Artist: Press Play
Label: Dream Records
Release Date: 9/30/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Force Of Nature
- Love Audio
- Song for the Broken
- Snap a Picture
- Top of the World
- I Can Breathe
- I Choose
- NY2LA (David Thulin Remix)
- #LITO (David Thulin Remix)
The first artists to sign to the now popular DREAM Records, Press Play have always given to us pop driven melodies to inspire, encourage and motivate, from their debut album Life is Beautiful to their most recent album #LITO, due to release in a day or so. Similar to Newsboys in that the members in the band are always rotating (founder Dave Hanley is the only original member in the band to still be there today); their mission to reach listeners with the gospel of Christ through music that is relevant is something that hasn’t changed throughout their time as a band. Releasing on the same day as We are Young and Free (Hillsong Young and Free), God’s Great Dance Floor Step 02 (Martin Smith) and The Glorious Unfolding (Steven Curtis Chapman); this is an album that will minister greatly to listeners and be enjoyed by those that have a musical taste in pop/dance, with the music and lyrics of #LITO (and basically the whole of the Press Play discography) reminding myself of similar type artists like Group 1 Crew, Britt Nicole or TobyMac. Releasing their radio single by the same name as the album title earlier this year, and also providing a contest to the public to remix ‘#LITO’; Dave Hanley and his two other vocalists Jonathan Thulin (who released his popular album The White Room in 2012) and Nicole Croteau (Anchors and Silhouettes released March 2012) deliver great vocals and utilise each of their harmonies quite nicely to provide an album as a whole that would be formidable amidst the other releases that could possibly drown out the popularity of this particular album. From upbeat songs to slow reflective ones (even so, the reflective melodies still have a looping percussion to keep the younger generation of listeners interested); we are called to be love, the hands and feet of Christ as we hear the themes of this album. Based out of Angelus Temple in Los Angeles; this group from DREAM Records (which frankly is one of the most overlooked Christian label groups currently) has provided us with an album full of pop sensibilities with worshipful twists. As Dave Hanley offers up his thoughts of how ‘…with all the perils in this world we believe that God’s Love is not only eternal but can change lives…’; Press Play have once again delivered melodies worthy enough for at least some inquisitive attention when September 30th comes around!
‘#LITO’, the title track and first radio single from the album, is a great ball of energy, fun, electronic music and powerful vocals as the message for us to ‘love in the open’ is displayed, which is what the acronym LITO stands for. For us to love without reservation, love without judgement or even condemnation can often be hard, difficult and in some cases merely impossible, yet as we are able to delve deeper into the song as Jonathan, Nicole and Dave sing out amidst the electronic beats and vocal distortion; the message is loud and clear- that ‘…this is the time to live, this is the time to dance, this is your life, your chance to love in the open…’ Also remixed by David Thulin, Jonathan’s brother and professional remix DJ (who also produced Press Play’s new album) and placed as track #12, ‘Love in the Open’ is an opportunity to love without barriers and without preconceptions, about others and ourselves as well. One of my favourite songs the album, kudos to Press Play for delivering a song that’s musically creative yet also equally lyrically challenging as we’re called to show love to everyone we meet. Also remixed by David Thulin and added as track 11 on #LITO, ‘NY2LA’ (or in simpler terms, New York to L.A.) is one of the band’s most popular hits from their 2nd album, with a music video for that song (and title track on their sophomore album) debuting on Air1.com. Not sure if the vocals were re-recorded to incorporate both Nicole and Jonathan (at the time of the song, both members weren’t in the band); yet David Thulin’s reimagining of the song with more electronics, more vocal distortion, and a direct absence of the original musical backdrop and therefore the whole music of the song replaced by David using his unique remix qualities, is something to be in awe of. In my opinion, David Thulin (and Capital Kings of course) are some of my favourite remix DJ’s ever, and while the music of ‘NY2LA’ can be uniquely different and at times crazily unsettling if you’re not used to a lot of music and noise; the message of the song is still clear- that we all have the power within us from the Holy Spirit to spark a movement of change wherever we are. A motivational song that’ll hopefully encourage us to walk outside of our comfort zones and meet the need where the people are; Press Play’s hit song is a nice addition on #LITO, an album that certainly carry the themes expressed in ‘NY2LA’!
With the album balanced nicely between upbeat pop songs as well as reflective ballads that tug at the listener’s heart; Press Play’s diversity both in music and lyrical content make them one of the most underrated Christian pop/dance bands currently. With myself (and hopefully others) immediately being drawn to the uplifting songs of ‘Song for the Broken’, ‘I Can Breathe’ and ‘Top of the World’ in the ballad genre; Press Play’s emotion becomes a pivotal part in each of these three songs and their encouraging nature, both individually, as well as collectively within the album. ‘I Can Breathe’, sung both all three singers (Nicole, Dave and Jonathan) at various points in the song, the looping percussion and strings invite us to visit a persona struggling with personal issues in their live. A relevant song as we hear the vulnerable lyrics of how ‘…these days and nights I wonder why, all this pain is left inside, I’m left behind feeling dry…’; we are hopefully able (I know I am) to relate to these poignant lyrics. There are indeed moments in our own lives when we could feel like this- that we can’t breathe for whatever reason, whether it’s triggered by words of condemnation, judgement, or even self-loathing and making our own standards high enough that even we can’t even reach them no matter how hard we try. While the mood of the song is quite sombre, we are offered hope in the uplifting words of how ‘…I am free, I can breathe, I can breathe, I know Your scars they remind me I can see…’. One of my favourite songs on the album, ‘I Can Breathe’ is just one of three beautifully crafted melodies that’ll hopefully speak to our deepest parts of us and hopefully encourage us to change and delve deeper into the presence of God.
