Release Date: March 13th 2012 (digital download on iTunes); March 26th 2012 (physical copy)
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Nicole Croteau- Anchors and Silhouettes (Amazon MP3/iTunes)
Dream Records, home to Press Play, Warr Acres, Jonathan Thulin, now has a new artist signed. Nicole Croteau, lead female vocalist of Press Play, will release ‘Anchors and Silhouettes’ March 13th 2012. Dream Records have signed an artist full of integrity and vibrant energy, with an unwavering faith in Jesus. Nicole is an honest and brilliant songwriter and singer, her debut sparkling in her acoustic strengths and her passion for God. With a writing style similar to Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Bear Rineheart of Needtobreathe and a powerful voice likened to Brooke Fraser and Kim Walker-Smith from Jesus Culture; Nicole has prayerfully explored numerous topics through her 12 debut tracks, engaging listeners with her folk and southern roots.
And what a track to start off with. ‘Falling’, the bubbly and jovial track that is the perfect starter, gives the listener an insight into a relationship with Jesus Christ, as Nicole proclaims ‘…In Your presence, is where I need to be, cause that’s where I’m complete…’ It’s hard not to tap your toes to this one, as Nicole expresses that her love for God everyday is an adventure. God is leading the way, and we will continually be surprised but that is what makes us ‘…fall more in love with You…’.
Transitioning from the captivating opener is the acoustic guitar driven ballad ‘Storyteller’. Nicole, whose inspiring voice will resonate in the hearts of many, delves into delivering a straight forward message ‘…don’t doubt in the dark what you knew in the Light, don’t give up your heart, what you need to survive…’. Such rousing lyrics, ‘Storyteller’ will warm the soul of even the most hardened of sceptics.
‘Pushed Down’ is a track dedicated to all of the insecurities and troubles in our lives. Because of our faith in God those things should not matter to us anymore and our fears ‘…won’t walk over me anymore…’ With a breath of fresh air, Nicole proclaims a freedom anthem, as giving up in this life isn’t what God had in His plan. Acoustically driven, this song can also be seen as a rededication of anyone’s life to Jesus, when they are feeling like they have to perform, they don’t have to; because Jesus paid the price of our sin on the Cross, and rose three days later.
‘Amazing’, a fun and quirky song, almost did not make the album cut, however I am glad Nicole chose this song in the end. A song about resting in the presence of God and starting a relationship with Jesus Christ, the banjo and guitar create a country feel, one that brings Nicole’s vocals and the lyrics to the forefront; also showing the listeners that Jesus is amazing!
One of the songs that impacted me on first listen is the confronting and sobering ballad ‘Think About It’. Nicole has a way of challenging the listener yet not making one feel guilty. Instead I feel inspired. A story about how society in this millennia has been trapped in sin and a life of materialism, Nicole has given hope in this song, singing that ‘…you could end this war…’ in reference to how one person can change a person’s life, like a pebble thrown into a lake with ripple effects. As said by Nicole on her song by song explanations: Even the Christian world gets so caught up in the “world.”…I simply was speaking from my heart, asking the people of our world to wake up and look around them. A thought to ponder; and a voice to marvel upon.
Rounding off the first half of the album is the moving ‘Sacred Romance’ where Nicole compares her relationship with Jesus Christ as one that is sacred. A song of total surrender to God, Nicole sings to God ‘…in the morning, when I rise, You’re the very first thought on my mind…’ and the praises and declarations do not stop from there. In the chorus, Nicole cries out that there is no other besides Jesus. What a powerful truth! Nicole’s vocals are brought to the fore, through the acoustic intention of the song. This is one of my favourite songs that bring out the message of this album most effectively. Jesus is our Anchor and our Everything. He is a new mystery to discover continually every day.
First single ‘Butterflies’ is next, a pop feel good song, driven heavily by acoustic guitars, about the intricacies of our relationship with Jesus. ‘Butterflies’ is a declaration of God’s love for us, and that His Grace covers everything we have done or will do. The most powerful lyric is in the chorus, and Nicole executes this perfectly ‘…Your love is enough, Your face says it all, I get these butterflies, I know that You’ll be there when I fall…’ A song that it easy to dance to, this is a timely reminder of God’s love for humanity.
