Monday, December 28, 2015

Night Beat Rewind: December 2015

2015 is just about history, but first we have one final edition of Rewind. It's rare to get one done in the month it covers, but there were only 14 entries. Let's get to it.

The Singles Scene was very appropriate, with only a single entry. Fearless BND, the former Worth Dying For, is in the process of releasing a song a month. December's release has a somewhat appropriate title.

  • Fearless BND - The Anticipation 4.50 Emeralds
It is not a song about Santa and Presents. On to the Album Reviews. We begin with the albums which will not make the #PlatVnyl7 Eligibility Pool.

Missing The Mark

  • Fern - 68 and Douglas 3.75 Emeralds
  • Corey Paul - Today, Tomorrow, and Forever 3.75 Emeralds
  • Joe Pots - Shout It Out 3.75 Emeralds
There was also one Pure Platinum Release. Sometimes they sneak up on you at the last minute, when you are trying to finalize the Best of The Year List.

Pure Platinum Perfection

  • The Ember Days - Valitus 5 Emeralds
The rest of the releases fall in between the two extremes, as usual.

Semi-Precious Metal

  • Bethel Music Kids - Come Alive 4.75 Emeralds
  • Hillsong Young and Free - We Are Young and Free The Remixes 4.75 Emeralds
  • Skrip - Show and Tell EP 4.75 Emeralds
  • Mr and Mrs Something - Setting Sail 4.75 Emeralds
  • Spoken - Breathe Again 4.75 Emeralds
  • Duawne Starling - Deeper Faith 4.50 Emeralds
  • Stu G - Have You Heard 4.50 Emeralds
  • Various - Small Group Worship, Volume 2 4.75 Emeralds
  • Withered Bones - For The Ones I Love 4.50 Emeralds
That does it for 2015. And we still have a few days in the year. I don't think I can get the first quarter in the bag before then, but that is the next thing on the agenda. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The 10 Best Albums of 2015

This is a very special Christmas Season here at Night Beat HQ. Not because we love Christmas, but because, for the first time in a while we have actually managed to put out a Top 10 List at the end of the year. That's what happens when you hand out roughly 50 perfect albums per year. It gets a bit crowded. (Full Disclosure: 2015 had 49). Looking for the "WOW" that struck me the first time got me down to 18. I gave it one more listen and came up with some sort of ranking. I ranked 1-10. 11-18 will be in an honorable mention with no emphasis on rank.

