Genre: Acoustic, Progressive Rock, Indie, Worship

Downtempo Indie Worship band Loud Harp are back after successfully crowdfunding their second album, titled ‘Asaph’. As the band themselves write, they now have a new focus with their music, “no longer songs from the bottom of the pit, these are the songs of a people ascending the hill of the Lord.” The familiar chilled, progressive acoustic sounds of these worshippers remains, but now perfected with extra subtleties in their compositions; with the centrepiece of the album being these two tracks that start as an instrumental that builds in to a meditative chant in the second song (121) I Lift My Eyes.

Lyrics:
I lift my eyes to the hills
My help comes from You

You never sleep, you’re watching me
My constant help in trouble.

I set my eyes on
I fix my gaze on
I set my life on You

Loud Harp’s ‘Asaph’ will be released on the 8th, when it is available we will post a link
For more info on Loud Harp visit:
http://www.loudharp.com/

Photography by Shuji Moriwaki:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/shujimoriwaki
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Genre: Rock, Indie, Jazz, Worship

Having left Mars Hill Music back in 2013, the worship group Kings Kaleidoscope now sign over to the brilliantly named Bad Christian Music label. That’s right, we are literally featuring Bad Christian Music on The Good Christian Music Blog! Their first release since the 2012 Christmas EP Joy Has Dawned, this new EP, Live In Color features 5 new original songs and a revamped version of the hymn Be Thou My Vision.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6lLYpIUOmY
Kings Kaleidoscope – Fix My Eyes

This track, ‘Felix Culpa’ sees the 10 piece band utilise their brass section to full effect by injecting their Indie Rock Worship with a high dose of Jazz that fully breaks in towards the end of the track. As if the catchy guitar riff wasn’t enough to make this an eligible best worship song of 2014, the lyrics brilliantly show the singer wrestling with God in prayer over his own sin to the extent of “fighting to be God” (Exodus 20:3) and the grace shown in Christ. Until the studio version comes, this track is a diamond in need of a little polishing, though even as it is, it’s rare to come across a song this musically brilliant as well as lyrically creative and biblical.

Lyrics:
Turn the lights on, look at what I have
See the twisted trophies of a dead man
Countless stories, tell of sin and pain
But they sing the sweetness of my savior’s grace

I’m a torn man, spirit fighting flesh
There’s a battle raging deep in my chest
But all that haunts me, all that leaves a stain
Only sings the sweetness of my savior’s grace

A fortunate fall, my sins are stories of grace to recall
A fortunate fall, I glory in my sins forgiven

Jesus bought me, and now I am His
Dying with Him, in His death I now live
All my vices, to which I’ve been chained
Only speak the sweetness of my savior’s grace

And still I’m a wicked, wretched man, I do everything I hate
I am fighting to be god, I see the and claw and thrash and shake
I have killed and stacked the dead, on a throne from which I reign
In the end I just want blood, and with His blood my hands are stained

See the God who reigns on high, He has opened His own veins
From His wounds a rushing torrent that can wash it all away

Grace upon grace, upon grace upon grace
Grace..

Purchase the Live In Color EP from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/live-in-color-ep/id840779079
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/live-in-color-ep/id840779079

For more info on Kings Kaleidoscope visit:
http://www.kingsklive.com/

Photography by Fusion-Of-Horizons:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fusion_of_horizons/7872381468/
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Genre: Rock, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Funk, Gospel, 70s

Now a veteran of gospel music, this is one of Andraé Crouch’s earlier songs originally released in 1972 on his album ‘Soulfully’. On this testimonial track, gospel music meets 70s Jazz, Soul & Funk creating an incredibly smooth, classic joint that’s aged like a beautiful wine.

Lyrics:
My world was empty before
Christ came into my life
My days were lonely and dark
Before He came and brought the light

Just like a song wanting to be sung
But there was no melody
I never thought there could be
Happiness in this world for me
Let me tell you that

Everything changed
Everything changed
When Christ stepped into my life

My world was empty before
Christ came into my life
My days were dark before he came
Before He came and brought the light

Just like a song wanting to be sung
But there was no melody
See I never thought there could be
Happiness in this world for me
Now I know that

Everything changed
Everything changed
When Christ stepped into my life

One cold and dreary night
He stepped into my life
And He brought to me the breath of spring
And then He gave me a brand new song to sing

Everything changed
Everything changed
When Christ stepped into my life

Purchase Soulfully from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/collectors-series-soulfully
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/collectors-series-soulfully

For more info on Andraé Crouch visit:
https://www.facebook.com/andraecrouch

Photography by John Liu:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8047705@N02/
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Rend Collective - The Art Of Celebration - 4 StarsWith the results of their musical ‘Experiment’ returning positive – as marked by the mass adoption of folk in to mainstream worship – Rend Collective (F.K.A. Rend Collective Experiment) have wisely decided to drop the third word from their name like many of their fans have already been doing so for many years. Along with this name change, the Northern Irish foot-stompers bring their latest musical offering to the table, titled ‘The Art Of Celebration’.

