“Hearts On Fire EP” by FMLYBND

Feisty vocal stylings paired with larger-than-life soundscapes make Hearts on Fire an aggressively happy electronic EP. Born in Isla Vista, FMLYBND (pronounced “family band”) blends the textures of real and virtual instruments to immerse the listener in a live concert experience.

Setting themselves apart from the majority of electronic groups, FMLYBND incorporates an alternative rock feel into their tracks, producing an electro-grunge sensation easy to lose yourself in. For example, in Gold Necklace vocalist Mac Montgomery’s sassy lyrical delivery is layered over a driving dirty 80’s moog bass and brassy synths to generate a track that is dirty in all the right ways. But that’s not all. He, along with the effortlessly nonchalant Brae Montgomery create memorable hooks through pitch-bending high harmonies dripping with reverb. Completing the family are Ethan Davis (drums) and Erik Mason (keys/synth/electronic dopeness), who provide each song with its own distinctive identity.

The group is devoted to whatever feature makes each track unique- in Phoenix it’s repetitive syncopation, in Land of the Rising Sun it’s a continually pulsing synth. The relentlessness of rhythm in tracks like these make it hard to sit still; you want get up, you want to move. Cue Hearts on Fire and Space and Time. They’re dance-y, they’re filled with stabs that make us think of the good old Euro House days. Added to the concoction are syrupy vocals, sometimes muffled to showcase the beat, but it doesn’t really matter. Once you buy into the goodness the EP provides, you’re hooked. And that’s not a bad thing.

In addition to offering singles for streaming on their SoundCloud page, the group is traveling the West Coast this month for their Make America Dance Again Tour. Check out their most recent single, “OH” here: https://soundcloud.com/fmlybnd/oh1.

Buy “Hearts On Fire” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hearts-on-fire-ep/id1058699564

To read more about this site and our vision behind this project, access our “About Us” page or subscribe to our blog on the sidebar to your right.


“To The Hills” by Graham Lloyd Stewart

In To the Hills, Graham Lloyd Stewart artistically condenses a 3 year journey in songwriting into one album. Though his songs are tastefully crafted and his instrumentation well-done, it’s his unique power of fusing genres that stands out. Self-described as folk-rock, Stewart is not exclusively committed to one genre. In the album, he’ll hint at hard rock with a wailing guitar (He’s Alive), but will do it ever so gently. He’ll use an acoustic piano to establish an indie-folk sound but supplement it with electronic components (If I Could See). It’s in this musical borrowing that we’re presented an approachable, easy-to-listen-to album, cohesive to itself and altogether unique.  

What feels good about the album is the perfect amount of tension Stewart allows. His percussionist, Aaron Brown is almost late to every downbeat in Waiting, an effect that holds the listener’s ear throughout. Will the song collapse on itself? We don’t know, and that’s why we listen all the more carefully. Added to the mix are Stewart’s slow-moving vocals juxtaposed over continual banjo picking. It’s a carefully sculpted decision that works.  This simultaneous presence of drive and restraint continues in the instrumental section If I Could See with the quiet precision of a snare/tambourine/hi-hat combo paired with a slower pad/piano duo. Though the style of these two songs is familiar (think Ascend the Hill), Stewart makes it his own. It’s what keeps us listening.

We caught a glimpse of Stewart’s folksy side in By the Grace, but in the ending title song To the Hills he goes all out. The song carries everything a quintessential camp-meetin’ tune should have: straight-forward, hopeful lyrics, banjo-picking, and a sauntering down-home rhythm. It’s a departure from how he started the album- Intro featured crackly, close-knit acapella vocals one would imagine coming from an old dusty record player. But by the end, Stewart’s work is vibrant, bubbling over, fresh, living. It gives the listener an optimistic view of what’s to come, which is hopefully another album.

Buy “To The Hills” here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/to-the-hills/id1090010189

To read more about this site and our vision behind this project, access our “About Us” page or subscribe to our blog on the sidebar to your right.

“End Where You Begin” by Ian Randall Thornton

Part Prophet, part poet, Ian Randall Thornton presents story through song in his debut EP End Where You Begin. Curated as a song cycle, the EP provides six tracks of profound lyrical insight into the realms of love, death and the passage of time.

The instrumentation is simple- guitar, drums, piano at times, strings here and there, electric guitar, bass, perhaps a guest appearance from a ukulele-but varies ever so slightly with each song, providing the listener a delightful smattering of the folk style without being overbearing. Together with producer Ryan Meadows, Thornton gives the listener a very personal experience, a testament to his prolificacy in house shows over the past two years. In So When I Die, he steps back from the mic to include the sound of the room in the recording; we hear footsteps in I’ve Been Told, as if he is taking the stage before our very ears. It’s all very nostalgic, his loving look at the style of the 60’s American folk music revival, but Thornton’s feet are firmly planted in the present. Suffer Not offers a more modern take on the genre with sweeping strings and soft cymbal swells.

“Love doesn’t grow on trees like something you pick for free. Love is a choice you make, to give rather than take.”

Throughout it all, Thornton remains steady- completely and thoroughly himself. His style is like an old hat found by a teenager rummaging around his parent’s attic- timeless, unique, yet very, very chic when paired with a contemporary wardrobe. It is easy to see flavors of early Bob Dylan in the conviction of his lyrics, influences of Sufjan Stevens in his guitar stylings, and similarities to Iron and Wine artist Sam Beam’s approach to folk.

Love Doesn’t Die It Grows from Micah Lindstrom on Vimeo.

