Album Review :
Luminous City - LuminousCITY

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Artist: Luminous City
Title: LuminousCITY
Label: independent
Release Date: 2/4/14
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre


  1. Intro
  2. Your Love Moves (feat. Lanae Hale)
  3. Kingdom Come (feat. Chad Jarnagin)
  4. He is Exalted (feat. David Curtis)
  5. Psalm 23 (feat. Lanae Hale)
  6. The Silence (feat. Jennifer Akers)
  7. Interlude
  8. Doxology (feat. David Curtis)
  9. Stand Tall (Heartbeat) (feat. Chad Jarnagin)

With the number of worship bands releasing albums, it is no wonder why people are being confused and unsure about which worship band to listen to and which others to an avid fan and follower of, from Hillsong Live and Hillsong UNITED, to Passion (which includes Matt Redman, Crowder, Christy Nockels, Chris Tomlin and Kristian Stanfill), Jesus Culture, Vertical Church Band, All Sons and Daughters, The Sonflowerz, One Sonic Society, and newcomers Soulfire Revolution and The Digital Age. Worship and the expression of praise in both songs and albums, as well as arranging these songs and playing them during Sunday morning worship services, has been at the forefront of many of these worship artists, as well as listeners who have engaged and responded positively to these songs that have been created week after week for the adoration and glory of God. Enter in another worship band (or maybe you could call them a ‘worship collective’)- Luminous City, formed in Franklin, Tennessee with a ‘…collective of musicians, songwriters, and artists from Rolling Hills Community Church and Music City…’ With the primary focus of the band being to bring to listeners unique and powerful worship moments through worship covers, rearrangements and originally written tracks, each of the members of the band have been able to give us songs that excel in each of these areas- with a variety of newly written tracks, a cover of Bellarive’s ‘Heartbeat’, some instrumental interludes, as well as renditions of both ‘He is Exalted’ and ‘Doxology’. With the band comprising of a variety of different members, from singer/songwriter Lanae Hale (who used to be on Centricity Music) and guitarist David Curtis (from Run Kid Run), to drummer Andy Williams (ex-drummer of Casting Crowns) and guitarist Cody Bender (who was in VOTA previously); Luminous City’s debut album is a unique and fresh look on what alternative rock worship melodies sound like, and is a perfect album to listen to if you enjoy others by similar artists like Worth Dying For, Hillsong UNITED, Soulfire Revolution or the David Crowder*Band.

About half of the songs on the album consist of either instrumentals or covers of worship hymns or covers of songs originally by other artists. Tracks 1 and 7 are titled ‘Intro’ and ‘Interlude’ respectively, and while both ‘songs’ don’t have any words attached to them, both of them just as powerful gives us moments of tranquility and reflection as we listen to the distorted guitars and keyboards create a space for us listening to worship freely, and without the burden of actually trying to sing along with the words. In 2013, I reviewed Bethel’s Without Words, and while that was a stretch, I was able to appreciate worship music without words, and as these two 1 minute tracks from Luminous City remind me of the complexity of the musical instrument arrangements (in a similar way to Bethel’s instrumental album), both ‘Intro’ and ‘Interlude’ are great ways to soak in the presence of God. Written and made famous by singer/songwriter Twila Paris, ‘He is Exalted’ is possibly one of my favourite classic songs of the 1990s, and with David Curtis, singer and guitarist of Run Kid Run, powerfully declaring out the poignant words of ‘…He is exalted, the King is exalted on high…’, is something that both worship enthusiasts and Run Kid Run fans will love and enjoy. ‘He is Exalted’ is a simple song, yet equally profound- it is in the moment where we know who God is, that the least we can do (and should do) is to lift up our hands and exalt Him. A great song that brings us into the moment of worship and total abandon, David Curtis reminds us that a simple song from the 1990s can still make quite a powerful impact in the modern church today.

