One of the great pleasures of music criticism is that you get to see artists grow and mature over time (though not every artists does this). In the case of Colony House, they were once a band of teenagers named Caleb that I saw perform in the parking lot, and then the picnic area of a music festival. Spunky, and not yet able to drive or shave, the boys none-the-less had a certain "something" that shined through the homemade stages and improvised sound systems. These sons of Steven Curtis Chapman had promise, if undeveloped and raw at the time.
2014's general market debut, aptly named When I Was Younger, was a great step forward, and it's nice to see the band continue this growth with Only The Lonely. With a strong theme of relationships and connection, no doubt inspired by all those long months and years on the road touring Younger around (including stops on a few late-night talk shows and a major tour with Switchfoot and Needtobreathe), Lonely hit's the all the marks for taking an idea, developing it, and then exploring it in a number of ways. And all of this is set against the backdrop of a fine mixture of pop and raucous rock and roll that is familiar, but not overly derivative.
Opening song "I Cannot Do This Alone" thumps to life on a great, staggered drum pattern and an epic combination of "whoa whoa's" and cascading guitars before lead singer Caleb Chapman (who sounds a bit like a cross between his dad and Brandon Flowers of The Killers) lays out the album's thesis: "I fell in love with a crooked truth / one that I felt like I had to prove / like I could handle the pressure / on my own / except I never do / I put on a fancy show / when I'm caught in the undertow / to hide what is showing / because now that I'm holding / I can't let it go / even though / I cannot do this alone."
Chapman continues to list the people in his life that he sometimes puts at a distance (his brother, his family, his wife), but who he admits to with candor that "I cannot do this alone." As an album opener, the song is just about the perfect example of how to get a listener's attention and introduce a theme at the same time.
The following "1234" has some terrific guitars and continues the theme of needing other people. The guitar work of Chapman and Scott Mills is tops here, adding to the song rather than showcasing itself in an unbalanced way. The guitars are loud and thick in the next song, "Lonely," and take a page from bands such as the Black Keys in the bluesy crunch of the tune. "You And I" showcases the fine drumming skill of Will Chapman, and with some spacey guitar and keyboard work, the tune shows a bit of a Coldplay vibe. Lead single "You Know It" rocks like vintage Elvis Costello, circa 1978, and "Where Your Father's Been" turns towards the overtly spiritual, with Chapman advising to "Breathe deep every new day / Let the sun rise, let the light stay / For the rain will never stop / If you're chasing every drop / No you don't have to go alone / This is where your father's been / And where you're gonna go." The closing, hushed and ethereal "This Beautiful Life" sounds like an Irish blessing (via U2), and closes out the album in fine fashion.
If there is anything that keeps Only The Lonely from a perfect score, it's the (slight) tendency to sound a little too much like a collection of influences. (The U2, Killers, Coldplay, Black Keys vibe runs strong throughout the whole album.) But that's a very minor critique (it's only the young band's second full-length album) on what may end up being one of the best albums of the year.
- Review date: 2/1/17, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com