With Become Who You Are, Mainstay brings forth a whole new side of themselves not previously seen on their 2006 debut, Well Meaning Fiction. Aiming for a distinctively more contemporary sound, Mainstay has crafted a sensitive pop record with an unbending focus on Christ through dark times in our lives.
The charm of Well Meaning Fiction was that vocalist Justin Anderson's soft and oftentimes soaring vocals were uniquely offset with more alternative musical backdrops. The songs had a contemporary feel at times, but producer Aaron Sprinkle brought out the rock elements without over-polishing and the pop without over-glazing. The result was an overall subtlety that worked to the benefit of the band and helped set them apart. However, this did tend to hinder the accessibility of Mainstay's music when it came to radio airplay and the like.
Become Who You Are could be considered almost a rebirthing. Elements of the characteristics the band established in their debut remain, but Mainstay completely sheds the ambiguity of their indie skin to adopt a full-on contemporary pop sound not fully realized previously. The result is mixed, however. Thematically, Become Who You Are is beautifully honest and inviting, but it also doesn't seem necessarily as personal or introspective as before. And it seems, at times, that the music doesn't emote or impact in quite the same way you might expect it to from listening to their previous work. "October Came Late" from Well Meaning Fiction, for example, layered Anderson's pensive and dreamy vocals over a poignantly subtle lamenting melody. The end result is the kind of song that grips the emotions. Few of the tracks on Become Who You Are really reach this point (The fragile and open "Island" comes the closest). But at the same time, Anderson is writing from a much different place in his life this time around. "Stars Are Singing" is a joyful pop/worship track about restoration and thankfulness. Where it thematically would never have fit on their debut, musically it's an almost unique blend of your typical worship formula with a twist of "Mainstay." The spiritual subtilities inherent within the debut album have been replaced with a much more open, unashamed exposition this time around. The title track is a pop/rock anthem for becoming who we're meant to be in Christ, while "Where Your Heart Belongs" serves as a call to the hurting to seek Him at the cross. "Away From You" is an example of Become Who You Are at its very best and is a personal song born out of tragedy, inspired by Anderson's sister-in-law who kept on praising God through the painful loss of a miscarriage. It's also here where Anderson's voice is at its most confident, showcasing a greater deal of range than before.
Become Who You Are is undeniably more daytime pop radio friendly, with a little rock thrown in for good measure, but the honesty and sincerity the guys brought with their debut is what will make this particular pop album stand out from the rest. Fans may or may not accept the band's new direction, but for what they've set out to accomplish with Become Who You Are, Mainstay is holding true, not just to who they feel most comfortably being, but also to who they feel God is calling them to become.- PReview date: 9/1/07, Review date: 9/23/07, written by John DiBiase
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