Release Date: May 19th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Broken Man
- Start a Fire
- Tell Somebody
- Call It Grace
- Who You Are
- Green Light
- Good Fight
- Lift My Life Up
- Born With a Broken Heart
- Solid Rock
Signed to Centricity Music (home of artists like Lindsay McCaul, Lauren Daigle, Jared Anderson, Jason Gray, and Aaron Shust to name a few), Unspoken’s soul-pop sound a la Jimmy Needham or newworldson is a fresh sound amidst the plethora of CCM, and their new unplugged album aptly titled Unplugged is no different. Released on May 19th, Unspoken have delivered a 10 song set, with 5 reimagined acoustic tracks and 5 new ones- with the chance for new and older fans to enjoy the artist and album alike. Starting out in 2012 and 2013 with two EPs released to critical and commercial success, it was their 2014 debut full-length self-titled album that placed them on the map of artists that don’t necessarily fit the clean and pristine CCM mould. Fit for anyone who wants something different and unique, this band that formed in the Dominic Republic has delivered one of the most raw and honest recordings out of their whole career so far.
While it may take some time listening to songs like “Start a Fire” and “Lift My Life Up” without the electric guitar, this is a new and welcomed sound by the band, highlighting lyrics and gang vocals much more than the surrounding instruments, as we realise that it is the heart and poignancy of the song that make it great rather than the musical arrangements. From fan favourite “Who You Are” from their 2012 EP, to new songs like “Tell Somebody”, “Broken Man” and “Born with a Broken Heart”, lead singer Chad Mattson and the rest of the band have carved an album certain to be on repeat on my iTunes playlist for months to come!
Released previously on 2014’s Unspoken, half of the 10 tracks are given the acoustic treatment as the band strip away all of the musical backdrops that make the songs grand and give them a makeover to remind us that a song can be just as enjoyable done with a full band as well as acoustically. From their 2012 EP Get To Me, “Who You Are” tells us through a Caribbean feeling, backing vocals and a slowed down pace that presents a more reflective tone, that ‘…you can never fall too far, so fast, so far that you can’t get back when you lost, where you are, it’s never too late so fast, so much that you can’t change who you are…’ It is then that we ponder- are we too far gone to come back to Jesus? With acoustics, and Chad’s passion we see how much this song has and continues to be a catalyst for so many for change and restoration- more than three years since it had been written and recorded.
The first radio single from their 2014 album, “Start a Fire” presents to us a realisation that we need God’s fire in us, one that we will in turn show the world as we live our lives for Christ, and while I do prefer the tad-over-three-minute full band version ahead of this stripped down acoustic arrangement, the song nevertheless is powerful and poignant, one that’ll continue to be one of my favourites by Unspoken for years to come. With just the piano and light acoustics in “Call It Grace”, the band presents to us what grace means to them, and what it ought to be to us who rely on it so much in the lives we embark on. With heartfelt lyrics in how ‘…some may call it foolish and impossible, but for every heart it rescues it’s a miracle, it’s nothing less than scandalous, this love that took our place, just call it what it is, call it grace…’, grace is something we all need, whether we believe in Christ or not. “Good Fight”, the current single from Unspoken that speaks about fighting the good fight of life and all its challenges presented to us, and “Lift My Life Up”, the standout track on 2013’s The World is Waking (with a theme of lifting everything we have to God as we wait to see what He does with all of our brokenness and frailties), round out the 5 re-imagined songs, as we see Unspoken show us a new side of our fan favourites, while delivering other stellar new tracks, which we’ll hopefully love even more once a full band is attached to them in the coming months ahead.
With the remaining 5 tracks unveiled by Unspoken not recorded anywhere else, it is interesting to hear the tracks and have nothing to compare them to. Yet if these 5 songs and their arrangements are similar to what I’ve heard on Unplugged, then these new tracks from Unspoken are some of the best I’ve heard from them so far. Starting off the acoustic album with “Broken Man”, Chad employs a powerful piano riff and a theme of us being broken and realising the fact that nothing else satisfies other than Christ, it is the lyrics that continue to make Unspoken a unique band, and with Chad delivering from the start that ‘…I’ve heard it said, that music heals the soul, but I have sung a thousand songs and they’ve never made me whole…’ we see and hear just how special this pop/soul group really is within the CCM music circle.
“Tell Somebody” encourages us all to tell our friends and family everything about us- our triumphs, hopes, fears and everything else in between as we share our lives, and the reason for our optimism, with those we are in contact with every day; while “Green Light” tells the story of patience as we wait for God to give us the green light on pertinent issues and situations where asking Christ for guidance is the first point of call. “Solid Rock”, track 10 of Unplugged, presents to us a powerful piano undertone and addresses the issue of suffering and losing in life if that is what is needed for us to draw near to God for everything we need; and “Born With a Broken Heart”, complete with a strong drum beat and a bass heavy undertone, shows us that we were all born in need of a saviour- with a broken heart in need of fixing and mending.
With their chart-topping album Unspoken released in 2014, their unplugged version of favourite hits and newer potential favourites is an album worth listening to if you are a fan of soul-pop and enjoy most, if not all of Unspoken’s catalogue of songs thus far. With the band being one of my favourite newer artists throughout the last few years, alongside others like Love and the Outcome, Colton Dixon, 1 Girl Nation, Dan Bremnes and City Harbor; Unspoken’s acoustic release is one to savour for months to come if you are a fan of similar artists like Jimmy Needham, Chris August or newworldson. With these four men with Caribbean roots fast becoming one of the most popular CCM artists within today’s music industry, these ten songs showcase hopefulness, heart, honesty, encouragement and vulnerability. From “Start a Fire” to “Good Fight” and “Born with a Broken Heart”; this release is as fun and enjoyable as it is emotional. Well done Chad and the band for standout album in not only May 2015 but in 2015 in general!
3 songs to listen to: Start a Fire, Born with a Broken Heart, Broken Man
RIYL: Jimmy Needham, newworldson, Chris August, Dara Maclean, Salvador