The Royal Royal has been putting out indie worship music since 2011, but they have yet to really "catch on" in the Christian music industry. Their third full length project, intriguingly titled Rococo, is poised to change that as it is the band's most accessible album to date.
The band, made up of Italian-American brothers Nathan and Gabriel Finochio, first came onto the scene with The Royalty, which showcased the duo's unique style of indie worship. This full-length debut featured their biggest song, "Praise Him" ("Praise Him with all of the music"), which was co-written with Hillsong's Matt Crocker. Their sophomore release, The Return of the King, expanded on the retro qualities of their debut and had cleaner production. With the duo's recent signing to BEC Recordings, they've decided to subdue their inner rock and retro leanings for a more polished pop-worship sound.
The Royal Royal's strengths are Gabe's enchanting vocals, their ability to dabble in different genres, and their unabashedly Christ-focused lyrics. All three of these characteristics are on display here to varying degrees--Gabe's vocals sound even better than before, but the tradeoff here is that the sonic experimentation is more subtle. As the band's name suggests, repetition has been an emphasis of the duo's career, but thankfully it's been scaled back for Rococo.
"I-90" starts off the album with a two minute instrumental, setting a precedent for the overall sound of the album with epic drums and spacious synthesizers. This intro transitions beautifully into the first full song, "Water," which describes the Holy Spirit as the living water that moves through us. "Neon Sign" is undoubtedly the most catchy track on the album and aside from the corny metaphor of God being like a neon sign, it's quite an enjoyable track. "God Who Saves" and "Champion" are pretty standard pop-worship tracks, but the latter is elevated by a subtle calypso undertone. One area that could use some work, which is especially evident in these two songs, is the songwriting. Nathan and Gabe take a straightforward approach to delivering truths about God, but the lyrics can be too simplistic.
"Afterlife" brings back some of the retro qualities found on their previous album, but it's not quite as memorable as "Every Little Bit of Praise" or "Find Me" from Return of the King. "I Found Love" and "Love 3" serve as Rococo's ballads, and both are executed well, with "Love 3" being an album highlight. With delicate guitar picking, a gentle floor tom, and light synths setting a contemplative mood, "Love 3" displays some of the band's best songwriting. Loosely based on a poem by George Herbert, the song personifies grace, hope, mercy, faith, and love, all the while emphasizing Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and what it means for us, "My savior tasted blood / I only tasted wine."
Though the pop-worship genre has a bad reputation for sounding cheesy and delivering surface level lyrics, The Royal Royal does manage to avoid these pitfalls. Rococo may not be the most impressive album to come out in 2017, but it does have good replay value and is always a pleasant listen. Expect The Royal Royal to be a more prominent name in contemporary Christian music.
- Review date: 9/19/17, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com