Inspired by a theological breakthrough this album is the bands response to learning and rediscovering that joy (and not seriousness) is a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Although their music has rarely been described as solemn and serious, this revelation is a great place to start any worship album at and as such it’s no surprise that the opener of this record is a track titled ‘Joy’.

Starting with the familiar sound of acoustic guitars and ukelele’s that bounce off the joyful lyrics, it doesn’t take long for Rend Collective to get going, quickly jumping into a mighty, upbeat chorus that sets the tone of the record. Though the music may be somewhat closer to pop than their usual folk style it’s the lyrics of the track that stand out. This isn’t just a happy sing-song that ignores grief, but is actually a complete recognition of the extremes of our emotions.

The pain will not define us/Joy will reignite us/You’re the song/Of our hearts”

Yes, Christ is our joy, and we are called to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phi 4:4) but that doesn’t mean life is without pain, suffering and brokenness. Harking back to the album title, celebration is an ‘art’ to be practised, it doesn’t come by ignoring pain and just wearing a smile instead but actually comes through holding on to steadfast truth.

Though lyrically good throughout, I can’t help but feel that some tracks feel musically forced at times. The indie folk side of the band sounds great on this record but the pop influences sound less natural – the manufactured pop style may go down well with the Christian radio stations and youth conferences but Rend Collective are at their best when they sound like Rend Collective! An example of this manufactured style is the track Burn Like A Star, the lyrics are good, but musically it just doesn’t feel as natural and organic as tracks like All That I Am, Finally Free, Create In Me and Boldly I Approach (The Art Of Celebration) to name just a few.

One of the louder and triumphant songs of the album is the hugely popular worship anthem My Lighthouse. This track beautifully references the pillar of smoke and fire that leads the Israelites out of Egypt in the exodus and tries to create a similar image with the more modern imagery of a lighthouse.

My Lighthouse/Shining in the darkness/I will follow You/My Lighthouse/I will trust the promise/you will carry me/Safe to shore”

Very singable, and very true about Jesus, the only problem being that lighthouses don’t safely guide ships to shore and in no circumstances should be followed but actually warn ships of imminent danger (Rend Collective: great musicians, but not so great sailors)! Technicalities and sarcasm aside though, it’s a great, exuberant worship song bound to find it’s way into many churches sunday setlists.

With the first four tracks of the album following a similar style to My Lighthouse, the record slows things down with the track All That I Am. At first glance it may seem like the band has lost their joyful bounce and turned to the exact thing they wanted to avoid – seriousness – however the track serves as a great reminder that joy is not always loud and ecstatic. I’ll repeat that again, joy is not always loud and ecstatic, as it becomes clear upon multiple listens that this song, although quieter and less energetic than the album openers is written out of a deep joy found only in Christ.

“Selfish ambition and my pride/I’m giving up I’m letting die/In these empty hands I have it all/The pure joy of knowing you my Lord/It’s only in surrender that I’m free”

As a result, listening to this track feels like peering into the band’s personal life and joining in an intimate, genuine, deep joyful worship session. This style of worship isn’t just limited to the chilled, acoustic tracks either as it seems to continue throughout the rest of the album, occasionally  accompanied by strings in tracks like Immeasurably More and Strength Of My Heart.

The highlights of the record then occur in the songs that find the perfect balance between the quiet joy and the loud rejoicing. This is done brilliantly in the track Finally Free and again (but in a different style) in the title track Boldly I Approach (The Art Of Celebration) setting the stage for a perfect mighty finish to a strong album. However, the listener is then confronted with two seemingly out of place songs, a live version of My Lighthouse and a remix of Joy. The live track is good, but having already been released as a single in three different forms it seems overkill that it appears yet again.

