Peter Furler's been a sneaky artist for the past couple of years. With his solo record, On Fire, making waves in 2011, the singer/songwriter played by his own rules with regards to tours and artistry, traveling wherever he pleased and playing with friends from all over (including an exciting drumming gig with Steve Taylor's new project). In the midst of his open-ended obligations and vision comes Sun and Shield, a project from the newly founded Peter Furler Band that few saw coming, but many are rightfully enthusiastic about. It showcases the Furler that fans have come to know and love, while introducing a few new twists along the way.
One of the bigger differences between Peter Furler's solo project and a typical Newsboys project is is that On Fire clearly felt like a self-driven record. Most assuredly, Furler had a certain creative direction that the Newsboys were clearly influenced by, and that influence is still very present here. But now that Furler is two albums removed from his former band, the "Furler sound" is only more solidified on Sun and Shield, and because it feels more like a band-driven album, it carries all the benefits of collaboration. Fellow veterans Dave Ghazarian (on bass) and Jeff Irizarry (on drums) are both fine counterparts to Furler's musicianship, and though there are some aspects of the sound that are more subtle than they could be, the effort does feel more like a full band than Furler's sole tinkering.
Like a trademark Furler release, Sun and Shield has its share of high points that separate from the field in creative ways. The upbeat guitar-driven rockers "So High" and "Dare I Say" are some of the best material on the album, granting Furler, Ghazarian, and Irizarry solid, enjoyable cuts that keep the album fun. "Right Wrong Girl," though an odd inclusion that sticks out from the tracklisting, is a tongue-in-cheek relationship comedy bit that feels exactly like a Furler track from start to finish. The worshipful "Yeshua" is an impactful centerpiece for the album, building to a strong finish that uses the "holy holy holy" chorus exceptionally well. Songs like these make Sun and Shield a novel release, even from a practiced pro like Furler.
With mid-tempo pop numbers everywhere else, Sun and Shield covers all the bases of a usual Furler release, though it isn't a terribly unified approach overall with the album's focus jumping all across the board. There's the unmistakable charm of a Furler album from start to finish, but there's always a nagging feeling that the album isn't much greater than the sum of its parts. Whether it's the safe song structures of "It's All Right (For Lazarus)" and "We Won't Forget" or the largely unexciting methods behind "The Overcomer" and the title track, there's several moments where the album doesn't rise above to convincingly grip the listener. Still, songs like these improve upon additional listens, and there really isn't a bad apple among the bunch.
Furler's fans are undoubtedly happy for an album like Sun and Shield to land. Without too many low points, its a solid record that boasts a nice variety of both quirky and thoughtful songwriting in line with traditional Furler methods. Sun and Shield is not a terribly polished album, but it reminds Furler's fans of why they fell in love with his musical style in the first place. There's an aura of nostalgia that keeps the album afloat, and it's a unique pop effort that keeps 2014 favorably unpredictable.- Review date: 3/9/14, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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