Fair Trade Services
Release Date: April 24th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- New Today
- Walking Free
- By Name
- Love Lifted Me Up
- What Mercy Did For Me (Maranda Curtis & Jason Crabb)
- Life Up Ahead
- My God Fights For Me (feat. Austin French & Nickie Conley)
- Without Love
- Welcome to the Family
- New Today (Stripped Version)
Micah Tyler has had a whirlwind of a few years since his last album release Different way back at the end of 2017. Ever since his 2016 EP of the same name (and then a full-length album comprising of all the songs on the EP plus a few more in 2017), Micah’s music has been hitting the homes and hearts of people around the world- he has been known for his vocal prowess and a similar musical style to that of either MercyMe or Sidewalk Prophets- songs like ‘Never Been a Moment’, ‘Even Then’ and ‘Different’ are just some of the songs from his debut album that were successful over the last few years on the radio. Fast forward to 2017/18, and we see Hurricane Harvey devastate a lot of Texas and Louisiana, affecting a lot of homes, inclusive of Micah’s and his family’s. Micah also experienced the news of his brother’s aggressive stage-4 colon cancer diagnosis during that particular time as well, and thus, life experience hasn’t been to kind to Micah over the last few years. Nevertheless, we still see a new album released about 2 and half years later, and out of this season of uncertainty and difficulty, New Today has been born. With your usual standard CCM fare, from first listen to New Today, Micah nevertheless gives us a snapshot into his life for around a couple of years, as he shares with us his love for New Today and what it has come to portray- ‘…I love this album so much because not only are we telling good stories and representing the Gospel, but it’s so heavily influenced by music I’ve grown up listening to, everything from Elvis to Shane & Shane to Ray Charles and Boyz II Men. I wanted these songs to melodically convey all the different emotions so you could really feel what we’re saying. If you want a glimpse of what my life’s been like the last three years, it will take you about 53 minutes of listening to this album…’
The first song to be released from the album, ‘AMEN’ is the first radio single off New Today, and this toe-tapping anthem brings a sense of joy and happiness as we see Micah declare from the outset that ‘…when I think about where I would have been without You, I’m so glad it’s a place I never have to be, even if I tried I couldn’t count the ways, not enough words for me to ever say, just how good, how good You are to me…’ It is a song of celebration through and through, as Micah indeed thanks the Lord for all His blessings, goodness and grace given freely towards Micah, as we see this vulnerable personal song written out of Micah’s brothers’ diagnosis, and then remission, of cancer- leading to Micah’s praise-driven song. ‘New Today’, the title track of the album, is a reminder of God’s mercies being new every morning, that even if we may feel like we can’t come to Him because of what we have experienced in our lives, or we don’t think we’re ‘good’ enough; we are nevertheless reminded that God is a God of forgiveness- often giving it on a daily basis. We can come to Him regardless, and ‘New Today’, alongside the ‘stripped’ version (with just the piano and Micah himself), gives us comfort in knowing that ‘…I can rest on Your shoulders, there is grace to start over, Your mercies are new today…’
Throughout the rest of the album, we see Micah impart to us little bits of his life and his feelings within the last 2 and a half years. ‘Walking Free’, co-written with singer-songwriter and one of my all-round favourite CCM artists, Matthew West; we see a trademark speaking-singing Mathew West-style song as Micah imparts to us the process that happens when God reconciles us back to Himself. The song itself likens the process to a prison door opening, God having the key, through Jesus, and opening the door for us to walk through (all we have to do is to choose to believe that God even wants to open to door for us anyway), and know that whether we believe that we are worthy enough for the door to be opened to, it is nevertheless done anyway; while ‘By Name’ employs a light acoustical framework that channels artists like Jonny Diaz or Phil Wickham’s acoustical handiwork, as Micah writes from the POV of God Himself, as we see that God doesn’t hold any grudges, nor does He judge or condemn. He doesn’t call us by what we see ourselves as- to Him we’re not a ‘drunkard’, a ‘thief’, a ‘cheater’, a ‘liar’; sure we may have done a lot of the things that we believe we ought to be called, but God doesn’t call us by those names. He calls us by our real chosen names, who we have been named by birth, He calls us ‘beloved’, ‘forgiven’, ‘son or daughter of God’; our identity is in the fact we’re unconditionally loved by our Father, and nothing can ever change such a thing- not even names we often call ourselves on a regular basis. ‘Love Lifted Me Up’ is a personal song to Micah, as through this gospel anthem, he unveils to us, a semi-autobiographical account of the story of grace in his own life, as we understand that ‘…this is my story, the goodness of grace, and I am the living proof there’s no one You cannot change, I’m no longer stranded in the pit of despair, I’m thankful You loved me way too much to leave me there, oh let me hear ya now…’; while ‘What Mercy Did For Me’, featuring the vocals of Maranda Curtis and Jason Crabb, is a song that could’ve been on a southern-gospel Gaither-esque album, and features both Maranda and Jason (alongside Micah in the choruses) that God’s mercy found us and healed us, gave us a new hope and home in Him and reminded us of the unconditional love given by Him and felt by us everyday.
‘Life Up Ahead’ features the keyboard as the prominent instrument as this swing/Motown/blues inspired track (reminding me of artists like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles) gives us hope that there is life ahead for us once we are filled with God’s love abundantly. A Christian life doesn’t have to be a bore, as we believe into the promises of God for this time and age, that our lives that will reflect Christ wherever we go, can be fun filled alongside being impactful, as well. Micah also brings to us the song ‘My God Fights For Me’, a collaboration with fellow Fair Trade Services artist Austin French, and gospel artist Nickie Conley, as we see the theme of God fighting for us especially during the moments where we can’t rely on anyone else but God, as Micah, Nickie and Austin retell the Bible stories of Daniel in the lion’s den, David’s fight against Goliath, and the woman washing Jesus’ feet in the presence of Pharisees; as we see the underlying theme, that especially in our direst moments, God always comes through. The album then ends with songs ‘Without Love’ and ‘Welcome to the Family’, the former being a timely reminder to really hone in on why we do what we do, that without love as the motivator in our pursuits and our beliefs, then there really isn’t any point; while the latter is a rousing anthemic declaration a la MercyMe, as Micah presents a song full of brass instruments, powerful drums and strong electric guitar as this song is all about being welcomed as a child of God into His family- that when Christ died once, He died for all, past, present and future. There is no outsider in the kingdom of God, and that by faith alone, we are welcomed with open arms into God’s kingdom, forever and ever and ever!
Micah’s new album is one of joyous celebration, heartfelt introspection, and everything else in between, as this Fair Trade Services artist has given us an album after a 2 and a half year wait- the result? 11 songs that have challenged our own lives about how we live them with a sense of hope and freedom as we understand that God’s grace and mercy is given to us daily without condition or any need for us to do anything at all for us to even receive or accept it. New Today is a challenge for us all to step into the truth that we are free to just be, that our efforts aren’t gonna make God love us any more or less. New Today is by far one of my favourite CCM/pop albums of the year thus far- alongside Tauren Wells’ Citizen of Heaven and Matthew West’s Brand New, and an album to enjoy if you are a fan of artists like MercyMe, Sidewalk Prophets, Big Daddy Weave or JJ Weeks. Well done Micah for such a compelling and confronting album, one that’ll continue to be on my Spotify playlists for weeks and months to come!
3 songs to listen to: Walking Free, Love Lifted Me Up, Welcome to the Family
RIYL: MercyMe, Sidewalk Prophets, Pocket Full of Rocks, JJ Weeks Band