Release Date: January 13th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- This Is Amazing Grace
- Greater Is He
- Let Everything We Do
- The Depth of Your Love
- Once For All
- He Is The Lord
- Psalm 148
- Jesus Paid It All
- Come Thou Fount
Sixteen Cities‘ 2010 self-titled Centricity Music label debut in 2010, was one of the most underrated albums that year, and their follow up Love Is Making A Way was somewhat only moderately successful commercially as well. However, I found the Centricity Records signed Oregon band refreshing to Christian music in both albums, with lead singer Josiah Warneking being able to sing a wide variety of genres, including pop radio songs and alternative rock songs. Standouts on the debut were the single “Sing Along”, “Captured By Your Love”, and the cover “Save Me From Myself”, with “Glorious”, “Love Is Making A Way” and “What It Must Be Like” being highlights on their sophomore album as well. Personally I would definitely compare Sixteen Cities in terms of style of music to Sanctus Real, The Afters, and Kutless, yet on their third album The Depth Of Your Love, which releases early in 2015, the focus is totally worship, although with that same pop//rock sound we’ve all grown to love. The 2010 worship EP Your Love Is Worship EP I guess is kind of training or a pre-cursor to this full length album. And as far as worship albums go, Sixteen Cities’ original songs and renditions of well known covers that they have recorded here are quite superb musically and production-wise. Considering that the album was funded through Indiegogo, and not through a label like previously, this effort is quite good. Let me tell you why!
Out of the 11 tracks, 5 are covers and each are recorded to perfection, with the band making them their own. “This Is Amazing Grace”, Phil Wickham’s smash hit, is the album opener, and starts off with a slew of guitars as lead singer Josiah passionately declares that Jesus is Lord and marvels at the fact that God’s grace is big enough to cover for all of our sins and transgressions. Written by Jeremy Riddle and Phil, Sixteen Cities’ version of a powerful and explosive worship anthem hits all the right notes and adds a different dimension to the song that I love.
Different to both the Bethel live version and Phil’s radio single; Sixteen Cities makes the song more worshipful but still ‘pop’, and ‘radio friendly’, tracking down extra synth and electronic effects. Kind of like what Newsboys did to “Your Love Never Fails” on God’s Not Dead, Josiah and co. makes this track very accessible to the casual listener, yet maintains the worshipful nature and the vulnerability as well. With the band clearly defining grace and love being ‘…that You would take my place, that You would bear my cross; You would lay down Your life that I would be set free, Jesus I sing of all that You’ve done to me…’; the glory is given to the God who has saved us and gave us new life, and despite all of the musical changes, some of which I know may confuse and madden some people, this song still speaks volumes and will be impacting to the many people who hear it.
Is it a surprise that “Oceans” from Hillsong was covered? Nope, not to me. The mega smash hit has been covered plenty of times, and this rendition is superbly recorded. The epic anthemic prayer, and declaration of Jesus’ sovereignty, which delves into the fact that we can call upon His name, and rest in the hope and security that we are God’s and He is ours; has exploded over the past year, taking off in a way unlike no other Hillsong song in recent years. As Sixteen Cities doesn’t change too much from the original version (other than making the song more focusing on the keyboard); we are met with a song that confronts and reassures at the same time, and asks us the question of whether we’d follow God in the direction that He calls us to when he calls us to it. Simple yet effective, with the Holy Spirit anointed on this song; “Oceans” is one of the songs that was introduced at my church last year; every time I hear it I am almost drawn to tears, as I commune with God!
