Tooth And Nail Records
Release Date: October 22nd 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
I’m not sure how pop/rock Hyland were signed to Tooth And Nail Records, more well known for their heavier artists such as The Letter Black, Run Kid Run, Icon For Hire, Nine Lashes, Children 18:3 and Write This Down. Nevertheless, the label have a winner in the new album Finding Our Way, as the Minnesota-quartet have captured the best of piano pop and soft rock as I am challenged and inspired to live a live pleasing to Jesus. While probably not as lyrically powerful as veteran Bebo Norman (who also releases on the same day!); this young band is maturing very quickly, with songs that are still moving. While I was impressed by “This Love Is Free”, not much stuck out on Weights And Measures. Quite the opposite with Finding Our Way, produced by Jeff Schneeweis and Seth Mosley; which is in fact a prophetic title as the boys of Hyland are definitely growing up and discovering their own path, and changing things up, especially in song writing, as eloquently put by Jon: “…Being a songwriter, and writing music just because you love to write it, you write songs for yourself. If that relates to people, that’s awesome, and if it doesn’t you have a tendency to say, ‘That was for me, anyway’. On this album, there are still a couple of storytelling songs, songs about my life, and I hope people can relate to them, but there are also songs – and this is a new thought for us – that are about something we know people are going through, topics we want to really attack, to bring some hope to some people…”. There are plenty of pop and rock melodies for me to be excited about.
“Power And Love” opens proceedings, a bold move for the band to delay the introduction of the electric guitar until the 2nd verse, and even then it is played in the background! Apart from that musical experimentation, the electronic song driven by synth, keys and drums is something that I definitely want to dance to as I am enthralled by the captivating opener. Particularly in the chorus, where lead singer Jon Lewis belts out ‘…This is a last stand, the cry for the comeback, the future is still untold, your story isn’t written in stone, fight your indifference, this is resistance, it’s time to live in power and love…’, thematically I became reminded of Timothy 1:7, where God tells us that we should not have a spirit of fear, and looking back over past regrets and wishing things to be different. Rather, we should have a spirit of power and love, basically what the song prophetically declares over us, again what Jon expands upon- “…A lot of times we look at our past and our failures and say, ‘Oh well, God can’t use me. I’m too fearful to move forward.’ I don’t want people to be timid. The second verse says, ‘The mighty have fallen, but you are still here, so learn where they lacked.’ You see Christians failing all over the place. They’re everywhere. You don’t have to be one of them. God is calling you to more than that.”! Grabbing my attention from the get-go, this upbeat toe tapper segues into “Wondering and Waiting”, a guitar prominent coming-of-age song where the guys in the band explore their questions and longings, as Jon sings in this song about how we each are unique but underneath everything, humanity has the same problems. Asking rhetorical questions to God ‘…if everything is working for my good, will I make it home?…’, also is a thought provoker- whatever we do with our lives should be glorifying and edifying Jesus, otherwise the focus of our lives needs to be shifted.
The first single “Beauty In The Broken” is next, a piano pop melody based on Jeremiah 29:11- “…As humans we spend so much time thinking about what we want to accomplish…it’s great to know that when tragedy strikes, or when something causes us to lose our focus, God is there saying, ‘I have plans for you. I have dreams for you.’ It’s sometimes hard to see it, but God is there. He has a bigger plan for you than anything you’d ever dream…”. God is right here in the midst of all of our struggles, pain and baggage, and He is wanting to let us know that we don’t have to carry around this stuff in our lives, and He can and will take care of everything. The topic of knowing our future, and that Jesus has plans for us, even when we can’t see it, bigger than we ever can imagine, is very comforting. The chorus especially has a God-feel to it, with Jon singing from God’s perspective ‘…Let Me hold you through it, let Me carry you, I know it feels you’re at the end, but here your story’s just beginning, I know your tomorrow, I know where you are; though you can’t see past the moment, I see beauty in the broken…’. What brilliant words right there! “Beauty In The Broken” is one of my favourite songs in 2012!
Experimental tracks “Brothers” and “Calm In The Storm” round out the first half of the album. “Brothers” speaks about finding our identity in Jesus, and the method of using Jon speaking through a wise old person imparting knowledge and experiences to the younger generation is very creative and unique! “Calm In The Storm” on the other hand has the Owl City/Adam Young signature all over it, even in the voices and the 30 second instrumental outro, which is a great as this is Hyland’s most progressive musical track on the album. Lyrically and thematically, Jon reminds us that God will never leave is in our storms and our troubles, and that His grace and love will shower us and direct us to be more in His presence, and content because of His eternal promises, a truth that never be told enough!
