Release Date: January 26th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Bigger Than
- No Other
- Fight Anymore
- Eternal King
- Common Love
For All Seasons have been one of my favourite up and coming bands over the last year or so, as this relatively new quartet from California rose to prominence and significance through their 2013 album High Above It All– which spawned the powerful radio hit “High Above It All” (of which Phillips, Craig and Dean covered on their 2014 album Above It All). Since that album, after three years and two more ‘live-in-studio’ EP’s, the band signed to Centricity Music. And while at face value the band may seem like any other worship movement that is popular at the moment (think Jesus Culture meets Desperation Band meets Hillsong and you can probably guess what the band sound like), For All Seasons nevertheless deliver songs full of enthusiasm and passion- the band continues to assert their prominence in today’s CCM/worship music scene with their debut Centricity Music EP, titled Clarity. And while the time since they signed to Centricity Music and releasing this new EP has been a while (around a year), lead singer Emily Hamilton and the rest of the band have nevertheless crafted an EP full of expectation and heartfelt moments of praise and declaration, that this is a group certain to be enjoyed if you are a fan of other similar artists like Addison Road or I Am They.
After ten or so years being an independent band on Reveal Records, the quartet (who recently became a trio with the departure of bassist Randy Charlson) are now on a label, a label I reckon is perhaps one of the most underrated, housing many prominent and impacting artists like Aaron Shust, Jason Gray, Carrollton, Lauren Daigle, Andrew Peterson, Unspoken and Jonny Diaz, to name a few. With the band releasing three singles from Clarity in 2017 (Higher, Bigger Than, No Other), as well as a remix of ‘Higher’ as well, these promotional songs, alongside the remainder 4 tracks, give the 7 track EP a sense of importance as Emily and the band become a group that I myself am excited for in the upcoming year. One of my favourite newly formed groups currently (alongside Stars Go Dim, I Am They and Grayson Reed), For All Seasons have nevertheless reminded us all that though they are now signed to a major label, their heart and mission haven’t wavered, with Emily reminding us that- ‘…our goal has always been to create music that teaches people more about what it means to worship God, and more about who He is…we want to create space musically and lyrically in each project we release for people to talk with God honestly, as well as align their hearts with what is really true. We are stoked to know that Centricity sees this passion of ours and wants to propel it forward…’
‘Higher’, ‘No Other’ and ‘Bigger Than’, all of which were released as singles on iTunes during 2017, anchor the EP both in a lyrical and a musical sense, as this 7 track EP places their strongest songs in the beginning, preferably as a ploy to bring in listeners to hear their powerful songs first, and to hopefully bring in fans that will check out their previous music catalogue and thus become fans of the band from that point onward. Not that there’s anything bad with placing the strongest songs at the start (and hence by elimination, the ‘weaker’ songs toward the end), most artists undergo this tactic- and For All Seasons is no different. Yes, ‘Higher’, ‘No Other’ and ‘Bigger Than’ are tracks 1, 2 and 3 on the EP, and while I say that these songs are strong lyrically, it’s probably because they are the only known songs to me prior to hearing Clarity in its entirety, and thus, it’s only natural to say these songs are strongest if that’s all you’ve heard. But now upon hearing Clarity in its entirety, I can safely say that ‘Higher’, ‘No Other’ and ‘Bigger Than’ are some of the most honest, hopeful and encouraging worship songs I’ve heard within the last year or so.
Released in mid July 2017, in a nutshell, ‘Higher’ is about how God’s ways are higher than our ways, and what He has in store for not only our lives but for the lives of others. We are reminded through lead singer Emily Hamilton and the rest of the band that what we may not understand in the here and now are things we may just need to trust the Lord with- because what He is painting and the tapestry He is creating is far more beautiful and amazing than we can ever realise, believe or even think about. The song itself gives us a sense of realisation and encouragement, that ‘…You remain in control with a steady hand, even when the lies of this life start to make sense, so be my guiding light, when things aren’t black and white, I’ll trust in who You are…’ What a powerful truth to believe and step into, that God is our guiding light and whom we ought to run after and emulate, that He is the One whom we should place our trust into rather than the things of this world that scream at us left, right and centre. ‘Bigger Than’ followed and released in August 2017, and is a studio recording of their ‘live’ version that was found on their Live Sessions EP that released in 2016. As spoken by Emily about what she hopes the song can evoke for listeners, it is her personal story that makes this song all the more poignant- ‘…it’s been a huge song for me, personally. It is just this very clear statement of who God is. He’s bigger than anything I’m afraid of. He’s bigger than my dreams. I don’t have to stress and get anxious about my future because if I believe the Word of God—that He says His plans for me are better than what I could imagine or dream up—then I don’t have anything to worry about…’ ‘Bigger Than’ is an anthem, and a moment of realisation that God is indeed bigger than we can even fathom Him to be, and even bigger than what we experience and our own fears and uncertainties. The song challenges us to look bigger beyond ourselves as we seek comfort in a God who is big, yet still intimate with each of us. It is a song to declare when everything is going well, but also a song to declare also when things aren’t looking that good, also.