Starting off ‘Top of the World’ with electronic keyboard riffs, the song explores the theme of how we feel when we’re with Christ- on top of the world. A moment of clarity that as we ourselves are changed by Christ, we can share and witness with others; the song is great for personal reflection. While not necessarily going to be a radio single (in fact, though the song is good, it’ll probably be forgettable by the time the next Press Play album rolls around); ‘Top of the World’ nonetheless presents to us some great electronic keyboard riffs in the background and an overall hopeful message for us to share the love we’ve been given to those within our own individual worlds and lives we live. Ending the representative of ballads with second radio single contender ‘Song for the Broken’, radio friendly and percussion driven to offer up a message of how this is ‘…the song for the broken, a call to the hopeless, for all the weak and the weary, it’s gonna be alright…’; Press Play are able to present to us a hopeful catalyst for us to take care of the marginalised and broken in the places that we are and live. With the album sung either from God’s point of view to humanity, or from our point of view as Christians to others who may be less fortunate than us; the song presents a theme of unity, restoration, hope, and love pouring out into creation. Well done Press Play for such an emotional and moving melody.
‘Force of Nature’ is quite repetitive, and while many listeners could feel a little bored with a track that repeats the chorus millions of times to remind us that ‘…You are like a force of nature, You blow my mind…’, amidst all the electronic distorted voices and the looping percussion and big drum beat; this Nicole Croteau led track touches upon the theme of God indeed being a force of nature- that once he’s inside our lives and impacting it like never before, we can feel challenged, reinvigorated, confronted, comforted and hopefully motivated as this song hopefully suggests. With a great allusion to natural forces of nature and their effects and aftermath being similar to how God impacts our lives; ‘Force of Nature’ moves into ‘Android’, a remix electronic song with effects galore as we witness Dave, Nicole and Jonathan pulling off something that I would’ve thought only Capital Kings could’ve done. With remix effects placed in the music backdrop, we are met with a message of how we can sometimes live our lives like we’re like robots, androids just following and never questioning why or just thinking for themselves. A comforting message as we hear the words of how ‘…You are not a fake, You’re not a mistake, what else will it take for you to see you’re not a number…’; the busyness of the song can sometimes distract the listener, otherwise, the hope received from this song is very much a prominent and pertinent thing to learn, just like all the other themes and messages on the other songs on #LITO. With Press Play also delivering great dance melodies in ‘Wonderstruck’, a powerful song delivered by all three singers (yet I think Nicole gives us the greatest performance) which dwells upon the longing of us to pursue God and be wonderstruck by Him and not look around to counterfeits of Him; as well as ‘I Choose’, a guitar driven melody that invites us to declare collectively with Dave, Nicole and Jonathan that we choose God every day, worshipping our Saviour as we make our choice either to stand beside Christ or against Him; Press Play have shown us what a refreshing new line-up and a prominent dance-album feel can do to the album. With both ‘I Choose’ and ‘Wonderstruck’ providing us with a similar theme of how we long for the presence of Christ with us, the band have showcased some of my favourite dance tracks on #LITO. Well done guys for such inspired performances that segue into the remix sections of this 12 song album. Maybe a remix album in the future?
Overall: Press Play’s history since their 2009 debut album has been an influx and outflux of members, from lead singers to backing musicians. Now firmly settled on Nicole Croteau and Jonathan Thulin as their singers alongside Dave Hanley (let’s hope and pray the band lineup doesn’t change for a while); #LITO is an album full of dance pop and much more cohesive, mature and enjoyable than their previous records. From the title track to ‘Song for the Broken’ and ‘Wonderstruck’; we are reminded of our love for God and hopefully our love outstretched towards each other as we be the hands and feet of God. A great listen if you enjoy artists like Britt Nicole, TobyMac, Beckah Shae or Group 1 Crew; Press Play and their dominance on DREAM Records will hopefully translate to much more success within the major Christian market. With the band releasing a music video for ‘#LITO’ very soon (by the end of the year); this is a group that’s certain to be talked about for months and years to come- a band with an infectious and enjoyable dance-pop music undertone with a motivational message. While the album could be ‘slaughtered’ by Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding, Laura Story’s God of Every Story and the new album from Hillsong Young and Free; Press Play’s new one nonetheless is a standout dance-pop album within the last half of 2013. Well done Dave, Nicole and Jonathan for such a rewarding experience. Can’t wait for Press Play album #5!
RIYL: Beckah Shae, TobyMac, Group 1 Crew, Britt Nicole, Manic Drive
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3