Release Date: November 25th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- This Christmas/Jingle Bells
- Christmas Is Here
- Christmas Hymns Medley (O Little Town of Bethlehem/Away in a Manger/Silent Night/Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Joyful, Joyful/Joy To The World)
- Christmas Classics Medley (The Christmas Song/I’ll Be Home for Christmas/Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas)
- What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? / Auld Lang Syne
Anthem Lights, formally known as Yellow Cavalier before they signed with Reunion Records; have garnered quite a fan base since the band’s inception. With the band unveiling their self-titled debut album in 2011, an acoustic EP in 2012, 2 more studio albums (You Have My Heart and Escape) in 2014, as well as plenty of member changes (the exit of Allan Powell and Kyle Kupecky, and the additions of Spencer Kane and Joseph Stamper), plus plenty of mainstream cover projects, as well as a surprise Disney EP (which I reviewed recently here!); next year seems to be the year where they release all new original studio material, as we wait to hear the band’s new studio project Painted Skies. Yet the band aren’t done yet this year, not by a longshot- Anthem Lights have proudly presented to us…wait for it! Yep, a 5 song Christmas EP, titled Christmas Is Here EP, comprising of 4 medleys (what they do best!) and plenty of inspiring harmonisation and catchy tracks to immerse us in the Christmas spirit (and a more than worthy follow-up to the 2013 debut Christmas project Simple Little Christmas). And while plenty of critics may suggest that Anthem Lights may have run their course, with member changes, and the bulk of their discography being ‘mainstream’ material anyway, I for one would have to disagree. One listen to Christmas Is Here EP is enough to be encouraged by the band again! Before we find out how Spencer fits in with the band in his first album with the group in Painted Skies next year, let’s dive in to see how this quirky, fun, and immensely hopeful EP resonates with myself and others!
First of all, let me just say off the bat that I am probably not the band’s targeted demographic. Some of the time, I can find some parts of Anthem Lights’ music and lyrics a bit cliché and/or cringe worthy, and other times, some lyrics are just God breathed, motivational and inspiring- it’s my opinion that probably the ideal listener that would gain the most from exposure to the band would be younger teens. Yet these 5 holiday themed melodies are just what I need as I listen to these melodies about Jesus in the format that the band know and love. A medley of “This Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” starts off the project, and while “This Christmas” isn’t a song I’m that familiar with (although Danny Gokey did cover the song on his Christmas album last year!), this inspiring melody reiterates the importance of family and relationships with loved ones during the holiday season, as Anthem Lights cleverly intersperse refrains of “Jingle Bells” into this obscure by catchy tune, and fervently relay that during Christmas we can ‘…hang all the mistletoe and I’m gonna get to know you better, this Christmas, and as we trim the tree, how much fun it’s gonna be together, this Christmas…’. The title track is next, and is a cover of a Danny Gokey original. While the original version was a reggae and Caribbean flavoured melody adding further musical diversity and variety, with Danny emphatically highlighting that Christmas is a time to be celebrated, whether we are living in the northern hemisphere with snow, or in the southern hemisphere with sunshine; Anthem Lights have made the song their own, with an acoustic guitar led happy-go-lucky melody with the quartet harmonising perfectly in a captivating and powerful performance.
2 somewhat distracting, disconnected yet also compelling and inspiring medleys follow. “Christmas Hymns” and “Christmas Classics” comprise of worshipful and mainstream carols respectively and sound sometimes out of place, in part due to the fact that there are 6 carols jammed into 3 minutes in the ‘hymns’ medley (O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, and Joy To The World) and 3 carols in 3 minutes in the ‘classics’ medley (The Christmas Song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas), yet there’s no denying the passion evident in the exquisite and encouraging vocals of Chad, Caleb, Joey and Spencer. The final song on the album is a New Year’s Day medley with “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” mixed with “Auld Lang Syne”. It’s an odd choice to be included on a Christmas project, but Anthem Lights sing this track too perfection, and remind us of the importance of spending the holidays with family.
Anthem Lights’ Magical Medleys took me by surprise, particularly when the band announced the existence of this record not too long ago, and now Christmas Is Here EP has surprised me too, in a very good way! And though despite the EP’s shortcomings (the 2 medleys), the positives here more than outweighs the negatives, namely with Anthem Lights able to reawaken in us the notion of having fun this Christmas. With their faith keeping them grounded (though not evident that much in this EP!), I am certain that this band will be within the CCM/pop industry for many, many years to come. Well done Anthem Lights for such a captivating, cheerful and worshipful EP, that I’m sure will provide us with moments of reflection this Christmas!
3 songs to listen to: This Christmas/Jingle Bells, Christmas Is Here, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?/Auld Lang Syne
RIYL: Plus One, TobyMac, Jump5, Britt Nicole, Royal Tailor