Artist: The Ember Days
Title: More Than You Think
Label: Come & Live
Release Date: 1/29/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- I’ll Never Let Go
- Make It Alright
- Face in the Dark
- Lift Your Head
- You Are
- Real Jesus
- Sons and Daughters
- More Than You Think
Famous for their hit song ‘Run to You’, covered also by Kari Jobe on her 2012 album Where I Find You, independent artists The Ember Days (who distribute their music through Come & Live.com) always strive to give us their best with every album they make, producing worship music with an independent edge as an alternative compared to the CCM flooded on radio stations at the current moment. Originally from New Zealand and now currently based in Nashville, Tennessee; this 5 piece band have garnered acclaim from listeners and critics alike as the band delivers to listeners some of the most ingeniously produced independent worship music I’ve listened to in years, alongside The Sonflowerz as some of the most underrated worship bands I’ve heard throughout the last few years. Funding their latest album More than You Think via Kickstarter, it was their involvement with producer Paul Moak (Samestate, Leeland, Matt Maher) and co-writer Ed Cash (Chris Tomlin) that solidified my interest to listen to the album. What resulted from my album listening experience are songs full of inspiration, vitality, life, hope, enthusiasm and clever and ingenious instrumentation as keyboardist Janell Belcher leading all of the songs on the album (previously, her and guitarist Jason Belcher used to co-lead the songs). While Jason is only relegated to a few harmony sections throughout the album, this change compared to albums before is certainly welcomed by me as I hear some channelling of Dawn Michelle, Kari Jobe and Lacey Strum with every note Janell sings. Poignant and poetic, comforting and also confronting, More Than You Think reminds us that there is so much more in people’s lives than we first imagine or even perceive (with the album inspired after Janell’s diagnosis of lupus after a tour a few years ago); as well as the certain truth that God Himself is at work in our lives, often more than we think He is capable of. Released on the same day as Colton Dixon’s A Messenger, this is a great album purchase if you enjoy indie-worship and want something new, exciting and fresh from the Christian worship industry!
Starting off the album with the hauntingly refreshing and poignant ‘Brothers’, we witness right from the start more of a prominence in Janell’s vocals rather than Jason’s. Despite an unequal balance of voices and the album primarily sung from a female perspective (I initially went into the album listening with the idea that both Janell and Jason were going to sing evenly throughout the tracks); the album is solidly delivered, with ‘Brothers’ paving the way for some good quality indie-worship music. With some light acoustic guitar, Janell cries out ‘…we are Yours, no longer separated Lord, let us see Your love for us…’ and we are shown a moment of utter praise and worship as Janell pushes herself to challenge the high notes with such power and authority. With light acoustics and a voice certain to be discussed and appreciated by anyone who has listened to the band, ‘Brothers’ remind us of the unity and bond Christians share with each other, and that with that collective brotherhood because of Christ’s sacrifice comes a whole notion of camaraderie, support, and spiritual bonding with each other, helping us as we navigate our Christian walks of life. At times sounding like both Dawn Michele and Kim Walker-Smith at once, Janell reminds us that if we are in Christ, hope can be the fuel for our futures, knowing that He has it all in His hands. A terrific song to start the album with, ‘Awake’ continues the mood of joyous enthusiasm with a 3 minute anthem about our hearts and minds being awakened to the love of Christ as we let it seep through our hearts down towards our innermost being as we understand and fully grasp the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us. A joyous occasion to praise the Lord with an upbeat melody, ‘Awake’ showcases worship and dance at its best as we come face to face with a moment of realisation, that our hearts must first be awakened to the power of God’s redeeming love before we can let others know of the transformation taking place in our hearts. Well done Janell for these powerful tracks that, in my opinion, serve as great openers to draw in listeners as they learn more about the album as a whole and embrace the indie-worship musical genre.