Hyland continues to push the envelope musically in their remaining tracks also. “More Than Famous” is a straight up worship song with pop elements complete with synth and piano as the driving force. With Jon commenting on the busyness of famous people, and how God’s presence and holiness transcends time is everlasting, and is greater than any fame one could chase after, which will ultimately be transient; the heart of the song is given in the chorus, as I close my eyes and proclaim to God his fame along with the words ‘…You are never changing, You remain always, I give You my life, You’re glorious; You are never failing, yesterday and today the same, forever You are God alone, You’re more than famous…’. Jesus is more worthy of adoration and praise than any ‘famous’ person, especially because God is everlasting, and was, is and is to come! “Work In Progress”, a short but sweet 2 minute tune, contains whistling, and hand claps across a mesmerising electric guitar riff, as this unique quick song reminds me of the potter and the clay in Jeremiah 18. We are all clay in the Potter’s hand, which is Jesus’. We are all a work in progress, and once we accept that Christ is continually moulding and shaping us to do the works that He did and greater; we can rest easy that ‘…three steps forward, two steps back…’ will never be the norm, so long as Jesus is living and breathing through us, giving us reassurance and peace that ‘…you’re not alone, out here on your own, and you’ll be just fine…’.
The personal tracks are closer near the end of the track listing. The keys and strings based power ballad “Lucky In Love” is about Jon courting his wife, written on their wedding day, a reminder to us all to be faithful to our spouses, and that commitment is for life, which can be achieved through Jesus’ help! The depiction of a husband and a wife’s love is also only a grain of sand in comparison to God’s love for each one of us, so we should consider ourselves very ‘lucky’ and respond to that unconditional love! “Well Done” is probably the most emotional song on the album, about Jon’s relationship with his dad, and this acoustic track wasn’t supposed to be included on the album- “…this song was written at 3am with a heavy heart. It wasn’t written for Hyland originally, just words I needed to get off my chest. The song was never intended to make the album, as this is a vulnerable song about my repairing relationship with my dad. Once we started playing it live, the immediate and surprising reaction that we saw and felt, it was apparent that it just had to make the album…”. With no drums at all, and the electric guitar only played for minimal effect, this tear jerker speaks about knowing about God’s unending love for us, and believing that He is proud of us and will say “Well done” when we enter into His kingdom! Even if we do not have a good relationship with our earthly parents, God loves us to bits; and we can count on Him 100%! Isn’t that fantastic! The album closer, with haunting gang vocals and acoustic guitar strums and a rousing synth crescendo and an anthemic orchestral finish; is also very lyrically moving and poignant as well. Speaking about letting go of our hurts and giving it all to our Heavenly Father; Jon assures Jesus is all we need, and His love will never fail us, and is 100% reliable- we can trust and hold onto the arms of unconditional Love!
Approaching the songwriting of Finding Our Way from a different standpoint, as Hyland has recorded the album with some songs based on stories from other people, like what Matthew West did in the past and currently; the 5 piece band in Jon, Mitch, Ben, Josiah and Steve have realised that music is a vehicle and means different things to different people, and that each person was impacted by the music in many ways, as mentioned by the drummer Steve “…based on the amount of people that gave to us and supported our ministry, it made us realize how much people were invested in us. It made us see the responsibility that we had to those people, so we wanted to be more focused and intentional about what we were saying. That process made us hone in spiritually and evaluate not just what we want to say as a band, but what we want to say to the people who are listening…”. The band had received immense support from fans supporting them when their gear was stolen in 2011, and as a result of recognising the needs of their fans and listeners; a mature solid piano pop/rock gem of an album has resulted. I am gladly happy to say this will be part of my ‘multiple playlists’ pile, and I would definitely advocate Hyland receiving a Dove Award nomination for Rock/Contemporary album of the year! Well done guys, you thoroughly deserve it! A fine effort! Who says the sophomore slump is an actual phenomenon? Not me, that’s for sure!
- Power & Love
- Wondering & Waiting
- Beauty In The Broken
- Calm in Our Storm
- More Than Famous
- Work in Progress
- Lucky in Love
- Well Done
- Never Fails You
Favourite Tracks: Power and Love, Beauty In The Broken, More Than Famous, Well Done, Never Fails You