So far, 2010 has been good to worship music. Critics and music fans alike have often cited bland lyrics and cookie-cutter arrangements as weaknesses of the genre, but this year has produced a number of gems from both new and established artists, vertical music that doesn't sacrifice creativity for message. Of course, great music means higher standards, and much hope and expectation for newcomers to the genre. Enter new artist The Museum, a Georgia band ready to make their debut with Let Love Win.
The Museum's mission statement makes one thing clear: they are a band of the church and for the church, and continue to lead worship in their home of Atlanta. With a pop/rock sound reminiscent of Starfield and the softer side of their label mates Kutless, The Museum creates vertical lyrics and catchy melodies that stay true to church music form. So true in fact, that while the songs are likable enough and the members display talent, there aren't too many musical or lyrical moments that stand out to set them apart from their peers.
"Never Look Away" sets the mood immediately, with a sparkling guitar and humming keyboard intro that introduce a story of coming to faith in Christ: "I walked home alone today / Quickly I was lost along the way / 'Til you sat down in front of me / Took my hand, said 'Come on, follow me.'" Lead singer Ben Richter's voice noticeably resembles Kutless' Jon Micah Sumrall at times, and though he has enough edge to fit into a heavier rock band, for this sweetly melodic tune, he sounds appropriately warm and inviting. "You Are Love" kicks up the energy a bit in the bouncy, youth rally way, with a cadence and enthusiasm in the chorus that brings to mind David Crowder Band's "Foreverandever Etc."
The best moment comes in the lead single "My Help Comes from the Lord." It's very radio friendly, but there's a singable quality that can't be denied, and Richter's voice soars along with the guitar solo that dances on the edge of rock. "Lost in You" starts off with some of the best music on the record, but unfortunately, that includes some guitar lines that go back to the X&Y-era Coldplay vibe favored by worship artists looking for a big sound. Another fine moment comes in the hymn-like melody of "Allelujah," a song that shows Richter at his vocal best as it swells to a full-fledged rock tune. The melody feels both old and new and turns out to be one of the most worshipful songs on the record.
Closing track "The Anchor" delivers a bit of musical variety in a mellow ballad backed by piano, strings, and a touch of mandolin. If the opener was the story of first following Christ, then the closer finishes the tale by reflecting on a time of uncertainty: "All I've held on here is the anchor of my fear / All I'm looking for is the strength to let this go." When he concludes that "You're the anchor of my soul / By Your perfect love I know... I'm free," it's a nice way to bring the story full circle.
Let Love Win has its bright spots, but it has its flaws too. I expected it to sound like a worship album, but I did hope for a little more of an edge, a bit more rock. Sometimes it feels like they're holding something back to keep it church-friendly. The lyrical messages are clear and have nothing to dispute, but they're also less than memorable. While I had my hopes for The Museum, I found a few of the songs off Let Love Win lacking.
This band knows their mission and audience for sure, and for the most part, it's a pleasant introduction. But though Let Love Win pulls influences from a variety of fellow worshippers (and, of course, the aforementioned Coldplay moment), the effect feels tired, something we've heard before. It's disappointing to find Let Love Win a pleasant enough, but mostly forgettable, experience. Here's to hoping in future releases they will stretch their musical and lyrical abilities instead of settling for the same old song.
- Review date: 7/25/10, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com