Album Review: Nothing is Wasted by Elevation Worship

As I type this, Elevation Worship's newest album "Nothing is Wasted" is sitting at #5 on the overall, most-downloaded iTunes Albums charts.

Yep. There it is. Smooshed in-between Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.

Seriously. What an accomplishment!

It is amazing to see worship music make a national impact on the music world. Songs that are lifted up to our God for His glory, His honor, His fame. Songs that bring us into His presence and on our knees to worship. Songs that give us a glimpse of what heaven will be like one day.

But let's be honest, not all churches have welcomed this style of music with open arms. For some, the electric guitar riffs are too piercing. The drums too loud. The words too repetitive.

But for the rest of us who have fully embraced Psalm 96:1, "Sing a new song to the Lord!" You can be filled with anticipation that many of these songs will be making their way into your church rotation very soon.

After listening through the entire album (both live and recorded versions), I have chosen the Top 5 songs that I would like to see added to my church rotation (no pressure, Jimmy).

1. Nothing is Wasted

Goodness, this title track is powerful. Worship leaders, this is the number one song I would recommend adding to your rotation. It doesn't get more true than this.

You are loving You are wise There is nothing in my life You cannot revive

Nothing is wasted You work all things for good Nothing is wasted Your promise remains Forever You reign

2. Great in Us

The opening track sets the tone of the album perfectly. Love the extended instrumental intro. I could get really detailed with how much I enjoyed the build of this song, down to the piano-only instrumental and the layering of drum beats over the bridge. But the lyrics are really what make this song one of my top choices for corporate worship.

Greater than our sin A greater love begins Through the power of Your cross Your love is great in us You've taken all our shame You've washed it all away Through the power of Your cross Your love is great in us

3. Be Lifted High

This song is simple. And sometimes simple makes the best worship song. This embodies everything that a worship song should be - exalting God and showing our need for Him. And I absolutely LOVE the catchy chorus, in fact I think I'll probably have it in my head for the rest of this post.

You be lifted high You be lifted higher I belong to You I am nothing without You

4. Open Up Our Eyes

I like that we were able to hear two different versions of this song on the album. I like them both, in different ways. But the acoustic-intro in the live version really won me over. It has a great melody. And again, great lyrics. I am so thankful that Elevation does a great job at incorporating scripture in their songs.

For Your love endures forever Oh Your love endures forever Open up our eyes, surround us with Your light Your love endures forever

Our God is fighting for us always Our God is fighting for us all Our God is fighting for us always We are not alone, we are not alone

5. In Your Presence

It was hard for me to choose just one more song for my Top 5. There are several others that I really love (including Greater & Unchanging God). But the bridge really makes this song come alive for me. And there is nothing greater I ask of a worship song than to be in His presence.

You will be our guide To the end, to the end The Lord is with me He will not forsake me

 

There you have it! My Top 5 recommendations.

Hope you enjoy worshiping to these new songs. I know God is blessed by our praises!

 

Album Review: Barton Hollow (The Civil Wars)

I'm a little behind on The Civil Wars love. I finally downloaded their album on iTunes earlier this week. I've been putting it off for a couple reasons. One, I'm a huge Joy Williams fan. And selfishly, I just wanted to hear HER sing; not some Johnny Depp look-a-like that apparently made up the other half of the Civil Wars duo (his name is John Paul White, by the way). Secondly, I just never got around to it. So here I am now, a Barton Hollow album owner. What have I to say?

1) 20 years - This starts out with a guitar/mandolin picking out an Irish-sounding melody on the strings. As is the case for most of the songs on this album, the story is what gives the song it's personal feel. Apparently inspired by a 20 year old secret in Joy's family, the song leaves us with more questions than answers. "There's a note underneath your front door, that I wrote 20 years ago, yellow paper and a faded picture, and a secret in an envelope." In the entire three minutes of the song, we never find out what that secret is.

2) I've Got This Friend - We all have those single friends that we are wanting to set up with someone. We think we're being nonchalant by saying, "Hey, you know... I've got this friend." That's basically the premise of this song. It begins with vocals from John singing the first verse, "I've got this friend, I don't think you know him..." and then they join together in a beautiful harmonious chorus singing, "If the right one came, if the right one came along." To which Joy echoes in the second verse, "I've got this friend, I don't think you know her..." And here we have our first matchmaking love song. :)

3) C'est la mort - This is a hauntingly, beautiful song. The perfect combination of piano and guitar to the melody of two raw vocals. I love it. The meaning of C'est la mort, you are wondering? Such is death. My only complaint is that it ends too soon.

4) To Whom it May Concern - The beauty of this album is in it's raw, acoustic feel. This song is one of the few that also includes string accompaniment, yet it still manages to keep the feeling of an intimate setting. The lyrics are beautiful, "I'm slowly counting down the days, til I finally know your name... I missed you but I haven't met you, oh but I want to." I have a feeling this album is going to greatly appeal to those who are still waiting on the love of their lives to come along.

5) Poison and Wine - This is the first song I heard on the album. And I have to admit that while this is definitely a beautiful song, and probably my favorite, musically, on the album... the music video disturbs me. *Rabbit-trail warning* I just can't get past the fact that both Joy and John are married - to other people - and singing so passionately to each other. I mean, call me prude, but I don't know how you can sing love songs to another man and not begin to feel something. This song makes me feel something just listening to it. So, I don't know what else to say... but, maybe they're just good actors.

6) My Father's Father - It's been awhile sing I've heard good folk music. It's hard to review some of these songs, because there is so much more than just simple verses and choruses. And even the music is never quite the same throughout. I will comment on their harmonies here though, they are perfect. I love how they will sing in unison at times, and then add a harmony on the last word of the sentence. This is a soft, beautiful folk cry.

7) Barton Hollow - The title track definitely brings something different to the album thus far. Driven by several acoustic guitars and a kick drum. It reminds me of an African American spiritual.

8) The Violet Hour - The only instrumental track on the album. Piano, acoustic guitar and strings. A gorgeous melody throughout. One of the best attributes of The Civil Wars is their ability to write music outside of the predictable I-IV-V-vi chord progression.

9) Girl With the Red Balloon - "She's the one you let in out of the cold. The one whose always and never alone. Did she let him go, or did the four winds blow him away? Does she even know she's the girl with the red balloon?" I'm still attempting to interpret these lyrics. I'm gathering a parallel between letting love get away and a balloon, but why does it have to be red? Don't you just love music that makes you think? Ha. The great thing about this song, is you can enjoy the music without even knowing what the lyrics mean. :)

10) Falling - Joy's vocals are beautiful on this love song. I mean, non-love song, or whatever you'd call it. The lyrics are actually the opposite of your typical love song, "Please tell me you know, I've got to let you go. I can't help falling out of love with you." I believe them when their singing this. That's what scares me.

11) Forget Me Not - I can't help but think about Johnny Cash and June Carter when listening to this. Next please.

12) Birds of a Feather - This features an electric guitar in the background, which is quite different than most of the tracks on the album. One of the more rock/folk sounding tracks, if that is even a possible combination. The lyrics allude to two childrens riddles, "Humpty Dumpty" in "all the king's horses, and all of his men, couldn't tear us apart" and a hint at "Ring around the Rosey" with the inclusion of "ashes, ashes" at the end of the song.

Note: Bonus tracks not included in the review.

Family Friendly Rating: 3. For a slight mention of alcohol (“wine”), the devil and romantic elements.

(1 – very friendly; 10 – mature)

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)