I’ve been listening to Needtobreathe’s new album, The Reckoning, pretty much non-stop for the past week. It’s that good. I wanted to write a review, but I wanted it to be a little different than my past reviews so I decided to write it in a Q&A format. I hope you enjoy. Most of all, I hope if you are unfamiliar with this band, you will give this one a shot. It’s worth it.
Q:What are your favorite songs on the album?
A: That’s really hard to say. There are so many good ones. I guess if I had to pick some favorites I would say “White Fences” would be pretty high. As would “The Reckoning”. You could even throw in “Wanted Man”, “Oohs and Ahhs”, and “Drive All Night”. Heck, toss in “Able”, “A Place Only You Can Go”, “Slumber”, “Learn to Love” and “Keep Your Eyes Open”. Yeah, I just named 10 of the 14 songs. Oh, and I forgot about “Devil’s Been Talking”. That’s another really good one. Ok, I’ll narrow it down a bit. I guess the ones that have really stood out to me the most are “White Fences”, “The Reckoning”, and “Oohs and Ahhs”. But I’m sure this list will evolve as the songs settle in over time.
Q: What does the album sound like?
A: It sounds like Needtobreathe. If you have heard their previous 3 albums, you have a good idea what it sounds like. Except it’s even more assured. They can pretty much play any style they want. They incorporate more piano on this album than they ever have – which is a good thing. The songs are full – very full. Lots of stuff going on all the time. Not to say every song is busy. There are a few simpler tunes – “Wanted Man” and “A Place Only You Can Go” come to mind. But even those do some really interesting things – bag pipe on one of them is a good idea what I am talking about. “Keep You Eyes Open” sounds like something they would have done on their first album – but after years of maturing. It’s pop goodness with big hooks and a heart-on-their-sleeves sensibility. They do a couple of more gospel infused numbers – no surprise there. “Able” really shines in that regard. Then many of the other songs are just good rock songs. Vocally, they have never sounded better – the rest of the band picks things up here a lot. It’s a cohesive album, but they take plenty of twists and turns along the way. If you haven’t heard Needtobreathe, it’s just good pop-rock infused with southern rock and a splash of bluegrass.
Q: What are the songs about? Is there a theme?
A: I would say the overall theme is: The world is tough, many have been dealt a bad hand, but there are still wonders and glories to experience if we just open up our eyes and go after them. They hit on that theme on more than one song. The line, “Replace your feeble with the fable” from “Slumber” seems to capture the idea of grasping the Truth by letting go of the misery and victim mindset. The lyrics are good – just what you would expect from the band.
Q: Are there any songs as fun as “Prisoner” or “Girl Named Tennessee” from The Outsiders?
A: That’s a tough one. “Oohs and Ahhs” is a lot of fun – but it’s got more of an edge than either of those songs. Thematically, it’s just darker so the music takes on some of that. “Devil’s Been Talking” is a fun, up-tempo number. “Drive All Night” gets my feet tapping.
Q: Do they have any overtly “Christian” songs like “Signature of the Divine” from The Heat?
A: Not really. “Slumber” is full of spiritual insight as are many other songs, but there is nothing as CCM ready as SofD.
Q: Is this is their best album?
A: I don’t know. It’s good…really good. I’ve had more time to process and get to know “The Outsiders” so it has stood the test of time. This one is so new that it’s hard to say how it will hold up. I can’t imagine it won’t hold up though. I’ve listened to it pretty much non-stop for the past 3 days, if that tells you anything. I’m not tired of any songs yet either – even the ones that I would consider the weaker tracks. It’s got 14 songs. 11 of them of outstanding. 3 of them are good. It’s just really good music most anyone could enjoy. It’s accessible but not pandering. It’s challenging but not too artsy. It’s great pop-rock with a southern influence.