And then there’s ‘No Other’, the third and last single to be released prior to Clarity. Unveiled in September 2017, and a tad under 4 minutes, this song, co-written with Ed Cash (famous for collaborating a lot with singer/worship leader Chris Tomlin), shows us a theme of declaring God to be the one who is high above anything else, that there is no other name higher than that of Jesus. A song to declare fervently on a Sunday morning as part of the church service, this song is fit and primed for radio, as Emily pours out her passion for presenting the relevance for the gospel, even now, believing that ‘…no other name carries the power to save, crushes the power of the grave, but Jesus…’ Jesus and Jesus alone has the power to create things new from things broken, as we are met with a moment of realisation and revelation as this song can hopefully facilitate such a breakthrough in many who hear the poignancy of the words in the song.
The remaining four songs ‘Clarity’, ‘Fight Anymore’, ‘Common Love’ and ‘Eternal King’, are just as emotive and poignant as the first three tracks, even though I myself have heard ‘Higher’, ‘Bigger Than’ and ‘No Other’ to death. The remaining four songs are sure to become some of my favourite worship songs of 2018 as the months continue to roll on, but for now, these four are songs that, while not as impacting in both music composition and lyrical ingenuity as the songs that have been available for pre-order, are songs nonetheless that can impact and encourage whomever hears it, myself included. The title track itself is a moment full of synths and driving guitars as Emily invites us into a place where we are to declare that God is our firm foundation and rock in which we build our lives upon, or as Emily uses powerful and lyrically poignant words, ‘…You’re my harbour on a moonlight night, the kindest calm in the fiercest fight, the brightest star in the darkest sky, my clarity, my clarity…’, while songs like ‘Fight Anymore’ and ‘Common Ground’ are ones of unity and peace, as Emily and the band address the issue of division and fighting in such a global climate as this. The songs evoke messages that we as Christians ought not to fight anymore, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or even with those who may not know our Father in heaven.
As followers of Christ and imitators of Jesus, fighting for whatever reason only leads people away from the good news that Jesus proclaims, and ‘Fight Anymore’ alongside ‘Common Ground’ ought to become catalysts for us to recognise our differences, but realise that we need to find and form common ground with those around us. Jesus is the bridge between ourselves and the world, and fighting is not the answer, but rather love and love unconditionally! The EP ends with ‘Eternal King’, a re-recorded song originally from Live Sessions Vol. 1, and a song that declares and proclaims God’s worth, and a song that ought to be sung in many Sunday morning worship services in churches around the world as the months wear on. And with a chorus like this- ‘…Saviour, who was and is, forever be almighty God, Your glory reaches farther than the highest star, eternal King we shout how wonderful You are…’, who can’t love a song like this, a song that is fast becoming one of my favourites on Clarity, behind ‘Bigger Than’?
‘…in all honesty, writing songs for church worship is not our goal. Getting songs played on the radio is not our goal. We absolutely love the church and we love the purpose of radio, but our goal is a little more simple: to write authentically, passionately, and creatively, from our own stories, in hopes that those who hear our music connect with Jesus on a deeper level and chose to seek Him in every season of life. That’s our focus. However and wherever God wants to use it? That’s His decision…’ This above quote by guitarist Jeff Luckey is the premise and purpose behind For All Seasons, and is something bands and solo artists ought to think about before they go up on stage. It is a reminder to always seek the Lord first in whatever we undertake, that whatever come is a direct result of our fervent and enthusiastic obedience to whatever the Lord has in our way to undertake at various circumstances in our lives. The band itself and their own influence through songs like ‘No Other’, ‘Bigger Than’ and the title track, is certain to increase in the upcoming months ahead as the release of Clarity becomes nearer. This up-and-coming band are talented, and on fire for Jesus, worshippers that give their all in whatever song they sing, be it original or worship covers. A great job well done for a group that I reckon could become the next Jesus Culture or Hillsong in a few years; Clarity that releases on Australia Day has been well worth the wait, ever since their first single on Centricity Music, ‘Higher’, released in July last year. Well done to Emily and the band for such a soul-stirring EP, one that will be much appreciated by those who are fans of modern worship music, as well as music that tends to stretch the boundaries as to what worship music should be and look like!
3 songs to listen to: Bigger Than, No Other, Eternal King
RIYL: I Am They, Stars Go Dim, Addison Road, Rend Collective