I have been listening to Needtobreathe since their first album Daylight came out in 2006. Since then I have seen them exactly 10 times and have plans to see them again in a few months. This is their fifth full length, studio album, titled Rivers In The Wasteland and it has been highly anticipated by numerous media outlets. I am somewhat impressed.
1. – Wasteland – Needtobreathe has always tried to stray themselves away from the stereotype of being a “Christian” band. But with lyrics like, “If God is on my side, then who could be against me?” they seem to have conformed to that belief. I mean the members are religious and it’s their music. I am not so fond of this being an album opener. But the vocals and guitar mesh well together. This song sounds better live.
2. – State I’m In – This song should have been the album opener. “Saw a number on the phone that I don’t recognize. I know I’ve been across this land like ten times now. I’ve seen every little corner of your two bit town.” Here, they are obviously referring to the amount they have been touring. The background vocals make this song what it needs to be, along with the drums. I can see some hipster couple dancing to this. It’s a cute song. and definitely needs to be played live as soon as possible.
3. – Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now – This is my favorite song on the album. It definitely reminds me of Prisoner from their album The Outsiders. Bear’s vocals and Bo’s guitar make me excited to hear this song live. “Yeah, they ain’t stopped me since I was eighteen. I’m moving faster than my enemies.” This totally refers to the beginning of the band and it is perfect. The opening grunt from Bear really kicks off this song and gives hope for the rest of the album.
4. – Oh, Carolina – I first heard this song live last year in Birmingham at Workplay. It was the first song of that set and I was forever spoiled. This is probably my second favorite song on this album and it reminds me of something you would hear on the band’s second album The Heat (My favorite, FYI). The song is an homage to their home state of South Carolina. “Oh, Carolina, when I get back home to you, we’re gonna start a fire. Oh, you know I miss you. When we get back home to you we got a story to give ya.” The band is very passionate about being from South Carolina so this song bodes well for their state.
5. – Difference Maker – They have played this song at every show I have been to in the last two years, since their previous album The Reckoning was released. There was an earlier demo version of this song on their La Diferencia EP from 2013 that sounds completely different than this version. The demo version and the live version are way better than this version. The demo version is more raw. The live version is done a cappella. This version is a tad disappointing. It also goes back to an earlier statement of not trying to be a “Christian” band. This is the first album where they have directly alluded to God. “Isn’t it amazing how God can take a broken man, let him find and a fortune, let him ruin it with his own two hands.” One of my favorite lyrics of all time does come from this song though: “Life is but a vision in a window that we’re peeking through. It’s a helpless conversation with a man who says he cares a lot. It’s a passive confrontation about who might throw a punch or not. And we are all transgressors. We’re all sinners. We’re all astronauts. So if you’re beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you’re not.” When you hear it live, they scream it at the top of their lungs in perfect harmony.
6. – Rise Again – I am still waiting on this song to grow on me. I do like the background vocals though. Good job, Seth Bolt. The blend of guitar and piano sounds pretty. Good vocal range, Bear.
7. – The Heart – This song is amazing. It sounds like Valley of Tomorrow and The Outsiders from their third album The Outsiders and More Time from their second album, The Heat. I always find myself asking my DJ friends to play this during their slots on WVUA FM. The harmonies are beautiful and the lyrics are perfect. “Can’t waste time when it comes time to dance” is the cutest lyric ever and it makes me think of Disney princesses. This song is forever on repeat and I cannot wait to hear it live. The hand claps, foot stomps, and vocal range make this song one of the best on the album.
8. – Where The Money Is – This song is different than their normal songs and I think I like it. It reminds me of You Are here from their first album Daylight. My favorite lyric from this song is “These days are easy. They come to life these colors bright and they all are mine. I only move in a lovers march. My only grief is when we spend these days apart.” This song is not my favorite either, but it has potential.
9. – Multiplied – Once again, they have started to appeal more to a church crowd, which is what they did not want to label themselves as in the first place, but hey, to each his own. “God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to your design. May this offering stretch across the sky and these hallelujahs be multiplied.” Yeah, this sounds like a song I would hear in church. This is probably my least favorite song on the album.
10. – Brother – Totally reminds me of Keep Your Eyes Open from their fourth album The Reckoning. Bear’s voice is beautiful here too. The harmonies in the chorus gave me chills. “Brother let me be your shelter, never leave you all alone. I can be the one to call when you’re low. Brother let me be your fortress when the night winds are driving on, be the one to light the way, bring you home.” Are those tears in my eyes? Yes, they are. This song gets a ten out of ten. If I ever hear this live, I will personally high five every member of the band. Seth Bolt’s background vocals make this perfect. Bear really puts his heart into this song and you can hear it.
11. – More Heart, Less Attack – I think this song is portraying that we need to love more and hate less, which is a good life lesson we should all try to abide by. The more you take, the less you have. ‘Cause it’s you in the mirror that’s staring back, quick to let go, slow to react. Be more heart and less attack.” The harmonies at the end are on point and the drums are awesome. The outro to this song is powerful. This is a great closing song. It leaves you with something to think about.
Overall, this is not my favorite Needtobreathe album, but I will always support my favorite bands regardless, even if one album does not knock my socks off. I was still impressed by the approach they took for this album. And who knows, it may grow on me.