Friday, January 30, 2015

The Drive To Five: The Class of 2012

We are back live here at the +The WENC Night Beat after the Storm of The Millennium, The Blizzard of 2015 or (gag) Blizzard Juno. No, No, I will not name a storm (Blizzard Joe Bob). You do that with Hurricanes because usually more than one will hit. Not so with Major Blizzards.

One thing the Class of 2012 had with Hurricane's and Blizzards. They are usually named after women. Don't ask me why, though that is changing. 2012 was the ladies year. Marlene Brehm, Rachel Chan, Moriah Peters, Holly Spears, and Lindsay McCaul dominated New Artist and were joined by tokens Jeremy Horn and Jordan Lara. Sorry guys, it wasn't your year. Three of the five are fairly active (Peters, McCaul and Holly Spears) and the rest are resting on their laurels. Hey, it has only been two years. I expect new works from all of them soon.

Of course there were other "new" artists, and I have already spoken of my creation of the Undiscovered Gem Awards. I am not really talking about that. Aaron Gillespie had his "debut" in 2012, yet it was a solo debut. Before that he was the drummer and clean vocalist for metal band Underoath, which broke up in 2011. Abel would have been an undiscovered gem, except that they took their award and broke up. A severe lack of Gratitude in CCM I tell ya.

When we return to our Drive to Five, we will touch on the Comebacks, one of which was very big, at least to me. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Drive To Five: Video Killed The Radio Star

So said the Buggles in 1979 as MTV went on the air. Though a bunch of good liberals, they can blame Al Gore for their demise, or at least their marginalization. You remember Al, the world is melting, Gore. Well before he made millions by lying to people. (Perhaps not, he is a Democrat), he invented the Internet. The Internet (specifically YouTube) was responsible for making MTV irrelevant. Welcome to the Real World. RIP MTV.

This little interlude means little, except to say that in 2012, aka #PlatVnyl3, the Platinum Vinyl Awards exploded once again to 47 categories with the addition of the Video Awards. Now that the Platinum Vinyl Awards had reached the "Terrible Two"s" (3rd Awards, 2nd year since its inception), growth was evident everywhere Comeback Artist of the year went from 1 to 2 to 3 in the third year. An abundance of entrants in every genre pushed the finals in several categories to 8 instead of 7 entrants, just to be fair. Some even went higher. The final breakdown:
  • Children's: 3
  • Folk: 4
  • AC/Insp: 8
  • Modern Worship: 8 
  • Gospel: 8 
  • Alternative: 8
  • Pop: 6
  • Dance-Synthpop: 4
  • Electronic-Industrial: 8
  • Rap: 8
  • Hard Rock: 7
  • Rock: 10
  • Album of The Year: 10
  • Live Album: 8
  • Compilation: 6
The low numbers for dance coincided with splitting the genre to spin off Industrial. Other that there would have been a combined total of 12 for that one.

Cracks started to show in this one man band in year 3. New Artist of the Year really exploded until it was discovered that a number of "new artists" were not new but I just hadn't heard of them (shocking, I know). The solution was to create a one-time "Undiscovered Gem Award". So far, so good.

The #PlatVnyl3 review is underway. I will return live after the storm. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Drive To Five: 2011 Comebacks and Goodbyes

Welcome back to the Drive to Five. This year of 2015 will mark the fifth edition of the Platinum Vinyl Awards. It has been a fun ride, and it gets bigger and better every year. Look for some giveaways to begin soon as well.

We get back into our time machine and return to the year 2011. I know, kind of a short trip. We are going over a bit of the same ground as in a past post, but we will add to it. Every year new groups enter the arena and hope to make their mark on the world. At the same time, due to either age, discouragement or various other reasons, a number of groups and artists drop out. We have already addressed the Class of 2011, as we call the new class. These will be the drop-outs of sorts. Of course there is a third class, that of the comeback. There is always that point time when artists say "Where shall I go? I can not dig, to beg I am ashamed..." There were two of those as well.

Like I said, these two were mentioned in a previous post. The first of those two Angie Turner, aka Miss Angie, has come back a long road from Triumphantine back in 2000. Time and Space came out in 2011 and garnered a dance song win, but fell short of the comeback. That award went to Burlap to Cashmere. All I can say is that it's good to force yourself to look back once in a while, somtimes you miss things. Miss Angie dropped off the radar after releasing the single Restore in 2012. However she released an EP in 2013 and is busy being a mom. Hope to hear from her again soon. 

