Table
Josh Garrels is what I would define as a “true artist”. When I listen to his music, I truly feel like he put effort into the piece of art the way that any creative being would channel their passion unto a canvas. Garrels has covered a myriad of music styles over the course of his large discography. However, none of his past work has latched on quickly to the listening ear. It was the kind of music that needs attention and a steady mindset to truly enjoy. On his newest album Home, Josh Garrels formed music that was more readily accessible but still contained the authenticity and spirit that he is known for.
While his previous cataloge mostly contained folk/hip-hop combinations, the first half of Home is influenced by 70’s grooves, neo-soul, and psychedelic rock. This can feel disorienting at times during the tempo changes but Garrels’ chilling choruses always bring the songs back “home”. The front of the album evidences this in the songs “Born Again”, “Colors”, “A Long Way”, “Leviathan” and “The Arrow”. In particular, Josh’s distinctive warbeling turns into goosebump-inducing falsettos on “The Arrow”. It is at that point that you want just drop $10 and purchase this album. You know that meme “Shut up and take my money”? That does not apply here. You simply do not want Josh Garrels to shut up and he actually was giving away the album for free. However, the soul-centric portion of this album alone is worth a purchase on iTunes.
I would imagine that it is after track 5 that you would flip the record to Side B. On “Heaven’s Knife”, the songs are taken back to his previous acoustic sound. The love song is explicitly about his wife and is simply beautiful. I can guarantee that you will hear this song at every “ring by spring” wedding at Biola/APU/Concordia/Chapman wedding for anytime in the foreseeable future.
Nearly all artists struggle with the “2nd half of the record is not as good as the first” syndrome. Josh Garrels discovers a way to bypass that through creating songs that are so different from the first half that they cannot be compared to each other. Strangely enough, the transition manages to work and the neo-soul to banjo/harmonica tunes don’t feel awkward. In fact, you could say that they feel right at “home”.
During these final songs, the listener begins to realize that the album played out as a prodigal son narrative. This is most noticeable at “At the Table” which I decipher as a call to return to God’s grace. Though Garrels is an excellent wordsmith, the spiritual content is not hidden beneath the layers of poetry. I would liken some of the songs, such as “Always Be”, to the Psalms written by David.
The final track “Benediction” changes perspective and voice from the rest of the album. True to the track title, he croons final words of wisdom to meditate upon. It leaves the listener with a lesson to be learned from Home (much like that giant buffalo from The Book of Virtues. You know, the one from the Chick-Fil-A meals?).
As the days unfold/Hold your breath to see/life is a mystery
And joy/ it is severe/when the way is rough and steep/but love will make your days complete.
Overall: Josh Garrels is not one to settle for a single sound. My personal preference is the 70’s soul vibe but I am wholeheartedly glad that he created a diverse record. Josh really rolled the dice on this record and I wish him all of the benefits he should reap from it. Furthermore, giving away the album (for a limited time) was also a risky move. To most artist, it would look like they were shooting themselves in the foot. However, that is not the case here. Please listen to this record and pass it on. I cannot recommend it enough.
RIYL: John Mayer, Jon Foreman, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Derek Webb, John Mark McMillan,