- You Give Me
- Love Me Like That
- Your Love Shines
- Holding Onto You
- All A Raindrop Knows
- Your Love Sets Me Free
- The Sun’s Gonna Shine
- Forever Changed
- His Name is Jesus
- Make Me
With soul and emphasis on instruments like strings, trumpet, light percussion and a heartfelt passionate vocal from lead singer Matt Houston; Inpop Records’ The Advice is the newest signing on a record label originally launched in 1999 by Peter Furler and was the label home of many artists in the past, from Shane and Shane and Superchick, to The Benjamin Gate, Plus One, Paul Colman and Article One. With The Advice giving listeners 11 songs of soulful pop along similar musical lines as artists like Jimmy Needham and newworldson (Jimmy is also on Inpop Records, while newworldson have recently departed from the label and are on Platinum Pop Entertainment); we are shown a welcomed diversity in race and musical input from the band members as we hear an album with influences from contemporary pop to soul and reggae, to quiet ballads and powerful anthems shown for listeners to hear and discover a unique and well thought out sound that can seem rare within the CCM industry currently. From their first radio single ‘Your Love Sets Me Free’ that was released during 2011, to their recent hit ‘You Give Me’; their message of pointing listeners to Christ has never wavered throughout all the years of touring and preparing for their first album. While not as known or even popular as other releases during the month of March from Audio Adrenaline, Steven Curtis Chapman and Darlene Zschech, it is the soulful music with heartfelt messages of poignancy and moments of throwbacks and homages during the songs to musical styles during the jazz and soul age during the 1950s that will hook and grab the listener as we see a unique and interesting music project from a band that’s destined to bring musical diversity into an industry that’s struck with a sense of normalcy.
‘Your Love Sets Me Free’ was released as a radio single during 2011 and with synths, accordions and keyboards to start off the song in heartfelt fashion, we are given a melody that seemingly anchors the album musically and lyrically as we understand that it is Christ’s love that compels us to live our lives fully and sold-out for Him. As lead singer Matt divulges to listeners, it is ‘…kind of the realization of, when you become a new creature, it’s all because of His love — the reason we can become new creatures…’ As we understand the poignancy and necessity of Christ’s sacrifice, and that it is the ultimate act of love and value placed upon us, we are given a 1970’s-esque melody that infuses light electric guitars and a swaying percussion beat that reminds us of the freedom we have when we come to Christ. One of my favourite songs on the album, we are given a moment of clarity and encouragement through one of the most musically unique and interesting tracks on this self-titled album.
Still infusing the musical flavours of jazz and soul with contemporary pop, ‘Forever Changed’ and ‘Your Love Shines’ (rounding out the 3 song EP the band released last year) and current radio single ‘You Give Me’ showcase some of my personal favourite songs on the album as The Advice gives us something fresh, ingenious and interesting to listen to in the weeks and months ahead. As keyboardist Aaron reminds us of the infusion of different genres and that ‘…our sound is just a melting pot of different genres of music. I know we have a lot of gospel and motown influence, especially in the rhythm section. There’s southern rock and blues influence…we love to have a soulful edge to everything that we do…’, the musical uniqueness to this album to remind us of the different musical cultures we have other than the standard made-for-radio CCM is enough to promote this album, even if some of the lyrical themes may seem a little similar when comparing songs on the album. While some listeners may pick up on a certain level of shallowness to the lyrics throughout the album, with the songs in one form or another showing us that life with Jesus is a great thing to have; it is the music that saves this album and promotes it as one of the most musically inviting albums in March 2013. From declaring that when we are in Christ, we are forever changed in every aspect of our lives (‘Forever Changed’) to singing a soulful track about the Lord giving us everything that we need (‘You Give Me’) and shining the light of Christ wherever you go in a heartfelt trumpet prominent track where lead singer Matt sounds very similar to downhere lead singer Marc Martel (‘Your Light Shines’); the big band influence full of brass instruments is a certain heavy influence and a great homage and throwback to the 50s, 60s and 70s as we reminisce the musical culture it was back then. A great alternative to some of the guitar driven radio songs currently popular at the moment, it is these 4 songs on The Advice that are certain to convince and influence the listener to hear more songs from the band. Well done guys with such catchy and compelling tracks!
‘Holding Onto You’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album, with Matt offering up a ballad full of keys and light percussion as we are given one of the most relatable radio songs of hope and comfort of the year so far. Holding onto Christ during the moments when life seems to take its toll is something a lot of us can undertake, yet we still sometimes feel like we can journey through our trials ourselves, or are even afraid at giving over stuff to God that we want to hold onto ourselves, for fear of being completely known, yet not completely loved. With Matt pouring out his heart during the chorus where we are met with the poignant words of ‘…so I’m holding onto You, cos I know Your word is true, and I’m clinging to the promises You’ve made, that even when I face the darkest of my days, You’ll be the light that always sees me through…’; ‘Holding Onto You’ offers hope and redemption in this radio-friendly song and hopeful radio single not to long into the future. ‘All A Raindrop Knows’ embodies a country-style and swing melody style as we discover that just like the raindrop always travels down towards the ground, God’s love constantly showers over everyone alike; while ‘The Sun is Gonna Shine’ is an inspirational song about holding on through the tough times, knowing that the sun is going to shine in our lives again.
While many of these songs may often come off as ‘generic’ at first listen, The Advice still offers some great melodies and messages to deliver, even if after a few listeners some songs can feel like their themes are either borrowed from other places throughout the album, or from other artists on other albums. ‘Love Me Like That’ tells a story about how we can be content because of the love of Christ even in dire circumstances, yet the themes feel similar to Hawk Nelson’s ‘Love Like That’ or Sidewalk Prophets’ ‘Love, Love, Love’. ‘His Name is Jesus’ pays a great homage to the 1970s big band era, yet the lyrics of ‘…His name is Jesus and He can fix all your problems…’ show an attitude of this, yet we know that despite Christ Jesus fixing our problems, we know that on this Earth, we can still face trials and hardships, and that our issues and circumstances in our lives won’t necessarily be peachy or rosy after we accept Christ. This song in particular shows a sense of lyrics being written without much theological thought or discussion, even if it wasn’t their initial intention. Both ‘Make Me’ and ‘Collide’ are two ballads at the end of the album, and while each of them showcase some poignant messages, about Christ making and remaking us during the circumstances that are meant to tear us down, yet build us up in the meantime (‘Make Me’) as well as wanting Jesus in all His glory to come and collide with us in the moments when we’re at our absolute worst; these light percussion and blues and soul inspired melodies seem to lack a little something when after listening to these songs once, I can’t necessarily remember the melody, nor any interesting music riffs or hooks that would otherwise be in the song.
Overall: Not to discount the musical genre changes The Advice has done with its entire album, however, the album as a whole does seem a little lyrically similar as each song flows into the next with similar on-the-surface themes of life being good with Jesus. Nevertheless, this latest Inpop Records signing does seem to have its place within the music industry, providing a nicely choreographed album as an alternative to radio-friendly CCM albums like JJ Weeks Band’s All Over The World, also releasing on the same day as The Advice. Infusing musical genres from artists like Jimmy Needham and newworldson, The Advice is able to do just enough to warrant a look and a see if listeners are the inquisitive and curious type. Not necessarily for the listener of CCM, nor for the listeners of hard rock, The Advice have given listeners a blend of soul, country, pop, blues, acoustic and CCM to incorporate its many musical genres and cultures with its interracial band members showing listeners what it is like to record songs with musical influences from all over the world. With heartfelt messages and a lead vocal voice at times like downhere’s Marc Martel and Kevin Max of Audio Adrenaline; The Advice’s debut album is one to remember for its ingenuity and uniqueness throughout the month of March 2013. Well done guys for creating a solid album full of themes to ponder and discuss in the weeks and months ahead!
RIYL: newworldson, Chris August, Jimmy Needham, downhere