Love & The Outcome splashed onto the scene in 2013 with their self-titled debut, an album coming from a place of confusion and tragedy in a newlywed couple's lives, summed up in the song "The Story You're Building In Me." But in a new season of life three years later, the wife-husband duo Jodi King and Chris Rademaker are back in action with These Are The Days, a somewhat unexpected follow-up that maintains a balanced perspective.
From a musical standpoint, Love & The Outcome seem like a straightforward outfit of CCM pop, and their debut demonstrated this with standard Christian radio-ready numbers with the occasional standout, such as the contemplative "The Story You're Building in Me" and the bass-heavy "Bring Us Back." And even in a live setting, things stay minimal: Chris plays either the guitar or bass, Jodi takes the keyboard and a floor tom, and sometimes a session drummer joins them on stage. But going forward, the band has gone out of their way make album number two a different game, and the three year wait since the band's debut seems to have done wonders on the band's creative outlook.
These Are The Days attempts to compensate for the lean manpower behind the band to create a much fuller, layered, electronic-infused pop vibe. Especially following last year's live acoustic Ocean Way Sessions EP, the new-wave 80's inspiration present here is jarring, but it's a welcome experiment, even if not every single track nails this sound perfectly (songs like "Hear From You" probably could have benefitted from more restraint). Jodi's vocals go perfectly with this loud sound, too, and they carry each song to the finish, no matter how dynamic the melody. At first, These Are The Days seemed like it might have been off to a bad start with the earlier release of the lead single "The God I Know," which is admittedly one of the band's weakest cuts of their discography; it feels like a paint-by-number radio hit that any other band could have performed. But the rest of the album holds much more promise, and that's good news. "Strangers" begins the album with a bang, while "Ends of the Earth," "Gates," the title track, and "Paradise" all capture this retro sound with poise.
Jodi and Chris wrote the songs for These Are The Days during a much brighter season of life than their debut, not the least of its events included the birth of their first son. On a song like "Good Life," lyrics like "One good day makes you forget all the bad ones" could sound trite and shallow, but the album is coated with a firm realization that it could all go to pieces at any time. "Palaces" recognizes the source of life's victories ("If I win the battle, it'll be on my knees"). On this same note, "If I Don't Have You" examines the double-mindedness that often comes with following Jesus, and the upbeat title track sums up where the band has been and where the band is going; this self-awareness throughout the album keeps the album far away from a prosperity-driven, "everything-is-awesome" mentality. "Seek & Find" is an appropriate ending to a well-balanced celebration of life's good things and where they come from.
After Love & The Outcome's serviceable debut, These Are The Days makes a much bigger statement about the band's longevity and vision. Sophomore slumps are common in this industry, often happening as the result of weaker songwriting and less creative output. Instead, Jodi and Chris deserve all credit for creating a balanced, experimental and hopeful effort; everything is rooted in Jesus as the center of all, and it's musically like nothing else released this year. Taking creative chances and being unmistakably worshipful in the process, These Are The Days is a solid entry in the CCM sphere this fall.- Review date: 9/22/16, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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