Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
In the Wake Of O
Those wanting to up the musical ante for hip-hop should try Ozay Moore’s In the Wake of O. It features old-school soul grooves nailed down by a bass and ornamented by retro record scratching, jazz keys, and—wait for it—a horn section. In “Good,” satisfaction is found not by “buying what the media flips,” but in a muscular black pride rooted in godly family routine like tucking kids in bed and being a “spouse keeper.” Moore wants us not just to live moment by moment: Christ-centeredness includes considering the legacy we’ll leave.
Hymns Vol. II
Anthem Lights keeps it simple in Hymns Vol. II. The group evicts stuffiness by losing the organ. By excluding drums and electric, it likewise resists the temptation to make over hymns into modern rock. The resulting uncluttered arrangements—a piano here, a guitar there, and crisp, multilayered harmonies—facilitate absorption of the truth-packed poetry. Youthful singers deliver extra sizzle and color, while ending the album with “10,000 Reasons” is a sly attempt to strike détente in the worship wars.
Jonathan McReynolds has a lot to say on gospel Make Room, but it’s not his words that first stand out. Silky scatting on “Life Room Anthem” is like a water slide with twists and dips but smooth gliding all the way down and a bouncy acoustic blues riff to catch your fall. Believers aren’t to get “so busy living and watching other people live that we forget the One who gave us life.” In a refreshing emphasis on personal responsibility, “Cycles” warns that the “devil learns from your mistakes, even if you don’t.”
Who Knew It Would Be So Hard To Be Myself
Dave Barnes’ saloon-style piano provides the right touch of wry for his ruminations about “Having Kids”: “Sometimes they’re little angels / sometimes they’re Genghis Khan / They think that they know everything / but they can’t get their pants back on.” Who Knew It Would Be So Hard to Be Myself pulses with humor and thoughtfulness wrapped in savvy, savory, pop-rock goodness. Although the term “family friendly” has become a byword for maudlin or childish, Barnes recovers its original intent—something the whole family will heartily enjoy.
Public discussions about depression, rhetoric, and policies often don’t account for the role of sin. Social Club Misfits, a Christian rap duo from Miami, Fla., has had such a swift rise that the two rappers, FERN and Marty Mar, ask what a misfit does when he’s suddenly accepted. Into the Night reveals lingering vertigo: Big, bold beats rock the message of misfit opportunity to be “Satan’s worst nightmare,” while acknowledging the pain and difficulty of driving out evil from our own hearts. Sweet-toned Tauren Wells balances out the rappers’ rougher edges on the rousing “War Cry,” which recounts “being paralyzed by depression” until rediscovering “His love for me is unmeasured. … I use my voice as a weapon / on earth like it is in heaven.”
—Jeff Koch is the father of 10 and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute’s mid-career course