Following in the recent footsteps of Hillsong United and Jesus Culture, the apparently anonymous remix of Joy then attempts to shift Rend Collective into the realm of electronica but sadly fails spectacularly by doing no more than adding drums and the occasional synth to the original. This then produces a track that’s neither indie folk pop or electronica but a strange and bland mix of both. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m personally a huge fan of electronic music (it’s no big secret that this blog was inspired by YouTube channels such as Majestic Casual) and it’s not even that Rend Collective shouldn’t be remixed at all. However, remixing is a careful craft that can produce great results but in this situation it seems no more than a gimmick.

Lacklustre remix aside, this album is a great release from everyone’s favourite indie folk worship celebration band and sees the Northern Irish Jesus lovers push themselves into a more polished and matured sound that largely remains true to their ‘Organic Family Hymnal’ days that put them on the map. Overall, The Art Of Celebration shines brightly in the vast sea called contemporary worship music and begs for these songs to be used in churches and not just kept to the confines of hipster Christian’s playlists and youth pastor’s iPods.

Purchase The Art Of Celebration from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/the-art-of-celebration/id816543831
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-art-of-celebration/id816543831

For more info on Rend Collective visit:
http://rendcollective.com/

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Genre: Rock, Indie, Singer/Songwriter

After a couple album releases through Integrity Media, John Mark McMillan now goes independent with his new release Borderland. Funded through Kickstarter, this album sees JMM step it up a notch from his past releases, exploring a more diverse sound that at times bears slight resemblance to Gungor’s recent ‘I Am Mountain’. Like the rest of the album, this track ‘Love At The End’ is packed full of delicious guitar riffs and mighty percussion that will constantly have you reaching for those imaginary drumsticks.

Lyrics:
Out of the gaslight
Off the roads we’ve traveled on

Down by the wayside

Against the sheen of a Babylon

I’ve seen an empire

Taste the tempest of a gathering strong

But I found love at the end of the world

My rabbit’s running

On the street hot heels of Rome

My hour’s coming to reconcile with the dawn

I’m on the brink

I’m on the brink

I’m on the brink

But I found love at the end of the world

Tell the reaper

Tell the repo man

I’ve got nothing that belongs to him

Ruin pushes rubble in the city of sin

But I found love at the end of the world

Out of the goodnight

I was born into your arms

Like you’re my country

Like you’re the hills where I belong

Out of that goodnight (I’m on the brink)

I was born into your arms (I’m on the brink)

You are my country (I’m on the brink)

Like the hills where I found love at the end of the world

Tell the reaper

Tell the repo man

I’ve got nothing that belongs to him

Ruin pushes rubble in the city of sin

But I found love at the end of the world

Purchase ‘Borderland from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/borderland/id819411885
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/borderland/id819411885

For more info on John Mark McMillan visit:
http://johnmarkmcmillan.com/

Photography by dez1172:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dez1172/
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Genre: Electronica, House, Synthpop, Psalms

“After springing on to the scene with a remix of Hillsong United’s Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) included on The White Album, HXLY KXSS (pronounced “holy kiss”) now releases his first original track featuring vocals from Emily Swingler. Influences from artists such as Bondax, Snakehips, Flume and Cosmo’s Midnight are clear on this upbeat but chilled house track, yet the song carves its own unique vibe through the lyrical content. The chorus of Only For You is heavily inspired from verses of Psalm 25 often including direct quotes while the rest of the lyrics tell a more personal side to the relationship spoken of throughout the song.”

Lyrics:
Do You remember

When we met in ’98?

You took my hand

Held it tight and kept me safe

Hold me close, keep me near

Though I was lost I’m now right here

Oh my soul sings only for You

Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth

Remember not the sins of my youth

Now my soul sings only for You

Do you remember

When I turned my back on You?

I was hiding in the shadows

But Your light kept shining through

Hold me close, keep me near

Though I was lost I’m now right here

Oh my soul sings only for You

Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth

Remember not the sins of my youth

Now my soul sings only for You

Do You remember

When I came running back home?

