Style: Radio ready rock and pop augmented by electronics and beats; compare to U2, David Crowder Band
Top tracks: "The Time Is Now," "Eden," "Cielo"
It's thrilling to hear an artist, Christian or otherwise, reach the point in their creative evolution where they can stretch out, trying out new sounds and ideas without a safety net. And when the resulting songs and album turn out to be something great, it's even better.
Now, this isn't to say that Phil Wickham's latest album Heaven & Earth is full of leftfield experiments. For the most part, this 25-year-old Californian sticks to songs that serve his strong, incandescent pop vocals and soaring, radio-friendly ideas. But he tempers the rocker inside him by playing with electronics, programmed beats and a lightness that has been carried over from his previous two albums, 2007's Cannons and the all-acoustic singalong, a record which he gave away for free on his website.
He knows now that he doesn't need to simply turn up the volume to evoke an emotional response. A track like "The Time Is Now" soars not on the wings of a huge chorus, but on the string section that swoops in and the vocal hook that feels like Wickham is putting his whole body into as he sings. "Let light and love come rushing through the door." And when he reins everything in, as he does most effectively on a trio of songs that closes out the album, the impact might just leave you breathless.
Wickham hasn't completely lost sight of his roots as a rocker. "Hold On" apes the ringing guitar tone and pulsing attack of U2, and several songs opt for the formula of a quiet start and a crashing conclusion. It's great stuff, but when you hear what else he is capable of on this album, you can't help but wish he had gone even ...1
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