Album Review :
Rob Ray - The Twilight Gospel

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Label: Independent
Release Date: August 12, 2022


  1. Twilight
  2. Never Would Have Guessed
  3. Yours, Forever
  4. Tacky
  5. Dirty Clothes
  6. Velcro Shoes
  7. Confession
  8. At Your Word
  9. Holy Water
  10. Flesh & Bone
  11. Babylon

The Twilight Gospel is a culmination of years of spiritual and musical wanderings for Rob Ray. This album is the firstfruits of two previous EPs – Yours is the Day and Yours is the Night – and appropriately finds the midpoint of both, musically and thematically. Even the title itself finds itself somewhere between day and night. There’s a stillness and gentleness of the night here, but the light has most certainly not been extinguished.

The album features 11 tracks of Ray’s unique brand of playful indie pop, sultry lofi, and pensive alternative worship. This might sound like an irreconcilable combination on paper, but rest assured these tracks play well together and the track order helps keep listeners on their toes by traveling this spectrum with ease.

A bulk of the album has already been released as singles at this point, rounding things out with “Velcro Shoes”, “Yours, Forever”, “At Your Word”, and “Flesh & Bone” for good measure.

Ultimately, The Twilight Gospel is a joyous album – one that is playful, hopeful, and slice-of-life, giving light to the intersection of the faithful and mundane. Some traditions practice singing vespers and matins, as if there were some stark dichotomy between the hours. And Ray bridges this and so much more without a thought. This is a holistic sort of album, not a compartmentalized experience. Even so, his approach is never too disorienting or disjointed. The simple reality is that life is rarely at one extreme or another. Maybe faithful proclamations of the ordinary is just what we need in a world of digital podiums.

“Twilight” kicks things off with a groovy, beach guitar motif paired with Ray’s falsetto. There’s plenty of natural reverb that gives a keen awareness of three-dimensional space. And that alone is noteworthy – it provides a sense of distance as Ray sings of wanting to draw near to God. It gives us a sense of our position. And while it’s a pretty brief track at two minutes, it helps set the tone for what follows.

“Never Would Have Guessed” leans into the fuller side of Ray’s sound, opening with 80s-esque vocal chants and building in with guitar layers and drums. Ray even throws in some unexpected rapping – and while it’s not the first time rapping has appeared in his songs, it’s proof that his compositions work well as foundations for hip-hop. Here, he speaks of how God has worked powerfully through his wife.

Ray scales things back for “Yours, Forever”, a ballad of sorts with prominent piano and minimalist drums. There’s an airy synth bed that adds in a bit of glimmer. Overall, the approach is gentle and reverent and he cants of resurrection hope that’s yet to come.

“Tacky” was one of the strongest pre-release singles and it returns here once again to take the spotlight. Despite its name, it is actually a refutation of how lightly people employ their language and how the beauty of grace transcends our common vocabulary. It’s a spiritual successor of sorts to “Plaid and Stripes”, lyrically and musically. It’s bright and catchy but still contains plenty of lyrical depth all the same.

All this said, it’s surprising how different “Velcro Shoes” is given the correlation of name to sound. It’s still synth-laden, but it’s more subdued and relaxed, a sort of fire-by-the-beach wind-down song. It’s a nice addition, even if it’s not necessarily one of the main pillars of the album, and it finds the narrow confluence between Ray’s two extremes.

“At Your Word” cranks things up with a bit of doo-wop influence and maybe even a hint of gospel. Ray wrestles with the mystery of the Good News and why he was saved, but ultimately decides that God want him to trust Him and His Word. It’s definitely one of the strongest new tracks and shows a couple new angles of Ray’s songwriting.

I’ve compared Ray to Jack Johnson before, but it’s perhaps no more than prevalent than “Flesh & Bone”. There’s a fair use of claps and auxiliary that give a certain earthy energy. And while Ray doesn’t dive into any large theological terms, his focus on how people are beautifully crafted in the image of God is a bold message of life and dignity that seems absent in most Christian artists’ discographies.

The album ends on “Babylon”, a duet with Wade Walker that fundamentally wrestles with how God redeems pain and trials. Even the exile itself was historically a way to disperse believers – so while life in the empire was never the final destination, with its wicked corruption, even it was a vehicle for grace. Ray recognizes he has settled for the empire over the garden at times, which is a sentiment most of us can relate to.

The Twilight Gospel is the sort of album with plenty of depth and no pretense. It is a genuine blue collar effort in the sense of its simplicity, but don’t mistake that for being dull, dumb, or half-hearted. Ray relies on common language and a couple sonic motifs to help drive home timeless truths with joy and hope. While some of glamour of the album is admittedly lost due to how much of it was released already, the new tracks are solid and find themselves in good company with their predecessors. Ray toys with worship in an incarnational sense, looking for the intersection between the cosmic and ordinary – through sunsets, marriage, and more. For a debut LP, The Twilight Gospel builds on the foundation Ray sets with his previous EPs and it will find a home with fans of lofi, pop, acoustic, and coffeehouse music.

The Twilight Gospel releases 8/12/22. Find Rob Ray on Facebook and Instagram.

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