Release Date: May 1st 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Salvation Come
- Waking Up
‘…Awakening Hearts, is a celebration of the witness of the Holy Spirit, and a call to wake up and respond. When we hear and believe, the only appropriate response is to wake up. It’s a sensory, emotional response when we hear the Word of God: ‘Wow, I’ve heard the voice of the eternal God, and this is entirely new.’ That’s the heart of the album right there…’ Another year, another, new artist, and while many of us may dread the new artist that comes to release a first album, and then fades into oblivion, there do happen to be some great new artists have released music over the years- from Tenth Avenue North, Sidewalk Prophets, Love and the Outcome, Everfound and Tim Timmons, to 1 Girl Nation, Capital Kings, Rhett Walker Band and for KING AND COUNTRY. Add to this list independent worship artist Mike Lee, who released his debut 5-track EP titled Awakening Hearts in early May 2014. A worship leader at heart, Mike has carved up a great collection of 5 worshipful songs that are easily some of the most enjoyable and easy-to-learn melodies of 2014 so far. While a relatively new artist, Mike’s first and foremost goal is to foster the church as he gives them great songs of worship, and out of that bring a conglomerate of worshippers singing God’s praise with hopefully some of his songs as catalysts for change in people’s lives moving forward. A great album if you love contemporary worship a la Phil Wickham or Chris Tomlin; Mike Lee’s EP is the way to go, and a certain standout in May 2014!
Starting off the EP with “Different”, Mike invites us all to be exactly that- different in the eyes of the world as we follow after Christ and all that He has stood for. A light electric guitar and powerful drums set the scene in this anthemic melody that encourages us as well as comforts and lifts us up in the theme of us being different for the Lord, and how as we are evangelical in our sharing with other fellow believers and non-believers about our experience with God’s presence, we can rest assured that God is stirring amongst us when we share from our hearts. As Mike shares himself, it is in the notion that God is different from us that we can find the hope we need, and how ‘…I sort of play with the idea of time and space, and how we as humans are bound by that. We’re limited. But God, He’s limitless, He’s endless. And it’s not just His reign that’s endless; the possibilities of what He can do are endless. In that, we all have hope…’
In a similar way, “Still” embodies a sense of us still uncovering new and exciting things about our Father as the theme of God being different from us in a way that makes Him all-trusting and faithful is not only a theme running through “Still” but throughout the EP as a whole. Quieter than “Different”, with only light keyboards and Mike’s powerful voice, “Still” nevertheless encapsulates something great as we witness one of my favourite songs on the album being as poignant as ever in the chorus of how we ponder that ‘…You are still converting my heart…You are still revealing Your grace in my life…’ God in us is a transformation, but continues daily as we are awakened to the wonder of who God is and what He is yearning for us to accomplish for Him, hopefully with these two songs as a catalyst as we bring God’s love and light to those who need Him the most. Well done Mike for these 2 aforementioned tracks, and 2 favourite songs from Awakening Hearts.
“Treasure”, “Let Salvation Come” and “Waking Up” are the three remaining tracks on Awakening Hearts, and just like the other two, we are also met with songs that are a great fit for the church and Sunday morning worship song-lists. With a light piano introduction into “Treasure”, we find a song that is a treasure in terms of us knowing that Christ is everything we need, and while at times Mike does his best (10/10 for effort) in his Joseph Rojas impersonation (mixed in with a bit of Ben Richter from The Museum), the song unintentionally lacks something the other 4 melodies instinctively have when I hear them. Not to take away from the passion that is present in all five tracks, and the poignant theme in “Treasure” that encourages us to pursue the Lord for the treasure that He is; the song sadly doesn’t connect with me as much as the rest.
Nevertheless, Mike continues to provide some great vertical songs of hope and praise in “Let Salvation Come” and “Waking Up”, the former being a cry from our hearts to God’s as we declare for His salvation, hope, encouragement and comfort to come fall afresh on us in ways we have never experienced, and the latter giving us motivation as we realise that ‘…there’s a stirring in my soul, a trembling in my chest, there’s a cry that’s rising up…it’s a new sound to me, this is new ground for me, I’m waking up…’ A song that encourages us all to wake up and allow God to show us things that will hopefully stir us up in the avenues of justice, worship, social change and advocating of the poor and marginalised, “Waking Up” is a perfect end to the EP- solemn, yet poignant, light electric guitars brooding over a relatable theme of hope and encouragement.
Mike Lee’s first EP effort is a solid one, and while at times it may seem like he’s trying too hard to emulate many of the current popular worship artists today, his EP is still a collection of songs worthy enough to be listened to from start to finish at least once. With songs to encourage the church in both a collective and individual sense, Mike’s fervently passionate EP is a must if you are a fan Chris Tomlin or Bethel, and great if you enjoy worship with an indie atmosphere. Well done Mike for such a well-crafted album.
3 songs to listen to: Let Salvation Come, Different, Still
RIYL: All Sons and Daughters, Bethel Music, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman