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Heavenly Music – Album Review

April 11, 2007 10 comments

heavenly-music.jpgSTEM, originally the DJ handle of Steven McNair (an acronym of his names) known for his electronic dance music like The Phoenix Remix, Atlantis and other remakes. It is now emerged as the name of the punk-rock band for which he is the frontman/singer/songwriter/drummer and producer. With this album he has stepped more out of the shadow of remixes and has released nearly a complete line-up of his original songs on this second album. While even to his own admission he is Growing Up complete with a more mature singing voice he still keeps true to himself and the punk-rock sounds of the debut album Recycled. Like that aforementioned album it is a mixture of personal experiences (Say Good Bye, or Apple Pie) and life observations (Red or Major) but he also adds a new level with what I’d call “dedication songs” that really make this album stand apart from any of his other work to date.

Heavenly Music really is a coming of age album for him showing that he is a brilliant contemporary new songwriter for the up and coming generation of Family youth. There is just something unorthodox about adding mentions like “Melting like an ice-cream cone”, “Put down your crown and pick up a hamburger” and “You are the pickup in my guitar…” that set him apart from nearly any other Family songwriter to date with the exception of maybe Aaron David (Echo, I Love You etc) or Vas Myers (Just Plain Stupid, Let’s Make Love, etc) in weaving contemporary phrases and thoughts into a song while still capturing the spirit and message. If you just write this off as just another teen punk-rock CD, you’re missing the point. It is that, but much more; I’ll break it down for you with some of the key songs below.

Death music is a great opener and an onslaught to the worldly music scene with lines like /I know where I will go/Run down this one-way street/Whatever He will take from me/I give it willingly/It’s death music, system shit./Pan, stay away from me./Water poisoned for your soul/You’re gonna die on it./ It’s just a shame that so many of the songs tunes are sampled from other system (death music) songs.

Nothing to lose (credited to Rick Blackrock and Aiki) and Broken Arrow would have been some of the hit singles of the album if they were not so heavily sampled musically, great words but unavoidably distracting melodies.

Fools and Glory to Church Buildings are a declaration against the hypocritical church system in a way and with wording in his uniquely his own.

Enjoy yourself is a fallback reminder of why the Recycled album was so popular with Family teens as it updated old Family songs for a new generation of listeners in modern music beats.

High stakes, while sounding like a football anthem it really underscores a lot of our beliefs and calling and along with Nothing to Lose, Anthem and Do It Again are really the anchor songs and set the tone and spirit of this album, with lines like /So, we’ll go/ we’ll learn to love the fight/ no compromise in our hearts/ we will give our life’s/ for right, for love/ for swiftly comes the night/ we dedicate each breath we take to win/ ‘cause there’s high stakes for our souls/. It’s driving beat and passionate words really stir you to action and commitment for the Lord and the Family.

Do it again, to me this really is the breakthrough track of the album. While it might not be as memorable as some of his harder sounds signature to STEM that we’ve grown to expect but it does represent the flip-side to the album and provides along with The Other Side some of the rare reflective moments on the CD. While some people may discount it as “childish” when comparing it to other more refined LJ songs we are accustomed too written by adults or received through prophesy it is hardly inferior at all. If you really listen to it this melodic unplugged number objectively you’ll discover it is a teenager expressing himself and his soul to the Lord in stepping out with Loving Jesus, with lines like /So much for me to explore/ You never end/ Come into me once more, then do it again/ How can You care, how can You still be mine/ Why do You love just a boy, tonight?/ It brings LJ down off the shelf in a lot of ways and I think a whole lot more relatable to other young people still “sitting on the fence” with regards to that revelation. That is really underscores the theme of this album – making discipleship, post-Renewal dedication and loving the Lord cool and relatable to his peers as only another young person can.

As a bonus we even get the Temptation of Christ and the Garden of Eden in heavy metal; while it is a novel idea and genre and I personally enjoyed it, it might not sit very well with most others. Like his previous “Beware Of These” that he voluntary rated PG (Parental Guidance) and like I said about the Family metal band Nierna, these kind of songs narrow your listening audience to hardly any, and really should just be “download only” music. It does not do an album any good to have one song that is not acceptable to play in public places in our homes. As a new artist you want your songs to get the widest amount of exposure and listening time so that people learn and are familiar with your songs and lyrics. This track clouds up the other songs and the message in them that the Jett/teen audiences in particular really need to hear. Throwing this song in, done in a genre that is generally not encouraged for your target audience is counter productive.

He is young, and has crafted an otherwise solid and fantastic second album nearly entirely on his own and a few friends (skillful guitar work from Jesse Prichard), you have really got to commend him for that. He’s shown aptitude and real heart in his song writing. If he could just compose a few more innovative melodies and add a little less song-sampling in his songs he could really be used even more musically to reach a very needy audience with Heavenly music – our own Family youth. Let’s hear some more Heavenly music!

This album to me proves he is not just a one-hit-wonder and hints towards a new and capable crop of committed young disciples that are also wonderful musician/songwriters that are just as dedicated and revolutionary as the rest of us but just express themselves in a little bit different way then we’ve been used to, but then again so was the DC band’s rock laced Dropped Out album nearly ten years ago for my peer group. It’s just a new sound and language for a new sub-generation of Family young people. He currently seems to be the most noticeable and consistent one out there for now but I know that there are others who have stories and thoughts to share in song too but unfortunately getting recorded despite the convenience of the digital age are still not as simple as it seems. Until then we have this wonderful CD.

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Categories: Rock on!

Send twins

April 6, 2007 Leave a comment

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Categories: Rock on!