Music Video

JGivens El v. Envy Album Cover. 4.5 Star ReviewStraight out of Sin City (that’s Las Vegas for those not in the know), filling speakers with his grace-laced blend of electronic-infused hip-hop comes the brilliant emcee JGivens with his latest album El v. Envy. A double play-on-words, the title of the album itself is a reference to Las Vegas, Nevada (the acronym of which is LV, NV) and also El being one of God’s names revealed in the Old Testament and Envy representing the enemy.

The first thing that struck me with this record is the electronica-influenced, west-coast style beats, tracks like Sin City Bre(a)d, The Bus Stop Song, The Pledge: “They Say” and _ _ _ End. It’s so common in Christian Hip-Hop to see beats that are copies of popular hits from yesteryear and that’s where so many artists fail – if what you’re doing isn’t new in the studio it definitely won’t be new by the time it reaches peoples’ speakers! However, on El v. Envy, I’m pleasantly surprised to hear beats that are new, and using a style that I don’t (yet) hear in mainstream music.

It’s not just those massively-layered tracks that shine bright though, the other side of this record shows a much more mellow laid-back style hip-hop. Beats that usher in a memory or two of some of the classic G-Funk era tunes. Though on this record, it’s even more stripped back, leaning mostly on just bass and drums with the occasional extra instrument making an appearance. A key example of this is, is the track Can’t Say – a testimonial piece where JGivens shares stories of his time with our Christian brothers & sisters in Egypt and how they face persecution on a day to day basis. Other tracks in a simliar vein are Bienvenue and Stop Requested, though there are clearly still many G-Funk influences littered throughout the album.

Compared to his previous releases it’s not just the music that’s stepped up a notch but his bars as well. Some of the rhymes on this record are so intricately woven that it takes multiple listens to fully appreciate and hear the full message. His flow has always been great across all his past releases, but after this album I’d even go so far as to say that he’s one of the most natural rappers currently in CHH. He covers some pretty deep issues on this record too – a personal favourite is his verse on Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re My Only Hope. where he confronts relative truth:

It may sound stupid but the truth is if I told you that truth / was an absolute and you said / “Dude, no it isn’t / ‘cos what’s true for you ain’t true for me because we’re different” /  Then it’s tangible to see that that rebuttal’s a contradiction / Stating there’s no absolute truth is an absolute / so your own argument only disproves you!

The only issue, if any with this record is that when JGivens is rapping over a trippy, synth lead beat and getting so deep into his message through complex lyricism it can sometimes create a competition between vocals and instrumental, with both demanded your full focus. EIther way, it’s not a huge problem, and by no means would I want the beats or lyrics to change, plus there are parts where the vocals and instrumentation meet perfectly despite said issue. Some great examples of which are perhaps Sin City Bre(a)d and and Stay Cool, and at it’s best it sounds like the chorus to The Bus Stop Song.

This is the kind of record that’s so fresh it appeals to music fans regardless of their faith. When an album sounds this unique it’s not hard passing it on to non-believing friends (despite the gospel centred lyrics) because JGivens isn’t just a Christian version of a rapper they already listen to, he’s himself – and more importantly his style is his own as well. Hopefully, they’ll come for the music, and stay for the message.

It’s been roughly three months since this album dropped so this isn’t exactly new but it’s given me time to fully appreciate it. Though by now that ‘new album’ shine has faded, what remains is a strong, intellectual, soulful, well-produced record, and in my honest opinion one of the best CHH releases of the year.

Album Highlights: Sin City Bre(a)d, The Bus Stop Song, Can’t Say, Friends

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Ghost Ship - The Good King Album Cover - 4.5 Star Rating
It’s no great secret that I have a soft spot for Mars Hill Music, so naturally I was rather excited when Ghost Ship announced that they would be releasing their first full length album, titled ‘The Good King’. Different in sound to the many other Mars Hill bands, Ghost Ship bring their own blend of alternative rock to the mix. However, at times it seems that they are still somewhat unsure of where they want to be musically placed, leading to a slightly disjointed first listening experience.

The album kicks off with the pop infused track ‘Mediator’, written as a sequel to their song ‘One God’ (From their EP, A River With No End). As we’ve come to expect from Mars Hill, the theology in the song is spot on, diving in to deep biblical truths so often missed in a lot of popular romanticist worship music of today and to call it catchy just doesn’t quite do it justice.

