Casting Crowns became the sleeper act of 2003, seizing high album sales and accolades with their self-titled debut and 2004 live project. Now recovering from a hugely successful tour with friends Steven Curtis Chapman and Chris Tomlin, the seven-piece group of youth leaders are poised to release their sophomore studio effort Lifesong. From the first listen of the new record, a significant improvement in the musical explorations the band takes are evident.
Lifesong opens with a musical nod to U2 with its title track. Right off the bat, the album has a greater appeal than their somewhat insipid debut. The music on such tracks as "Praise You In This Storm" is a lot more sonic, making for a more passionate and emotional worship experience, but unfortunately doesn't carry through much of the rest of the record. "Does Anybody Hear Her" is a sensitive ballad about the church not being there for a girl who needs help but makes a lot of missteps. Musically, it's a step backwards from the opening tracks, but still works in the grand scheme of the song's message. "Stained Glass Masquerade" is a more bland offering while the soft, piano-driven "Love Them Like Jesus" effectively delivers the message of encouraging Christians to love people right where they're at. "Set Me Free" tells the story of the man Jesus casted the legion of demons from, featuring a chorus more rock-based than is usual for the band.
The dime-a-dozen upbeat worship anthem "Father, Spirit, Jesus," precedes a string of softer ballads, ending with "And Now My Lifesong Sings," which serves as the album's bookend, complimenting the opening track. Overall, Lifesong is musically an assortment of experimentation and familiarity, as the band continues to offer songs with relatable messages to the church body. Frontman and chief songwriter Mark Hall's strained, shouting-style vocals is still an acquired taste, along with his straightforward and often simplistic lyrics, but Lifesong is a noteworthy second chapter in an already impressive career for this young band.- Review date: 8/25/05, written by John DiBiase
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