Release Date: August 17th 2018
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- We Ain’t Goin Nowhere
- Before The Sun Goes Down
- What You Really Want
- Hands Up
- Something To Believe In
- Come As You Are
- What Makes The World
- Frightening Lightning
“…I’m super-excited to share this record with people and I hope they see a little bit of themselves in the songs and that they can identify with it, and that they can meet people who are different than them because of songs like these…sonically, this record gave us an opportunity to explore a lot more spaces than the EP did. And so with this record, we feel like we had the room to put all of those things in it more so than we did when we just had the EP out. And so it’s gonna be fun seeing who responds to it. It’s fun because we don’t feel limited by the lack of one defined genre. It gives us room to talk to a ton of people. Different ages, different races, whatever it may be. We just kind of want to start a conversation…” If you were to ask me which new solo artist or new band has impressed me the most over the past few years, I’d have to say beyond a shadow of a doubt- The New Respects. Essentially a quartet of family members (twin sisters Alexis and Zandy Fitzgerald, their brother Darius and cousin Jasmine Mullen- daughter of CCM powerhouse vocalist Nicole C. Mullen), The New Respects are a band that everyone should take note of this coming year and beyond. Ever since I heard their debut song “Hey!” in 2016, I knew the band would be something special, and one listen from their new EP Here Comes Trouble and you probably would’ve agreed with me too.
Signed to Credential Recordings and Capital CMG, and hailing from Nashville, Tennessee; there’s not really a word or even a phrase of words that accurately describes the quartet’s genre, as the three siblings and cousin stretch musical boundaries in multiple genres at the same time- hip-hop, soul, gospel, funk, reggae, blues, rock- and then they mesh them together to form a sound that is uniquely theirs, reminding me also of throwbacks to the 70’s and 80’s. As a site we reviewed the EP, and gave it full marks (5/5)- and this past week The New Respects dropped Before The Sun Goes Down, their debut full length album. So, what’s my verdict on a musically diverse album that I’m sure will garner the attention and buzz of listeners, fans and critics alike, in the Christian media and the mainstream? Read on and find out!
Opening with the 3 minute Switchfoot-esque rock anthem “We Ain’t Goin Nowhere”, we are met with a commanding no-nonsense statement of the band always being around, always making music, and always making an effort to change lives. In essence, this is their mission and vision statement and fitting for it to be first, as lead singer Jasmine fervently reiterates that ‘…we’re here, gonna stay here, and if you don’t like it, that’s fair, but we’re here, gonna stay here, we ain’t goin’ nowhere…’; sort of saying to the doubters and the haters ‘this is who we are as a band, take it or leave it, but we’re still going to be here, making music for those who will enjoy it.’. It’s a gutsy and brave melody to have upfront, however the catchy guitar riffs and the driving bass makes the track one of the most engaging opening melodies I’ve heard since “Good Hands” from Finding Faith.
The rest of the album has the band come into their own as they tackle a myriad of relevant topics while still staying true to their rock/gospel/soul/funk/pop sound. “Before The Sun Goes Down” is a light groovy guitar and keys led piece where Jasmine channels ABBA vocally, and the pop anthem has me dancing on my feet. Thematically and lyrically about a broken relationship that needs to be fixed and repaired ‘before the sun goes down’, we are encouraged to make amends and fix grudges with anyone we need to, because letting it fester longer than it needs to be can change us into bitter people who cannot be reasoned with, and who wants that for us, right? “What You Really Want” has the quartet trading vocals, as the 3 minute guitar led rocker inspires us all to have an honest conversation with each other about being real and vulnerable, as the persona asks the question of another person of what do they really want and to voice that opinion so that the root of any issue can be analysed and relationships bettered as a result; while EDM and remix effects are prominent in the confronting and intense “Trigger”, which asks the question of should we forgive, or should we ‘pull the trigger’ aka stop the friendship, when someone wrongs us.
“Hands Up”, a bouncy, cheerful and celebratory tune, encourages us to forget about our worries for a while and ‘…surrender to the music, put your hands up…’– an album highlight where we try to think about positive things and the bright side as we are indeed going through trials; while 80’s rock is once again represented in “Freedom”, seeming to be a politics/race inspired melody where Jasmine honestly cries out that she will always fight for freedom cause there’s ‘…ain’t nothing dragging me down, ain’t nothing stopping us now…’– it’s a song that could have fit right in as the soundtrack to Martin Luther King Day (maybe it will next year!). ABBA is revisited once again in the 70’s/80’s dance/pop melody “Something To Believe In”, where we are met with the persona in a desperate situation, asking their loved one to give them something so that they can believe in them- a romantic relationship melody at its core, it isn’t known whether there’s a happy ending to the story or not, but hey, as long as the track is danceable and is easy to move to, right?
