Album Review: Flags (Brooke Fraser)

Anyone that drives anywhere with me for a period of time will likely hear a song or two (or ten), by one of my favorite artists - Brooke Fraser. I love her voice and the wonderful things she does with it. I also enjoy (and this is sadly not the case for most artists today) the thoughtful lyrics that create her songs. She is a worship leader by day, writing some of my favorite worship songs for Hillsong Church including, "Lead Me to the Cross," "Hosanna," and "Desert Song," And it was just a couple years ago that I discovered she was also a touring artist, signed to Sony records. I fell in love with her previous album, Albertine, and just last night purchased her newest album Flags. (Thank you to my friend, Jen, for reminding me that I needed to get this!) I like to do reviews on my first listen-through of an album. So here you go... my first-impression and honest take.

1. Something in the Water - Yep, this is Brooke. Everything I love about her all in one song. This is a fun little love song with a driving beat and little vocal nuances to make it interesting (Do do do do...). The lyrics are just as steady as the rhythmic melody of this song, "Give me long days in the sun, preludes to the nights to come, previews of the mornings laying in all lazy, give me something fun to do like a life of loving you." It's definitely apparent that Brooke is enjoying married life with her husband. They've been married since March 2008, just a few months before my husband and I. And if they're anything like us... they're still honeymoonin'. ;)

2. Betty - Very creative way to start out the verse, "You've got a quick snap lock on your cold, cold heart" with repeated finger-snapping in the background. Literal snapping fingers. Love it. There are so many different instruments used in this one, I stopped counting at 10. It took me a minute, but I realize this song is really about all of us who struggle with letting anyone know who we really are. "You've got your scars and you've got your birthmarks... you've got your secrets, you've got your regrets, darling, we all do." She's so right.

3. Orphans, Kingdoms - The best songs are the ones that can say what you are feeling using words that you'd never think to say. That's what happens here with "Orphans, Kingdoms." I'm not sure I would have ever summed up my time here on earth as  "time eroders, we're wrinkling children now." But that's what Brooke does and it makes perfect sense. Or at least it feels like it.

4. Who Are We Fooling? (feat. Aqualung) - I am a sucker for piano. And whoa, wait a minute. Brooke Fraser and... Aqualung? This just brings back memories. (*Rabbit trail warning*) When I first met my husband Josh, I heard the song "Brighter than Sunshine" by Aqualung and have never been able to think of anything else but him when I hear that voice. So of course, I'm going to love this song. Oh wait... it's about a depressing marriage? Ehh. With a chorus like, "Better or worse, but what else can we do? And better or worse, I am tethered to you. If it's not either of us, tell me who are we fooling?" I'm beginning to think I'm not going to want to listen to this on a regular basis. But then the bridge brings hope... with words that are far more close to reality than most of the lustful, fantasy stuff put out today, "Cause real love, is hard love. It's all we have. It's a break-neck, train wreck. It's all we have." I can't help but agree.

5. Ice On Her Lashes - Say goodbye to the days when song titles gave you a summary of what the song was about. I did not know what was coming with this one. But after a complete listen, I get it! I'm beginning to think that Brooke takes a little pleasure in keeping her audience guessing. I don't want to spoil the song for anyone... so just have a listen for yourself.

6. Coachella - Beautiful little diddy. I don't know exactly what the meaning is behind this one, but I know that there is a famous music festival in CA called Coachella. This would make sense, because the entire song has that "good-time-music-festival" feeling. She captures all the imagery in her lyrics, "We are standing on the shore. In the smoke, in the starlight. On the edge of a human sea, and the tide is in."

7. Jack Kerouac - This sounds like a day at the beach. And it could be. It's about being in a new place and some guy named Jack Kerouac. He was a Canadian-American novelist and poet, and apparently traveled a lot. This is the first song where I don't find much substance, honestly, in the lyrics. The rhythm and percussion are definitely cool though.

8. Sailboats - Another beautiful and melodious song full of imagery. This is the embodiment of peace and serenity. My soul, however, longs for lyrics that are beyond worldly love. Brooke is one of my favorite writers when it comes to writing spiritual allegories, but I'm not seeing a lot of that in this album. But there are still three songs to go, so I will keep quiet.

9. Crows and Locusts - SPOKE TOO SOON. Here we go. This is what I love about Brooke! Her honest way of confronting spiritual themes with story-like allegories. I think this is my favorite song of the album so far. I almost cried towards the end... just the rawness in her voice as she sings, "She limps on up to the top of a mount, looks at the faltered harvest, feels her sweat in the ground and the burn in her nose and the knowing in her guts, something's still gonna grow. She ain't leaving 'till it does." How many times have I felt that way myself? The harvest (people) is plentiful... yet so full of locusts (sinfulness) eating away at the roots (souls). What can we do to stop this? Well, as the song ends we hear whispering, chorus-like voices sing out, "What can wash away my sin... nothing but the blood. What can make me whole again... nothing but the blood." There's the answer.

10. Here's to You - This feels like an anthem. For some reason I picture a group of people standing around in a pub, raising their classes together in the chorus and singing out, "Open your mouth and sing out your song, life is short as the day is long. Can't leave you my body, but I'll leave you a tune. This is my legacy, cheers to you." Not quite sure if that was what Brooke was going for. Probably.

11. Flags - Great ending to a great album. I can relate to this song so much. "I don't know why a good man will fall, while a wicked one stands, and our lives blow about, like flags on the land." I was just asking the same question today. Why do the righteous fall? Why are they tormented by this? Meanwhile, why do I look around and see so many people delighting in their wickedness? Sigh. I think it's okay not to understand some things. And this song claims victory in such a powerful way, "You who mourn will be comforted. You who hunger will hunger no more. Oh the last shall be first, of this I am sure. You who weep now, will laugh again. All you lonely, be lonely no more. Yes the last will be first, of this I am sure."

Family Friendly Rating: 3. For a slight mention of alcohol ("red wine") and romantic elements.

(1 – very friendly; 10 – mature)