Again staying close to the original version, the band’s version of “Cornerstone”, written and recorded by Hillsong in 2012, is probably one of my favourite versions of the song ever, even surpassing the version sung by Dave Ware on Cornerstone. Though Josiah skilfully and deftly has altered the song by placing the last verse behind the last chorus; this touching rendition of the hit single is very enjoyable to listen to, and it’s great to hear how ‘The Solid Rock’ can be re-done again and again without the essence of the track being taken away. Each time it gets reimagined, there’s an extra layer that gets added and added, and I find that fact so very true with Sixteen Cities’ version. The band also reimagine “Jesus Paid It All” a hymn that came to my attention in 2006 with Kristian Stanfill’s version, and has since been one of my favourite hymns of all time (and a hymn that Sixteen Cities brilliantly covers, as they sing amongst the keys and guitars that ‘…sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow…’). The final cover is the album closer “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”- another hymn, that is one of the lesser known melodies that is no less important and poignant as we sing out God’s praises. To me I especially love the transition in the song to “The Solid Rock”; well done Sixteen Cities for these 5 worship covers that have me praising God and passionately lifting His name on high!
While the worship covers and hymns unveiled here are no less than near-flawless; Sixteen Cities also offer up some inspiring and encouraging original songs as well. The two singles “Greater Is He” and “Once For All” are sublime in their delivery and offer up motivation in walking the Christian life. “Greater Is He” starts off with captivating electric guitar, as this slow worship ballad gently reminds us that Jesus is greater than death and any adversity in this world, and that should bring us great comfort. As Josiah eloquently sings out that ‘…greater is He, greater is He, the Lamb has overcome…the victory has won, it’s finished, it’s done, God’s only Son has conquered the enemy…’, we are presented with an honest, emotional and transparent account of the gospel; sure to impact the lives of all who listen. While the more rocky and guitar focused “Once For All” highlights the fact that God’s love for us is so immense, and at times unfathomable, as He has saved us once and for all time, which boggles my mind when I dwell on the fact too much. One of the simple songs on the album, musically and lyrically, but nevertheless important and powerful; Sixteen Cities have shown themselves to be a very much improved band and more mature with this release.
The remainder of the songs have Sixteen Cities excel from strength to strength. “Let Everything We Do” is a musically and thematically simple song, led by the guitar and piano; that declares to God to glorify Him and point everything to Him in all that we do- an admirable pursuit as we witness the gospel to those around us. The title track is another personal favourite of mine, as Josiah compares God’s love to a water current like an ‘…ocean wide, I’m falling…into You…’. Across beautifully played electric guitar and enthusiastic vocals, the song may be a bit repetitive, but it is that ‘sameness’ that pulls at my emotions and heartstrings as I worship God with all that I am- it’s a clever ploy that has me fully immersed in the song, with the one verse and chorus being some of the most brilliant songwriting I have heard in a while.
With Sixteen Cities taking a page out of Kutless’ book musically, the rock and roll inspired worship anthem “He Is The Lord” is littered with explosive electric guitar and gently reminds us with passion and gusto ‘…let every tongue confess that He is Lord, Jesus reigns forevermore, and every knee will bow, the heavens roar, He is the Lord, He is the Lord…’. Amen, there are no other truer words spoken, that Jesus is Lord- I am sing this song many, many times, and not be bored or tired of it; that’s how anointed by the Holy Spirit this track is. The final original track is the band’s version of Psalm 148 titled “Highly Exalted”, which basically recounts the various ways God can be praised and also reasons why He should be praised. As the band passionately declare that we can ‘…praise the name of our God, He is highly exalted, highly exalted…’, I can’t help but sing along as well, on this beautifully recorded song and my personal favourite from the album. Well done Sixteen Cities for the covers and originals that make this album your most personal and prolific yet!
On The Depth Of Your Love, Sixteen Cities have poured their heart and soul into this album, and given it their all. An album about how God is with us and that He will help us through our storms, and that He is sovereign and holy, and deserving of all of our praise, all I can say is for 2015, the band’s album is firmly in the forefront of one of my favourites. Well done guys, and may you keep continuing to bless people with your ministry. This third album has the band more mature in leaps and bounds, and I can only imagine what they’ll accomplish with their fourth full length album in the near future.
3 songs to listen to: Greater Is He, Psalm 148 (Highly Exalted), Jesus Paid It All
RIYL: Mikeschair, Kristian Stanfill, Leeland, Crowder, The Afters