If you are new to Christian rock, please read this
post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Death of Album Art

With the advancement of digital music and online sales, album artwork is a dying breed.  Some experts are predicting that consumers will soon only be able to purchase music digitally, and that physical copies of albums will not be available anywhere.  With predictions of record labels moving to selling only digital copies in the next five years or less, one can safely assume that album artwork will slowly fade away.

I grew up in the compact disc age of music.  I remember when I first started getting into Christian rock.  I had to buy most to all of my albums online.  There wasn’t a big record store or a Christian bookstore close to my house where I could buy music.  Many times my purchasing decisions were based on two things:  an album cover and what I knew about a given band. 

I love buying physical copies of albums.  I do have an iPod and I regularly buy music on iTunes.  But, for my favorite artists, I always purchase a physical copy of their work.  I know I have stood by cds longer than most.  Maybe I am old school, but I love having something to hold in my hands while experiencing music.  I think there is something powerful and nostalgic about physical albums.  I love getting a brand new cd in the mail, listening through the entire record, reading the lyrics, and studying the album art.  I even read the Thank You notes in the back.  To me, buying and listening to music is an experience.  Physical copies of albums are a great way to help me digest new music, and really sink my teeth into it.

A band’s artwork has the potential to tell a story right alongside the music.  Not only can music be creative, but the album artwork can be equally as creative and compelling.  Graphic artists and musicians have the power to really make an album come full circle with unique artwork, a creative layout, and professional photographs.  Bands and artists have so much freedom and creativity in how they choose to lay out their physical albums.  Where are you going to place the lyrics?  Are you going to have photos of the band?  Are you going to use other people or models in the photos?  Are you going to create graphics that tell a story alongside the lyrics?  There are so many questions that bands can tackle within album layout and artwork.

Music will never die.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in a physical or digital form, music will always be around for enjoyment.  But, the one thing that digital music will destroy is album art.  Yes, some albums let you download the art or see the album cover.  But, let’s be honest.  Who actually looks at it?  Who looks at an album cover on their iPod or looks at a downloadable PDF file of the artwork.  Even me, who loves to dissect the album art, doesn’t even do that.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing against digital music.  With our huge advancements in technology, digital music is the next logical step from compact discs.  Just like cds were an upgrade from cassette tapes and tapes were an advancement from records, digital music is the next technological step.  But, when music fully turns to the digital format, musicians and artists will lose their creative artwork.  Maybe, in the future someone will think of a way to share artwork besides a small PDF file of the album cover.  With all the advances in technology, who knows?  
I will embrace the new digital format.  It may take me longer than most, but I will learn to love digital music.  It’s obvious that this is where the musical world is headed.  However, I will miss the experience of an album, the experience of studying the music, the lyrics, and the art.  I am looking forward to the new age of music, but cds will always be my music medium of choice.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Top Anticipated Albums in 2012

2011 is over and it’s time to take a look at another year of music. This list is my top ten anticipated projects for 2012.

 10. Nine Lashes

Nine Lashes is poised to release World We View on February 14. Discovered by Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch, the group’s debut album on Tooth and Nail Records will feature a modern rock sound reminiscent of 12 Stones and Decyfer Down. The band’s first single, “Anthem of the Lonely,” has already been very successful on Christian rock radio, including a peak at number one on a couple of different charts. With guest vocals from Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter, this album will be a must have for any hard rock fan.

9.  The Letter Black

I was a big fan of The Letter Black’s debut album.  I loved the dual vocals between Sarah and Mark Anthony, and “Believe” is still one of my all time favorite songs.  Two years after the release of their debut, The Letter Black is gearing up for their sophomore record.  According to Sarah Anthony, this record will be heavier than their first.  “We are going to still have some songs like “Hanging On By a Thread,” that everybody loves.  But, we are going a little bit heavier like “Wounded,” with a little bit more screaming here and there.”

