ZION | Hillsong United

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Zion began streaming free for a short time today on iTunes and I took some time to give it a good listen [album available now].  The new album by the UNITED guys is as beautiful as it is driving.  Many of the tracks are filled with crystal clean synths [which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone] and drenched with ambient vocals spilling out catchy melodies and lyrics that connect to the listener.  They are delving a little deeper into the ambient, experimental world of electronic blips and atmospheric soundscapes than ever before which I am not complaining about at all.  This album, more than any other, seems influenced by bands like M83, Cut/Copy, and Daft Punk which have been on playlists for years.  You could see it in their previous albums but Hillsong has shed it’s usual U2 gleanings and fully unleashed the space-pop beast that was lying dormant since the 80’s!

I am a fan of Michael Guy Chislett as a guitarist and a producer from his Hillsong participation to his side projects [The Academy Is…and NO].  The producer in him comes to life with the brilliant sonic layering and the conscious [I assume] choice to move more towards the electronica genre instead of a guitar driven album!

There is a new female vocalist, Taya Smith, who has such a strangely interesting tone and style that I was immediately captivated by it.  Her voice has elements of soul with strong phrasing placements and volume dynamics which made her parts stand out powerfully, especially the song Oceans [Where Feet May Fail].

Love Is War stuck out to me as one of the best songs on the album.  It begins with a stream chimes and pads that walks you into a thick wall of synths.  It’s propelling and keeps a steady pace through the rest of the song.  Lyrically it has a desperation of someone who is fighting to cling to God through trials and joining in the fight alongside God.

Personally, the most attractive thing about Hillsong UNITED is their ability to draw a theme together inside of their albums.  It’s almost as if a parade of individual songs is being rallied around a single vision.  Each song has it’s own identity AND has a connection to the greater picture being painted by the album as a whole.  Here is the track listing for the album.

  1. Relentless
  2. Up In Arms
  3. Scandal of Grace
  4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
  5. Stay and Wait
  6. Mercy Mercy
  7. Love Is War
  8. Nothing Like Your love
  9. Zion (interlude)
  10. Hearbeats
  11. A Million Suns
  12. Tapestry
  13. King of Heaven
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For A Leader | Aaron Keyes

[Re-blogged from Aaron Keyes.  Check out the original here.]

For the last several months, I’ve been learning about the power of Blessing. There’s been no more helpful aid than a book by the late Irish priest, John O’Donohue. I discovered his book To Bless the Space Between Us a few years ago, and it’s been simmering in my soul ever since.

My all-time favorite Irish worship leader, Eoghan Heaslip, was teaching for our worship school a couple years ago, and he ended his lesson with the following blessing, from O’Donohue. I’ve been meditating on these words ever since. May they take root in you, as they have in me.

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For a Leader
May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.

May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.

When someone fails or disappoints you
May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.

May you treasure the gifts of the mind
Through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue to be a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.

May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing of wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime of the bleak question.

May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth.

-John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

The Likeness EP | Tongue and Pen

I recently listened to The Likeness EP by Tongue and Pen from Come & Live [download it here].   I love the instrumental arrangements and the production has a grainy polish that reveals their passion but keeps the song together.  It’s exciting to hear their story and see God moving in these guys as they raised money to purchase a van and trailer for touring on Kickstarter.  The song Sons and Daughters is the standout for me off of the 3 song EP!  It’s a driving, anthemic song but it manages to capture an intimate moment with the chorus resounding one last time at the end with just the voices and an acoustic.  It feels like the final pub cheer of the night resting in God as the Father by proclaiming:  “We are Sons and Daughters. Sing Your praises…Glory to You!”

Here is an update from the band: