Release Date: August 25th 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Farewell Fear
- Get Down
- What We Have Is Now
- Mountains Must Move
- Happy Ever After
- It Is Well
- Farewell Fear (Reprise)
Around 4 years ago, we were glimpsed into whom I reckon is one of today’s most underrated bands, and probably one of the future’s most promising CCM bands. As TobyMac endorsed Finding Favour, the band are making a name for themselves in a big way. Having released their self-titled EP digitally in March 2013 and the physical copy in May 2013, followed by their first full length debut album Reborn in June 2015; the brand new single “It Is Well” dropped in June, with significant radio airplay especially on Air1. No, it is not the hymn of the same name, yet the melody does share some of the same themes. But if you are not familiar with Finding Favour, then surely Toby’s outright praise for the band will pique your interest. If not, then perhaps the lead singer Blake NeeSmith reminding us all of Jason Barton of 33Miles vocally with his distinct and powerful vocals, can move you to check out the band’s discography… Whatever the case, Finding Favour is one band you should definitely listen to, and “It Is Well” is the best place to start in my opinion. Which leads up to this past week, when the sophomore album Farewell Fear released. Only short in that the album is 8 tracks (minus both the intro and reprise of the title track!), the question remains as to whether the band suffer the ‘sophomore slump’ as most artists do on their second project. My answer, after listening to the album maybe around 3-4 times is…yes the band does suffer a bit of the ‘sophomore slump’, but the passion and energy of Blake’s vocals overshadows any of the shortcomings, including a short album duration
With Finding Favour having previous recorded power ballads, pop/dance anthems as well as country influenced tracks; “It Is Well”, when it released a few months ago, piqued my interest, and hopefully will yours as well. Written by Blake NeeSmith, Sam Tinnesz and Casey Brown, “It Is Well” opens with strong keys and a stirring electric guitar riff, as Blake passionately declares that no matter what happens in our lives, even in the darkest of times, that it is well. Now let’s just stop, take in that statement and dwell on it, chew on it. Yep that statement is extremely weighty and something we ought to just think about. At all times it is well? Did we just hear that being implied? But surely, all isn’t well during the times when we are struggling in our lives, right? Maybe the band mean ‘it is well, sometimes, and at other times, it isn’t, and we should fall apart’? Nope, according to Finding Favour, and I agree with them as well, our lives are well all the time! Through the good times and the bad times. As Blake fervently recounts that ‘…in the fire and the flames, in my pain, You are with me, this is not the end, You’re not finished yet, You’re still moving, no matter what I’ve lost, or what it costs, my heart will sing …’, we are indeed encouraged to hold our head up high, and remember that God is with us no matter what. The Author and Perfector of our faith is in our corner always, so what do we have to fear? One of my favourite songs of 2017, Finding Favour have done it again, and created an anthem for the ages!
As for the rest of the album, Finding Favour have created a musically diverse sonic masterpiece, and though some lyrics are a tad cliché on a few tracks, the passion of Blake and his friends cannot be denied, and helps us get into the groove and the atmosphere of worshipping Jesus. “Get Down”, a 3 minute guitar led dance/rock number, inspires us all to be active in our faith, and ask God for help when we need it, as Blake ardently cries out that we can and should ‘…get down when you got no answers, get down when there is no way, get down when you’re holdin’ hopeless, get down on your knees and pray…’; while the EDM/synth prominent and 80’s influenced “Dance” encourages us to dance in the midst of trouble and adversity, to rest in God’s promise that He holds everything together, and that He has a plan beyond anything we can ever imagine.
Driven by synth, the potential radio single and CCM friendly “What We Have Is Now” could easily fit on mainstream radio (with God or Jesus not even mentioned by name or even alluded to at all!) as Blake passionately highlights the fact that the future isn’t set in stone nor is it guaranteed for us, that all we know for sure is that ‘…what we have is now…’, and that we should ‘…breathe the moment in, breathe it right back out, everyday, make it count…seize the day, the moment, the second…’ because ‘…time will pass you by if you let it…’. While tracks like “Completely” and “Faithful” are solid without being that spectacular (where’s the wow factor?), as both of these 3 and a half minute radio friendly mid-tempo ballads impart to us the notion of God restoring every broken thing at the end of the day and making all things brand new when we are in heaven (“Completely”), as well as the concept of us being faithful and dedicated to Jesus, and dedicated to our families and to what God has called us to do with our lives, in every circumstance, no matter how we are feeling (“Faithful”).
“Happy Ever After” is musically quite adventurous, and I guess it’s tactical that this inspirational melody is placed in between two other underwhelming tracks in “Completely” and “Faithful”, as Blake channels his inner Peter Furler vocally, and ardently relays to God that ‘…Father we can’t make it on our own, only You can right what we’ve made wrong…Lord take what we have shattered, make it happy ever after again, Father open up our eyes to see it all comes down to unity, all we have we lay down at Your feet, we’re crying out, we’re falling on our knees…’. It’s a welcome sight to behold (well, it’s actually a welcome sound to hear, but ‘sight to behold’ reads better!) as we are immersed in a worship anthem that doesn’t sound like the modern worship anthems that I hear constantly every year from Planetshakers, Jesus Culture and the like; yet if you have to listen to one song from the album, it is “Mountains Must Move” (yep, even more so than “It Is Well”). As Blake ardently highlights across vibrant guitars and soothing piano, this accessible yet thoroughly enjoyable worship anthem encourages us to declare the power of Jesus’ name to be victorious over sin and death and every adversity in our lives, and we are gently reminded that Jesus is the source of all our strength, resoluteness, hope, peace and the other fruits of the spirit. Hopefully “Mountains Must Move” will be sung in churches everywhere on Sunday mornings in the near future, and it is this song that give me hope for the band for the future, despite a couple of mishaps in this all but brief collection of new songs.
As like the debut EP and the debut full length album, TobyMac has got it right once again- Finding Favour is a band to watch out for, judging from “It Is Well” and “It Is Well” alone. And now with Farewell Fear already out for a few days already, the debate is now settled- Blake’s vocals are sublime, and it’s plain to see that the rest of the band feed off the enthusiasm and positive energy of each other. Gotee Records, the home of Hollyn, Capital Kings and Ryan Stevenson, definitely signed a keeper. The band will definitely be big in the next few years, and I will keep my eyes and ears open to hear what they’ve got next in the pipeline. Save for a couple of tracks that leave me wanting, and the overall shortness of the album (maybe the band should have marketed the release as a long EP?), Farewell Fear is just what is needed from Blake and his friends, especially the intro and outro of the title track which is super catchy, and delves into the concept of saying goodbye to fear, and actively putting our trust in Jesus so that we do not feel scared of anything. Well done guys, you deserve the acclaim!
3 songs to listen to: Get Down, Mountains Must Move, It Is Well
RIYL: Tenth Avenue North, 33 Miles, Crowder, Newsboys, Josh Wilson, Brandon Heath, Matthew West