Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Review: Jars of Clay- Closer EP

I will start out by openly admitting that I love Jars of Clay. I am completely addicted to almost all of the music that they have ever put out (and they’ve put out plenty). But I will confess that I only became a big fan around the time of The Eleventh Hour. I just never really listened to them, really listened, until that album came out. By the time of Good Monsters, they were quickly climbing their way to the top of my list… after a few listens to Good Monsters; I decided to elevate them to my 2nd favorite band of all time (right behind As Cities Burn). So being a huge Jars of Clay fan, I was incredibly excited when they announced the release of a new EP. Now the EP is in my CD player, I will answer the question that you are likely wanting this review to answer:
Does it live up to their former releases?
Before I answer that, I will tell you that it is good. It is Jars of Clay, which means that if you have high expectations, you know they will most likely be either met or exceeded. That statement is proven accurate with Closer. For the majority of Jars of Clay fans, I imagine that all I would really need to say is, “it’s new Jars of Clay songs”, and you would instantly know that my words mean nothing. But for the rest of you, I will discuss the songs individually.
Track number one is the title track. It has a nice radio-friendly, pop love song feel to it (almost reminiscent of “Unforgetful You”). “Safe to Land” is next. It is a slower, love ballad that could happily find its place on any of Jars of Clay’s previous releases. The remakes of “Love Song for a Savior” and “Flood” come next. While they are not better than the originals, it is still very nice to hear Haseline’s matured vocals on these great songs. Finally “Prisoner of Hope” closes the EP. It is another slower song that reminds me of “Light Gives Heat”. “Prisoner of Hope”, while being a great song, is by far my least favorite song on the CD (of course with several more listens that could change… I seem to do that with Jars of Clay).
Overall this is a great EP by a great band. It most definitely meets the high standard that they have set for themselves.

6 out of 7

• All five tracks are highlights

Monday, September 22, 2008

Review: Underoath- Lost in the Sound of Separation

Over the last few years Underoath has enjoyed significantly more success than the countless other bands in the hardcore genre, so hopes are high for their newest effort. But before I reveal just how this new record stacks up against their former works, let us review Underoath’s history.
In 2002 Underoath (a much talked about underground hardcore band) released their first nation-wide album with The Changing of Times. With the record came great popularity within the hardcore community. But soon after the release, lead vocalist Dallas Taylor left the band. Fortunately this was not the end of Underoath. They managed to find a new vocalist named Spencer Chamberlain. But with a new vocalist came a new sound much too their hardcore fans disappointment. One listen of They’re Only Chasing Safety will tell you that they went screamo (“Reinventing Your Exit” anyone?). Though their new sound turned off many longtime fans, it proved to be much more accessible thus creating new fans.
So when Underoath announced that they would be releasing Define the Great Line in 2006 there was one question on everyone’s lips: Could Underoath blend the heaviness of The Changing… with the accessibility of They’re Only Chasing…? The answer was yes. Define the Great Line was a monumental record because you could get your hardcore pummeling with songs like “Everyone Looks So Good From Here”, while your screamo tendencies were fed with “Writing on the Walls”.
But with Define the Great Line being so important people were even more curious to see where Lost in the Sound of Separation would take their sound and how the two would compare.
Before you get too worried, I will tell you that this is a good record. It is very good and worth you money, so if that is all you wanted to hear then please, stop reading and go buy it. Instead I will compare Lost in the Sound… to Define the Great Line.
If I could give Lost in the Sound… a subtitle, it would be Define the Great Line: Part II. This record feels very much like a sequel to Define the Great Line in fact incredibly so. For instance many songs could have the same style of subtitle: “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” could be “A Moment Suspended in Time: Part II” and “The Created Void” could be “Writing on the Walls: Part II”. These are not necessarily bad things, but overall the sound is basically of Define the Great Line (but that is the curse of the hardcore genre).
Were this album truly excels at is the lyrics. Define the Great Line was a lyrical journey into the depths of human brokenness (eventually finding hope through Christ), and Lost in the Sound… feels like a continuation of that as well. The lyrics feel like they are coming from a Christian that isn’t quite living up to his/her duty in Christ or maybe even dealing with their own hypocrisy.
Overall I would say that Lost in the Sound of Separation is slightly better than Define the Great Line because the lyrics are much better. The variety of sound is still there with songs like “Breathing in a New Mentality” (which opens the record with a false start) you should get your hardcore fix, and songs like “Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear” (which sounds quite a lot like the softer side of As Cities Burn) will give you a good dose of melody, much like Some Will Seek Forgiveness…
If you liked Define the Great Line then go get Lost in the Sound of Separation… NOW!!!

