Sounds like … a songwriter and his band ready to take a step into mainstream acceptance.
At a glance … a defining statement in the long career of this still-exciting band.
If there was ever an artist who could bridge the worlds of CCM and the music that delights both critics and discerning music fans without compromising his strong beliefs, David Crowder is it. He has peppered his wildly successful albums with inspired musical choices, dipping into the worlds of folk and bluegrass and electronica, as well as picking some fascinating cover songs from artists like Sinead O'Connor and Sufjan Stevens.
And if there as an album to make that push into the mainstream, Church Music—in spite of its pointed title and its unashamedly worshipful tone—would be the one. It is the band's most direct album in years, sticking strongly to an urgent rock sound sprinkled with processed beats, eschewing the genre exercises that broke up albums like A Collision and their last release Remedy. The group drives this point home by melding the disc's 17 songs into a seamless whole. The end of each song sidles smoothly into the next with gentle electronic and instrumental flourishes. It speaks well of the abilities of the band that they planned out the sequence of songs ahead of time, using this template to shift the tempos and keys of songs to fit this idea. Though it would be interesting to hear how the songs changed in the midst of this process, it doesn't sound like anything was lost in translation.
Though the album title might be off putting to a secular audience, it truly captures the spirit of the music. Even the slowest songs are bathed in infectious joy (take a listen to the disco/funk-inspired "Church Music—Dance [!]" and see if you don't start moving, even a little bit), and all are filled with the rousing spirit you'd expect from a group that earned its stripes as worship leaders in Crowder's Texas church.
What gets lost in this approach is any semblance of intimacy. As the title suggests, it's an album made for a communal experience, but it lacks anything that an individual can really curl up inside of. The closest they come to that is the cover of John Mark MacMillan's "How He Loves," but even then, the song's quiet piano beginning gives way to crashing cymbals and siren-like guitar lines.
There's no telling whether Church Music will make any dent in the world of commercial rock and pop; it's hard to imagine the secular world accepting such powerfully spiritual messages. But, as this album proves, if they do take a listen, Crowder and his band will be waiting with open arms.
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