  • #10 - Falling Up, Falling Up - I grew up in the 80's, which happens to be the Best Decade of Music Ever, for both the Mainstream and Christian Music Scenes. A Band which I say is "my band" is The Choir, with its Chiming Guitars. Everything has an "ethereal sound". Falling up has always reminded me of them. Unfortunately, one of their best ever is also their last. I guess I will have to stay with The Choir.
  • #9 - One Love Revolution, Pillar - Personally tied for "Best Pillar Album Ever" with Fireproof. Yes the recording was sub par on that one, but the in your face rap core was refreshing. It is telling that the original lineup, which was on Fireproof, was on this album.
  • #8 - Come In, Children 18:3 - Another swan song. No you don't get a free pass when you break up. There were rumors that On The Run was going to be the final album, and while it was okay, it was bordering Pop, and that isn't what we look to this band for. This is one of the loudest album ever by the band.
  • #7 - Valitus, The Ember Days - I have been a fan since they were still doing Finger Painting. They have always been an Alternative Band which swerves into Modern Worship from time to time. It's Better than the other way around. The name means "A Wailing" , though It didn't seem depressed. It was my last perfect album of the year and one of the most satisfying.
  • #6 - II, Capital Kings - Our first representative from The Dance/Synthpop arena, or is it Electronic/Industrial. It is really hard to figure this time around. Once one of the pack of Synthpop bands, they moved into the front through both their remix album, and this their second album, which moved into a harder edged sound
  • #5 - This Is Not A Test, Toby Mac - Toby Mac is Back. His music has never been bad, it's just that for a while now he has simply fulfilled expectations. This is not a test Smashes them, with a little help from Capital Kings, I might Throw in.
  • #4 - Empire, Derek Minor - The Only Rap Album to Make the list, but only because I did my best to get down to ten. 4 Rap Albums made a Perfect 5 (6 if you include TobyMac and Rapture Ruckus). All hail the king and the Title cut get things on to an explosive start
  • #3 - Invader (Deluxe), Rapture Ruckus - This is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I was not exactly impressed by the two invader EP's, but when he put it all together into an album, it was an entirely different matter.
  • #2 - Science Fiction, Jonathan Thulin - The Too Lean Brothers (that's the pronunciation) continue to mine Platinum). While EDM brother David takes to the Reconstruction of Radio, Jonathan has taken the Alternative Path, though he does simply Press Play and dance from time to time. Enough of the name drops. We Start out as a Time Traveler, dance with Jekyll and Hyde, and even go dark with Cry Wolf. The Picture is complete.
  • #1 - Of Beauty and Rage, RED - EPIC. Red has always been the master of the Symphonic. The Darkest Part is definitely Song of The Year Material. They say repentance is a sincere Change of Mind. They have definitely repented for Release The Panic, which only threw their fans into a Panic. If you love EPIC, soaring orchestration, ballads, and hard driving rock and can only afford to get one album, this is it.
That's the Top 10 of The Year 2015.  You can see that this was a great year. Here are the Albums that failed to make the top 10. But They Were Still Perfect. 
  • We Are, The City Harmonic
  • Floodplain, Sara Groves
  • Broken Temples (Deluxe), Kevin Max
  • Anxiety, NYVES
  • Exhale, Plumb
  • Renegades Never Die, Skrip
  • Echoes of Wonder, Salt of The Sound
  • Fallen, Stryper
I think you would agree that this would make an excellent list on its own. My List is up, now it is time for you all to take your shots. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply. Merry Christmas to All. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

#PlatVnyl6 v. #WLCMA4 - The Album Awards, Part Three

We're Back with the Nominee Breakdowns. I had thought of abandoning this post and moving on to the general field since I had not narrowed down my Perfect 5's from which the Album of The Year would be awarded. I have since gotten things down to a reasonable number to extract a sampling. Not to say that these will be THE NOMINEES. Not yet anyway. 

Due to the differences in how we perceive genre, 2 genres and Album of The Year make 5 genres and Album of The Year at the Platinum Vinyl Awards.

The BPM Awards (Electronic/Dance Album of The Year) correspond to Dance/Synthpop Album of The Year and Electronic-Industrial Album of The Year. Their nominees:
  • Capital Kings - II 5 Emeralds (#PlatVnyl7)
  • Fireflight - Innova 4.75 Emeralds
  • Levi Whalen - Timelines 4.50 Emeralds
  • Rapture Ruckus - Invader 5 Emeralds
  • Transform DJ's - Never Alone   4.75 Emeralds (#PlatVnyl7)
Capital Kings and Transform DJ's are in the #PlatVnyl7 Pool and Fireflight was in the Rock Pool, though I may give them a nod here since entries in these genres were low this year. Same with Levi Whalen, whose album I just learned about recently. As far as Automatic Qualifiers go, for Dance-Synthpop, we have just one, the compilation WoW Hits Party Mix, and Electronic-Industrial had two
  • NYVES - Anxiety 5 Emeralds
  • Rapture Ruckus - Invader Deluxe 5 Emeralds
The AMP Award (Rock/Alternative Album of The Year) actually corresponds to three categories here at the Platinum Vinyl Awards. Alternative Album of The Year, Rock Album of The Year, and Hard Rock/Metal Album of The Year. Their nominees:
  • P.O.D. - The Awakening 5 Emeralds
  • Red - Of Beauty and Rage 5 Emeralds
  • Seventh Day Slumber - Redline EP 4.75 Emeralds
  • Tree 63 - Land 4.75 Emeralds
  • XXI - Inside Out 4.75 Emeralds
This is a fluid area for #PlatVnyl6 even now, as Auto Qualifiers for alternative number 10, Rock 7 and Hard Rock 3. All are very good choices and I have no other comments except that P.O.D. is Hard Rock and Seventh Day Slumber is in #PlatVnyl7. As to our automatic qualifiers: 

