Well over a decade ago, a small Christian rock band out of Albany, Oregon echoed its first ethereal sounds on what would later become their trend-setting debut album, Crashings. Throughout the years, Falling Up would continue to develop into something entirely different from their hard rock roots, steadily progressing towards a more artistic form of experimental rock. Although this musical journey has fleshed out entirely new genres (see: science-fiction experimental Christian indie rock), all great stories must draw to a close. For the second time in Falling Up's career, the point of saying 'goodbye' has come, but not without a final, $48,346 fan-backed blaze of glory. Could they have truly christened this project anything but "Falling Up?"
Over the years, the band has repeatedly hinted that most of their works are connected in some way, and Falling Up helps us finally reach some conclusions. The band stated that this entire album takes place inside of a house (hint: read up on the lore of the "Waterfall House" from their sophomore effort, Dawn Escapes), and appears to focus on a family of four, with the main character being the daughter, Evaline. Her brother, Colby, is mentioned by name on the first track ("Colby hold your breath, now good luck"), but the parents remain unnamed. Amusingly, frontman Jessy Ribordy wrote a song many years ago for his side project, The Gloomcatcher, entitled "Good Luck Colby."
The story is complex, attempting to detail searching out of truth, the loss of innocence, and the art of finding identity and freedom. Evaline seems to be struggling with different voices calling to her and appears to be sick. The album cover seems to be a reference to "Diamnds" from Your Sparkling Death Cometh, which makes sense the more the story is examined. That album chronicled the process of the realization of being made in God's image in light of sickness and death. This vein of allegorical interconnectivity should be prone to earn applause from fans of master world-builders such as J.R.R. Tolkien.
This story more specifically deals with the process of what is modeled as a home invasion, with the lyrical content being as cryptic and brilliant as has come to be expected. Melodically, Falling Up serves as a rough conglomeration of 'all' of their previous styles. The opening track, "Boone Flyer," is a good example of that. For many of these songs, the guitar work is reminiscent of Crashings, the piano rock from Dawn Escapes returns, and the synth-driven elements of Captiva are present. The flowing rock of Fangs! echoes loud and clear and the haunting sounds of Your Sparkling Death Cometh are peppered throughout.
One of the best songs on the album is "Flora," a seven-minute track which encompasses a smooth rock vibe, acoustic fingerpicking, and impressive vocals. The surprise ending perfectly caps off the track, making this a song to put on repeat for a while. "Hydro" offers a glimpse into a style new for Falling Up. It's sprayed with echoes, flowing and ethereal lyrics, and includes a tease of the chorus from "In the Woodshop," another fantastic song on the album.
"Rangers" offers a look at where the band's musical style was heading, exposing yet another aggressive shift, but also with more spiritually allegorical lyrics ("chlorine waters, waving in red, some forging father's signature penned"). "The Insect" is an incredibly beautiful and quiet track, and gives a more insightful glimpse into the band's poetic flow. This song seems to be a message from God to Evaline, claiming "I'll take the fall for you, my angel … I made a song in the fathoming vows of our love, Evaline. In your room, some summer you'll lie and I'll fly though your window...". (Again, I point towards "Diamnds.")
The final song, "Flares," is one of Falling Up's best to date. It is also on this track in which drummer Josh Shroy's talent is truly showcased. The song is both hard and soft at the same time, with the lyrics offering a deep insight into the idea of letting go and giving in to grace. The final line echoes on for several minutes: "Let them know that you can float; turn around and rise up."
Truthfully, this album is unmarketable, at least from traditional standpoint. It is only amidst the chaos that order can be found. The story is inexplicably complicated, the lyrics enigmatic, and the vocals (while serene) difficult to audibly understand. Only a band such as Falling Up could get away with this kind of game-winning Hail Mary.
Upon stepping back and examining the whole of the band's works, from Crashings to Falling Up, it becomes clear that the message has always been about grace. The lyrics of the unreleased song from which their name was taken read "all my life; it makes no sense. When I fall, You lift me up; without Your love, I shatter." Their very name is a reference to the idea that when we stumble, it's as though we are falling upwards into grace. The story on this eighth and final album perfectly models this message, bringing full circle the idea that it's only within our Heavenly Father that we find grace and are made complete.
- Review date: 11/13/15, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com