It’s after this opening track though where I feel that Ghost Ship really come in to their own, leaping from one huge song to the next. This starts with ‘Orion’ which musically wouldn’t feel out of place on a Kings of Leon album. Lyrically, this song also sets the tone for the majority of the album by questioning pain, suffering and doubt but ultimately knowing that God has answered our call and holds us close throughout. It’s this attitude of worshipping through the trials shown in the lyrics of this album that makes it a real challenge and encouragement to the church, and it’s a welcome change to worship music in my opinion.

Moving on to the third track and another personal favourite is the epic rock song ‘Lion Man’ which a friend rightly pointed out sounds ironically like Black Sabbath. This focuses on the power of God, and how when Jesus walked among us “He could have killed us where we stood” yet in humility and out of love He instead came to serve us and bear the wrath that we deserved. Epic indeed!

It seems that the frontman Cam Huxton’s talents in songwriting lie in theologically rich depictions of what it actually means to live a worshipful life rather than just singing worshipfully. If the overall album feels like the band wrestling to discover their true sound, it seems that they are most comfortable in the less orthodox worship songs like ‘Son Of David’, ‘Orion’, ‘Lamb Of God’ and the most beautiful ‘Where Were You’.

In fact it seems rather fitting to use the word unorthodox when describing Ghost Ship – it’s on the more experimental tracks where they seem to find their true style. For example the booming organs at the end of their rendition of the hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ would be completely out of place with any other worship band, yet seems perfectly natural on this album. This then leads to the indie-pop songs like ‘The Gospel’, ‘Mediator’ and the cover of ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ (though as great as they are) seem slightly unnatural to Ghost Ship’s style, and sounds more like the type of worship I would expect to hear from another Mars Hill band such as The Sing Team.

It took multiple listens for me to fully appreciate the excellent offering that Ghost Ship deliver with ‘The Good King’, but even now that I’m there I still feel that the best is yet to come from this relatively young worship band. Despite saying that though this is still a brilliant debut, and though ‘The Good King’ may be a slow grower, I truly believe that over the next few months it will gradually emerge as one of the most exciting worship releases of this year.

Album Highlights: Orion, Lion Man, Son Of David, Where Were You

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Recently, I spoke to Hunter Bobo and Kyle Segars of the Mississippi based worship band, Sow and Tether. Here’s what they had to say about the band, their future EP and the release of their new music video ‘Nothing But The Blood’.


Ok, so first off, how did the band form?

Hunter: We basically formed because me, Kyle, and Phill all played in a metalcore type band, but I’d been writing a few worship songs. It wasn’t really a part of anything, I wrote them just to write them.  Then we all ended up at the same church, and we were like, “Let’s do this.” It was like “Hey I sing, one of you plays guitar, one plays bass and another plays drums,” so we started on that and things kinda formed through our local church. Now we’ve just been writing and doing whatever we can ever since.

So do you guys still play any metalcore?

Hunter: The band that we were in, called Parallels, never actually broke up.  We just kinda stopped playing. So, yeah I don’t really know what happened there.  We still have 80% of an album recorded that we might finish one day, haha!

What made you settle on the name Sow & Tether?

Hunter:  I essentially came up with the name because last year, as our church went through the book of Mark, I noticed that a lot of stuff in the very basis of the gospel reflects the fact that those two words really signify our lives as believers. By that, I mean Jesus binds us to Himself – AKA “tether” – and He sows within us His goodness; nothing we can do is good [but] that only He can do good. He sows within us His seed and He sanctifies us.  Those two words, overall to me, are two words that signify the life of a believer.

So you guys lead the worship at your church?

Hunter: We do, every week.

So what have you guys got planned for summer?

Hunter: As of right now we’re writing, we’re trying to finish up preproduction for all the songs for our EP. In August, we’ll be heading up to Nashville, TN to start tracking our 6 or 7 song debut EP. So that’s what’s on our immediate agenda. We’ve got marketing plans to work out, and a lot of funding to work out for the recording and distribution process. But that’s the plan right now, just to keep writing, get the songs to where they need to be for recording, raise the money, and then go up there and do that.

