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Dear Listener,

It’s been a busy year! Our audience has increased hugely – the YouTube channel now has over 12,000 Subscribers and total video views currently stands at 1.5 million! Amongst the growth though with some help from friends and family I’ve been in touch with more artists to bring you another free summer mixtape and here it is.

It’s not as long as last years, at just 11 tracks but I’d rather deliver a shorter mixtape of top quality music than fill it with anything I could get permission for!

Like last years mixtape I hope you are introduced to new artists through this compilation. I’ve come to know some of these artists really well whilst putting this together and by speaking to them throughout the year and I can honestly say there are some great people featured on this album who truly worship Christ with everything that they have to give. So, check out the poster that’s included and get in touch with the artists’ through Facebook and Twitter etc. and tell them how much you appreciate their music, knowing these guys most of them will probably even find the time to reply to you! (Then go download the rest of their work!)

Be encouraged by their music, share it with friends not just because you secretly hope they’ll become Christians through it but because it’s simply a collection of great music! Enjoy the diverse mix of genres, the different ways that people praise God and the different stories people have to tell.

My prayer this year is for this mixtape to spread further than before, to reach Christians throughout the world who need encouraging, Christians who wish there was great music for a great God, Christians who need a new song to sing and soundtrack to dance to.

A huge thanks to all the artists involved, for supporting the blog and the work I do and wanting to be part of this small but influential mixtape.

And finally thanks to you the listener for the continued support to both the blog and the artists we feature, whether it’s simply by liking a link on Facebook, sharing the blog with friends or donating money so that we can give more copies of the mixtape away. Thank you for making this possible.


In Christ,
Stephen Bradley,
TheGoodChristianMusicBlog.com

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rivers robots all things newHaving started as a solo project by Manchester native Jonathan Ogden (lead vocals and keyboard), Rivers & Robots has since gained three more members, David Hailes (guitar and ukelele), Nathan Stirling (bass, guitar and percussion) and Kelani Koyejo (drums) as of 2012 and are now releasing their first album as a four-piece group.

With a firm foundation of two strong solo albums – The Great Light (2011) and Take Everything (2012) – the expectations were high with their latest release All Things New and I can confidently say that they have met all of them and even exceeded these expectations in many places. When I first heard Rivers & Robots two years ago, what drew me to Jonathan’s music was the originality in the style and specifically the way he structured his songs. Regardless of what the rest of the worship scene was doing he always produced what he felt God had put on his heart and it always paid off. Pleasantly, with this album that remains just as true, and as a group they haven’t bowed to the pressure of writing simple songs that churches can sing all around the world but sing their own song, in their own style and it sits in stark contrast to the sound of contemporary worship music.

Starting as they mean to go on, the album opens with the chilled anthem ‘We Have Overcome’, beginning with just claps and acoustic guitar it screams organic indie worship without ever feeling forced or copied. Although it doesn’t give much description, the best adjective seems to be that it simple sounds very British – influences of bands such as Bombay Bicycle Club, Coldplay and Bloc Party reach you much quicker than any Christian music influence does and it’s incredibly refreshing!

Jumping in to the upbeat ‘Perfect Love’ followed by the charming ‘White As Snow’, it’s clear that one of Rivers & Robots values is quality, thoughtful lyrical content which firmly sticks to a specific theme.With each track they uniquely hold on to their indie roots whilst fully embracing the heart of worship music. Comparing the album to their past work, the production has also stepped up a notch, they may not be professionals but the quality of their music could stand alongside any major worship group and still shine.

On the topic of production the particular stand out track is the electronic/sample based ‘Fall Down’. Luscious ambient vibes are littered with interesting sounds like guitar harmonics to create a unique interlude from the rest of the album which works beautifully. Another album highlight is the song ‘You Hear Me’, a chilled acoustic track about prayer and how even though God knows our thoughts before we bring them to Him, He still wants us to come and speak to Him. Also, in a similar vein is ‘Keep My Fire Burning’ a gentle, intimate piece of worship that wouldn’t be out of place if sung beside a campfire. It’s in the songs like this as well as ‘Light Will Dawn’, and ‘Voice That Stills The Raging Sea’ where Rivers & Robots are really at their best. Although there are moments in the album where the tempo is upped, on the more upbeat tracks the climax can sometimes fall slightly flat, the songs may build and build but it never fully feels like it reaches where it’s heading. It’s not a huge criticism as the album works well as a calm, chilled, folky worship record but the change of pace would work nicely if the upbeat tracks delivered a little more.


