Album Review :
Loftland - I Don't Want To Dance

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Artist: Loftland
Title: I Don’t Want To Dance
Label: DREAM Records
Release Date: 2/18/14
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. Today is a New Day
  2. Girl Like That
  3. How You Love Me
  4. Lie to Me
  5. Can’t Get Enough
  6. Lovesick
  7. Hold On, Small One
  8. I Don’t Want to Dance
  9. Runaway
  10. Let’s Make It Loud

With the label starting in the late 2000s, DREAM Records houses some of Christian music’s most diverse, eclectic, powerful and unique artists, from Jonathan Thulin, David Thulin, Warr Acres and Evan Craft, to Nicole Croteau, Press Play, Kingdom and Hannah Rose. Enter in another new artist signed to the label- Loftland, a pop rock band from Wisconsin, that; according to the DREAM Records website, …fuses honest and uplifting lyrics with inescapably infectious hooks that are sure to stick in your head for days on end…’ While I am generally a little apprehensive at listening to newer artists (because of the fact that they are unproven), Loftland is certainly a band to listen to if you are a fan of similar artists like Press Play, Anthem Lights or Group 1 Crew. Great for dance parties, but also to just listen to and reflect upon, these 4 men, though young in their age (with a median age between them only 21), make up for it with powerful lyrics and life experiences to draw their music on. Proven artists by DREAM Records (namely Jonathan Thulin, Warr Acres and Press Play) have coloured me interested and intrigued for this album release, and while I Don’t Want to Dance is in stiff competition with Kutless, Ellie Holcomb, Anthem Lights and John Waller in terms of albums releasing in the month of February, it’s fun pop-rock nature and the band’s ability to write songs that appeal to both lovers of Christian and mainstream music is certainly going to be an asset for the band in the upcoming weeks and months. From the poignant first single ‘Hold On, Small One’, a prayer for all those in difficult situations to hold on to the love of Jesus, to the upbeat and potential mainstream single ‘Girl Like That’, a song about finding the right partner (set to electronic dance music), this is certainly going to be a highlight amongst DREAM Records album releases, and a hopeful standout amongst lovers of Christian pop/dance music and mainstream music alike!

The first radio single on the album, ‘Hold On, Small One’ is possibly one of the most reflective songs on the entire album. With more than half of Loftland’s debut material being dance material, their debut single stands out in a good way, breaking the mould and perception that bands stereotyped as boy bands in the pop dance genre (which Anthem Lights are a part of, and now to some extent Loftland), and giving us a refreshing sound that gives us something to reflect upon and mull over. With looping percussion to start off one of the lyrically strongest songs on the album, Loftland launch into a moment of comfort and clarity, reminding us all who feel discouraged to ‘…hold on, small one, I’m right beside you, when the storms they come and all your hope is gone…’ Arguably the most toned-down song on an album littered with dance beats and to be honest, an overload of songs based upon the pop-dance music genre; Loftland find a gem in this heartfelt melody, as we are encouraged to hold onto God during times of trials and heartache. With the band having striking parallels musically to artists like Anthem Lights, Plus One and even to some weird extent the 1990s boy band Backstreet Boys, Loftland manage to fashion a song that isn’t necessarily affiliated with these aforementioned bands (which is a good thing). A change on an album that can make someone dislike mainstream pop and dance after hearing this album (or discourage you from listening to that genre anytime soon after hearing this album from start to finish), I myself didn’t really mind the pop-dance of the album, and ‘Hold On Small One’ certainly stands out for all the right reasons, with the message of it being what every listener wants to hear- that ‘…you’re never too far gone or too far out to sea…’ A great song on an otherwise a tad overdone album in terms of dance electronic elements, the band nevertheless place the heart and hope towards these ten tracks, and even if I may not have been fully appreciative of the album as a whole, there have been certain songs that stick out that make this album at least something that can be listened to and investigated if someone wanted to.

With dance/pop at the forefront of Loftland’s mind when they created the album, it’s almost standard and expected to see that the remainder 9 tracks infuse electronics and dance together to create songs that have an inspiring and motivational message, yet also be universal in that their songs could easily be played on the dance floor or in any pub or club and no one would flinch or say a word. ‘How You Love Me’ is one of my favourite dance songs on I Don’t Want To Dance, and while it does have some cliché lyrical moments- ‘…love is the change that changes me, love is the way that makes a way, love is the difference in between, who I am and how you love me…’, the message is clear- that the love that changes us, Christ’s love, is the difference between who we were and who we are, between who we are now and who He sees us as. And while this song can entirely be sung to a girl (or guy) and it wouldn’t even matter, what we know about the band and their hearts for music ministry, it is clear that we are reminded about the love of Christ through this song, amidst all the dance beats and distorted vocals. ‘Today is a New Day’, the first song on the album, leaves a great impression musically with the distorted keyboards and unique instrumentation reminding me of something you hear when you play Super Mario on Nintendo, and therefore immediately, drawing people into the album. Yet sadly, the lyrics, while giving us a good message of starting each day afresh and knowing that each new day is an opportunity and a challenge to live life better, leave us (myself at least) with an understanding that this song has been sung before- with more inspired lyrics, and frankly, a much better sound than what Loftland has produced. With a chorus like ‘…today is a new day, I got a new song in my heart, today is a new day, I’m taking it in with open arms…’, I can’t help it but draw parallels in terms of theme towards Lincoln Brewster’s similar song ‘Today is the Day’, a much more refined, powerful and emotional track that is easily memorable and much more impacting. Nevertheless, ‘Today is a New Day’ is sure to give listeners a taste into what dance pop with a message sounds like, and can either pull listeners further into the album or push them away.