So this song, Nothing But The Blood, will that be on the EP?

Hunter: It could.  It might be. We haven’t decided yet, because we’ve written upwards of 12 to 14 songs and we’re going to let the producer tell us, “Hey, these are your best six,” and just let him make that decision. But it’s very possible.  We like this rendition of it, we just haven’t been able to nail down whether it’ll be on there yet.

Kyle, when we spoke via email you had some interesting reasons for recording this song, do you want to expand on that?

Kyle: Sure, a big thing that we see a whole lot in our culture, is worship bands only playing Chris Tomlin, and Hillsong type stuff – pretty much all of the really mainstream youth Christian songs. And I think a lot is missed out when we skip over hymns that really accurately reflect the gospel.

Hunter: Also, hymns are the songs that brought us to where we are now, and we want to be respectful of that. And that’s not bagging on anyone who’s written contemporary worship songs; I mean, we write them all the time. But the foundation for where the music is today [is hymns], and not that it started with this specific song, but it’s obviously a big part of where we are now.

Kyle: Yeah that’s a big thing.  I mean a lot of our appeal right now is to youth because we’ve been a Disciple Now kind of band, we’ve been a youth group and youth camp kind of band.  We want to step out of that box, and what we’re trying to do with Nothing But the Blood is to let people know that we aren’t just that kind of band.  It will hopefully allow older generations to see where we’re coming from and that we’re not trying to push them aside and only cater to the contemporary style. We’re trying to bring the youth and the adults together;  we’re trying to show the kids that the songs their parents like are actually really good, and we’re trying to show the adults and the youth that they can worship in the same room together without it being weird.  We want to see the whole church together in worship.

What was filming the video like?

Hunter: Well the song is almost us anchoring ourselves to this one ideal, but actually the room that we did it in is really important to my family. This sanctuary is where my wife’s grandparents actually got married. And all the stain glass windows that you see in the video are dedicated to her great, great grandmother and things like that. So it’s not just about the song, but in many different ways [the video] shows that we want to start with the very roots of who we are and start with our church even. And to just signify that we recognize and are very appreciative of what we’ve been given and of all the talents of the people around us.

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Pompton Lakes - Rest Cover - 4 Star RatingFormed in 2011, Pompton Lakes is the musical union of Jeff Martin, Dan Desrosiers, Isaac Strader, Vinnie Lupoli and Dennis Archer. Previously, Jeff Martin had been the frontman for the rock band This Day & Age from 2001-2007, and so brings a wealth of experience to Pompton Lakes.

Listening to Rest, it’s clear that despite this being Pompton Lakes‘ first release, the band have truly found their distinct sound as the album – though varied – does have a strong coherence from start to finish. Comparable to bands such as Death Cab For Cutie or (Pre-X&Y) Coldplay, Rest also brings to mind many Brit-Pop bands of the early 2000s, such as Doves, Feeder, Travis and Starsailor – just to name a few.

Lyrically, Rest is a very intimate exploration into the singer’s relationship and perception of God. On songs such as Searching there is a real sharing of struggles, often not expressed in mainstream Christian music with lines such as If I don’t see anything, does it change who You are?/Can I be in Your house while I still have doubt? The opening track Home is also of a similar nature as Jeff Martin sings Lately I’ve tried to find hope/In places where I know it can’t be found.

Other songs such as Trust could be compared to modern hymns with worshipful lyrics like – I trust in Your name/Lord, You are worthy of my praise/I don’t have much to give/But what I do, I offer it to You. Though worshipful in lyrics, by sound alone you could quite easily not notice that Pompton Lakes are praising the God they very much love if your only experience of worship music is from a contemporary church service. However, this is still an album that can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of faith. As Christians all that we do is considered worship, and so though the album isn’t always ‘Worship’ music it still seems fitting to give it that label because it’s clear that this album is all for God’s glory.

Rest is an excellent debut release by Pompton Lakes, and I feel that they have a lot to offer to not just the Christian music market but the music scene in general. Hopefully, there are more albums to come from this band but for now head over to iTunes or Amazon and get yourself a copy of this brilliant album now!

Album Highlights: Home, Merciful, Trust and Hope (Banjo Song).

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