Alternative Album of The Year
  • Anberlin - Cities: Live In New York
  • Anberlin - Never Take Friendship Personal: Live In New York
  • Foreverlin - Still After
  • Kings Kaleidoscope - Becoming Who We Are
  • Kings Kaleidoscope - Becoming Who We Are (Instrumental)
  • Lifehouse - Out of The Wasteland
  • Kevin Max - Broken Temples: Deluxe
  • Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil - Goliath
  • Tenth Avenue North - Cathedrals
  • Jonathan Thulin - Science Fiction
Rock Album of The Year
  • Altar Boys - Gut Level Music (Re-Release)
  • Children 18:3 - Come In
  • Pillar - One Love Revolution
  • Red - Of Beauty and Rage
  • Sidewalk Prophets - Something Different
  • Sumerlin - Runaways Deluxe
  • Toby Mac - This Is Not A Test
Hard Rock/Metal Album of The Year
  • P.O.D. - The Awakening
  • Project 86 - Knives to the Future
  • Saint - Broad Is The Gate
I made a pronouncement that no Perfect 5 would be left out of the Finals. I intend to still keep that promise, even though it appears quite difficult this year. Not every release may get into a genre category. I may have to do some "creative shuffling" and there will be many who will feel snubbed.

Album of The Year is the Big Prize everyone wants, which is surprising since the Dove Awards no longer wants to award it. The five nominees for the WLCMA's, for the most part don't really seem to fill the expectations for such a prestigious award. Their Nominees:
  • Amanda Cook - Brave New World
  • Hawk Nelson - Diamond
  • Hillsong United - Empire
  • Jonathan Thulin - Science Fiction
  • Lauren Daigle - How Can It Be
The first requirement for an album of the year according to the rules of the Platinum Vinyl Awards is that the album in question MUST come from the Perfect 5 Pool. By that standard only Science Fiction by Jonathan Thulin makes the cut.  Hillsong United wouldn't even make the initial pool at 3.75 Emeralds.

For this comparison I will keep to my best of 2015 list. The nominees for #PlatVnyl6 will most likely include some albums from October to December of 2014, and nothing after September 30, 2015. Calendar Year 2015 had 49 Perfect 5's. This was whittled to 18 for a best of list. A random selection from that list is as follows. 
  • The City Harmonic - We Are
  • Toby Mac - This Is Not A Test
  • Plumb - Exhale
  • Red - Of Beauty and Rage
  • Jonathan Thulin - Science Fiction
All Perfect 5's from The Night Beat. A formidable judging job if you ask me. That does it for the album awards. I will skip the song awards because I am not ready in the least. We will go to the General field, which I can hobble together. Until Next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Night Beat Rewind: November 2015

We are just about done with 2015 folks. December looks to be a bit sparse, so we may get that rewind done before January. That's wishful thinking and we still have to get through November. Here We Go.

As it is the season, we begin with our:

Christmas Music (Non-Eligible)

  • Copperlily - A Very Copperlily Christmas 5 Emeralds
  • TaRanda Green - Spirit of Christmas 4.75 Emeralds
  • John and Valerie Guerra - It's Almost Christmas 4.25 Emeralds
  • Gungor - O Christmas 4.75 Emeralds
  • Vernon Hill - Great Joy 4.75 Emeralds
  • Jaime Jamgochian and Tyrus Morgan - Christmastime 4.25 Emeralds
  • Brothers McClurg - Goin Back To Bethlehem 3.75 Emeralds
  • Justin McRoberts - Christmas Songs, Volume 3 4.25 Emeralds
  • Various - Christmas Goes Gospel, Volume 2 4.75 Emeralds
  • Various - Dream Christmas, Volume 3 4.50 Emeralds
  • Various - Vital Christmas: Dance of Joy 4.50 Emeralds

The Singles Scene 

  • Color Theory - OBE 4.75 Emeralds
  • Fearless BND - We Lift You Higher 4.50 Emeralds
Now we move on to the non-seasonal album listings. I have decided to be scrooge this year, and I am branding a fairly good amount as 