6.2 out of 7

• Breathing in a New Mentality
• A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine
• Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
• Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oh, To Be Like the Moon!

I always find it crazy when out of the blue God just hits me with a seemingly magical epiphany. No matter how many times He does this, I always am left standing before our awesome Creator, wondering where He wants me go next with my newly given knowledge.

You can probably guess that the reason why I am telling you this is because I have quite recently had one of those epiphanies. Well, yes, I did have one that shook me up pretty good.

It started when I was merely sitting in my dorm room watching Scrubs (this is a daily occurrence now). I had just got out of my last class of the day about two and a half hours ago… it is currently three-thirty. I was sitting there watching Scrubs and thinking just how awesome it is too only have to go to class for two hours and then be done for the rest of the day, when something hit me. No, it wasn’t anything that was concrete or tangible, but rather something hit my heart. It told me that I needed to read.

Read what? As the moment passed by I began to realize that this must be God telling me to read… but He wasn’t being every specific. Eventually I decided to read a daily devotional. It had a quote from Abraham Lincoln that said, “I do not boast that God is on my side. I humbly pray that I am on God’s side.”

Reading that quote quickly got my mind and my heart rolling. Almost instantly I felt the weight of my own hypocrisy. I realized that for the last several years I had merely been a hypocritical “Christian”. I was not following Christ with my actions or my thoughts. Even though I was putting on the “Christian” mask, I was by no means following the One that I called my Savior. Lukewarm is not a very good place to be if you know what Christ said about those who are lukewarm.

Even though the whole process of going from watching Scrubs to beginning to pray was only slightly longer than it took for me to pull up that daily devotional on my computer, I spent several moments in prayer with my God. I was simply praying about everything: telling Him how sorry I was, asking for His help and guidance so that I may longer be bound my hypocrisy, etc. But one thing that came to me during my prayers was the idea of imitating Christ. Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are to be imitators of Christ, but I felt like God was putting a prayer in my heart. So I started praying, “God make me like the moon.”

That phrase may seem a bit strange to you, but first let me explain myself. As we all know the sun is the brightest celestial body in the sky during the day. It is so bright that we are not able to see the other stars in the sky while the sun is above us. During the day the sun is the only light that we can see.

But during the nighttime, the sun is no longer above our heads. Instead of the sun’s light, the night sky is lit by the faint light of billions of other stars. In fact the brightest object in the night sky is not even a star but the moon. But there is something strange about the moon’s light in comparison to the light of the countless stars that fill the sky: the moon doesn’t produce its own light. No, the moon’s light, the brightest light in the night sky, is merely a reflection of the sun’s light. The moon acts like a mirror for the sun’s light, but the moon is not the sun and therefore is not able to be nearly as bright as the sun. In fact the moon’s light doesn’t come close to the full light of the sun. But it is still the brightest in the night sky because of the light from the sun.

By now I imagine that you probably know where I am going to go with this analogy. Christ is like the sun. When He is around His light is so glorious that the other lights, the other stars, are no longer seen. But Christ left this world, and though he will come again, we are currently living in a nighttime world. Christ told us to be the light of the world, but how can we be the light of a dying world when we, ourselves, are a part of that world? Christ will make us like the moon. Just as the moon is the brightest in the sky because it is reflecting the light of the sun, so too are we to be the light of the world by becoming reflections of the Son. If we will let Christ shine through us then we will also shine with His light. We will light the night with Christ’s light until the day comes when Christ returns.

It is amazing what a little time with the King can do. I pray and hope that Christians will strive to be like Christ, for that is the only way that we will be able to earn our name. My hope is that I will continue to follow Christ as He leads me away from my hypocrisy and closer to Him.



Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1