Release Date: November 2nd 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Oh The Joy
- Open the Windows (feat. Shaylee Simeone)
- Your Love
- Sing Hallelujah
Worship artists seem to be popping up like wildfire these days. Not that there’s anything wrong with worship artists in general, they have a great tremendous impact within the church and providing tools to worship both in an individual and corporate setting. Yet more and more these days, we wonder that the sheer volume and amount of artists that create music within the confines of this thing called the ‘worship’ genre, means that sometimes, good songs are tirelessly played on radio and great songs are overlooked, well, because, they’re not Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Hillsong (all its facets), Jesus Culture…you get the picture. It seems like if you’re not part of the famous worship leaders that are currently popular right now, then your song or album or music in general isn’t really going to be noticed or even recognised…right? Frankly, worship is a lifestyle, not a genre of music (technically it is, but for the sake of such an argument as this, it really isn’t!), and so the worship music, just like any other type of music, needs to be cultivated and crafted and created in such a way that it is exciting, engaging, and unique. Artists throughout the years have responded to such a call- Tim Hughes, Paul Baloche, Delirious?, All Sons and Daughters, Kari Jobe, Rend Collective, The City Harmonic, Leeland, One Sonic Society, Meredith Andrews and Urban Rescue have all created a moment and space in time where ‘worship’ music can be seen as a place where all vulnerabilities and uncertainties can be voiced without judgement or condemnation. Truths are spoken, yet the music and quality of the song itself (the arrangement, how the song sounds and whether it is plagued with repetition or not!) is not compromised either. Enter in BEC Worship artist Brian Ortize, a worshipper who sounds eerily like Jon Micah Sumrall (of Kutless) vocally as this collection of 5 songs, though as simple musically and lyrically as they come, seem to come at such a time where Brian’s heart and passion is what propels this EP to become one of the most underrated of the year thus far.
The first song on the EP, ‘Emmanuel’ (alongside ‘Oh The Joy’) was released as a double-single earlier on in 2018, and is the most Kutless-like melody on the EP. As Brian declares that God is our Emmanuel and that we ought not to be shaken nor uncertain about our foundation which we place our trust upon, we are reminded of how timely and necessary these biblical truths are needed. Though lyrically like something that Casting Crowns or even Chris Tomlin would unveil as their own track; Brian nevertheless creates a song where the message doesn’t seem like it is something we’ve been hearing to death (even in reality, we have), as ‘Emmanuel’ calls us to confidence in knowing that He is with us regardless of what circumstances and ourselves seem to see at the moment. As Brian unveils himself about the thought process behind the song, ‘…I wrote this song several years ago with two of the best people I know @johnnyswim @amandasudanoramirez. I remember at that time, that several people around us were going through difficult and challenging seasons. We wrote this to be a reminder of the truth that God is not absent in our hardship, but He is very much present. This song really connected with our church in LA and I am thankful to be able to re-visit it as I release some new music on my own. What a beautiful promise that our God is Emmanuel…’
Throughout the rest of the EP, we are met with biblical and worshipful themes that can make these remainder four tracks fit nice and neatly into various Sunday morning setlists amongst the world in the upcoming months to come. ‘Oh The Joy’ opens with light electronics and guitars as Brian places on his Steve Fee meets Seth Condrey meets Jon Micah Sumrall hat as he reminds us that the joy that is only found in Christ, through the knowledge and understanding of what Christ has undertaken for us, is the strength that will spur us on in this life- a song that is perfect for lively moments on a Sunday morning where all we can and should do is just dance before the Lord because of such revelations. ‘Open the Windows’ is a powerful duet that features the vocals of Shaylee Simeone (who happens to channel a very young Francesca Battistelli vocal- the My Paper Heart version 10 years ago!) as this melody invites us all to open the windows (metaphorical) to allow Christ to come in and invade our hearts, changing them from such narrow-minded ideologies to encompassing all that Christ has for us; while ‘Your Love’ sadly suffers from too much repetition, something that artists all the time are guilty of. Does the repetition deter from the enjoyableness of the melody in general? It shouldn’t, but nevertheless, it does. Still, Brian continues to encourage, as we know full well that God’s love will never hold back on loving us, something we all should believe into on a daily basis. The EP then ends with ‘Sing Hallelujah’; a hymn-like melody that allows Brian to channel the vocals of Adam Agee (of both Stellar Kart and Audio Adrenaline) as this EP ender creates a moment of powerful corporate worship. We are met with a biblical account of the gospel as we voice our gratitude and thanks for the cross of Jesus. A great way to end the EP, ‘Sing Hallelujah’ hopefully will enter churches and maybe hopefully will be covered by other artists in the future!
So there you go- Open the Windows EP. Is it as sophisticated as artists music like Rend Collective, The City Harmonic, or even Leeland’s? Probably not, but neither are the songs lyrically and even stylistically ‘safe’ as what Chris Tomlin’s music is currently becoming. Regardless of how we see the ‘genre’ of worship music at the moment, this new EP from this recently signed BEC Worship artist, is one to at least hear once, before passing any judgement of any kind. Brian’s heart is for creating songs to declare in both a season of doubt and of plenty, and these songs on Open the Windows EP have certainly lived up to said task. A must-have if you have enjoyed Kutless’s worship material of the past (frankly, I reckon at the moment where Kutless currently stands, this collection of 5 songs by Brian are more likeable and impactful to me than anything Kutless has done recently!); Brian and his newfound career in music (after serving as a worship pastor in LA for a number of years) will hopefully be a reminder to us that it is never too late to pursue what is in your heart set by the Lord, for you to undertake. Though the EP is a little short, Brian’s emotion that drives these melodies is what will encourage us all to take a listen to an EP that will challenge as well as comfort, encourage as well as motivate. Well done Brian for these 5 songs, can’t wait to when a full length album releases at a later date!
RIYL: North Point InsideOut, Chris Tomlin, Tim Hughes, Kutless, Erik Nieder, The Museum