Overall, this album really sets the bar high, and as a band they have produced a brilliant record. All Things New is coherent in style and the input and musicianship of the the new band members really comes through in many beautiful and subtle moments of the album (such as the slide guitar on the final track) and they haven’t made the usual mistake of favouring a pop influenced overproduced sound. Already leading worship at a few events and playing more and more live shows these guys are sure to have bigger things in store and if they continue to stay true to their organic, indie, British sound they’ll definitely be turning heads as they go – this truly is must have music.

 

Purchase All Things New from Bandcamp:
http://riversrobots.bandcamp.com/album/all-things-new

For more info on Rivers & Robots visit:
http://riversandrobots.com/

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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: Singer/Songwriter, Acoustic, Folk, Worship, Indie, Modern Hymn

Irish born Tom McConnell, also known for being the frontman of The Ramshackle Orchestra, today released his latest solo musical offering with his single ‘Honeybee’. On the B-track ‘Old Hymns/New Hearts, we hear Tom singing praises to the Lord with his folk flair and Irish charm, telling a different love story to the ones usually heard on Valentine’s Day. Great theology and even greater songwriting makes this a brilliant indie worship track from an exciting singer who consistently delivers.

Lyrics:
When I was lost my guilty heart was leading me astray,
I put my trust in idols that shall falter and decay.
Whilst in the depths of my despair the sinless Saviour died
And bore the wrath for all my sin when He was crucified.

O what a gift so freely given and grace so undeserved,
That Jesus came from Heavʼn to earth to serve and not be served.
For all the wrong that I have done my Lord has paid the price
And reconciled me to His throne my Jesusʼ sacrifice.

The power of our glorious God the grave could not contain,
Death is defeated, once for all, because He rose again!
Jesus you and you alone sustain me and suffice,
Alleluia! Iʼm forgiven and made alive with Christ.

Alleluia! He has loved us so abundantly,
Brought from death to life because my God has ransomed me!

Here’s an older track of his ‘Riches’ performed live with a loop pedal.

Purchase ‘Honeybee’ from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/honeybee-single/id821271987
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/honeybee-single/id821271987

For more info on Tom McConnell visit:
http://tmcconnellmusic.com/
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Genre: Acoustic, Worship, Folk, Singer/Songwriter

 

Cageless Birds are a community of people from North Carolina who love, follow and worship Jesus with everything in them. Recently they met and recorded a live album comprised of songs written by different members of the group and released it with the humble name, ‘Live at Home‘. This track, East & West, is a calming song written by Jonathan David Helser based on a verse from Psalm 103 this song reflects on how far our sins have been removed from us, and that we no longer stand condemned because of Jesus’ death & resurrection. Simplistic, humble and organic this album is a beautiful piece of art and worship that never feels forced or contrived, but instead ushers the listener into a unique style of worship.

Purchase ‘Live at Home’ from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/live-at-home/id797077040
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/live-at-home/id797077040

 

For more info on Cageless Birds visit:
http://cagelessbirds.com/CB/Home.html
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Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Acoustic, Folk, Ambient

The man behind The Followers and Pilgrim, Josh White now releases a heart-felt and intimate solo acoustic album. This track, ‘Enclosed By You’ presents a conversation between Josh and God, with Josh’s doubt leading to him questioning God’s love, with God’s response of “I will never leave you” as the chorus, emphasised by the beautiful harmonies. Emotionally transparent, powerful and reflective this track is a remarkable piece of music, from an inspiring album.

Lyrics:
Will You stay with me,
When I forget You’re there?
Will You still love me,
When my love lingers elsewhere?