One sort of semi-retirement goes to Eowyn Riggins, known simply as Eowyn. She has transplanted herself to Virginia with her husband and has put music on the back burner for now, but is still interested in starting a new band. We shall wait.

There was one official retirement in 2011. Underoath took the nomination and ran. They are missed, though the Hard Rock field has not suffered in their absence. Perhaps it was a good thing.

That clears out 2011 for us as well. Next time we shall take up the Third Awards, when we finally added a video awards section. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Monday, January 26, 2015

MVM Special Edition: Rude Snow

Welcome to a special End of The World As We Know It edition of Music Video Monday. If you've been anywhere near a TV you may have heard that Approximately 5 light years worth of Snow is about to converge on the Northeast. Sabre Tooth Tigers and Wooly Mammoths have already surfaced and are roaming the streets. Oh, sorry, my bad. Those are just the DPW workers. It's only 18 inches folks! Have you no Prestone in your veins anymore?! Are you New Englanders or are you Floridian Wimps. (Sadly, I think I know the answer to that one).

I thought it fun to do something a bit different. I've been hearing a song on the radio quite a bit (almost to the point of Grandma Got Run over... nauseating, but not yet). It's called Rude, or "marry that girl, marry her anyway." It's an interesting song, and since I never got the girl I wanted to say yes, it' gives me a bit of mixed feelings. First of all, even though it's the girls yes that really matters, it's never a good Idea to get off on the wrong foot with the in laws, especially by eloping. At least he wants to put a ring on the finger instead of shacking up. But still, the dad isn't rude, and looking at the guy, I don't know if I'd want to have my daughter marry him anyway. So here's the original video.

And here's a funny parody. It's from the dad's pov. 14 million views can't be wrong.
Well that concludes this special edition. Enjoy it and keep safe out there. I don't know when we shall resume our regularly scheduled Music Video Monday, there is still a lot of other stuff to get done. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Best of 2014: Widows and orphans

I'm calling this the widows and orphans post. Not in the writing style, but close. These are the entries that have only a single representative from their genre. This year those entries were from Jazz, Folk, Dance, Adult Contemporary, Pop, and Electronic. If they were all in one genre they would have tied with alternative for 6 entries.

They say when life hands you lemons, you make Lemonade+Charlie Peacock  makes a really cool glass of the stuff, as in cool jazz. This is, based on the samples I have listened to, a purely instrumental album. We may have enough for Jazz, but I am not sure we have enough instrumental albums to warrant that category this year. If we do it will definitely be among them.

Jazz was usually mixed in with Folk Music, as is reggae and a lot of "ethnic" music. Some pure folk came out this year via one of the Fallen, as in Jennifer Knapp. However, as much as I would have wanted it to be so, her album, Set me free [+digital booklet] while perfect, wasn't one of the best of 2014. A folk/worship album which tilted more toward folk was, however. +For the Fatherless  For the Fatherless . With songs such as unfailing father, not of the night, and what this love is for, it is really difficult to not get drawn in. We were.

If you are looking for a Dancing Queen, you really need look no further than +Beckah Shae . She is surely the hands down Champion . While others may dabble in Dance from time to time, she has consistently made the dance floor her home. Even when she does scripture snacks it's hard not to bust a move.

For the Electronic representative, you have to go across the pond, or the sound, as in +Salt Of The Sound . Actually the pond works as well, as these two Stockholm transplants are actually Brits by nature. They actually put out two album releases Journeys and Meditations, Vol. 1 . The Second, which is also instrumental, is the one which is a best of.

The Adult Contemporary representative on the list was +lindsaymccaul with One More Step [+digital booklet] . Actually it is the title cut that brought me to tears. Sheer emotional manipulation is what it is. And it works. Who says guys don't have feelings.

Though McCaul strays into pop here and there, the pop rep has been dancing queen from time to time lately. She's a real Plumb. The Deluxe Edition of Need You Now (Deluxe Edition) is one of the Best Albums of The Year. The only problem with this artist? I don't think I can hold my breath until March 31. That's when Exhale comes out.

That finishes the widows and orphans post, as well as our recap of the Best of 2014. We now return to our drive to five, as well as our regularly scheduled business. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Best of 2014: Metal

This is where we crank it up. The Best Hard Rock and Heavy Metal releases for 2014. Two album had to be left off this portion of the list, and they were left speechless. Actually, one of them would have been speechless regardless, since it was an instrumental album. That was Behold (Instrumental) by My Epic, which in my opinion was better than the vocal edition. You really can't beat uninterrupted Metal Jams. The other album left off the list, simply cause I couldn't put them all on, was Vxv by Wolves at the Gate.

