With five years experience and several EPs to their credit, it seems unfair to call Luminate a new artist. But for the Tyler, TX band, their full-length, major label project Come Home will likely be as good as a first introduction to many listeners and a great opportunity to finally let their years of hard work shine. Hooky anthems, solid pop production, and ambient touches make up the musical DNA of these twelve tracks, but it's frontman and songwriter Sam Hancock's lyrics that bring the heart and soul.
Pounding drum beats and ethereal keys lead the way into "Innocent," an opener that puts a huge sound right up front even as it poses a loaded question: "What if You would have never sent your Son? / What if you held back your love? / It would be so different / There would be no hope for us." As the chorus declares, "Cause you took all the shame and you washed it away / We are, we are innocent," it sets the tone for the rest of the record and establishes the thread of redemption woven throughout the album. "Healing in Your Arms" opens with a dramatic synth and strings riff that carries into a strong pop beat, while the title track's steady piano line grounds the song and lets it soar to evoke the feelings of a prodigal returning home.
A lot of Luminate's sound is owed to thick production and a layered pop vibe, but Hancock's voice also stands out as he pours emotion into every performance, and as the primary lyricist, he successfully creates songs of hope and joy that fit that passion well. At first, it doesn't really seem like a worship album -- no Hillsong or Chris Tomlin style happening here -- but on repeat listens, it turns out to be very worshipful indeed, with songs that could fit in a church setting without really feeling like stereotypical praise tunes.
There are parts of Come Home that slip into a uniform style, rarely deviating from the big anthem formula. Slick, synth-laden pop is the norm, but in a way it wraps the music in an inviting, pleasant atmosphere, even if it doesn't mix things up very much. "Hope is Rising" is an exception, breaking the mold at the halfway point with a more acoustic base and a singable feel, a nice interlude before "New Beginnings" drops the big sound again. "This is Love" is another more subdued track that gently closes and rounds out the album. If anything, the record could have benefitted from a few stripped down tracks to give it some variety and really show off the band's talent.
From start to finish, Come Home is a solid album and a great introduction to those who have yet to discover Luminate. Though it may not break serious new ground or feel all that different from the genre, those craving some new music with a worshipful attitude and a soft spot for pop-friendly beats will find a fine release worth checking out.
- Review date: 1/23/11, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com