Album Review :
Unspoken - Unspoken

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Artist: Unspoken
Title: Unspoken
Label: Centricity Music
Release Date: 4/1/14
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. Start a Fire
  2. Who You Are
  3. Good Fight
  4. Call It Grace
  5. Lift My Life Up
  6. Tomorrow
  7. In Your Hands
  8. Real Thing
  9. Walking Away
  10. Everything
  11. Bury the Workman
  12. My Recovery
  13. Tomorrow (radio mix)

Recently signed to Centricity Records, home of artists like Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray and Aaron Shust; soul-pop Christian rock-band Unspoken released their debut EP, Get To Me, and their follow-up 2013 EP The World is Waking, to critical and commercial acclaim. Sounding musically similar to newworldson and Salvador, and vocally resemblant of Jimmy Needham and Chris August at times; Unspoken is able to infuse their Caribbean heritage into their music (with two of their members from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico). Forming in the Dominican Republic and opening for many artists over the years, like Third Day, Casting Crowns and TobyMac, the band have been quickly climbing up the radio charts with their hit song ‘Who You Are’. Unspoken’s flair to give us soulful pop a la Newworldson or Jimmy Needham is one of their greatest assets, with many listeners responding positively to their heartfelt tracks, myself included. With their first debut album an amalgamation of their first two releases, as well as some newly recorded tracks, we are reminded that God has given everything He has for us, and our natural response ought to be that of surrender, and lifting our life up to say ‘…have Your way in me…’ (‘Lift My Life Up’). Each of these tracks, whether newly written or released previously, deliver an eclectic, emotional and heartfelt delivery from the band, making this band one of the breakouts when they released their debut EP in 2012. With the theme of their self-titled album being one where we are reminded of that God loves us enough to do anything within His power to gain our attention to what He wants us to do; Unspoken have created 12 tracks (with one being just a radio mix bonus track) full of honesty and humility, hopefulness and healing, injecting a fresh and reinvigorating approach as they combine a variety of genres together to create a massive worshipful experience as they continue to praise God. From pop anthems ‘Lift My Life Up’ to the reggae-sounding ‘Bury The Workman’, there is something for anyone who loves CCM, or just likes something unique and soul-orientated.

With the whole EP of The World is Waking repeated on Unspoken’s full length debut album, the band continue to capitalise on such a powerful 2013 EP, possibly one of the most unique ones of the year. With that being said, to have all five tracks from that EP on this album, and only one representative (‘Who You Are’) from their earliest EP, can seem on the surface like favouritism. Yet this choice of songs on the album tells us two things- that ‘Who You Are’ is a great song, and that The World is Waking, on the whole, has resonated better with fans compared to their 2012 debut. ‘Lift My Life Up’, the first radio single from the 2013 EP, gives us a message full of hope, power and emotion, as we are reminded of God’s faithfulness to us during the moments of our past and struggle, and thus, we ought to trust Him, even in the places where it doesn’t or can’t even make sense. The opening words of Chad declaring that ‘…You’ve brought me this far so why would I question You now…’ reminds myself about the Job situation, and how when everything was taken away from him, he still trusted God and remained faithful to His Saviour, Creator and Friend. A song about giving up control and trusting in our Father and Saviour, something that may not necessarily come naturally to those who often doubt or worry as to whether Christ really is faithful to us, ‘Lift My Life Up’ is a great reminder of God’s faithfulness, and a well-deserved standout on both the EP and the forthcoming album. Honesty and encouragement is also shown in ‘Everything’ a three minute gem full of hope, light guitars and an infectious electric guitar hook. With the song’s theme derived from Matthew 6 and how we ought to seek first the kingdom of God and then everything else will be added to us according to our hearts desire and where they are at, the band present a central theme of us surrendering everything to Christ, and continue this underlying thread in ‘In Your Hands’ as well- a surrender song about us giving up everything that ties us down and placing it at the feet of Christ.

The gospel and blues inspired ‘Walking Away’ also provides with a similar theme of us walking away from the things of this world as we realise that we can amass everything in this world, but still feel dry and empty; yet it is the last song on their 2013 EP and a personal highlight on Unspoken, ‘Bury the Workman’, that is a favourite of mine. Featuring banjos, handclaps, backing vocals and a mowtown-like musical atmosphere, we are told scenarios, sometimes horrific, of what became of the followers of Christ during the times of the early church. Running through the different ways these followers of Christ died (through crucifixion, stoning etc.), we are reminded of just how hard being a Christian can sometimes be. Sobering to know and understand that our lives are just as fallible as the next person, to be a Christian in today’s society as and is nothing compared to what the early Christians endured and suffered. Thanks ought to be shown towards God for the lives we lead, yet it also makes us wonder. If Peter, Stephen, and all the other early followers of Christ were willing to die for their faith, what actions can we take to ensure that our faith doesn’t slip into the realm of comfortableness and consumerism? ‘Bury the Workman’ cries out a sense of unity, that even if our lives are cut short while delivering God’s message of hope and salvation, the work of Jesus will continue, with Christ’s love and hope for the world moving forward as we see His kingdom come on Earth as it is and will be in Heaven for years and decades to come! With ‘Who You Are’ being the last track by Unspoken that was on an EP previously, lead singer Chad Mattson gives us direct vocal parallels between him and soul-pop artist Jimmy Needham. With the backing vocals creating a Caribbean feeling, the song is a reminder that ‘…you can never fall too far, so fast, so far that you can’t get back when you lost, where you are, it’s never too late so fast, so much that you can’t change who you are…’, where we ponder and ask the question- ‘is it too late for me to come back to Jesus?’ As soulful as this song sounds, its message is hard-hitting; that no matter what you’ve done, we can come back to the Father. Through a hint of acoustics, a looping drum kick undertone, and a soaring soul-motown vocal; we are met with the revelation of forgiveness, from Christ to His creation.