You kind of know if they put out an album, Stryper will find its way onto the best albums of the year list. They are just that good. Last year they struck platinum with No More Hell to Pay , the long awaited sequel to No More Hell to Pay . This year they went platinum again with, of all things, a live album. Now I don't want you to think there's any favoritism regarding Live at the Whisky . There isn't. It's just that there aren't too many Live Albums that make you go WOW. Usually the "Live Experience" that you feel if in the arena is somehow lost, or at least diminished during the recording. But here, as one person said, a band in it's fourth decade shouldn't sound this good. But they do, and finish it off with a megasong, a seven minute rendition, with audience participation, of Soldiers Under Command, probably the song that made the band.

The genre is officially Hard Rock/Metal, and we were privileged to have one entry from each half. The Hard Rock side was represented by Orange County monsters of Rock Project 86. They are slightly less prolific than their fellow county residents Stryper, having put out Wait for the Siren in 2012. It takes a while longer to make an album unlike the one before it. Stryper is proud of their sound. Of course the voice is what makes the band, and Andrew Schwab is easily recognizable, however the sound. This time they point their Knives to the Future (Special Edition) , and while this might be their hardest rocking outing yet, they have no trouble slowing things down to near Alternative levels, as in Son of Flame.

Our widows and orphans post is next, where only one entry per genre remained. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Best of 2014: Modern Worship

In my last post on Gospel, I said only two posts remained. When I said that, I forgot about Modern Worship.  A lot of people do. It's kind of like Jesse's eighth son. Look it up. 1 Samuel 16 "Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel....So He asked Jesse "Are These All The Sons You Have?" "There Is Still The Youngest" (1 Sam 16:10-11). That makes eight. 1 Chron 2:15 reads, however "...and the seventh David". Somebody's missing.

There were four Perfect Modern Worship releases in 2014. In editing it down, two had to go, and one was a second Planetshakers release. This Is Our Time (Live) will have to wait another time, and know that it still is perfect and in the finals of #PlatVnyl6.  Also in the finals will be the other album left off the list, and that was I Must Find You by Young Oceans. When I heard their version of Oceans (Where Feet May Fall) by Hillsong United, I know they had owned it for themselves.

Two releases made the list, and perhaps I will be able to get by with this post without any disagreement, maybe on one.  That release is simply Majestic (Live) by +Kari Jobe. All you have to do is watch the video for Forever to see this is a truly special album. 

For a long time the feeling has been that the Modern Worship industry has had its headquarters in Australia. It is true, but the city has moved. No longer is the Headquarters at Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia. Maybe for some nostalgia buffs, but that's about it. A lot of the stuff coming out of there is pretty stale these days. The real action is coming out of Melbourne, 600 miles South. Planetshakers Church has been putting out a fresher worship for a new, younger generation, with a dance infused worship that would make King David proud. Endless Praise (Live) would have made him ecstatic. That's not saying they can't slow things down, that's easy, as Made for Worship and Kiss Towards prove. It just goes to prove that if your natural state is to rock out you can easily pull back, but it is really hard to go loud if all you know is soft.

Now we only have two left. Hard Rock is next. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Best of 2014: Gospel

We usually go from low to high during our quarterly wraps, but this time we are reversing that order. Tied* with Rap with three entries is Gospel. That asterisk is there for a purpose. One of the three entries is also on the rap wrap.

That double dipper is CaJo and Lust, Drugs & Gospel . As I said, he does all things well.

White Men Can't Jump, but it isn't true that they can't do Gospel. No, I don't mean Southern Gospel. I'm still not convinced that that qualifies as music. When I first heard some music by +Wess Morgan , I was sure he was black. He most definitely wasn't, and that was quite a surprise. He certainly is Livin' the high life.

Here at the Night Beat we reward groups that sound differently, to borrow an Apple phrase and use it for our own. Forever Jones made us take notice. This year has had us banging against the walls. +TheWallsGroupVEVO to be exact. I love it when a small group can have the vocals and harmonies of a full choir, and being "discovered" by Kirk Franklin. You know that man knows talent. This former DJ would definitely give this group some "love on the radio". You will not Fast Forward through any of these songs

Two albums were left off the list, both deserving of a mention here. First up is +Christon Gray and School of Roses , which is more on the R&B side, and then Anthony Evans with Real Life / Real Worship . Both were worthy, but you got to edit somewhere, even among perfect albums.

