To me, really listening to a record is very experiential, and while some can be viewed as a (slightly) dispassionate observer, Rivers In The Wasteland from NEEDTOBREATHE is not one of those records; it trades almost entirely in the world of emotion. So instead of a straight forward review of this record, I must let you into my journey listening to it.
Hit play and 15 seconds later I’m hooked…
Wasteland has a perfect simplistic mix that draw you in immediately. The vocals, background vocal, lyrics, simple guitar and piano on “Wasteland” are a perfect introduction to the record, you can’t help but want to see where this is going.
The track could almost feel a little long but again…I’m fully engaged after a couple bars of the second track “State I’m In”. This high-energy Southern rock track brings the kind of sing-along energy that makes you wish you were at a live show. I’ve never had the privilege of going to a NEEDTOBREATHE show, but somewhere between the chorus hook and Beach Boys influenced BGVs, I realize that I need to change that.
By the time you reach “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” you realize the power of the band’s intros and their ability to set the tone of each song. The raw energy and live feel of tracks like this are so powerful. The drum tones and vocal harmonies especially ring through on this song and you can‘t help but picture scenes of live music and dancing as it echoes through your ears.
“Oh, Carolina” brings the album back to a more country-folksy root for Track 4, and although I’m not a massive country fan…I find myself on their website trying to figure out when they are coming to Canada, because that’s a show I need to be at.
Now, at this point I should mention I am not a major “lyrics guy”. Not that I don’t love a great lyric, it’s just not my starting place in a song. However “Difference Maker” does not give you that option. The stripped down production and compelling vocals pull you in and you can not help but be compelled.
“Oh, I am the difference maker
Oh, I am the only one that speaks to Him And I am the friendliest of friends of God”
“Rise Again” & “The Heart” carry on as a good positive vibe but perhaps aren’t as captivating as the opening half of the record. Still great tunes, and I’m tracking with the album but they do blend in a little more.
“Where The Money” brings back a new sound, and gets you paying attention again. Bringing a modern rock/pop vibe, still sounding very NEEDTOBREATHE but with splashes of Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend thrown against their down south backdrop for good measure.
Track 9, “Multiplied” focuses you right back on the vocals again, with a more directly worship lyric focus. Again the vocals and lyrics are pushed nicely to the forefront with a great drum and guitar arrangement sitting perfectly behind. A nice step outside of the rest of the record, I can’t help but hope I find myself singing this one in church sometime soon!
Continuing in the more overtly faith-based channel carved by “Multiplied”, “Brother” brings in a solid southern vibe, the highlight of which are the great organ sounds found throughout.
As the record closes out. “More Heart, Less Attack”, strips things back again. We have fully left the high energy show found at the beginning of record and are instead invited straight into the band’s rehearsal room. With a great banjo part playing in the left, and mellow guitar and drums to the right, the producers manage to create a live and intimate feel that’s difficult on any record. All in all the song is a great way to close out the record and the journey it has taken us on.
Overall, Needtobreathe puts out another strong record. While most of my favourite tracks are stacked on the front half, I enjoyed throughout. It should also be mentioned that while the band has a great batch of songs, their mixes and production (along with co-producers like Joe Chiccarelli, Kevin Augunas, Jerrod Bettis and Ed Cash) deserve almost equal credit.
All told, a great record to listen to front to back.