‘Rescue’ follows soon after, in which Nicole raises the bar in her storytelling, her explaining of God’s qualities ever so accurate and reassuring. With a haunting harmonica riff in the background, and expansive acoustic guitar strums in the chorus, ‘Rescue’ is a guarantee that God is always there and he knew us before time. God was bringing me back to the promises in his word. He knit me together in my mother’s womb and knows every single hair on my head, So he knows what I am going through even before I go through it. He offers His hands to hold on to and He tells us He will lead if only we will follow. Such a profound truth! That God knows everything in everyone’s lives is daunting, yet is comforting too.
‘…so let Your love come like a hurricane, let it fall down like rain, drowning me, surrounding me…’. ‘Hurricane’ is a simple yet effective and emotional song of utter abandonment and praise to Jesus. For me, this song epitomises the message Nicole brings to this album, and the once again the acoustic guitars driving the song only enhance the power of Nicole’s vocals, making me marvel at her faith. A spontaneous instrumental bridge followed by Nicole declaring ‘…drown me in Your love until it’s all I know…’; ‘Hurricane’ has a comforting message, that Jesus is with us, and His strength is enough for us to thrive in any circumstance.
Following from the reflective ‘Hurricane’, is the equally sombre yet reassuring ‘Devon’, written for a friend whose mother had passed away. Listening through this song, it is hard not to be emotional and shed a tear, as it is clear Nicole has poured her heart and soul into this song dedicated to her friend. Nicole’s friend’s mother had been a positive influence in her life, and for her life to be cut short is by no means sad and unfortunate. In the chorus, Nicole has questions that she grapples with God, such as why He allows people to die ‘before their time’. ‘…Can You see me, can You hear me, are You listening when I call Your name?…’ While the answer may not be as clear cut as many would like, God still promises that he will ride with us through our storms, and later on Nicole sings about hope, as ‘…yesterday’s over, and it was beautiful, and I know we still have someday, I’ll see you someday…’ She and her friend will see her friends’ mother in heaven. A comforting and thought provoking song that will challenge any who listen, Nicole has set the standard for tear jerker songs to the highest level.
‘The Getaway’ is a fun song to listen to, a nice song to dance to, and the total opposite in feel to the previous two tracks. However Nicole’s earnest message is always there; a song about standing up for what you believe in, even if it means running the opposite way away from the crowd. Because Jesus is with us, we can truly stand for what we believe, even if we are ridiculed! On multiple listens to this song, I am reminded of Romans 12:2, how we as Christians should not conform to the patterns of the world, as we are strangers in this land, and we belong with Jesus. So whenever trouble is with us, and the enemy is close, we should act like in this song- going in a ‘getaway car’ speeding off into the direction Jesus wants to take us; to be more and more like Him.
Lastly, the album closer ‘Thirsty Roots’ is a song, according to Nicole, about waiting for the right one, and not settling our of impatience. This is an issue that is really important to me, and I think this song embodies the benefits of waiting, even though it’s not easy all the time. Our priority in this life should not be of things in this world, but be for Jesus alone. As Nicole sings out ‘…I’m waiting to give my heart to You, Your love’s the water to my thirsty roots…’ I am continually amazed at the ability of Nicole to defy my expectations for this album.
Nicole’s passion is evident throughout this album, and ‘Anchors and Silhouettes’ is a stellar debut from an artist with a bright future, both as a solo act and as a member of Press Play. For fans of Needtobreathe, Brooke Fraser and Switchfoot, Nicole’s album is such an assorted smorgasbord, and there’s enough diversity for most people to enjoy this album, with slower ballads and up tempo pop songs. If her 2nd album is anything like her first, then Nicole’s musical future is in good stead! Keep up the good work Nicole! I am now anticipating your 2nd album, and no doubt there will be many treasures on there too!
- Pushed Down
- Think About It
- Sacred Romance
- The Getaway
- Thirsty Roots