Missing The Mark

  • Bridge Worship Band - My Great Need 3.75 Emeralds
  • Michael Bahn - Before Our King 3.75 Emeralds
  • J Monty - Second Born 3.75 Emeralds
  • NomiS - Socially Just 3.75 Emeralds
  • TJ Pompeo - Pompeiion 3.50 Emeralds
  • Promise - Falling Rain 3.75 Emeralds
  • Talkie - Hablas 3.50 Emeralds
  • Yaves - Prince Among Thieves 3 3.50 Emeralds
Most of the releases just missed, but a few either didn't impress at all or irritated me quite a bit. Such was the case with TJ Pompeo. One of the White Hip Hop contingent (or should I say Plain White Rapper), he seems to be buying into the Police Officers Are Hunting African Americans to Beat Up and Kill because it amuses them line that the liberals are slandering people with these days.  Fortunately that is only one song, but the rest of the album is only so-so. Yaves and Talkie were "meh", I believe the phrase is.

Our next group needs no excuses. It is simply

Pure Platinum Perfection

  • Falling Up - Falling Up 5 Emeralds
  • Kirk Franklin - Losing My Religion 5 Emeralds
  • Sara Groves - Floodplain 5 Emeralds
Most of the releases fall between the two, they are:

Semi Precious Metal

  • Alache - The Chronicles of The Mrs. 4.75 Emeralds
  • Audile - Am I 4.75 Emeralds
  • Benjah - Motives 4.50 Emeralds
  • Casting Crowns - A Live Worship Experience 4.50 Emeralds
  • Consumed By Fire - Lean on Me 4.50 Emeralds
  • The Exchange - Compass 4.50 Emeralds
  • Family Force Five - Time Still Stands 4.75 Emeralds
  • Adam Layne Fisher - Live at Barnet Park 4.75 Emeralds
  • Five Iron Frenzy - Between Pavement and Stars EP  4.50 Emeralds
  • Gloriam Dei - The Covenant 4.75 Emeralds
  • Natalie Grant - Be One 4.75 Emeralds
  • GuvnaB - Secret World 4.50 Emeralds
  • Deitrick Haddon - Masterpiece 4.75 Emeralds
  • Kutless - Surrender 4.75 Emeralds
  • Phillip LaRue - You 4.75 Emeralds
  • MH Eternal - Songs For Tomorrow 4.50 Emeralds
  • Dre Murray - 34 4.75 Emeralds
  • Mutemath - Vitals 4.75 Emeralds
  • Joshua Price - Elevate 4.50 Emeralds
  • Puntin - Gold 4.50 Emeralds
  • Seeker and Servant - You Alone Forever 4.75 Emeralds
  • Vineyard UK - Hear The Sound 4.75 Emeralds
  • Wilkes - Shells EP 4.75 Emeralds
That does it for this month. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

#PlatVnyl6 v. #WLCMA4 - The Album Awards, Part Two

Welcome back to our picks for the 4th We Love Christian Music Awards, as well as commentary on how it stacks up against the Platinum Vinyl Awards, more specifically, the current awards year, which is #PlatVnyl6. This is the third post, so check out the introduction and the first three groups of nominees by clicking on the appropriate links.

The next two groups of nominees are competing for one award in the Platinum Vinyl Awards. Let me explain. The Encounter Award (Worship Album of The Year) and The Chorus Award (Church Based Worship Album of The Year) are both competing for the Modern Worship Album of The Year at the Platinum Vinyl Awards. And I think it will stay that way for a while. It's the sound, not the location, that makes the difference for me.

The Encounter Award nominees are:
  • Aaron Gillespie - Grace Through The Wandering 4.50 Emeralds
  • Amanda Cook - Brave New World 4.50 Emeralds
  • Christy Nockels - Let It Be Jesus 4.75 Emeralds
  • Matt Maher - Saints and Sinners 4.75 Emeralds
  • Matt Redman - Unbroken Praise 4.75 Emeralds
The Chorus Award nominees are:
  • Bethel Music - We Will Not Be Shaken 4.75 Emeralds
  • Gateway Worship - Walls 4.50 Emeralds 
  • Jesus Culture - Unstoppable Love #PVA5 (2014 Release)
  • Passion - Even So Come 4.75 Emeralds
  • Vertical Church Band - Church Songs 4.75 Emeralds
I Don't know why NRT dropped the ball on this one by putting a 2014 album for best of 2015. Other than that we don't have too many problems. I wasn't that impressed with Gillespie and Cook in the first grouping and Gateway worship in the second, but other than that the choices were very good. As I said, however, I have combined all the Modern Worship Music into one award. The Automatic Qualifiers for #PlatVnyl6. I have six, which is 1 short of a full bracket without busting it open. They are:

