Album Review: The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE

With the incredibly encouraging and uplifting music that we've been given from southern rock-band NEEDTOBREATHE in the past few years, it can be easy to forget that they aren't a Christian band. They are Christians. But they are actually a rock band signed to a major label (Atlantic Records) that choose to write about what they believe. I read a mainstream review that said, "They are either the most rocking Christian band out there or the most Christian rock band. It’s hard to tell which." I think NTB has found the perfect niche.

"We don’t set out to write secular songs or Christian songs. We write what comes out. I think that says a lot for us as a band. We don’t have to make Christian songs because we are on a major label and it’s not expected that we do so. We make them because that’s who we are and that’s what we are about. I think people appreciate us singing about something that's important." - Bear Rinehart (lead singer)

That said, they have really made a splash in the Christian market and have seen several hits on the Christian charts with, "Washed By the Water" "Something Beautiful" The Outsiders" and "Lay Em Down." They've even won several Dove Awards. Just recently, they were offered an opportunity of a lifetime to open for mega-superstar, Taylor Swift. I think it says something that she handpicked them to join her on tour (gotta say, Taylor girl... you have great taste). Their previous album "The Outsiders" has been playing in my car for over a year now. You can ask my husband. We just took it out today to replace it with... "The Reckoning." And after nearly five complete listenings in one day, I can tell you it is there to stay. Now for a little review of each track.

1. Ooh's and Aah's - Ok, not going to lie... this opener through me for a loop. I did not expect such a forceful rock song to come from the more bluesy/soulful rock I had come to love. This is also their first song written in a minor key. It's not bad, just different. And are those trumpets I'm hearing at the end?? Ooh... aah. :)

2. White Fences - On my first listen-through I loved the powerful and catchy chorus. But I knew there had to be more to the lyrics than I was comprehending. "You leave me in the dark. Recounting all my sins. You put words in my mouth. But who is gonna mend these white fences?" Sometimes the best songs are those left for interpretation by the listener. Feel free to take a stab at it in the comments. I'm still working on mine.

3. Drive All Night - This is my favorite intro so far. Love the driving feel... sort of gives a nod at the title, don't ya think? It has a Coldplay-esque build up around the :50 mark which I absolutely love. It's easy to see why this song was their second single released from the album. It's incredibly catchy. Favorite lyric? "Beg the book to turn the page, cause I get stuck where the villains get away. Somewhere in this wretched tale there must be a line, where the victim gets his way just one time."

4. A Place Only You Can Go -  Even though lead singer, Bear’s voice is definitely full of a rocky growl, I love when he sings ballads. There is something beautiful in the contrast. Bagpipes and fiddles galore in this one. After listening to the entire album one time through, this song was still ringing in my mind. It's only fault is that it’s too short. Very powerful. "Oh I know this song won’t do, enough to prove my love to you. In my heart you’ll always know, there is a place only love can go. There is a place only you can go." Can't speak for Bear, but this song sounds like a prayer to the Lord. And judging from their past prayer-like tunes (i.e. Garden) I wouldn't doubt it for a second.

5. Slumber - This was the first single released from this album. Definitely a fun, upbeat jam. I've loved it for months, so it's like an old friend to me now. I've thought about setting this song for my alarm clock on my phone. "Wake on up from your slumber. Baby, open up your eyes." Fitting, no? :)

6. The Reckoning - Title track time! Better live up to it... "Goin to California, suitcase in my hand. Never run away a boy, when you can walk away a man." Thud. Talk about a good lyric. I love it! The song is all about making those decisions in life that lead you into adulthood. And I can't tell you how much I relate to the line, "A journey through the purpose, the weight of when it’s worthless." Especially in regard to chasing musical aspirations.

7. Able- So if APOYCG was ringing in my head after the first listen-through, this one was ringing in my head after the second, third and fourth. I can't get over this song. It has the feel of an old spiritual, "Though I feel I’m strong enough to carry all this load... I’m not able, I'm not able, I'm not able on my own.” Amen.

8. Maybe They're On To Us - This song has me baffled musically. I was straight up feeling nostalgic from the very first beat. First, it reminded me of a Backstreet Boys song, "The Call" (I think it was the affect on the vocals). But then, even weirder... the musical progression in the chorus reminded me of "The Thong Song." I'm not even joking. It took me forever to figure out, but it finally came to me. Listen and tell me it isn't so. Needless to say, I've been distracted trying to place where I'd heard the hook before that I haven't really focused on the lyrics much. It sounds intense, whatever is going on. (p.s. please don't go listen to the thong song for all those born after 1995 and have no clue what I'm talking about. you don't want to, trust me.)

9. Wanted Man - Love the airy feel of this one. The first time I heard the echo after Bear sings, “I’m a wanted man” in the chorus and then shouts, “so come and get me” was a chill-inducing moment. Love that it feels like a musical reaction rather than a forced statement. This is another track with Coldplay-esque features including the “woah’s” in the background towards the end. And even though I think I compare every rock band to Coldplay in some way, there are definitely some strong musical similarities between these two.

10. Keep Your Eyes Open - Nothing else to say here except - epic anthem.

11. Tyrant Kings - This song is slowly becoming one of my favorites. I think I love the overall sound of this the best. Starting slow and building up to quite a powerful chorus, "Still I’m feeling like a vagrant in my own town. I'm like an awkward conversation. All of this work and I ain’t seein any wages. I ain’t gonna stop until I do." I would assume this song is about Bear and his band-member/brother Bo, traveling and doing what they love at the cost of not having a real place to call home anymore. The second verse is what really gives me this idea, "More times than not the ones you love are who you let down. We're chasing something big our parents never tracked down. The hardest part is looking back and making sense of the humble tries and troubled times of where we came from." This one only gets better with each listen.

12. Devil's Been Talkin' - I can definitely relate to this one. I've opened my mouth when I wish I hadn't. "Bag of bones and blood red cheeks, guilty from the words I speak. Say the truth will set you free, but it won’t for me." This has a cool feel with the sounds of mandolins, pianos, tamborines, and electric guitars and a full drum set. This is one great mixture musically, with a message lyrically.

13. Angel At My Door - Is Bear Rinhart married? If not, this is totally about him wanting to find his wife. If he is married... well then, he has some explaining to do. :)

14. Learn to Love - *cheesy moment alert* This is my new love song to Josh. :) It is just beautiful. And I love the addition of a female background voice. This is the final song on the album and it leaves me feeling musically complete. I don't think Bear's voice has ever sounded better.

Family Friendly Rating: 1. Great music with meaning, for the young and old.

(1 – very friendly; 10 – mature)