Probably the most comforting song on the album is the soul-infused, gospel focused, quasi-worship melody “Come As You Are”, reminding me thematically of Crowder’s song of the same name. As Jasmine eloquently sings out to a friend in need to ‘…tell me everything, don’t leave nothing out, I’ll be waiting on you, so come as you are, you don’t have to be lonely, you can count on me…’, we are left wondering whether this song is sung from God’s perspective or just a mate singing to another mate. But I guess that point is irrelevant, as whether you read the song one way or the other, The New Respects have still crafted probably one of the most inspirational songs this year in my opinion. While the piano and acoustic guitar centred hopeful and encouraging piano ballad “What Makes The World” is another winner here, as all four members split vocals once again, and literally sing about what makes the world go round and round- namely love, peace, joy and the other fruits of the spirit. One of the most spiritual songs on the album, the band even reference 1 Corinthians 13, and remind us that in order for us to live in the best world we can live in, we all need to do our bit, and that is to show the world love, even to our enemies- and hopefully in turn we can show those around us that there are good people around, we just need to know where to look.
“Frightening Lightning” is sung against a gospel/soul musical backdrop, with plenty of grunging guitars and an 80’s sound that immensely catchy. It’s one of the songs on the album that is lyrically ambiguous, with plenty of metaphors; however given the Christian beliefs of the four members, I can only imagine that the song is about the Holy Spirit invading our lives, and on the surface appearing to be like ‘frightening lightening’, but beautiful and life changing in the end. As Jasmine recounts ‘…frightening lightening, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it right off my bones…well it lights up the night and it scares me, but don’t it feel good…’, I can’t help but compare Jesus to the power of lightening, and marvel at the fact that He is all powerful and all mighty, yet the magnitude at which he cares for us boggles the mind. Though the song could be about any other defining moment in life that is scary, but ultimately rewarding and life-changing also.
“Future” starts off with an intense driving bass line, as the quartet passionately sing to the ‘future’ as if it was a person, proclaiming that ‘…future, I can’t hold you, like I want you, I can’t control you, it makes me want it, I want it, hold on, can I want for you, how long?…’, giving us the impression that the band is always looking to the future, wondering what’s in store 5, 10, maybe 20 years from now, and always wanting to know and be in control of what ultimately doesn’t go to plan and isn’t in our control. The New Respects remind us of the fact that we all want to be in control; that our plans for the future, no matter how admirable, can sometimes fall through our grasps, no matter how tightly we may hold onto our control of tomorrow. An ingenious way about tackling the topic of control and how holding onto it too much can result it is growing bitter and disappointed when life doesn’t go our way, The New Respects have posed so many questions in this track especially as we navigate this crazy world we’re living in, and try to make sense of the madness and chaos, while living according to our plans, but knowing and being ok with ending up somewhere completely different in the future.
While the album ender “Rich” is an introspective and reflective piano ballad delving into the concept of what it means to be truly rich in the kingdom of God, where Jasmine vocally sounds similar to Brooke Fraser here; if I were to point out one song (from the 13) to listen to, it would be the no-nonsense in-your-face rock anthem “Trouble”. There’s plenty happening in this intense and hard-hitting melody- there’s a vibrant electric guitar, powerful drum beats and heavy bass as the band channel their inner Switchfoot and Needtobreathe, and eloquently sing to ‘trouble’ aka the devil, telling him to be gone out of our lives. Lyrically similar to Carman’s “Get Outta My Life” from way back in the 80’s, Jasmine, Alexis, Zandy and Darius have created a musical gem here, and one of my favourite songs period of the year. There’s nothing much more to say about this amazing track, other than you have to listen to it, and be inspired!
“…I’m honestly very, very honoured. Like me, personally, looking up to such legends like, as a guitar player, I’m compared to … I’ve gotten Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix a lot. I think part of it is because of the way I wear my hair, like an Afro, and I’m black. So it’s a physical kind of comparison as well. But for people to hear the people we look up to in our music is crazy. So we can’t really ask for much more than that. We want to be considered classic music makers and people who make music that will last a lifetime. And rock ‘n’ roll is one of those genres where you can do that. So it’s been cool to be associated with that type of audience and those type of players…” There’s not much more I can say about this amazing debut full length album, that I’ve already mentioned. The New Respects have created a stellar debut (maybe the inclusion of “Hey!” and “Money” would have made it even more awesome, but that’s nit-picking, and neither here nor there…), and there is no reason any one can give for them not to check out Before The Sun Comes Down. So no matter what genre you like, check out this project now! You’ll be glad I encouraged you! Well done guys, I can’t wait to hear what God has in store for you all in the coming months and years!
4 songs to listen to: Before The Sun Goes Down, Something To Believe In, What Makes The World, Trouble
RIYL: Daughtry, Leeland, Crowder, U2, Switchfoot, The Beatles, ABBA, Nicole C. Mullen