Each song holds a punch line, a moral of the story- so common in folk music- without being formulaic. Wise beyond his years, Thornton muses poetically about love in its selflessness (Down in the Meadow), timelessness (I Was Made to Change), and humanity (I’ve Been Told). His earthy baritone voice bears realness, a strength rooted in brotherhood with man and friendship with God.  

End Where You Begin, though Thornton’s first solo recording project, delivers not only in meticulously crafted lyrics, but also in efficacy of overall song series form. With such honest artistry paired with the quality of writing he’s produced, Thornton’s appeal is undeniable and certainly worth following.

Buy “End Where You Begin” here: https://itun.es/us/C02t9

Book Ian for a house show at ianrandallthornton@gmail.com, and hear his other singles on his Bandcamp page. To read more about this site and our vision behind this project, access our “About Us” page or subscribe to our blog on the sidebar to your right.

“Time Stands Still” by Tanner Hotckiss

With a voice as clear and fresh as the Alaskan air he grew up in, Tanner Hotchkiss is a worthy artist to add to your devotional playlist.

Time Stands Still appears to be only a smooth, easy-listening experience at first listen until you realize the impact of the words you’re casually singing along with. Hotchkiss isn’t in a hurry to reach a climax nor is he squeezing the drama out of the lyrically power-packed portions of his songs. Instead, he systematically builds and layers intensity to create a swell, lifting the listener to the ecstasy of redemptive truth. His 7 song album is filled with gentle declarations, the kind which hook themselves in the walls of the soul, sweetly murmuring long after you unplug your headphones.

Tanner’s God is displayed as a being worthy of devotion, a beating heart of sweetness that fills the deepest woundings of the soul. His song Leaves reveals a heart fully romanced and fully healed by the restorative love of the Father. Set in a simple 6/8 time, it exhibits healing’s wooing call, something frequently forgotten in the fast-paced drive of American Christianity.

Be Still stands, simple and clear in the artist’s revelation of God’s love. Tanner turns his back to the emotional overload songs about love tend to rush into and instead faithfully mulls over, almost to himself, the gentle reminders that have held him steadfast through the years. Whether through a song of victory (It is Written), desire (Glory to Glory), or faith (All Good Things) the album offers intimate and personal pieces of Tanner’s heart-conversations with his Creator.

The Mayo Clinic states that the normal resting heart rate for an average adult is anywhere from 60-100 bpm (beats per minute), noting a lower resting heart rate indicates a more efficient cardiovascular system. Time Stands Still averages 60 bpm as a whole, its pulses creating an atmosphere conducive to rest. It’s hard to be in a rush while listening to Tanner’s artistry; he beckons the listener into a meditative state, establishing a safety with steady piano and guitar accompaniment. After 45 minutes, the listener emerges, hopeful, inspired, reborn.

Don’t expect to hear any risks in the 45 minute album- it has been carefully constructed to be free of disruption and surprise. Tanner sticks with what he knows, providing a capable and solid musical foundation as a ring setting for the gem that is his voice. And it works; nothing sticks out and we’re left with a timeless piece of musical jewelry, full of light and beauty.

Buy “Time Stands Still” here: https://itun.es/us/C02t9

To read more about this site and our vision behind this project, access our “About Us” page or subscribe to our blog on the sidebar to your right.

“So Much More” by Jake Mason

Filled with rock ballads and driving anthems, So Much More stands out with a refreshingly raw and authentic style not found in typical Top 10 Christian albums. Singer/Songwriter Jake Mason offers a lighter musical fare for those who don’t take themselves too seriously. Though the songs are short (the album is only 25 minutes), they are direct and their message is clear.

The album opens with its title track, energetic, filled with drive and promise of good things to come. And what follows does not disappoint. Jake’s background leading campfuls of students every summer is evident in the way the songs lend themselves to the ease of singing. In To the River, Jake fuses old school camp meeting spirituals with his own modern style to produce a happy, optimistic track with smoky-voiced Sherryl Bako. The good vibes overflow into No Height, perfect for that lazy Saturday morning playlist.

Wanna Get Home serves as a charming and rowdy love song based on the artist’s desire to see his wife after a long day. Featured on the Mumford & Sons style track is Jake’s real life love, Katherine Mason. If Jake’s voice is distressed denim and leather, Katherine’s is all things white and pure. Together, the two provide a feel-good romantic song, something not frequently heard on Christian albums.

In Deeper We Go, Jake throws off all restraint to reveal a country voice that is twangy and lazy in all the good ways. The 12/8 old school rock ballad evokes the feelings one would have on a road trip along Historic Route 66. It is on this track that Jake’s guitarist and producer Seth Yates shines with effortless blues riffs and melodies. It is quite a bold choice to go with a style so frequently made cliché, but the track is found effective, catchy and enjoyable.  

Returning to the anthem-style found in the beginning, Crossbeam reminds us that at his core, Jake Mason is a worshipper. Lifting the listener above his own style and artistry, he finishes the album with a display of a God worthy of highest praise.

Rather than construct an album centered on one theme or message, Jake compiles songs from his experience. His first recording project exposes himself as a man, simple and open. His endeavor to document songs from all corners of his life diverts any attention from the desire to create chart-topping trendy choruses and focuses on the realness and simplicity of life.

Buy Jake’s new album, “So Much More”: https://itun.es/us/BLXCbb

To read about Jake and the ministries he is a part of, access his feature article here. To read more about this site and our vision behind this project, access our “About Us” page or subscribe to our blog on the sidebar to your right.