Release Date: December 1st 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Joy To The World
- Silent Night
- It’s Christmas
One of Australia’s most popular, passionate, creative and inventive youth and praise and worship bands, Planetshakers have been around for a while. Since the early 2000’s, the band have created many stellar and poignant live and studio albums. In the same vein as Hillsong, these Aussies release at least 1, most likely 2 albums every year, with my personal favourites being Rain Down, All That I Want, This Is Our Time, Overflow and The Outback Sessions, not to mention the EP Momentum and the most recent project Legacy; even though some projects throughout their discography have fallen flat (namely Heal Our Land and Endless Praise). Throughout all that time, though, there is one type of project that the group haven’t recorded. And that’s a Christmas album. But that changed just last week, when the EP Christmas Vol. 1 released. Though only short at 4 tracks, it’s an enjoyable short but sweet taster and glimpse of what could be a future full-length Christmas project (especially since it’s a ‘Vol. 1’!). Though a times a bit too electronic, Christmas Vol 1 nonetheless had me engaged for the most part, and hopefully future holiday themed releases from Planetshakers are equally as impressive or maybe even more so. So let’s see how this EP ranks in terms of Christmas releases from this year.
First of all, the EP is only 4 tracks, so I guess you could say that one of my nitpicks is that it’s too short, and it’s never going to compare to an epic masterpiece like Tenth Avenue North’s Decade The Halls or the orchestral live project A for KING & COUNTRY Christmas: Live In Phoenix by for KING & COUNTRY, or even the ‘best of’ Christmas project Light Of Christmas by TobyMac. But what Planetshakers do on this release is play to their strengths, and just listening to this EP and not comparing it to any other Christmas release this year, is probably a good thing, and that way you can enjoy it a bit more. “Hark”, an electronic/dance/remix Owl City or Hillsong Y&F type of track, is an ingenious and creative take on “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”, and while not containing any additional choruses or verses, like I would have expected, the instrumentation and musical experimentation here is top notch. There is even a shredding metal/symphonic electric guitar instrumental solo in the bridge that took me by surprise, in a good way (is that an uncredited guitar cameo from Lincoln Brewster?). While the tempo drops significantly for the acoustic guitar led reflective and contemplative ballad “Silent Night”, where we are treated to a solid rendition of one of the most popular Christmas carols ever, and what is essentially a worship anthem at heart, as we fervently proclaim ‘…glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing alleluia, Christ the Saviour is born, Christ the Saviour is born …’.
Yet the just under 3-minute melody “Joy To The World” is rather underwhelming, with an overload of autotuned and electronic employed. I get that this was meant to ‘modernise’ an already upbeat track, but the intention certainly doesn’t come through- instead “Joy To The World” from Planetshakers comes off as tacky and like they’re trying too hard. There’s also too many instruments here, all vying for centre stage and to take the lead, with the end result being a treack that is a musical mess, despite the ever-true lyrics that still impact, even in this horrendous version (sorry guys, that’s just how I feel right now!). But the album ends thankfully with the funky, groovy and extremely catchy and danceable original track “It’s Christmas”. With the band musically showing us their soul/jazz side, and giving us a track that we could envision maybe Unspoken or Salvador recording this, as we hear saxophones and brass instruments, creating a greater depth that we could ever imagine; we are directed by Joth to ‘…come on let’s celebrate, it’s Christmas, so be of good cheer, for Jesus is here, come on let’s celebrate, it’s Christmas, so everybody sing and let the music ring, it’s Christmas…’– and the surprising bass guitar solo in the middle is a joy to listen to as well.
Overall an enjoyable EP that definitely continues my reinvigorated interest for Planetshakers a bit more; this track list has certainly taken me by surprise, well musically at least, of what the band is capable of. Even though one track was severely lacking, the other three more than made up for the mishap, and Planetshakers have done Australia proud with their latest Christmas anthems and dance melodies, full of inspiring messages and uplifting lyrics about Jesus! Well done Planetshakers for creating a short but impactful set of songs that are sure to be repeated on many iTunes playlists! I can’t wait for Christmas Vol. 2.
3 songs to listen to: Hark, Silent Night, It’s Christmas
RIYL: Hillsong Y&F, TobyMac, Jamie Grace, Group 1 Crew, Manic Drive, Salvador, Unspoken