Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music Review: Into the Light by Matthew West

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great songs that speak to human struggle with Biblical hope.
Cons: Could use a bit more musical variety
The Bottom Line
Another great disc
Matthew offers us more hope
To face challenges

Matthew West Steps Into the Light with More Stories Inspired by Fans

For his last disc, Matthew West did something different.  He invited his fans to send him stories about their lives, and he used that as inspiration in writing the songs.  It worked so well, that he did it again for his latest release, Into the Light.  And the results are just as fantastic.

Frankly, one of my disappointments is that we don't get at least a hint of the story behind some of the songs in the booklet.  Yes, they are posted on his website, but last time there were a few lines about each song with the lyrics.  Not that these songs aren't universal and enjoyable by all, but it's always fun to hear a bit about what inspired them.

Things start off with the light and bouncy "Into the Light."  It's a fun mid-tempo opener that celebrates our salvation and being freed from the darkness of sin.

"Hello, My Name Is" is one of my favorite tracks here.  Again, this one has a nice, up beat tempo and a very catchy melody.  The first verse talks about regret and defeat, but then the song goes on to remind us that we are really the children of God, and that should be how we identify ourselves.

"Moved by Mercy" is probably the most unique song on here.  The first verse finds Matthew introducing a woman who was abused and hurt as a child.  But starting with the chorus, Caitlin Evanson joins him, and she sings from this woman's point of view while Matthew sings the promises of God that He hasn't abandoned her and is working in her life.  It really captures the struggle between pain and the promises of God well while still offering the hope of God's truth.  While this one starts out slow with some strings, it soon gets a driving rock beat.

And hope is certainly one of the main themes of the disc.  "Unchangeable" focuses on God's unchanging love for us while "Wonderfully Made" reminds us that God made us exactly as He intended.  Even "We are the Broken" is an encouragement to share who we really are so others can see God working through sinful, imperfect people.

There are some songs of struggle here.  "Waitin' on a Miracle" is a song of someone trying to hold on to their faith despite the trials they are facing.  It's surprisingly upbeat musically wise.  "Restored" is the song of a marriage in trouble as two people commit to find the love that once brought them together.  And "The Power of Prayer" is written from the point of view of a kid who is watching his mom's heart break from the way his dad is treating their marriage.  This piano ballad is one of the few slow moments on the disc.

There are even a couple songs of conviction on the disc.  "Forgiveness" is the difficult call to forgive those who have serious wronged us.  It's got some cliched thoughts in it, but it's still a good track.  I also saw where "Do Something" was going early on.  It is a call to action against the unjustness that happens in the world.  The first verse is our reminder that God made each of us to do something to stop these things we see in the world around us.

I've saved my other favorite for the end.  "Love Stands Waiting" is great song reminding us that, no matter what we've done, God's love will take us back when we repent.  It starts out slowly, but soon builds to mid tempo on the chorus.

Honestly, that's the only issue with this disc.  "Forgiveness" and "The Power of a Prayer" are the only truly slow moments here.  The rest is pretty much mid tempo with a few faster tracks.  And it's all guitar and keyboard driven.  It's just shy of blending together.  More stylistic differences would really makes the tracks here stand out.  But that’s a minor point because the songs here are just as powerful.

Matthew has taken what could have been a gimmick and turned it into two great discs now.  Into the Light is a second great disc inspired by real people's struggles and the truths of God's word.  Listen and be encouraged.

CD Length: 52:01
1. Into the Light
2. Hello, My Name Is
3. Forgiveness
4. Do Something
5. Moved by Mercy
6. We are the Broken
7. Unchangeable
8. Wonderfully Made
9. Waitin' on a Miracle
10. Restored
11. Love Stands Waiting
12. The Power of a Prayer

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