  • Bethel Music - Without Words: Synesthesia 5 EMERALDS
  • The Katina's - Sunday Set 5 EMERALDS
  • Planetshakers - #LETSGO 5 EMERALDS
  • Planetshakers - This Is Our Time 5 EMERALDS
  • Soulfire Revolution - Afterglow 5 EMERALDS
  • Young Oceans - I Must Find You 5 EMERALDS
A much better grouping. There probably will be an expansion of the categories beyond seven to accommodate a few more worthy nominees, but there will be no ties.

The Hype Award corresponds to our Rap/Hip Hop Album of The Year, and personally I would say, don't believe the hype. Let's get right to the nominees.

  • Alex Faith & Dre Murray - Southern Lights: Overexposed MTM
  • Andy Mineo - Uncomfortable 4.75 Emeralds
  • JGivens - Fly Exam MTM
  • KB - Tomorrow We Live 4.50 Emeralds
  • Roy Tosh - Death Before Love 4.50 Emeralds
It's an OK bracket, but you notice those two MTM's. That means I consider them to have Missed The Mark and awarded them a score under 4 Emeralds. That means they don't get into the nominee pool, and KB and Tosh would be a stretch in the pool at 4.50. Here our the Automatic Qualifiers for #PlatVnyl6

  • Eshon Burgundy - The Fear of God 5 EMERALDS
  • Flame - Forward 5 EMERALDS
  • KJ-52 - Mental 5 EMERALDS
  • LA Symphony - You Still On Earth? 5 EMERALDS
  • Derek Minor - Empire 5 EMERALDS
  • Skrip - Renegades Never Die 5 EMERALDS
  • TobyMac - This Is Not A Test 5 EMERALDS
  • Whosoever South - Come On In 5 EMERALDS
This one was a category buster. 8 Perfect 5's in one year. And others may get snubbed if I don't go higher. 

Finishing with my picks. I'll go with Christy Nockels for the Encounter Award and Bethel Music for The Chorus Award. For Rap and The Hype Award, I'll pick Andy Mineo. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

#PlatVnyl6 v. #WLCMA4 - The Album Awards, Part One

The matchup begins. As we mentioned in our last post, the +We Love Christian Music Awards recently announced their nominee pool, and we here at the +The WENC Night Beat were pleasantly surprised to find we are pretty much on the same page. We go now to the actual nomination comparisons. We start with the Album Awards. One slight Caveat. We have not yet finalized our nominees yet, so I can only speak with possibilities except in the case of Perfect 5's, which are considered Automatic Qualifiers for the finals.

The Hook Awards correspond to our Pop Album of The Year. Our biggest problem with this bunch of picks is we seem to have a difference of opinion on our definition of "Pop". Their nominees.

  • Blanca - Blanca 4.75 Emeralds
  • Jonathan Thulin - Science Fiction 5 EMERALDS 
  • Kevin Max - Broken Temples: Deluxe 5 EMERALDS
  • Mat Kearney - Just Kids 4.75 Emeralds
  • Ryan Stevenson - Fresh Start 4.75 Emeralds 
We agree with Blanca and Stevenson, and at 4.75 we shall see if they make the finals in Pop. Jonathan Thulin and Kevin Max, however are automatic qualifiers for Alternative, not pop, and Kearney is in the mix in Rock. I wish to suggest the following Pop Albums for Consideration. 

