As violent demonstrations roil Hong Kong, a bold group of volunteers is providing moral support and physical protection for young protesters
Sparkle. Pop. Rampage.
Rend Collective/Rend Co. Kids
If some kids’ albums make parents want to run screaming from the room, Sparkle. Pop. Rampage. will have parents running back to bop along with their kids. Free-range vocals and guitar fire the imagination to far-off places and distant calls in the mission-minded “Go Anywhere.” Even staying home carries mystery and meaning when “You are the adventure of a lifetime, Jesus / … Your grace has no horizon line.” “God of Science” celebrates God—inventor of armadillos and quantum physics—as the best scientist ever and “Our Great God of all things wild and free, free / Thank you, God, for making me.”
Nothing But Good
It’s not Chris Quilala’s voice that clinches his latest single “Nothing but Good,” though his voice is pleasantly well balanced. It’s not the lyrics either, though they ably express timeless Christian themes. What brings it together into something special is tasteful production and arrangement: a warm bass punctuated by tight, well-rounded drum tracks while gently dreamy keyboards warble along happily until snapping to attention with dramatic walls of sound. The combined synergy turns familiar sentiments (“You’ve been nothing but good to me”) into a lush, technopop garden of praise.
When the Light Comes
Big Daddy Weave
Journeymen in the craft of Christian rock, Big Daddy Weave nails another sturdy set that includes a few pop trimmings to keep pace with today’s ear. As any casual listener of the band suspects (and as any concertgoer learns for certain), sincerity swallows all. In the end, it’s hard to argue with expertly crafted bass lines and heart-pounding drums driving Great Commission choruses like “This is what we live for / To go where you say go / To let the whole world know / You’re the Light in the darkness.”
Not By Chance
Cole’s blunt-talking, hip-hop storytelling lends him the quality of a street-level correspondent, reporting the jarring juxtaposition of life’s positives and negatives in “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”: “My sister sleeping on a air mattress my song number one though / … That goes to show you when life is good it’s still cutthroat.” A robust rhythm section thumps urgency into headlines both sobering and hopeful: “If I touch one soul that’s all I need / … To tell the world ’bout your love that’s why I breathe.”
Josh Garrels has been beguiling fans for over a decade now with ruminative vocals and a bubbling brew of spacey folk-rock, hip-hop, and soul. The latest installment, Chrysaline, does not disappoint: Prophecy- and Scripture-stuffed, it is Garrels’ most devotional and liturgical yet.
“Invocation” is a lovely Indian-influenced jazz exploration with trippy violins in the vein of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and modal vocal runs all placed in the service of simple Christian prayers. “Consecration” reimagines the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” into a work of compelling art.
But the beating heart of this album is “Butterfly,” a piece of R&B perfection with choice organ, horns, and sultry backing vocals that unlock Garrels’ hidden geysers as he sings, “Unfold the mystery / To rise up from the earth into the sky / On resurrected wings / Chrysaline / All things are made new.” —J.K.