Release Date: July 13th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Bridges Burn
- Forever On Your Side (feat. JOHNNYSWIM)
Needtobreathe has been on a roll since their inception into music more than a decade ago. Possibly one of the most unique, ingenious, emotive, poignant, lyrically impressive and artistic bands to ever be in both Christian and mainstream music since U2; these four men from South Carolina have been able to use their platform in both Christian and mainstream music to deliver heartfelt melodies and songs that stir the soul. With songs like ‘You Are Here’, ‘Something Beautiful’, ‘Slumber’, ‘Keep Your Eyes Open’, ‘Shine On’, ‘Washed by the Water’, ‘Streets of Gold’, ‘Difference Maker’, ‘Multiplied’, ‘Brother’, and more recently ‘HARD LOVE’, ‘TESTIFY’ and ‘HAPPINESS’ being some of the standout songs the band have released in their career thus far, Bear Rineheart, his brother Bo, Seth Bolt and Josh Lovelace (and Joe Stillwell prior to 2014) have indeed led us all listeners and fans of the band into a place and space where honesty, hope, encouragement, realness and a sense of being yourself, is brought to the fore. And after the highly successful HARDLOVE released in 2016, the band are indeed back at it again, albeit only for a short offering- 4 songs bundled together to form Forever On Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions). Though the tracklisting has altered significantly compared to projects of the past, their alternative atmosphere is still intact, with the band crafting together a collection of pop-rock melodies with a folk-pop edge, all the while trying the stay relevant musically with contemporaries of the mainstream industry (johnnyswim, Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, to name a few), and never compromising on their faith-based inspirational edge that can be seen, not only through this EP, but throughout all of their material gone before. Released in a month that saw album/EP releases from Joel Vaughn, Pat Barrett, Martin Smith, Koryn Hawthorne, Hillsong Worship and GAWVI; we are indeed blessed to hear an EP that will stretch and challenge our own preconceptions on what we are to believe pop-rock music should sound like, and whether a band like needtobreathe can survive within a sea of pop-rock/radio friendly artists that seem to try a lot, but nevertheless produce things that are very much similar to releases of the past, all for the sake of radio attention!
Standing at only 4 songs (all but the title track, have been released to the public prior to the EP release), what it lacks in number, it makes up for in instrumentation, lyrical content and stylistic shifts from song to song, to present a band whose musical repertoire is nothing short of amazing, unique and powerful. With the band continuing along the sonic leanings of HARDLOVE and HARDCUTS of 2016 and 2017, Forever on Your Side departs from the rock of the yesteryear and employs more of an acoustic/southern country aspect, which is ok, but not necessarily appealing if you have been a fan of their earlier music a la The Heat or Daylight. Still, kudos to Bear, Bo and co. in delivering a different genre that the band is akin to. ‘Bridges Burn’ is a good way to start off the EP, with the message of bridges that have burnt (metaphorical) between people, and asking the questions of how to mend such relationships that seem too far gone, is an ever present theme that is necessary to hear in the world today, and while the song is very much subdued, maybe even too much for the message to come across, I thoroughly commend Bear and the rest of needtobreathe, in unveiling such a theme that would otherwise be swept under the rug of forgotten issues for years and years. ‘Darlin’ follows, and is an earnest track standing at over five minutes, as the band relay the hard difficulties of serving on the road in the way of delivering concerts and impacting people’s lives, all the while being away from family and the tension in that. ‘Darling’ refers to Bear’s wife, as he emotively sings ‘…darling, won’t you talk with me for a little while? We ain’t got nowhere to be, oh and I’ve come so many miles, darlin’, won’t you talk with me for a little while? Or at least until the baby cries, or we both fall asleep…’, as the song reminds us all that while being on the road and exploring new cities and the adventure of it all can seem very grand, it all ought not to be the focus, rather at home with friends and family, before anything else. ‘Bullets’ unveils a more guitar driven southern-style melody with relevance for today, as Bear invites us to ponder and consider the fact that often some bullets (metaphorical) can’t go back into the gun, meaning that we all have to be careful about how we act and speak amongst family, friends and even strangers, that what we do and what we say will have ramifications for others, more so than we often realise than when we are in that very moment when we say or do something rash.
Then there’s the title track, the biggest surprise of not only this EP, but of the year 2018 as well. Written and presented along the same vein as songs like ‘Something Beautiful’, ‘Keep Your Eyes Open’, ‘TESTIFY’ and ‘Brother’ in years gone past, this title track featuring duo JOHNNYSWIM is a must-listen, if you only listen to one song on the EP and that’s it. As Bear delivers himself, ‘…when we wrote the song ‘Forever On Your Side,’ we were thinking of our fans who have been with us since the very beginning. There are certain songs over the years we’ve been able to envision playing live on tour before we even officially record the first note. This song is kind of full circle for us and brings back a lot of the sounds people might have heard from us early on. So in many ways, this song is for the fans who have been on our side since the beginning. AND you might hear some familiar voices! That’s right people! Our friends JOHNNYSWIM leant their absolutely mind-blowing harmonies to this song and made it even more special to us…’ And with such a quote like the one above, what else can be said, except that this song is very much inspirational as it is fun-filled and heartfelt. Upbeat and nearly 5 minutes, this collaboration with JOHNNYSWIM is something out of a movie, as the harmonies are flawless and the production itself makes me feel like I’m hearing all the inspirational melodies from the band again- certainly different in feel compared to the other three songs on Forever on Your Side.
And so that is the EP- four songs. A great collection to tie us over until their new full length album (hopefully it’s coming very soon??), what is good about NEEDTOBREATHE is the fact that they are able to be musically versatile. Maybe this EP is a precursor of what we could expect from them musically in their future full-length project? Who knows. Nevertheless, on the heels of HARDLOVE and HARD CUTS, this new offering is showing us a side of NEEDTOBREATHE that hasn’t necessarily been explored, till now. Maybe a new full length album in 2019? Till then, let us enjoy songs like the title track, ‘Bullets’ and ‘Darlin’, songs that challenge us to look at our own lives and see what we may need to change. Congrats to Bear, Bo, Seth and Josh for these four songs, can’t wait until the new full length album in the upcoming year or so ahead!
3 songs to listen to: Bridges Burn, Darlin’, Forever on Your Side
RIYL: Zach Williams, Third Day, The Neverclaim, Daughtry, Switchfoot, Skillet