‘I’ll Never Let Go’ tells us a heartfelt message about struggles, hopelessness, uncertainty and unsure circumstances, yet through all the calamity and chaos, the 4 words of ‘I’ll Never Let Go’ are declared out, almost like a certain thing to do and be in a world of uncertainty. Full of electric guitars and a piercingly emotional and enjoyable vocal to listen to, Janell reminds us through depicting a Job-like situation that even if everything falls around us, we can still say with true confidence that we’ll never let go of God. Clinging to God throughout these times of difficulties is perhaps the only way to navigate through the darkness, and this third song on the album will hopefully become a beacon of hope to many who need it. Full of electric guitar solos and a captivating indie-pop feel, we are invited into a moment of reflection in the following tracks of ‘Face in the Dark’, ‘Prodigal’ and ‘More Than You Think’. As Janell reminds us through these 3 melodies of our worth in Christ’s eyes, it is their reflective quality through slower instruments and a great amount of reverbing keyboard that showcases each of the song’s vulnerability and poignancy as listeners are invited to bask in the truths each of these songs portray. ‘Face in the Dark’ urges for God to move in our lives and intervene where we need it most, with Janell declaring out ‘…oh move the mountains, oh, part the seas Lord, oh, move the mountains, You healed the lepers when they called Your name, You healed the broken…will You heal me?…’ while we reflect and see of how true this statement is of our lives, and if we have even asked the same things of God, longing for Him to heal us so that we can be made whole and live to the fullest in Him.
‘Prodigal’ is a piano starting song that crescendos into a big anthem mid-way through the song as The Ember Days showcase the theme of running back to the Father after our own worldly pursuits, once we have discovered that He is everything that we need and long for. It is often out of the difficult times when we discover that we need Christ the most, and as Janell cries out ‘…so we come, yes we run, to Your great love…’, we witness one of my favourite songs being birthed out of passion, hope, desperation and honesty. ‘More Than You Think’, the title track and album ender, showcases great instrumental work with amazing electric guitar work and a captivating keyboard eeriness that undertones the song and allows the listener to be taken on a musical journey as their hearts become open to what God has to say to them. Sometimes, the most heartfelt tracks can be ones with no lyrics, and ‘More Than You Think’, reminding us not to just the track on first impressions, as well as showing us that God is indeed more than anyone thinks, is one of my highlights from an album destined to stretch your own musical preferences and boundaries when you listen to it!
From the highly poignant and hopeful ‘Make it Right’, full of light electric guitar riffs and Janell crying out the confronting words ‘…where is my life, where is my life, will you find me, will you make it alright?…’; to the CCM-like guitar anthem ‘You Are’, worthy of radio airplay as The Ember Days deliver a praise track about us thanking God for what He’s done for us; we are invited to take a dip into the pool of musical uniqueness as we marvel at the use of instruments on More Than You Think. The 1 minute ‘Lift Up Your Head’ presents a reverbing keyboard and Janell proclaiming that we ought to lift up our head and count the blessings we have been given by God, and while it’s short, the message is just as deep as the long instrumental track, as I can’t help but wonder for myself if I’ve truly been thankful to God in every circumstance I am in. ‘Real Jesus’ carries on the radio atmosphere from ‘You Are’ as we are presented with a prayer from Janell, longing for the real Jesus, the One in the bible that healed the sick and fed the thousands of followers. Someone that reminds us that it is blessed to give than to receive, but also someone that confronts us and challenges us to think deeper about our own lives and whether we living it out of love for the Father or out of duty and obligation. While many may take some time getting used to the track, the radio friendly melodies are a great departure from The Ember Days than indie-pop, while maintaining their power vocals and strikingly hopeful message of redemption and reconciliation through Christ Jesus. The last song before the instrumental track is called ‘Sons and Daughters’, which gives us great encouragement that we are sons and daughters of the living God. Full of emotion as the instrumental bridge starts to flow and electric guitars and drums start to fall into a rhythm; this is the perfect segue into the instrumental title track. Well done Janell for the great vocal work and delivering some of the most powerful indie-worship songs of the year so far!
Overall: The Ember Days, an independent band from New Zealand, have shown listeners around the world that there’s nothing wrong with indie-worship, in fact, some of the most reflective worship moments have come from independent artists for me personally, from Audrey Assad to The Sonflowerz and more recently, Tim Neufeld’s latest album Trees. Add in More Than You Think by The Ember Days, I am pleased to have listened to this album, and while it’s 6 months or so after the release date of the album that I started to listen to the album, I must say that More Than You Think has given myself interest in the band as I start to work through their discography and listen to each of their indie-worship albums. Fans of the indie genre will love this worship record that utilises a great deal of keyboards, light acoustics and some synth every now and again. Janell’s vocals are powerful, and are definitely the highlight of the album. One to treasure for months to come, Come and Live have developed a well-respected and mature artist in The Ember Days, and one of my favourite new artists (in terms of myself being exposed to the band) of the year so far. Well done guys for such an enjoyable, groundbreaking, and worshipful album!
RIYL: Audrey Assad, Starfield, Leeland, All Sons and Daughters, David Crowder*Band
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3