‘Let’s Make It Loud’, the title track of their previous independent EP, is the last track on the album, and as far as last tracks go, this song is great musically. With a hint of vocal distortion and powerful electric guitars, this song is just as catchy as anything from Plus One, Anthem Lights or even One Direction. But herein lies the point- we know that Loftland and their mission is to inspire listeners and remind them of God’s love- yet despite from a few ‘you’s  and ‘this love’ in the song that I know relate to God, the rest of the track as a whole is something out of a One Direction album- a song that’s played on the dance floor and reminds listeners of a love (either for family, friends or a loved one). While I myself can probably be the harshest critic of pop (considering I listen to a fair amount of CCM, as well as the odd mainstream pop song on the radio or playing in stores like Target, K-Mart or JB-Hi Fi; I need to say that while I respect Loftland for what they do, their lyrics frankly needs to be a little more intentional, because if you didn’t know they were Christians, I’m not sure if you would think they were- based on these 10 songs alone (which is pretty sad). ‘Girl Like That’, a song where Loftland expresses through lyrics what they want in a girl and what they want in a wife someday, is as inspirational as the next song about that topic, and can easily assimilate on mainstream radio- which is great if that is where your ministry is, but if you want to create something that’s unique, different and has the ‘wow’ factor, this song sadly isn’t it. With a few electric guitar driven chords, and a pop electronic drums that loops and creates a unique beat, ‘Girl Like That’, while hopeful and inspiring, doesn’t necessarily bring, at least myself, to a sense of wonder and awe, that I would get from an album by someone like Jonathan Thulin, Warr Acres or even Press Play (and all four of these artists are ironically all on one label- DREAM Records). Nevertheless, I’m hopeful the song will still inspire the male listeners to be on the lookout for their potential partners, and being the right people, and thereby trusting God to send the right person their way.

The title track, ‘I Don’t Want to Dance’, is a throwback musically to the 1980s with some great electric guitar work, yet the lyrics seem tired when we are met with Loftland declaring that ‘…I don’t want to dance, if it’s not with you…’, a song that’s directed to girls (or from girls to boys) and perfect to play on a dance floor. While I must admit the song is catchy, its lyrical substance leaves much to be desired, especially if you expect them to give us some heartfelt poignant songs and messages, a la Casting Crowns’s Thrive or John Waller’s Life is a Gift. And while many listeners of both Christian and mainstream music may adore this album, I, despite some standouts few and far between, feel that this album, when listened to in one go, isn’t necessarily as unique or different as what I would would’ve hoped the band would be. And with themes being discussed in the album, from being lovesick by significant others (‘Lovesick’), being in love and not getting enough of being with a significant other (‘I Can’t Get Enough’), and speaking emotionally to someone who has lied and pretended throughout a relationship, as the band declare out ‘…so lie to me as if it’s what I wanted, make sure it’s sweet, go on and sugar coat it, lie to me and we can keep pretending, cause I can’t take the truth so won’t you lie to me…’ (‘Lie to Me’); the album sadly doesn’t take a happier turn in lyrical meaningfulness for me as I hear the album, and while I can’t deny the passion of these members of the band, I can’t help but think that bands like Anthem Lights, Plus One and Press Play give us more engaging, heartfelt and emotional melodies, compared to these songs released in this debut project.

Overall: While this album sadly hasn’t lived up to my high hopes, considering it comes from a very strong label in DREAM Records; Loftland are still a band to listen and make a judgement call for yourself, as while some of the lyrics may need improvement as years go by, the band still has great potential, and with such power displayed in the musical backdrops of each song, this band has given us an album full of musical uniqueness, yet, songs that seemingly don’t set the bar high for their lyrics, perhaps even giving pop music a bad name when someone hears I Don’t Want to Dance. Nevertheless, this band, with their hearts for God, are making music from the right place, and with some time, will hopefully give us lyrics and songs that are definitely better and more mature than these songs here. With 6 songs released on this album from their indie EP, it is maybe said that with some better writers for album number 2, their sound and music can lead to give us some great songs whenever album #2 arises. Until then, this is a fun pop album, yet nothing groundbreaking in CCM/pop. Sadly a forgettable album for me personally, I’m hoping that at least someone will inspired by what these four men have to offer on I Don’t Want to Dance.

RIYL: One Direction, Anthem Lights, Press Play, Plus One

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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