The Light Meets the Dark, Tenth Avenue North's much-anticipated sophomore offering, comes on the heels of their recent Dove Award for Best Song, "By Your Side" from their debut album Over and Underneath (2008). This Dove Award is their second, after the band won the award for New Artist of the Year at 2009's ceremony. It's safe to say there is a lot of buzz around Tenth Avenue North these days, but do they avoid the "sophomore slump" that plagues highly popular bands?
Answer: a tentative yes. The Light Meets the Dark has a refreshing cohesiveness about it, with an obvious theme and focus. The album is all about brokenness, the universality of that brokenness, and how Jesus meets individuals in their brokenness and overcomes it.
The album starts off with its first single, "Healing Begins," a song that encourages listeners to let down the walls hiding their brokenness to let healing start. The chorus features Keane-like mellow rock vocals before amping it up later in the song. "Strong Enough to Save" continues the focus on humanity's weakness and going to God with our pain.
"You are More" starts out with a bell-like guitar melody, following a girl who mistakenly believes she has "fallen too far to love." The chorus assures listeners that "you are more than the choices that you've made, you are more than the sum of your past mistakes, you are more than the problems you create, you've been remade." This message says it's not about us, but rather what God has done for us.
"The Truth is Who You Are" is another soft-rock offering, talking about how following Christ can be difficult but is ultimately worth it. Once the band gets to the repeat of the chorus, they push up the volume a notch, a good thing when the listeners have been listening to so many similar sounding songs. The next song, "All the Pretty Things," highlights the tensions of being "caught in the in-between of who we are and who we're to be" and other struggles of the Christian faith. It's easy to get distracted from eternity and start "fighting for what we already have." This song has a fun guitar riff and background vocals chiming, with more energy and intensity than previous offerings.
"Any Other Way" is another song about brokenness and identity. A nice comparison is drawn between Jesus touching our scars, and us touching His. This leads into "On and On," a piano-driven ballad about the back and forth nature of humanity, running from God and then seeking him again. Another type of comparison marks "Hearts Safe:" two individuals who come from the same place, yet one doesn't know Christ. The wailing chorus repeats "Why?" over and over.
The most powerful songs are the final offerings. "House of Mirrors" revolves around the image of us being caught up in our own lives, unable to see past ourselves because of the house of mirrors we live in. The song urges us to throw our mirrors down, so we can see Christ already set us free. The tune is bouncy and catchy, easy to sing along with. Another standout is "Empty My Hands," the song that seems the most personal. It speaks of fearing to let go of dreams. It questions, with quiet intensity, if life will be gained by letting go. The voice of the lead singer, Mike Donehey, is hopeful and understated with the song striking the right chord in the desire for clarity.
The album ends with "Oh My Dear," a story song that takes listeners through a pivotal moment in a relationship, with one person telling another a painful secret, though she fears rejection because of her secret actions. The chorus reassures that love will only increase with honesty, and regardless, "I'll keep you in my arms tonight."
All in all, The Light Meets the Dark is a good cohesive album. The tentative part of my recommendation comes with the lack of variety found throughout the album. It is a soft rock album with little else. The song structure rarely changes, and thus nothing about this album is really groundbreaking. Yet it has a beautiful message urging Christians to be honest about their own brokenness, and in a world of false strength, it is a message to be heard.- Review date: 5/9/10, written by Sara Kelm of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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