Release Date: June 2nd 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Makes Me Feel
- Love Surrounds
- In Love
- Never Leave
What happens when you mix worship, pop, rock, CCM and rap together in a proverbial blender? Nope it’s not another version of Mass Anthem (if you don’t understand my joke, read my review of Mass Anthem’s Through People Like Me here!), but it’s in fact Alive City that’s who! No seriously…there’s another worship movement, similar to Hillsong Young And Free, and Planetshakers, who just released their debut EP Say a couple of weeks ago. You might have heard a couple of songs from Alive City (“Say” and “In Love” released earlier in 2017!) and the band also released a couple of covers as well (Alessia Cara’s “Scars To Your Beautiful” and Hillsong Worship’s “What A Beautiful Name”). But by now you’re probably rolling your eyes and wondering ‘Is this band any good? Is it original or do they sound the same as any other worship band?’ Well, from listening to this 8 song EP, I reckon Alive City is here to stay.
However, to be fair we have plenty of worship bands to make us feel good, like Leeland, Passion, Rend Collective, all incarnations of Hillsong, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, and Elevation Worship, so what makes Alive City different, that makes us feel good while also making original music? Haven’t we been saturated with worship music over the past few years? Probably yes, but it’s always good for one more band to show us what they’re made of, as they give adoration and devotion to the Lord Most High. Formed in Detroit, Alive City may not be signed to a record label (but we all know that they probably will, perhaps Integrity Music?), yet it is the honesty and vulnerability of these inspiring batch of heartfelt and worshipful melodies make me appreciate the band all the more.
Releasing both “Say” and “In Love” earlier in 2017, familiarity is key as I gravitate to these songs first. “Say” is driven by a stirring acoustic guitar as we are reminded that we can in adoration and devotion, say all that we need to say to Jesus knowing that He will listen, because of the immense and unending love He has for us. As the band reiterate that ‘…I’ll say something cause You love me, say something grace surrounds me, be someone in your freedom, be someone, be myself now, I can’t imagine anything, no, anything better, say something cause You love me, woaoaoh…’; we are presented with an authoritative declaration, that when we realise the enormity of what Jesus did on the cross and rising up from the grave, we can truly say that we love God and mean it. We can share the love of God to those around us not because it is our duty or responsibility as Christians (yes that is true though, but it shouldn’t be our primary objective!), but because we have fallen in love with our Saviour and King and we want others to experience what we have experienced as well. We ‘say’ because of everything that has occurred in our lives because of Jesus, and once we get that notion, then this song can be sung for what it really is- a freeing statement that places all the glory onto God as we make His name famous for the whole world to see. Definitely my favourite song from the band this year, the other familiar track we are presented with is the piano led ballad “In Love”.
With the theme of the track similar to “Say”, this song on a deeper analysis is much more important. The title says it all. “In Love”. Yes, we are called to speak to people, to witness to people, to befriend people, to talk to people, to be in community with people, all in the name of love. Not in any other way. You know the person you cannot stand, the one who irritates your entire being, your soul? Yep, we are called to love them. With no strings attached. No, we’re not called to act out of responsibility or duty or tolerance or understanding. And no, we’re not called to turn away those who do not agree with us, never interacting with them no matter what the situation. We’re called to love. With no added things so that we feel better to love this person. We are called to love. Full stop. Maybe the chorus will make it clearer. Alive City eloquently reminds us across vibrant keys that ‘…in love tonight, all darkness hides cause Your light will guide the way. In love tonight, our souls can find a perfect hiding place. In love…’, as we are presented with an honest heartfelt track that calls us not to pass judgement on those around us, but love. It’s a hard concept, but I believe that this song in necessary for us to look inside of ourselves and see what kind of fruits of the spirit we’re bearing for our non-Christian friends to witness. Are we being Jesus to those around us by showing His love? If the answer is no, then how do we go about remedying the situation? Well done Alive City for these inspiring melodies that have me eager to check out the rest of the album!
And check out the rest of the album I did! The remainder of these anthems are just as vibrant, worshipful and powerful as these two singles. With the first track being a 1 minute intro/interlude/spoken word ‘tune’ that tells us the heart of Alive City, and what they’re all about, as we are reminded that ‘…when our music collide with his word, and when his word becomes our song, our words become a thing of beauty and it becomes way more than just a song…’; it is “Belong” where the band truly shines. Sung against a musical backdrop of stirring electronics and captivating synth, this pop/CCM potential radio single highlights the fact that the only way we can truly belong anywhere is with Jesus, that it ‘…seems I’m lost without You cause Your love is so true, this is where I belong, I am Yours forever, You hold me together, You are where I belong…’; while the 3 minute pop melody “Make Me Feel” features a plethora of electronics and electric guitars and highlights the fact that it is Jesus Christ that makes us feel alive. “Love Surrounds” is another inspiring short but sweet and punchy melody, essentially reiterating that Jesus love surrounds us, and because of this fact we are made whole and complete and we can sing out with no reservations and inhibitions of Jesus sacrifice for us.
Driven by an enchanting and pulsating bass guitar riff and pseudo-rap segments (not as good as Lecrae but full points for effort nonetheless!), “Never Leave” clocks in at just over 4 minutes, and is just as heartfelt as it is honest, pointing out the fact that Jesus Christ will never leave us no matter what. As we remember that ‘…so let’s just stay so near, in You I lose all fear, I’ll give You all I have right here, You will never leave, I trust You with me heart, You help me get back up, and nothing ever stops Your love, cause You will never leave…’, we are encouraged to put our entire being and whole heart into God. To put our trust into God, is hard and scary, even when we know that He will never leave us. I guess that’s where the last track comes in. Album closer “Trust” builds upon the theme of putting our total surrender into God’s hands. Channelling Kari Jobe vocally in this song, Alive City ardently reiterate to us in this song that all we can do is trust. We may not know the future, and it may be scary and uncertain, but we know what God has done in the past, and how he’s proved time and time again that He is trustworthy. He has shown us in the Bible and in our own lives that He has everything in control, so to trust in in the future is I guess necessary, for character building at least, when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. An EP/album highlight, Say once again shows us a band that don’t really care about sales nor chart positions, but rather lives impacted for Christ.
Alive City have presented to us 8 songs in Say that are sure to be anthems in and of their own right. While the band may take some time in becoming as popular as many other worship movements (maybe the band will be signed, if that is what they feel God is moving them towards…), what I will say is this- this group from Detroit have much heart and fervent honesty, that it ought to be criminal not to be caught up in their infectious joy that is presented in these tracks. “Say”, “In Love” and “Trust” form my favourite tracks of the release, and hopefully from listening to these songs, listeners will find out more about Jesus and more about themselves. Are we doing everything in love or not? If not, why not? Well done guys, I can’t wait for what is next in your musical future!
3 songs to listen to: Say, In Love, Trust
RIYL: I Am They, Planetshakers, Worship Central, Rend Collective, Urban Rescue, Hillsong Young & Free