Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great songs that remind us of the truth
Cons: One song needed more polish
The Bottom Line:
Reminders of truth
In some fun soft rock wrappings
Matthew at his best
Matthew West is Back with Brand New Encouragement
While I don’t follow Christian music like I once did, there are certain artists I still love and automatically buy. Matthew West is one of those artists for me. His lyrics are always encouraging, and I enjoy his style. He’s just released Brand New, and, more than anything he’s released in the past, I feel like he is speaking directly to me.
The main theme of the disc is summed up in the title track. (Surprising, right?) The idea behind “Brand New” is that God is still making us brand new each day despite our sin, our failures, and how we think we haven’t progressed far enough. It looks at how we felt when we first became Christians and then encourages us to feel that way every day. Couple that with Matthew’s infectious soft rock, and you’ve got a winner.
The idea of God’s overwhelming forgiveness despite our repeated sins comes up again in “The God Who Stays.” And Matthew marvels in God’s grace in “Grace Upon Grace” and “The Man Who Needed Grace.” He claims God’s promises of grace and mercy over feelings of guilt in “Not Today.” And yes, there are songs about living life purposefully, another common theme for Matthew. “What If” is the biggest that comes to mind. Accepting who God has made us to be pops up in “The Me You Made.” And he makes a passionate plea to be real about our struggles in life with God and those around us in “Truth Be Told.”
You’re probably looking at my comments so far and thinking to yourself, “Mark, I could have guessed all this just based on the titles of the songs.” And you’d be right. There is nothing too surprising or new here, especially if you are a fan of Matthew’s music. But here’s the thing – it’s still true. Just because I’ve heard something before doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear it again. And again. And again. There are powerful truths in these songs, and Matthew has found great ways to express them.
Or maybe it is just that this is the disc I need right now. I’ve felt like many of these songs are written especially for me. There isn’t anything on this disc I didn’t already “know,” but somehow the way Matthew is expressing them is reminding me of these timeless truths in a fresh way. And I can’t thank him enough for that.
There is one track that doesn’t work for me – “Too Young Too Soon.” In it, Matthew takes on teen suicide. Yes, it is a sad subject, so it is a somber song. That’s actually not my issue with it. The verses feel like he tried to work too much into them, making them come across as muddled. It almost feels like a rough draft of a song. Hopefully, that is just me, and the song speaks to those who need to hear it most. The chorus and the bridge are simply powerful, so it’s still a good song, just not at the level of the rest.
“Looking Up” is a great song about the legacy of Matthew’s father in his life and how he learning to look up to God in order to lead his own family. It’s made even more special by his father appearing at the end of the song.
There are fourteen new songs here (yes, there are sixteen tracks, but two are transition tracks). With so many songs, there is something for everyone.
Stylistically, Matthew doesn’t deviate from his usual soft rock. If you enjoy his past releases (which I do), that’s great news indeed.
I am so thankful for the reminders I needed in Brand New. God will be using this release for many years to come in my own life and I’m sure countless others. Thank you, Matthew West, for sharing it with me.
CD Length: 50:37
2. Brand New
3. What If
4. Walking Miracles
5. The God Who Stays
6. Grace Upon Grace
7. Not Today
8. Why I Make Christian Music
9. Love on the Radio
10. Truth Be Told
11. The Me You Made
12. Looking Up
13. Without You
14. Too Young Too Soon
15. Hope Returns
16. The Man Who Needed Grace