I hear you softly speaking,
Secrets that enclose
Words that softly linger,
With sweet repose

“I will never leave you
Leave you waiting ’round
I’m the One who’s been waiting
For you to turn around
For you to turn around”

How can I contain You
When You contain everything?
The house of my soul is far too small
Still I will sing

I hear you softly speaking,
Secrets that enclose
Words that softly linger,
With sweet repose

“I will never leave you
Leave you waiting ’round
I’m the One who’s been waiting
For you to turn around
For you to turn around”

Enclosed by You
In close I see
I am in You
And You are in me

Purchase ‘Absolution’ from iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/absolution/id789899274
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/absolution/id789899274

Or download the album for free from Noisetrade!
http://noisetrade.com/joshalexanderwhite/absolution

For more info on Josh White visit:
https://www.facebook.com/joshwhitemusic
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Seeker & Servant - Into Your Love, I Go - 3.5 Stars

Just over a year old, Seeker & Servant are mere babies to the worship music scene – a genre often dominated by huge corporate bands and singers – yet these three guys from Jackson, Mississippi are singing loud enough for many of us to notice. Recently undergoing a slight transformation in their sound due to the addition of Kody Gautier to the band earlier in 2013, this album seeks to combine their folk beginnings with electronic ambience.

Opening the album with a cover of ‘How Deep The Father’s Love For Us’ instantly brings to mind other contemporary worship groups, specifically ‘Pacific Gold’ (previously known as ‘Wayfarer’), though it doesn’t take long for Seeker & Servant to leave their own mark on this well known hymn. The arrangement works great, and the addition of a chorus/bridge – “I was a wretch/and then you saved me (repeat)/then you set me free” – helps to break up the repetitiveness of the track, however the slight change in melody & pace at the end of most lines feels uncomfortable, but perhaps that’s because they are altering a traditional tune.

It’s the next few tracks though that Seeker & Servant really start to come into their own, brilliantly showcasing their majestic sound on ‘Let Me Not’. Starting as a quiet, acoustic track with repeated meditative lyrics, this song plays like a powerful and intimate prayer. As the melody builds, the song is split up beautifully with a break down that ushers in a gentle whistle, repeated all through the building orchestral crescendo that climaxes with a short-lived but triumphant chant. Though the structure is much more progressive than the rest of the album, the band have stumbled on to a beautiful sound, less congregational and more responsive/personal worship, it’s a style of Christian music that rarely goes mainstream yet when done well we hear incredible pieces of music like Hillsong United’s ‘Oceans’ or (closer to Seeker & Servant’s sound) Bethel’s ‘Give Me Jesus’.

It’s clear throughout the album that Seeker & Servant have fully adopted this new ambient electronica sound, and this elegantly shines through on the instrumental interlude ‘Meditate (Psalm 1)’, although just as the synths begin to take over and the electronic orchestra starts to grow, it swiftly comes to an abrupt end all too soon gently hinting that there was something more to hear but never quite delivering it. This is somewhat of a theme throughout the album, that despite their sound being big and ambient it often stays in the background.

However, on the occasions where that awesome, powerful music is brought into the spotlight it shines brilliantly. Ironically, the only time the album fully delivers that ‘something more’ is at the climax of the last track ‘Into Your Love, I Go’. Lyrically the song speaks of entering God’s grace and being covered by love, and when the title line “Into the streams of your love, I go” meets the jubilant fanfare midway through the track, images of entering the Kingdom and meeting God face to face quickly come to mind. Ending with shouts of praise from not just the vocals but the instruments as well, the album finishes spectacularly.

Though the current worship scene is no stranger to electronic music (with many big names following the lead of indie artists) as Seeker & Servant join the pack they have managed to carve out their own path without stepping on any other artists’ toes. For such a young group, Seeker & Servant have produced a brilliant debut record, and although the album falls short occasionally, it still provides the listener with a unique worship experience.

Album Highlights: ‘Let Me Not’, ‘In Awe’, ‘Our Greatest Joy’, ‘Into Your Love, I Go

Purchase ‘Into Your Love, I Go’ on iTunes:
United Kingdom:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/into-your-love-i-go/id740118844
United States of America:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/into-your-love-i-go/id740118844

For more info on Seeker & Servant visit:
http://seekerandservant.tumblr.com/