Dirty rags washed clean

You’ve made me white as snow

Hold me close, keep me near

Though I was lost I’m now right here

Oh my soul sings

Oh my soul sings

Oh my soul sings

Oh my…

Oh my soul sings only for You

Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth

Remember not the sins of my youth

Now my soul sings only for You

Purchase ‘Only For You’ on iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/only-for-you-feat.-emily-swingler/id843388648
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/only-for-you-feat.-emily-swingler/id843388648

Photograph from NASA:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Images/

For more info on HXLY KXSS visit:
https://www.facebook.com/HXLYKXSS
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Genre: Hip-Hop, Rap,

Produced by Soulection artist IAMNOBODI, on this track Sean C. Johnson, Shy Speaks and Adam L. give their testimonies on how pornography and porn addiction has affected them. The title takes it’s name from XXX which in roman numerals is 30, this number being important because it takes 30 days of not doing something to break a habit/addiction. With some powerful testimonies, and a real honesty from these artists on an issue that affects so many people in the church who may not have the appropriate support to talk through these struggles, this song may offend some but speak loudly to others. Excerpts from a John Piper sermon have also been used to add impact to the great lyrics of the track; a favourite line being the brilliant nod from Shy Speaks to the original instrumental – Kendrick Lamar’sB****, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ – with the line “I guess I killed their vibe”.

As a note, I’m aware that some people who hear this may struggle with porn addiction and would like to use this song to point people to the brilliant ministry of http://www.xxxchurch.com/.

Lyrics:

Verse 1:
Wish I could erase the images I’ve seen
Year was 93’, tape on the bed right next to me
Couldn’t wait till my Auntie went to sleep, so we put the TV on mute
And the girl on the TV so cute, could have sworn she was looking at me
Now the seed is planted so deep, turn the lights off
Mouth sitting wide open, but I can’t talk
Did the girl just really take her clothes off?
Can’t look away, it’s about to do down holler “May Day”
Real talk I thought this was a game? I left that room with chains
Never looked at girls the same, because I know
Being thirty years old and a virgin, don’t mean you out grow them urges
Never should have pulled back that curtain
Thank God for the blood he purchased me
Still the images in my sleep; never thought I’d be this deep
When a girl walk past I’m weak… Why not? That’s what I’m thinking
I’m a pig in the morning like bacon, clothes on in my mind you naked
My virtue I’m forsaking. My Lord 
Probably going to need your grace
Don’t forget my face…be back tomorrow roll tape. 

Chorus: 
Bare my soul, let it go, let it go
Heavy load, bare my soul, let it go, let it go

Verse 2:
(I was) A sweet 16, looking so clean, with 2 of my girls, linking up with our boos
We agreed we weren’t pitching home-runs, but letting’em hit a few bases was cool
So yeah he knew, he wasn’t gone do me; plus we were coming to just watch a movie
He popped it in, it was a flick, and all I seen was the back of a chick
With her hand on his “whoa”, out the corner of my eye, I’m looking at him feeling sick
You would’ve sworn I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, they way I start yelling, “Aye pull it out, quick”
They looked at me like “you serious?”, I looked like, “yeah that’s right”
They looked at me and just SMH’d, I guess I killed their vibe but
I, say we gone get caught, plus it’s too loud, he say, my dad walk in right now he would be proud
Wow, but bore me; he say, “nah you a virgin, you scared of this orgies”
He was right, I left that room with questions
Am I the object of a man’s affections or his erection
All I know, that day I said no, & as a woman, I never looked backed
But if I did this is how it would go
I would haul in from a hard day, hop up out my heel
In heat, I would hover the internet for some hot thrills
Conscious crying, body tingling, head low singing

Repeat Chorus

Verse 3: 
I used to sneak peeks at my momma’s catalog, that’s where the apple falls 
On pouty lips and padded bras, and that’s what Adam saw
It had him all off balance
And castles fall when passive palace walls are challenged by the reign of cats and jackled dogs 
She bares her chest, now I bare my chest (Hasslehoff)
I swear my chest was barely even hairy when my addict called, and told me that is all
Convincing me this blackened hall was one I had to walk
And I had a Dad and Mom
But my camouflaged was real, for every layer that she peels there’s one that I conceal
And I can deal with this until I get to numb to feel what I can’t kill
If you can’t drive a screw you know the drill
You take the only pill and slowly kill your family
Traded my first love for a fantasy 
All because a planted seed I can’t retrieve 
I think of how it damaged me
Can’t stand to think my fantasy was probably there because her father was a man 
like me… Help me Jesus!!

Repeat Chorus

Download the album ‘Grateful’ for free from Bandcamp: http://seancjohnson.bandcamp.com/album/grateful

For more info on Sean C. Johnson visit:
http://www.seancjohnson.com/

For more info on Shy Speaks visit:
http://www.shyspeaks.com/

For more info on Adam L. visit:
https://twitter.com/ashimself

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