In May of last year, new record label Dream Records (in conjunction with Universal Christian Music Group) released the label's first album, Life Is Beautiful, from power pop act Press Play. The album went over well, making it to number 45 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and earning the band guest appearances on national talk shows. Little more than a year later, and Press Play is fit to release their follow-up, a calling out to the whole country, titled NY2LA. Like their debut, all the proceeds of the album will go to benefit Los Angeles' Dream Center.
Despite the high accolades for Life Is Beautiful, one listen to the album would prove to be one too many. Aside from the production, it was rather weak in every aspect an album could be. The biggest concern for the album was its incredible diversity, yet its failure to succeed in them all. And to an extent, NY2LA follows suit. "NY2LA" starts the album off with what sounds like a hybrid of Black Eyed Peas and older Backstreet Boys. It features a little rap bridge and spoken word piece from the star of Everybody Hates Chris, Tyler Williams. "Getcha Hands Up" continues in the same sound, but "Let's Dance" transitions into a pop-filled trance sound, which moves directly into a fast-paced, guitar-driven pop rock song in "Let's Go." The first verse of the song feels like the lyrics were an after thought, with a lot of repetition and a bit of choppiness ("Do ya do ya do ya know what I have I have I have, a burning burning deep inside, I said I said I said a love a love I can't deny oh yeah yeah, I know I know it's all about You You You"). The guest rapper near the end takes away more than what he adds to the song, with a slighty sloppy flow (not to mention it's an odd thing to have in such a rock-based song these days). The rock flair of "Let's Go" proves to be very misplaced, as the song that follows, "L.O.V.E. Now," goes back to a synth heavy dance sound. "Let's Go" may have been better placed elsewhere, allowing "Let's Dance" and "L.O.V.E. Now" to work well one right after the other. Sadly, even with the upbeat rhythm of "L.O.V.E. Now," the song is fairly dry and boring. "Holiday" is a rather catchy tune with a hopeful message. This is actually one of the better tracks on NY2LA, yet it too is not without its faults. Dave Hanley sings the song in a very breathy manner, which makes it sound like he runs out of breath really easily during some parts. He also has a little too gravelly of a voice to take leads on such a smooth, low-key song. Co-lead vocalist Sada K might have performed better for this one had she taken leads.
"Holiday" transitions rather smoothly into "I Love You So," featuring a duet from both Hanley and Sada K. They both have good voices in their own rights, but they don't really sound too good together, with his scratchy rock voice and her smooth R&B voice. However, the match of "Holiday" and "I Love You So" prove to be a good pairing. Press Play may do well to focus more on this style of music in future releases. But for now, they go from there to "Love Somebody (80's Tribute)." It does have a slight '80s feel (still very modern though), with Hanley singing parts of the song while imitating artists like Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode. He does an alright job, but the album could've done without this song altogether. "My Destiny" would fit well on modern pop radio stations, with a big Rihanna vibe. This is one of the songs that proves that Sada actually serves as a better lead vocalist than Hanley (when she's not using auto tune), and also one of the songs that shows that Press Play seems to be getting a little better at the music they make. "Shake The Rooftops" is an electro-pop rock call to arms, encouraging the listener to "Shake the rooftops, shake the rooftops, live your life out loud, shout it out." As with Life Is Beautiful, Press Play ends NY2LA with some worship time, but they have two worship songs this time around. "My Everything" feels a lot like the worship song from Life Is Beautiful ("Angels Sing"), but is a pretty good track that, to me, seems to steal the spotlight as the best song of the album. It features smooth vocals that complement the music very well, and leads perfectly into "Forever," which he also provides vocals for. It's about on the same level as "My Everything" as far as quality, making the end of NY2LA the best part of the whole album.
Press Play's debut didn't do much in the way of providing a good album for music fans. Their message and ministry is extremely admirable, but I couldn't help but dismiss it quickly after listening. NY2LA, however, is a definite step up for the band. Whereas just about all of the tracks were hard to listen to before, there are a handful of tracks this time around that showcase a maturity in their music. "Holiday," "I Love You So," and the two worship songs at the end feature sounds that I would love to hear more of from these guys, as those sounds prove to be where their strengths lie. I have nothing but respect for the work they do at the Dream Center and their ministry that reaches many people for Jesus; I would just love to hear more of the ballads and worship from them, and less of the pop/rock/hip hop/r&b/electronic/techno/trance hybrid songs (and much much less auto tune next time around as well). Still not a great album, but definitely a step in the right direction for Press Play.
- PReview date: 7/23/10, Review date: 8/10/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com