There's something about Tal & Acacia that's almost too cool for Christian music. Maybe it's the quirky melodies and lilting vocals, or maybe it's way their singable tunes linger in the mind long after they're heard, but whatever it is, it doesn't take long to fall for the infectious personality of the sister duo's Essential Records debut.
Wake Me is all about vivacious alternative pop, pure and simple. It sounds both wonderfully fresh and somehow familiar, bringing to mind inventive female artists like Feist and Regina Spektor with their unique voices. The music blends sparse acoustic arrangements with electro-pop influences. Heavy piano riffs and subtle acoustic strumming complement synthetic bass, strings, and percussion with no element overpowering the others, and the effect is a sound all their own.
The opening guitar strums and piano beat of "Top Priority" set the tone and God-centered theme for the rest of the album. Musically, the lead single "Clearview" is a highlight, with cheerful harmonies and a rich, layered sound that is fun without feeling cheesy. And though the hypnotic melody and odd vocals of "Merry Go Round" are an acquired taste, just a few listens left it stuck in my head for days. Occasionally some weak lyrics find their way into the mix ("Garbage In," for example, a good message that's lost in a cliché chorus), but even then the music is so catchy it's easy to overlook any fault.
Most of the album is buoyant pop, and I admit this style is better enjoyed in moderation. Sure, the music is cool, but after too many listens, I found myself longing for something a little more. Sometimes a little honesty and something besides "top priority... seek first the Kingdom" and "garbage in, garbage out" advice is good for the soul. Thankfully, a couple of standout tracks prove that it's not all fluff.
The title track is the most successful attempt to pair their creative sound with honest, serious lyrics. Waves of percussion and electronic strings complement a softer vocal approach and have a darker quality in contrast to the songs around it. Lyrics like "I'd be lying to dismiss / How alone I feel in this ... Will You show me what You've been doing all this time?" make this one of the album's strongest and most mature tracks. The closer, "Warrior Child," also takes the listener to a somber but hopeful place, a song from the perspective of God encouraging His children to be strong. Wrapped in acoustic guitar and strings, it finishes the album on a reflective note.
Tal & Acacia are a step above the typical Christian pop fare, youthful yet mature at the same time. They own their sound and stay true to it from start to finish. The light mood may seem like Wake Me's greatest asset and downfall after multiple listens, but it's a fun one to revisit when you need a little something to pick you up. I wish it had been available in time to be the soundtrack for summer drives, but as a fall release, it could be a dose of musical sunshine to put a smile on your face in the cooler months ahead. These talented girls have a lot of promise and a debut worth checking out any time of the year.- Review date: 10/4/09, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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