Archive of ‘reviews’ category

Music Monday: The Arrows – Make Believe

Photo: New Release Tuesday
I can’t help but be extremely proud of duo, The Arrows, when I hear one of their tracks on the radio, feeling especially chuffed at being a girl and South African and a Christian all at the same time since they are, well, girls and South Africans and God loving, all at the same time too. Needless to say I was so sad when I read that they will be splitting up. The pair posted a message on their Facebook page last week, detailing their decision to break up the band, assuring their folllowers that they each support the other’s decision. With this in mind, I decided to do a special review to their debut album, Make Believe, released in 2010. The album, which was a massive success in South Africa, has a very authentic sound in that Pam de Menezes (Now Myburgh) and Christie Desfontaine (Now Joseph) did not try to mimic the latest ‘hot and happening’ Christian band, but instead, they focused on showcasing their worship – full of flavor and spunk, with absolutely no clichés to be found!
A little more about the girls:  Pam de Menezes, brilliantly talented on vocals and keys, is a classically trained jazz musician. Christie Desfontaine, the cheeky and very gifted drum and percussionist, describes herself as “an atmosphere of thumpingly evangelical euphoria.” The pair were born and raised in Durban, South Africa and served passionately at their local church where Desfontaine’s mother pastors, until God opened doors for them in the broader musical arena.
You may recognize the first single off the Make Believe album, titled “Love sick”. It pretty much became a household anthem after featuring in a popular KFC ad in 2010.The track serves as a very pop inspired introduction to the band and showcases their fresh sound and songwriting skills. My favorite lines are “I’m love sick and waiting for the day when You’ll make everything brand new.” 
Opening track, “No robots”, is an orchestra of synths and sounds, and speaks about God taking a chance on us by giving us freedom of choice, because He wants our love and not programmed robots. “Oh it’s poetry it’s genius/You don’t want robots/You want our love!”
De Menezes has a tongue in cheek way of writing which is evident in songs like “Entropy” and “World Interrupted”. Both songs seems to be written as a wake up call for people to open their eyes to what is going on in the world! I love that both songs are written and performed in cabaret style, which gives greater emphasis to the lyric. And though different, it still maintains a catchy, “now” vibe, with Desfontaine on drums adding energy and flair to the repertoire.
I really love “All in”, which is a sassy faith song speaking about going ‘all in’ with God and putting all your hope in Him. Again, de Menezes really has a way of saying things! It’s another synth party and a really fun song to listen to, with the message hitting home at just the right spots. 
Title track, “Make Believe”, is a piano driven ballade where she croons about waiting for God, her beloved, like a lovesick fool. De Menezes vocals is nothing short of pure and really adds something beautiful to the already beautiful lyric. Another beauty of a ballade is “Ode to a patient God”. This song made me feel such sorrow for friends and family who do not know the Lord. It reminded me how wonderful it is to know Him. To know that He waits for us, patiently, never giving up, because He loves us that much… and yet there are so many who do not know this love! This song really moved me.
My favorite song to play in the car is “One for the brothers.” It is a dance song which speaks directly to unbelievers, again, in that sassy way that de Menezes seems to be so good at, but with a totally groovy beat and really excellent production. I especially enjoy the little bonus outtro that happens a few seconds after the song ends, during which De Menezes goes off into a rap-sing-song, urging those who do not know the Lord to “make a plan” and get to know Him. So fun! So fresh!
I love how The Arrows have managed to fuse the Message with a sound that can speak to the youth of today. I found this album to be really inspiring and thought provoking, while still being able to make me dance AND enter into a beautiful moment with God. If you’re looking for something funky to play while driving home from work – If you’re looking for cool music for your birthday party – If you’re looking for something to put into your headphones or something that will stir you up and get you thinking… this is it!  
So I will end this off with saying a huge thank you to The Arrows – Pam De Menezes Myburgh and Christie Desfontaine Joseph. We thank you and salute you for being bold enough to write songs that say things that should be said, in this time and season and for being passionate enough to make music that is God focused, aiming the arrow of truth straight for the spirit of anyone who listens.
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Music Monday: Tenth Avenue North – Cathedrals