The remaining 6 songs and a radio mix from a band that has essentially released 3 EP’s a year (these 6 songs in 2014, The World is Waking in 2013 and Get To Me in 2012) showcase some of the band’s best songs yet, with this year’s collection of new tracks possibly even tying or bettering the collection of 5 songs released in 2013. The first radio single from the album, ‘Start a Fire’, employs powerful guitars and Chad’s soulful voice to present to us a moment of realisation as we long for God to start a fire in us, one that will show the world who we burn for and what is important in the lives we lead. Standing at a tad over 3 minutes, Unspoken’s first radio single of a song not previously released is one that is able to present a fresh and enjoyable take on a theme that has been continuously sung about (‘Burning in My Soul’ by Matt Maher’, ‘Burn’ by One Sonic Society, and ‘Burn Away’ by Meredith Andrews). With all these songs, together with ‘Start a Fire’, giving us comfort (yet also slight concern), that God will use whatever means necessary, even for Him to ‘burn’ us, for us to dwell closer to Him and for others to see Him through us more clearly; Chad and the rest of the band continue to delve deeper in heartfelt melodies, reminding us all the while for God to ‘…start a fire in my soul, fan the flame and make it grow, so there’s no doubt or denying…’. ‘Tomorrow’, the song that was recorded twice on the album, is certainly on its way to be single #2 as Unspoken give us a melody with a goal for us to understand and believe that God is in control of our tomorrows, and that we shouldn’t sit around and just wait for things to happen, nor should we sit around and not give our troubles to Christ like He wants us to. With an electric guitar introduction similar to the riffs played on the intro to the live version of ‘I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)’; Chad sings out ‘…I give an inch to doubt and worry, they take a mile and wreck the story, I chase the future til I’m tired, I catch it then it catches fire…’, reminding us that worry doubt and constant anxiety about the future could mean for us to burn with uncertainty. With light acoustics, and rarely overpowering electric guitars, this soul-pop group relay to listeners of the need for us to stop carrying our own hopes, desires, worries, dreams and cautions and give them to Jesus. The radio version of the song, very much similar in structure to the full length recording except with more of a percussion and acoustic atmosphere, is also a nice touch at the end of the album, as we hear the version of ‘Tomorrow’ which will probably be on the radio in weeks and months to come. Unspoken also deliver songs like ‘Good Fight’, a 3 minute acoustic-soul-pop track about us fighting the good fight of life and travelling through the good and bad times, knowing that it is with Christ’s help that the ‘fight’ called life can be called ‘good’; and ‘Call it Grace’, a piano led song that calls upon the grace God gives, and gives us a reminder that ‘…some may call it foolish and impossible, but for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle, it’s nothing less than scandalous, this love that took our place, just call it what it is, call it grace…’, something that everyone, whether believing and knowing Christ or not, needs every day in the life events we encounter on an everyday basis.

Overall: Delivering a personal song in ‘My Recovery’, based upon Chad and his personal issues he had to overcome during his past, and also reminding us that we need the realness of Christ in our lives rather than anything else that will appear like what we need, but will be counterfeit when compared to Christ, the real thing (‘Real Thing’), Unspoken have been able to come together and write music that touches the heart, with hope in Christ that He finds us, the running theme of the 12 tracks. Bursting onto the scene out of nowhere, these 4 men with their hearts for God have shown me that they are certainly one of the best debut bands this year, along with Ellie Holcomb, Lex Anderson, Michael Boggs and Hillary McBride. Unspoken’s album is something worthy to be purchased by anyone fans of their previous EP work, or if you enjoy similar artists like Chris August, newworldson and Jimmy Needham. While these men with Caribbean roots may not necessarily be the most popular artists in today’s Christian music industry, their hearts are hopeful, honest, vulnerable and encouraging. From the band’s latest single ‘Start a Fire’, to their poignant ‘Bury the Workman’, each of these tracks have merit and wisdom, as we hear songs that encapsulate the theme of everyday struggles in the Christian life. Well done guys for such an emotional and enjoyable album, and one of the standout artists on Centricity Music since Andrew Peterson’s signing to the label a while ago.

RIYL: newworldson, Salvador, Jimmy Needham, Chris August, Jason Gray

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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