I vaguely remember back in my junior high/high school days the rise of a band called Hawk Nelson. They rode a punk rock revolution in the Christian market and scored several popular hits. I wasn't interested in punk at the time and passed them by with other similar artists. Over a decade has passed and as I come to Miracles, their latest release, I am greeted by a different band. Under the guidance of a new vocalist (guitarist Jonathan Steingard who stepped up to the microphone in 2012 after Jason Dunn's exit), the group has shed its quirky pop punk and fully embraced radio-friendly synth-pop. I always knew that Hawk Nelson was quirky and energetic. The energy remains and the music feels like a natural progression from where they've been, but the quirkiness is gone.
Miracles is a 10-track album ready to be played on the radio. It is upbeat in music and message and never wavers from that lane. The songs either address the listener with encouraging words (as in "No Such Thing," "He Still Does (Miracles)" and "Close") or offers optimistic prayers to God ("Weightless," "Never Runs Dry," "I'd Never Know"). Occasionally, they grow introspective ("Parachute" and "Crooked Lines") and that's about as dark as it gets, though the darkness is never anything more than a passing shadow. In short, this is a sunny album meant for celebrating bright days or bringing one out of dark nights.
With an album so safe and peppy, it'd be easy to give it a glossy review and move on. However, Miracles' unrelenting optimism grows old quickly. By the end, you half expect the speakers to explode in a cloud of rainbow dust with a magical little unicorn prancing about in their place. The music rarely (if ever) slows down long enough to breathe and soon gets repetitive and forgettable. The lyrics are strong and the choruses catchy, but there's nothing here to set the band apart from anything else you hear on K-LOVE.
It is difficult to not compare this current iteration with the band's older work. Miracles could have used a little more quirk to spice things up. Still, even taking this album on its own, it fails to rise above the average pop fare of the day. The optimism of Miracles is infectious, however, and this record will make for great summer listening. There's nothing to be ashamed of here, but there's also nothing memorable enough to last beyond a passing sunny day.- Review date: 4/4/18, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Fair Trade Services
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