Photo: Tenth Avenue North
When I popped the new Tenth Avenue North album, Cathedrals, into my CD player, I secretly hoped that I would hear something other than ‘just another contemporary Christian band’. I had a craving for something different.
But before I get into the review, here’s a little background info about this American based ensemble: They are a full on band, with Mike Donehey on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Jeff Owen on  electric guitar and vocals, Ruben Juarez III on bass guitar and vocals, Jason Jamison on drums  and Brendon Shirley on keyboard.  The group, who has had a few member changes since conception, had originally met at Palm Beach Atlantic University, releasing three independent albums before its major label debut with album, Over and Underneath in May 2008. They went on to receive the coveted Dove New Artist of the Year Award in 2009 and Song of the Year in 2010. Cathedrals is their fourth studio album and has already reached Number 1 on both iTunes and Billboard’s Top Christian Albums Chart. Lead, Donehey, had this to say about the album: ” ‘I am a cathedral of God’s spirit’ we’ve been told in Acts 17, we’ve been told in 2 Corinthians 6, we’ve been told in Colossians and Hebrews that we are a living temple of God’s spirit right?,” he asked and then explained his reasoning, “Now I’m not afraid of this big bad secular world. In fact now I know if the spirit of God lives in me, everywhere I go I make it sacred, just when I walk through the door.” According to Donehey, it was this very thought that inspired the title and content of the new album. “So many of us live in isolation and we really don’t have to,” he shared. “So the idea is: ‘Hey get in the boat with us, sail by the stars of God’s promises and reach the shore of community.’ We realize that when we start to live together, we become the cathedrals on earth. We are the place where the spirit resides. It no longer dwells in buildings but in each of us.” Powerful stuff!
The band has penned most of the album themselves – which I found impressive. I love that they write together as a collective. This album was written while on the road and only features 1 or 2 guest writers, which shows the amazing unity in the spirit between the band members – which is something that I admire.
Right. So when I popped the new Tenth Avenue North album into my CD player, hoping to hear something different, I found exactly that. I actually started smiling during the first few seconds of the album opener, “No man is an island.” With a sound that filled the atmosphere, Donehey begins singing, as God, beckoning us to build community and not live this life alone. Great album opener!
The following track, “Stars in the night” made me intensely aware of their amazingly sharp song writing skills. These guys have something to say and want to say it straight up – no sugar coating. This pop rock song starts off with a melodic piano riff backing the vocalist who sings: “No matter where you lead we want to follow you/Trouble is we forget who we belong to.” It later on goes on to speak about grace making a way through, even when we are filled with shame and brings across a message of hope and redemption.
I am a huge fan of Track 3, titled “Iesu, Dulcis Memoria”, a hauntingly beautiful Latin hymn sung by Audrey Assad. Wow! I love the sudden shift in song style and that the song serves as a prelude to title track, “Catherals”, which is one of my favorite tracks on this album. I love everything about it – from the cool kick drum that introduces us to the song; to the hook that challenges: “Let joy take temptations place!”
And then the album shifts into yet another genre of rock with song “I need You, I love You, I want You”. It feels a bit out of place on this album, but totally works, serving as a nice break away from the more mid and up tempo pop rock songs. It is through and through a worship song and its title literally says more about the song than my description of it ever could!
“The Spark” and “Closer”, have a much more mainstream sound. The latter has a catchy piano intro and hook. I love that they don’t ‘mince’ their words and keep lyrics to the point. The bridge, for example, says: “Well I’m embarrassed to admit/The distance I’ve been feeling/Has all been self-imposed.” I love honest lyric that puts things into retrospection.
“Stay” sparked my interest. It seems like the song speaks about marriage and divorce. Coupled with interesting instrument arrangements and a catchy hook, I think this is one that you should listen to while reading the lyric (which is found in the album cover by the way – score!)
The brutal honesty in “We won’t numb the pain” made me wince! The track speaks about the cheap thrills that so many in the world are falling for and really hammers home a declaration with a bridge that sings: “We won’t number the pain!/Hands reaching to the sky/Hearts ready for the fire/Eyes open til we die”. I especially love the 2nd half of the song, which is really more like an outtro, titled “Fire”. It breaks down into a melodic guitar riff and Doneheys hauntingly beautiful vocal asking God to give him “one glimpse of Your lovely light.” It really is stunning!
The simplicity of “All the earth is holy ground” rounds the album off nicely, summarizing the message that the band had wanted to share with this compilation.
The Deluxe Edition features 3 more songs: “Just getting by”,“Forgive me” and “For those who can’t speak” which features Derek Minor and KB.
As a Tenth Avenue North newbie and first time listener, I can wholeheartedly say that I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The songs are all written with the heart of the message in mind, the production is well thought out and the vocals are on point. I get the feel that each song was assembled in a way that is quite bold – an indication that they have been on the music scene for a while and are confident with their sound and know where they are going to. If you are looking for something fresh, easy to listen to and real, give this one a go! Listening to this album made me feel like I had just been on scenic journey and I was left feeling spiritually refreshed.
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Book Club: Wild by Cheryl Strayed (and an Oprah moment!)

Before I chat about this weeks review, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I need to tell you a little story first! So last month we reviewed Captivating by John and his wife Stasi Eldredge and at the end of the meeting Anika (my spiritual momma) made an announcement: She had tweeted at Oprah’s Book Club about our very own South African book club and guess what:
OPRAH SENT US BOOKS!!!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCK! Yes, we literately all went: AAAACK! in the coffee shop.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Signed by Oprah and the author

The book was this very same WILD, by Cheryl Strayed – hand picked for us by the wonderful Oprah. Wild is an autobiography written by Cheryl about her experiences while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail during the Summer of 1995. Yes girls, she did this all on her own some! See write up here:

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Now, as Christian, Lord-loving gals, we obviously found the Jesus in this book :) and I must say that it totally brought us back to: Spending time alone with God. I mean, I woulda totally had some holy spirit moments if I were to hike any trail by myself, without seeing anyone for DAYS! Cheryl says she discovered herself on that trail…  proof that it’s such a recipe for uncovering the deepness of God, getting to know Him and who YOU are in Him and just totally surrendering to Him.

Oh btw, we had breaki at The Blue Orange, in Walmer. It was a windy day and the only seating they had available for us was outside. So it was a bit chills. Breakfast wasn’t that amazing. The coffee, however, made my day! While taking pics outside (like proper weirdos), one lady asked us what we were taking pics for. We then explained our book club to her, and showed her our wonderful Oprah book. Yes, she also totally AAAACKED.
Especially when we gave her a spare copy of the book! She literally almost cried :)

Book Club: Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge

This past few days I got into John and Stasi Eldredge’s novel, Captivating. Can I just say: WOW! This book was really something else. When I first started reading it, I was like… bleeuuughghghghghghghhghghghg…. But then it started speaking to me in words that totally made sense and I found myself going “I know!!! right?!!!!” and “Ohhhhhh now I see” outloud. Sometimes in public.

Okay lets get the venue and food out of the way (yes, the book is THAT good!) We had breaki at a place called Marilyn’s (duh, tribute eating spot to the great Monroe). Food was average’ish. I had a Marilyn breakfast, I think.

Right, back to the book! Aaack! This is such a MUST READ for all you females out there. I know that I am like more than a few days late with this post, but its so fitting to chat about this today, since yesterday we celebrated Woman’s Day in South Africa.
Captivating is more than just a self help book. This book speaks to the heart of every woman and our desire to be loved, wanted, needed and delighted in. The question burning in every female heart is: Am I lovely? 
And as Stasi and John explained, even as young girls we dress up as princesses and fairy’s and yearn to be delighted in. This is recognizable in the age old question: “Do I look pretty?” (now disguised as “does this make me look fat?” )

I learnt that as women, we are powerful beyond what we can imagine. Uhm, hello, the serpent in the garden tempted Eve, not Adam. Not because she was daft. But because she was the way IN. Woman are the “relationship builders”. They hold families and friendships together. They know when its so-and-so’s birthday or 20th wedding anniversary. They urge husbands to visit loved ones in hospital or donate something to the little boy standing on the corner with a shiny tin in his hand. We were built to be relational. Therefore the most important thing about you, as a woman, is your HEART. We are known as the crown of creation!

God has a special purpose for every single woman he has placed on Earth. You were made in His image and created to be relational like He is. God yearns to be in relationship with us, and He has given females that desire to love on others the way He does. But because of past hurts and mindsets forged while growing up, we have somehow moved away from what He wants for us.

Stasi speaks about her moms death and how the roles of females in our lives, kinda programme us to see ourselves a certain way. In the same way, our dads and their love and excitement over us as little girls, totally impacts how we view ourselves as adults.

I’ve really learnt so much about why I tick the way that I do. God has a purpose for every single heart. He wants to draw you out of the muck that the world has “taught” you to feel about yourself and show you your true beauty and value! He wants to reveal to you that you are the IRREPLACEABLE heroine in YOUR life story. That you ARE lovely. How might God be inviting YOUR heart to come alive?

Happy Woman’s Day to all!

Captivating

 

What Im reading right about now… ish…

So I’m reading this book by Francine Rivers, called “Sons of Encouragement“.
Subtitle: Five men who quietly changed eternity. 
Doesn’t it sound TOP???

Its basically about 5 wing men/side kicks, namely Aaron, Caleb, Johnathan, Amos and Silas.
These guys … uhmm… okay, wait, lets copy and paste Francines description of the book, shall we? :)

Sons of Encouragement shares the stories of five Biblical men who stood behind the heroes of the faith and quietly changed eternity. Aaron, the priest who stood in Moses’ shadow but had the courage to cover his brother’s fears. Caleb, the warrior whose words stirred men’s hearts and brought God’s people to the Promised Land. Jonathan, the prince whose humility led him to befriend the man who would become king in his place. Amos, the prophet who heard when God called and spoke to a nation unwilling to listen. Silas, the scribe who surrendered his wealth to record God’s word, even as those around him were silenced. Each faithfully sought after God in the shadows of His chosen leaders, each answered God’s call to serve without recognition or fame, and each gave everything, knowing his reward might not come until the next life.

Doesn’t it sound FAAAAAB????
Ive started reading it a month ago and I’m still on the story of Aaron.
I know, I know… But Ive been sooo uber busy right now.
Life is getting in the way of life.
I know, right?
Who says that?
I do.

Anyways, ya’ll, go and get a copy… you wont be disappointed.
Sigh, this post was suppose to be more informative and way longer than this…
but oh well..
I still love you guys :)

xxxL

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