Similarly, David also powerfully declares the words of ‘Doxology’, in Luminous City’s 2 minute version of a song that, when only sung through once, is over before a minute has passed. With looping percussion, distorted guitars and ethereal vocal effects, David shouts out his praises to God, and as the song reminds us of what alternative worship hymns sound like (channeling sound effects a la Hillsong UNITED, especially in their newest album ZION); both ‘Doxology’ and ‘He is Exalted’ are shown as standouts on this eponymous debut project of Luminous City. Also a cover on this 9-track EP/album, ‘Stand Tall (Heartbeat)’ is a powerful album closer, with singer Chad Jarnigan providing his vocals to a song that quite frankly, I can’t really remember- to be honest, I think I only heard the song once when I was reviewing Bellarive’s The Heartbeat during 2012. Despite my lack of recollection of the song when listening to Luminous City’s rendition of it, ‘Stand Tall (Heartbeats)’ is a great call to action, as Chad declares out ‘…stand tall, we are daughters, we are sons, step straight into this love, we bear the mark of our Creator…’, and while it may sound a little repetitive (Chad declares this statement about 6-7 times in a row), this Bellarive cover is a great reminder of our identity in Christ, and how we ought to stand tall, proud of our heritage in Christ Jesus. Full of powerful electric guitars, this is a great end song and one that will bring me to love, not only this version, but also Bellarive’s original version as well.

Lanae Hale, originally on Centricity Music (with her last solo album released in 2009- and a great album, I might add), contributes to the Luminous City album with the leading of two songs- ‘Psalm 23’ and ‘Your Love Moves’. With a pulsating guitar strum, Lanae gives glory to the Lord, reminding us all in the verses that ‘…You are my love, You’re my salvation, and You’re everything between, I know You came, Your love is like a raging sea, a tidal wave that rushes over me…’ With a distinct ethereal vocal that reminds myself of a combination between Nichole Nordeman, Ellie Holcomb, Audrey Assad and Brooke Fraser, Lanae’s long awaited return to making music is just as much long overdue as it is enjoyable, because of the long wait. Reminding us that God’s love moves inside of His believers, through them into the people we are in fellowship and communion with every day; Lanae also invites us to hear her own rendition of ‘Psalm 23’, an original song inspired by the beloved Psalm (possibly the most well-known Psalm, aside from Psalm 139, in the whole book). With reverbing keyboards, Lanae places her own twist on a Psalm that has been recounted for as long as I can remember, as she powerfully uses her voice to give us assurance that ‘…when valley’s come and mountains go, well, I’m alive and this I know, You won’t let go, You won’t let go. And You repair my broken soul, and give me peace, to guide through the unknown…’ One of my favourite renditions of the Psalm (even as emotional and powerful as Peter Furler’s rendition on his 2011 album On Fire); Lanae’s 2 tracks make me excited for not just Luminous City, but for Lanae as well. Here’s hoping and praying that she does another studio album in future!

Overall: Also giving us two other studio tracks in ‘The Silence’, a song that gives us a moment of realisation that God speaks to us during the silences of our lives (physical and metaphorical), and that even when we think God doesn’t speak, He is in fact speaking the loudest; and ‘Kingdom Come’, a powerful melody that encompasses the Lord’s Prayer, and presents to us a modern version of the beloved verses where Jesus tells His disciples how to pray; Luminous City’s 9 tracks invite us to a space of worship and letting our worries lay by the roadside as we travel into moments of surrender. From first intro song to a Bellarive melody that I sadly couldn’t remember before hearing it again on this project, this is an album that’s certain to be enjoyed by lovers of modern worship music, but also listeners who want to hear something unique, enjoyable, fresh and encouraging. Well done Lanae, Chris, David and the rest of the band for creating what is possibly one of the most unique worship albums made in 2014 so far, and possibly one of the most musically ingenious worship albums since The City Harmonic’s Heart and Bethel Music’s Tides!

RIYL: Bellarive, Soulfire Revolution, David Crowder Band, Worth Dying For, Hillsong UNITED

Buy the Album: iTunes