Just last year, BEC Recordings announced a partnership with Seattle-based Mars Hill Music, which meant exclusive releases for BEC from artists like Dustin Kensrue, Citizens (now called Citizens & Saints), and Kings Kaleidoscope. Earlier this year, however, Kings Kaleidoscope announced a departure from the Mars Hill family (and, as a result, the Tooth & Nail family) and promptly teamed up with BadChristian Music to release a very impressive, impromptu EP called Live In Color. Shortly after, they teamed up with Tooth & Nail for KK's first full-length album, Becoming Who We Are, and it's easily one of the best releases from the Tooth & Nail brand (as well as in general) in a long time.
Though it wasn't really their first release, Live In Color was a great way to introduce the band to a new and potentially larger audience. Featuring six songs (trimmed down to five for legal reasons) recorded all at once in various parts of a local middle school, the tracks were stellar, but were minimally-produced and recorded with an old-fashioned Norma Jean/The Chariot mindset of "There are mistakes? Oh well, let's leave 'em in." But it came out wonderfully nonetheless. And it's really nice to hear four of the EP's songs re-recorded and included on Becoming Who We Are, as well as two re-recorded songs from earlier releases (one from Sin and one from Asaph's Arrows), making up a whopping 17-song tracklist.
For purposes of general classification, Becoming Who We Are would probably be filed under "indie," but it's a lot more than that. On your first listen, you'll be surprised by each and every new song, as you never really know what to expect. With a band that sports ten full-time members, there are bound to be a wide variety of influences, and as such, you can hear influence from bands like New Order, Five Iron Frenzy, The Roots, Arcade Fire, fun., Muse, The Beatles, and (quite obviously) other now-former Mars Hill bands like Dustin Kensrue and Citizens & Saints. There are even a couple of drum-heavy EDM tracks that remind me vaguely of the "Hutch Buggin" tracks from Earthsuit's The Rise of Modern Simulation. Even still, there are times where the style changes before the song is over, such as the album version of "Fix My Eyes." What was previously a piano-led song accompanied only by a threepiece string section for the Live In Color EP shows its true, and original, form for Becoming Who We Are. It starts off with a beautiful new wave vibe, but by the end (and during the chorus), the song has transformed into a rock/ska mixture of sorts. Kings K's wonderful cover of "Grace Alone" is done in a similar kind of way, but with almost opposite sounds. It starts with just a guitar and Chad Gardner singing the Dustin Kensrue-penned lyrics, and during the third verse, some Beatles-esque light drums and bass join the mix, and eventually finish with another round of softer rock and brass.
I could just go on about the beauty of the musicianship of this album. You hear a lot of music fans and critics (myself included) complain about the lack of diversity and creativity in modern music. But there are also the artists who experiment too much to keep the music high quality enough to be listenable. It can be difficult to balance quality and creativity, but Kings Kaleidoscope does it. To top it off, Gardner is also a wonderful lyricist. Of course, several of the songs on Becoming Who We Are were written by somebody else, but Gardner's are on the same level, if not above it. "Glorious" starts off with a David-Crowder-meets-Arcade Fire-esque indie sound, with amazing imagery concerning God's love for us: "You came in a minute, You took me by surprise, with a love like summer air on a moonlight mountainside." "I Know" reminds me of something I could hear from MuteMath, and sings about longing for Heaven, knowing that he will one day dance and sing on the streets of gold. A few tracks later, a re-recorded and re-arranged version of "All Creatures of Our God and King" (or just "All Creatures" here) features several xylophones played in a different time signature than the vocals. Originally written by St. Francis of Asissi, the lyrics hold up well, and are even better than today's norm.
My favorite song of them all is "139." Based on the 139th Psalm, it's a song about the deepness and intricacy of God's love for us. With some perfectly-complementing guitar work, Gardner sings "You heard my first heartbeat before I could breathe, before my first cry, You knew me, You knit me together when I was conceived, when I was designed, You knew me." The chorus is a reminder that God would be with us no matter what, whether we climbed the highest hill or swam to the deepest ocean, and the bridge (picking up in pace a little), says "You are the God who knows and loves me, the God of David, the Rock of Ages, You are the King who dwells above me, the King of Zion, the mighty lion." Listen to this song with headphones and no distractions, and just let God speak His love to you. It flows perfectly into another pleasing track, "Redemption In Motion." The song is rather short and, musically speaking, works as sort of a continuation of "139," but switches gears lyrically to reflect Jesus' death and resurrection as He "set redemption in motion." "Zion" is a heartwrenching but lovely song about a miscarried baby (named Zion), and how he and his parents will meet again someday. It's just about the slowest track, which is appropriate considering the subject matter. The Gardners' faithfulness to God despite the miscarriage is a fantastic testimony - a true inspiration to anyone going through a tough time in their life. Finally, to close the whole album is the victorious "Defender." Re-recorded for this new album, the song's arrangement stayed the same (why mess with perfection?), and it serves as the perfect finale for Kings Kaleidoscope's major label debut.
To point out all the highlights of this album would make for an extremely long read, because the entirety of the album is a highlight. It's incredibly obvious that great care was taken when writing and arranging these songs. Beautiful harmonies, wonderfully-catchy hooks, interesting uses of various instruments, expertly-written and reverent lyrics - this album has it all and so much more. It fits so very well into my musical library as a musical album and a worship album. It's what I and so many others long for. You need this album.- Preview Review date: 10/3/14; Review date: 10/21/14 written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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