Two more posts remain. First up we go with Hard Rock and Metal, and then, our widows and orphans post (genres represented by a single entry). Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Best of 2014: Rap

"He Does All Things Well" (Mark 7:34). Maybe our first artist and his album shouldn't be compared to Jesus, but I liked the phrase. In a limited sense it applies. His name is CaJo (not Cujo) and is more accurately known as +Canton Jones. Forget Fresh Aire, with CaJo we are talking about Dominionaire, and there is definitely a window of blessing over his head. Mister Jones is one of those rare talents that can carry off a tune in whatever genre he feels led to sing in. Of course that makes it a little difficult to pigeonhole the album for award purposes, which, incidentally, is why you rarely see his albums up for award. A "typical" CaJo album mixes Rap, R&B, Hip Hop, and Gospel. Thankfully those 4 genres are combined into two at Night Beat HQ, or there would be 4 nominations given to an album. This year we had two albums to consider: Lust, Drugs & Gospel , which was given a 5 Emerald rating and was put on this list, and God City USA , which fell just short of perfect.

Who woulda thunk that rap would be saved by crunk. I have no knowledge if that was spelled correctly, but I liked the rhyme pattern. #PlatVnyl4's New Artist of The Year and the winner of the Rap/Hip-Hop Album of The Year +WHOSOEVER SOUTH has, in this bloggers humble opinion, breathed new life into a stale if not dying genre. They did it by infusing Rap with Bluegrass, a combination I had not hitherto thought of. Goin' Home and All The Time were but two songs on a debut album that I almost missed because one early reviewer called them "country", and that is something that will not stand here at Night Beat HQ. All I can say is if this is country, then the CMA's need to start singing this instead of the junk that passes for Country these days. Thankfully we had a breather during #PlatVnyl5, but the eligibility year for #PlatVnyl6 began this October with the group inviting everyone to Come on In . No Sophomore Slump here. Actually they raised the bar. The title cut, sounds like home, country crunk. Maybe the reason liberals make fun of rednecks and Southerners is because they can't appreciate good music. Just sayin.

Rap has always been known as an individual effort, but sometimes it helps to go to the symphony. LA Symphony is a rap quintet at current, and the membership has gone as high as eight. They've been on silent since 2005, so when they make a comeback in 2014 they name their album You Still on Earth? Most of the original lineup made a guest appearance on the album, which has a good rhythm to it. I guess with Rap, more is better.

Two albums, though perfect, failed to make the list. I had over 40, so I had to edit somewhere. Both Mental by KJ-52 and Below Paradise by Tedashii had to be cut. They were perfect albums, so look for them in the Platinum Vinyl Awards this year. Next up is Gospel. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Best of 2014: Rock

Sometimes the biggest mark of success is not who's on, but who is off a particular list, in this case the Best Albums of 2014. We began last time with Alternative, and we had to leave Shadow Weaver by The Choir and I Am Mountain (Deluxe Version) by +Gungor Band off the list. When You see that, you know it was an awesome year. One could even say wicked awesome. Sorry, it's a New England Thing.

The second biggest genre represented was Rock, with four on the list. As you can see, we had a top 10 list without straying from Rock/Alternative.

Attack , Disciple

Southern Rock is alive and well. Third Day was the pioneer, but Disciple perfected the sound. Here they invoke the Warrior image of the Christian, an image long ignored. Lyrics like Till The Day I Die I'll be a Radical. Or How about this "They Build Their Towers to the clouds, we'll burn their empire to the ground. We're tearing them down. This is the sound of the dead militia. As always the lyrics are documented with scriptures, which is a nice touch. I thought Horseshoes was their best album, but they have raised the bar once again.

Commodity , Remedy Drive

A band that has always spanned the genres of pop and rock seems to have produced its most experimental sound yet. A bit of rock, a bit pop, a bit alternative, even a bit of folk with the help of Folk Worship artist All Sons and Daughters. The title cut and theme of the album is Human Trafficking.

