Monday, August 4, 2014

Music Monday: Rivers in the Wasteland Review

      How can I describe the band Needtobreathe? How can I explain my feelings of love, nostalgia, and fascination associated with this band and their odd brand of cinematic, folk rock. They bring to mind some sort of crazy, shaken, cocktail of Mumford and Sons and the Kings of Leon (seriously Bear Rinehart sounds spookily like Caleb Followill). The first album that encompassed their signature sound, The Heat, was introduced to me during my Cornerstone days, and it brings back floods of memories of Cadillacs, and questionable twilight activities, of mindless humming, or spring break road trips. However it was their magnum opus entitled The Outsiders that made me a die-hard fan. This album was complete perfection, and Cornerstone choir tour in the "mafia van" would not have been what it was without it!

      Since this album, Needtobreathe released The Reckoning in 2011. This album was a stretch for the band, and while I liked it, I couldn't love it. It seemed as though Neetobreathe was trying too hard. Indeed the strain of the ambition of this album, and it's coinciding tour, almost ended the band. Needtobreathe managed to stay together, but lost their drummer Joe Stillwell (one of their best assets if you ask me). Now the band has managed to release Rivers in the Wasteland in 2014.

      Rivers in the Wasteland is a return to form, while still managing to sound fresh. The title track Wasteland opens the album quietly strumming "Oh if God is on my side, then who can be against me"  before breaking out in the chorus "In this wasteland, that I'm living, there is a crack in the door filled with light, and it's all that I need to get by." The song is appropriate given the bands previous trials. These artists have been in dark places, and many of the songs on this album honour that.

      State I'm In is a strange track (but fun) that is oddly reminiscent of 60's rock n' roll. It's a different sound for Needtobreathe, but there's enough alternative rock present to fit it in amongst the band's repertoire.  Feet, Don't Fail Me Now  is as hard rock as Needtobreathe gets. The song is edgy, but the catchy rhythm, and a funky guitar solo keep the track from descending into unpleasant territory.  Oh Carolina is a shout-out to Southern, folk rock and should get them feet dancing! Difference Maker gets in your head like no ones business. It is now the official theme song (official because I say so) of Liz and Matt's wedding. Leave it to Neetobreathe to write a clever hook, to puzzle the listener as to what exactly they're trying to say anyway. It's actually their thing.

"Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one who speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God"

     Rise Again, Where the Money Is and Brother all contain the signature cinematic Needtobreathe sound. New drummer, Randy Harris, does his best to keep up, but it just doesn't sound quite the same: the album's one downside. The Heart, bar Difference Maker, is probably the best, and catchiest song on the album. It's perfect folk rock sensibility and should be the ultimate, summer road trip track. 

     Multiplied is indie transcendence, and the album ends with the acoustic More Heart, and Less Attack

     To sum up, Rivers in the Wasteland can hardly reach the heights set by the sublime Outsiders but really what can? I'm still holding out for that level of perfection from Needtobreathe in the future, but for now Rivers in the Wasteland is enough to bring a smile to my face, and fun to my road trips and reunions. This album shows the band maturity that only dark experience can bring, and development and growth as artists. Give this band a try, if you've never listened to them. You're road trips will never be the same! 

Oh! And before the weekend I joined the club pixie and cut my hair! What ya think?

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