  • Annie Moses Band - American Rhapsody 5 EMERALDS
  • JJ Heller - Sound of A Living Heart 5 EMERALDS
  • Plumb - Exhale 5 EMERALDS
  • Kerrie Roberts - My Hearts Lifted 5 EMERALDS

The Softlight Award correspond to our Adult Contemporary/Inspirational Album of The Year. Again we seem to differ in our genre interpretation. Their nominees

  • Chris August - The Maker 4.50 Emeralds
  • Jeremy Camp - I Will Follow 4.75 Emeralds
  • Lauren Daigle - How Can It Be 4.75 Emeralds
  • Plumb - Exhale 5 EMERALDS
  • Sidewalk Prophets - Something Different 5 EMERALDS
Of the five Daigle and August are in the right genre in our opinion, though August most likely wont get in the finals at only a 4.5. Plumb isn't her usual dance, but AC? Please. It's Pop. And Jeremy Camp and Sidewalk Prophets are both Rock. Only Two AQ's for AC from us for your perusal.

  • Big Daddy Weave - Beautiful Offering 5 EMERALDS
  • The City Harmonic - We Are 5 EMERALDS
The Prose Award, which they say is for Singer/Songwriter Album of The Year, would seem to correspond to our Folk/Folk Rock Album of The Year. You can check my latest rant to see what I think of the Singer/Songwriter label. Anyway, their nominees.

  • Andrew Peterson - The Burning Edge of Dawn 4.75 Emeralds
  • Cindy Morgan - Bows and Arrows 4.75 Emeralds
  • Jon Guerra - Little Songs 4.50 Emeralds
  • Josh Wilson - That Was Then, This Is Now 4.75 Emeralds
  • Sara Groves - Floodplain 5 EMERALDS
We have a number of problems to sort out here. One is misplaced genre, as Wilson and Morgan are Pop. Guerra is AC/Insp. Except for Guerra's 4.50 I Think they would make a fine finals. Our biggest problem is the meshing of eligibility years. Ours run from Oct 1- Sept 30, so Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves, while excellent choices, are in the running for #PlatVnyl7, not the current #PlatVnyl6 year. Again, not much for Folk AQ's but here are ours.

  • Jennifer Knapp - Set Me Free 5 EMERALDS
  • The Vespers - Sisters and Brothers 5 EMERALDS
I can hear the peanut gallery screaming "Jennifer's Not Christian Anymore". I never heard her renounce Jesus. These two are in big time.

As to picking, here goes. I think Blanca should get the Hook Award, Daigle the Softlight and Sara Groves the Prose Award. We'll hit another bunch next time. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Does The Night Beat Love Christian Music?

Does a Bear.... Enough of that. One of the more enjoyable parts of our job here at Night Beat HQ is taking pot shots  making informed predictions of how the other Music Awards will go. Now with the industry giant The Dove Awards, which is quickly fading into irrelevancy, though at its size and longevity it still has klout, there is no guessing. Usually I wind up no better than a coin flip and sometimes much worse.

The newer Awards, mostly all blog based, are another matter. These seem to have a better finger on the pulse of the public, and while better staffing may mean that they find more artists than I do, on a lot of cases we are picking the same nominees.

Case in point. The +We Love Christian Music Awards . They are one of the grasshoppers to our sensei (I wish). They are in their 4th Year and we are in the roll-up to #PlatVnyl6 next year, so we have two years seniority on them. They are pretty much on the same page this year, which is going to make picking really difficult without tipping my hand. Fortunately for me it is a fan vote award, so I can say who I thing will win, but judging a fan vote is really like picking a needle in a haystack, so I should be safe.

How close are The Night Beat and +NewReleaseToday ? Let's do a quick recap of the nominees. 9 Album Awards, 1 EP Award, 50 nominees. Of That we have 9 they nominated which we consider Pure Platinum (5 Emeralds), we'll stick with 9 though it could be 10 but since one album is nominated as well for album of the year and another category we won't count it twice. Another twenty nominees are for my wiggle room 4.75 Emerald Rating, where I just can't hand out perfection, even though I want to. Only three times did they give a nominee to someone I thought Missed The Mark with under a 4 Emerald Rating. That's extremely close, as I would judge distance. 

In the upcoming posts I will go over the nominees and attempt to make an accurate pick. When they announce the winners next year we shall see how close the fan base is. Until next time, I am Awaiting Your Reply.