8.  Demon Hunter

Not only will Demon Hunter be releasing a new album in 2012, but this year also serves as the tenth anniversary of the band.  It has been ten years since the release of their debut self titled record.  Even though Demon Hunter has seen a couple of member changes over the last couple of years, it’s still safe to predict nothing short of greatness from this metal juggernaut.  While you are waiting for some new metal music, you can check out Demon Hunter’s latest video for “LifeWar.”  It will blow your mind.  

7.  Children 18:3

Coming in at number seven is the punk rock siblings from Minnesota.  With two great punk albums under their belt, Children 18:3 is returning for arguably their most important record to date.  They are easily one of the best bands on Tooth and Nail Records, and their first two albums will be tough to top.  Little to no information has been released about the new album, but you can check out some studio updates from the band on YouTube.

6.  Worth Dying For

One year after the release of their album, Love Riot, Worth Dying For is returning with a brand new live album.  Featuring ten new tracks and some fan favorites off their previous record, Worth Dying For will be bringing back their usual rock worship style.  So far, Worth Dying For has released two songs.  The group released a music video of “The World Can’t Take It Away,” and they released a live version of “Savior” on Itunes.  With a live sound and a couple of new vocalists, this worship record will definitely be one to pick up.

5.  House of Heroes

I truly believe that House of Heroes is the most underrated band in Christian rock music today.  Each new album and each new concept idea brings another fresh take to this alternative rock group.  Their self titled album was almost flawless, The End is Not the End blew me away, and Suburba was another rocking album.  For House of Heroes’ next record, lead vocalist Tim Skipper has already announced that they have 21 completed songs.  Obviously, not all of these songs will make it on the next record, but if House of Heroes has that many songs to choose from, this could be another flawless album.

4.  David Crowder Band

This new album will definitely be a bittersweet moment for the Christian music community.  Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]) will be their final album as a band. After numerous records and addictive worship hits like: “Foreverandever Etc…,” “Come Awake,” “Open Skies,” “No One Like You” and “SMS (Shine),” I will be sad to see this band leave.  With an astonishing 34 songs on their final album, the David Crowder Band will be leaving the music industry not with a whimper, but with a bang.

 3.  Flyleaf

With heavy hitting rock anthems, meaningful lyrics and an occasional scream by Lacey Mosley, this group knows how to make great music.  If you haven’t heard either of their first two albums, you should drop everything and go listen to them right now.  They are that talented.  So far, their new album has been almost shrouded in secrecy.  Flyleaf has entered the studio to work on some new tunes, but no word yet on when new music will be released.

2.  Thousand Foot Krutch

Late in 2011, Thousand Foot Krutch decided to leave Tooth and Nail Records and pave the way as an independent band.  Trusting in their very loyal fans, TFK launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with production costs.  Within a day, the band raised its goal of 40,000 dollars, and to date the group has raised over 100,000 dollars.  As a thank you to fans, Thousand Foot Krutch released a brand new song from their new record entitled “War of Change.”  Stylistically, this song brings back some old school Thousand Foot Krutch with a mixture of hard rock and even a little rap.  After hearing the first song off The End is Where We Begin, this record will be a definite competitor for album of the year.

1.  Skillet

My number one pick is Skillet.  A lot has happened since the release of their latest album, Awake, in 2009.  The group had an explosion of popularity and had to replace long time guitarist Ben Kasica.  Even though it is still way too early to know anything about their new record, many questions still arise.  Is Skillet going to change up their sound like previous records, or are they going to stick to their latest hard rock formula that has gained them so much popularity?  Also, will new guitarist Seth Morrison make an impact on the style or sound of the group?  Finally, what can fans expect from the vocals?  Will Jen Ledger or Korey Cooper add some extra vocals to the new album?  Since it is still early, we will have to wait for these questions to be answered.  But, panheads can rejoice because 2012 marks another Skillet album release.

Overall, here is my list of ten albums that I cannot wait to buy in 2012. Here are a few more bands to look out for. These groups will also be releasing new music in 2012.

The Almost
Write this Down
Stellar Kart
Sent By Ravens