In 2006, Luke Caldwell, the frontman of a relatively obscure rock band called Grand Prize, decided it was time for a change. Driven by a dream, he went even farther off the Christian musical radar with his new project in an effort "to be real, to be artistic, to be genuine... and be bold in who we are as Christians..." The end result was Esterlyn, a collection of fine musicians with a flair for the indie scene, as well as hearts for God. The name itself sounds mighty hip, but there's a meaning behind it: it's the name of Caldwell's adopted niece. In 2008, the band released the well-received alternative rock-tinged Lamps, which was even featured on the Billboard Magazine website. Riding quickly on the heels of its success is the band's first acoustic EP, Mending The Meaning.
While listening to Mending The Meaning, one quickly recognizes Caldwell's unique faith-based writing style, as well as the floaty instrumentation and straight-to-the-point choruses. The similarities effectively end there, though, as the album properly showcases the acoustic talents of the band. The indie flavor is still unmistakably present, but small influences from John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Leeland, and, perhaps most obviously, The Glorious Unseen, are poignantly highlighted.
The beauty of this EP is undeniably in its details, rather than the whole. For example, the guest appearance of a banjo on "Sweet Love," the minimalist piano chords of "Esther," the simple bells that quickly come and go, and the earnest, heartfelt performance of "How Great Is Your Love" ("I just want to be someone who truly loves Your Son...") will skillfully evoke contemplative moods in any listener. Once again, the elegant songwriting is easily the band's trademark, simply and soundly telling the story of Christ's love in every line. If Mending The Meaning has any fault, it is, in fact, the same as its best quality. The details, the intricacies, are the specialities here, instead of catchy singalongs and indie guitar riffs. However, the aforementioned singalongs and riffs that characterized Lamps are skillfully replaced with honest and deep lyrics, expert acoustic guitar work, and atmospheric piano notes.
Overall, Mending The Meaning is a change of pace. It retains visible characteristics of Esterlyn's debut album, but effectively takes their style in a new direction. Therefore, if you're looking for the fun and catchiness of Lamps, this album may not be for you. However, if you appreciate the tiny details of fantastic songwriting and musicianship, Mending The Meaning is a sure win.- Review date: 8/26/09, written by Garrett DeRossett of Jesusfreakhideout.com
With the intention of keeping things simple, teaming up with producer Rob Hawkins (Fireflight, Nevertheless, Jackson Waters) certainly was not a bad thing. The strings of the first song, "Sweet Love," are finely tuned and are reminiscent of Jon Foreman's solo EPs which allow listeners to easily listen to the well-crafted lyrics' that speak of God's grace ("I stop again take a breath/I think about my past regrets /A smile breaks and finds a place/In this valley I see your grace"). The piano driven "Esther" is an epic track where Caldwell's vocals shine and where the message of God's faithfulness to the weak is passionate rather than cliché.
The vocal hooks are a strong on virtually all points throughout Mending the Meaning, but particularly on the acoustic guitar-led "Still Beauty To Be Found." The soft "How Great Is Your Love" is very complex, using the most verity of instruments that enhance the melancholy tone of the lyrically simple tune. The contrast to "How Great Is Your Love" is "Free the Light," where Caldwell's vocals take precedence over the music to drive a song with a Lamps-like message ("Won't you free the light/Let it come inside/Fall to your knees/Surrender your life. Can this life be new/Could it be the one to change you").
On Mending the Meaning Acoustic EP, the music is well-crafted but the passionate lyrics are really where Esterlyn strikes gold again. Great ballads such as these will be an excellent addition to the band's arsenal. Those who want more of Jon Foreman's guitar driven acoustic ballads should looks up Mending the Meaning Acoustic EP.Review date: 12/10/08, written by Nathaniel D. Schexnayder for Jesusfreakhideout.com
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