For their sophomore release, The Neverclaim took a decidedly different approach to music making. Instead of continuing with their southern flavored pop/rock, the band opted for a run of the mill pop sound. The passion that permeated songs like "The Bridegroom" and the earnestness of "Steal Their Hearts" has been replaced with calculated energetic pop tunes.
Lead single and title track "The Joy" brings the best of the band's new sound to the table. The catchy opener sets the tone of the album both musically and thematically, declaring the joy we have in Jesus is not based in circumstances but on the unchanging love and grace of God. Contrasting "The Joy" is the weakest track on the album, "Dance With God," with its corny songwriting and an overly bubbly sound to match. With the chorus repeating the lyrics "dance with God / dance with God / we rejoice and laugh and sing / forever in his love / dance with God," and the pre-chorus randomly counting to six in Spanish, the song is unabashedly cliché.
The remaining tracks fall somewhere in between the quality of these first two. While the overall energy of The Joy is high, for the most part, each song is appropriately balanced with exciting, anthemic, and reserved moments. "Rise Up" demonstrates this dynamic arrangement fairly well with a soft electronic organ sound and a floor tom driven beat in the first verse and other instruments--such as a dance-pop guitar riff and fun electronic sounds--being gradually layered in. Unfortunately, all of this builds to an anticlimactic bridge that tapers off, but before you realize you are no longer paying attention, the song is over and you hear the acoustic guitar chords of the next song, "Rules & Reigns."
When an album feels like a product of the system the way The Joy does, it's hard to see the value in its creation. It's not that the album is less than pleasant to listen to; in fact, it is well produced, the musicianship is solid, and the lyrics are very singable. However, everything here has been done before and done better. The Neverclaim has proven they have potential with their self-titled album and Revival--hopefully this is just a misstep for the band.- Review date: 7/12/15, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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