Runaways , Sumerlin

Despite a name which bedevils spell check, I have loved this album. It was one of the first albums of the year to really speak to me. Probably because the album is one long melancholy love song. It's not the I've got the girl type but the I thought I had her but I lost her. I won't get into all the melancholy details of my personal life, but suffice it to say that lyrics like "it's my fault I gave my heart away with the key, I thought she'd be the one to stay here" brought me to tears. The band rocks out just as well. I won't go into all I love about the album because I have said it all before in my review

We Are The Broken , Seventh Day Slumber

The ultimate in the "relationship bands". The music has always been a cross between worship and anthems of the broken, which is usually when you need to worship anyway. And they are part of the Latino segment of Christian Rock with the lead being Joseph Rojas. It's not just Salvador anymore. The album, as all of SDS albums do, focus on the human condition and all its problems, and offering the hop that only Jesus can bring. And they do it in a very loud package.

There was only one album left off the list, and it was The Time Is Now by Relentless Flood. One Album, that is. Only albums are eligible for consideration on the Best of List, so even though Inseparable by Veridia would most likely blow everyone on the list away, since they only have an EP out, they did not make the list.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Best of 2014: Alternative

A funny thing happened on the way to my annual best of list. A whole whopper of Perfect 5's hit. Talk about a perfect storm. With all those entries narrowing it down to 10, or 12 was a Herculean task, and, face it, I'm not Hercules. So, I did the best I could, and that wound up being a double dozen (that's 24 for the rest of you).

Doing a single post of that size seemed to be a bit ridiculous, so I will be doing a series of posts based on genre, and finishing with a widows and orphans post.

We begin with Alternative, which accounted for 25% of the total. The list is in no particular order, so don't try to put one above another. These are all awesome albums, and get them.

Goliath , Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil

A much welcome return to music from Christian Music's Clone Prince. Discovering acts like Sixpence None The Richer doesn't happen all the time. And how much Hollywood Hobnobbing can you do. Luckily for us his sarcasm (or venom, if you're the target) remains intact. The sound probably resembles Chagall Guevara more than Some Band, though Moonshot and Sympathy Vote should please the nostalgia buffs among us.

Lowborn , Anberlin

Talk about going out while you are on top. While I admit that I was late to this band, once I was in, I was in. We begin with the rocking We Are Destroyer, but the album soon takes on a more melancholy tone, as the band obviously knew the album was to be the swan song in the recording studio. "Everybody wants to see heaven but nobody wants to die" (Hearing Voices), "Is it okay If I call you lover, even though we don't know each other" and other such lyrics reach straight into the heart. While I have always held that The Choir was the undisputed King of Alternative, Anberlin seemed to have placed itself as the Heir Apparent. Until today. Long live the King, for there is no clear successor to the throne.

Fading West , Switchfoot

No pretender to the throne here, the San Diego Surf Band who taught us about a new way to be human and dared us to move took a bit of a page from Steve Taylor's later years and made an album based on a movie, or was that a movie based on an album. No matter, the result is pure platinum. You'll be singing along with all of these songs, and that's good, as most of them have been written sing along style. Love Alone Is Worth The Fight, Who We Are, Slipping Away, The World You Want. I could go on but there are only 11 cuts on the album.

Rhythms of Grace , The Remission Flow

Ireland is becoming a hot spot for CCM these days. And no, it sounds nothing like Riverdance. Originally mis-classified among the vast wasteland that is Modern Worship, they are more accurately classified as Alternative. Between the fact that they released the album on my birthday and they use a quote from The Message in the title, they were on my good list from the start. And then the music, which is extremely Biblical as it is Grace-Centric (sorry Theologians, if you would actually open and read the Bible, you would find that you have been wrong about Faith, Grace, and just about everything else).

Becoming Who We Are , Kings Kaleidoscope

Another messenger of the Grace Revolution. Kings Kaleidoscope isn't a band from Ireland, however they do resemble one in one respect. They have embraced the concept of having a fluid membership, adding or dropping members as necessary. (And you got to love it when they NEED a Xylophone). At first I heard their Live In Color EP and I thought that their slightly off key style for the song meant they were bad. And then I heard Felix Culpa (which means Fortunate Fall). I mean you can't get Bible and Cool in most albums, but these guys should be on everybody's must have list. 

Cathedrals , Tenth Avenue North

No man is an Island announces one of my favorite alt bands. Mike Donehey and company have been producing music on the fringes of alternative and worship since 2008, that is before this blog has been in existence, although the Night Beat radio show was on in 1985. They have never been afraid to take risks with their music (and one of the biggest. Latin Gregorian Chant. Iesu, Dulcis Memoria feat Audrey Assad).

I think that should just about do it. I had hoped to put each one with its album cover, but upon previewing it seemed a bit messy, so I just did the first two. Don't read anything into that either. We shall Rock out next. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.