Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Abel's Lesser Men

A year after the release of their debut EP, indie rock outfit Abel brings fans their first full-length album, Lesser Men. According to vocalist Kevin Kneifel, “the album is about how we often lose focus on the things that are truly lasting and important in this life.”

There’s a certain musical freedom about Lesser Men. Instead of letting song structures define the direction of vocals and instruments, Abel allows the vocals and instruments to carry the songs, giving the album a rawness and authenticity that many albums lack.

Lyrically, Lesser Men is pretty straightforward; yet, clever metaphors are found on “Titanic” and “The Martyr.” One of my favorite lines on the album, though simple, is strikingly powerful, “There’s no greater love/There’s no greater call/than when You said, ‘Come, follow me.’” (“The Martyr”).

Lesser Men is one of those rare albums that offers the best of both worlds, great music and uplifting, honest lyrics. This is indie rock at its best.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interview: Lovelite

Andrew Polfer of Lovelite talks about the band's new album, it's sci-fi cover art, & more... 

How did Lovelite get started?

My wife and I have always enjoyed making music together. We used to do a coffee shop singer/songwriter style but we found that writing worship songs was so much more fulfilling for us personally.  Several opportunities opened up at the college I was attending (Azusa pacific). Some of our songs were being used in the chapel services.  That encouraged us to keep writing at which point several of our friends joined our band and we formed lovelite.    

Where did the name Lovelite come from?

The name comes from Ephesians 5 "for we were one children of darkness and now we are children on light". So, in other words we used to love-dark now we love-lite. The spelling is "lite" for a stylistic preference.

How did the band get hooked up with Come&Live!?

Well, that's an interesting story. As we were getting ready to release our CD all color I received an email from Chad Johnson. He still worked as an a&r guy for toothandnail and we thought that he was going to talk to us about joining that label. But instead he offered us to join in a incredible call to a new type of Christian label, one that offers free music and more importantly offers the opprotunity to "live simply and give generously"

What were some of the musical and lyrical influences for your latest release, Nearness?

Musically speaking we really enjoy Doves, Elbow, sleeping at last, and peter Gabriel.
Lyrically we love the poetry in old hymns and that usually challenges us. Almost as a lofty hope of creating new liturgy.

What inspired the title-track, “Nearness?”

Nearness sums up a spiritual season that my wife and I went through. It's based on the idea that often we feel as if God is far from us.  It may make us feel dry and possibly feel like were living without purpose. But the reality is that God remains close and is willing to re spark the passion if we ask for it. It often takes a journey of spiritual dryness in order to realize where we are most satisfied.

Who came up with the album artwork for Nearness and how does it relate to the album’s overarching theme of drawing nearer to God?

The artwork was created by a great friend named Matt sheean.  We wanted something that was more than digital Photoshop style artwork. So we chose to go with a watercolor feel.
We got together with the artist before he developed it and we came up with the idea together.

As far as the science fiction theme; The final track on the album is called "perihelion". It refers to when the time of year that the earth is closest to the sun. We thought that was quite poignant in regards to being "near" to God.

We enjoyed the idea of the journey of a space traveler. It seemed to be a great allegory for our own personal journey through spiritual dryness.  There's  a comic inside the physical copy. Also, how often does a worship band have sci fi art for their music.

What’s the songwriting process like for Lovelite?

My wife and I are both involved in the writing process. I usually start the songs with a melody or a lyrical idea. It's usually very raw and unrealized. I then talk to to Jen and she helps craft it into a completed and understandable song. Every song is a collaboration between the two of us. Recently we've begun to write with the guy who produced our album, Tyler Chester as well as our guitar player, Adam Taylor.

Several months ago, Lovelite posted a video tutorial for “There You Are.” Do you plan on posting tutorials for any other songs in the future?

Haha. Yeah those are a lot of fun for us to do. We plan to do more. You might not be able to tell by the end result but it takes quite a bit of time for me to do those.

Are there any social justice or philanthropic organizations that the band’s really passionate about?

We are passionate about homelessness   We have been involved with the San Diego rescue mission for some of their events and we would love to continue to serve in that way.

I noticed that all of your upcoming shows are in your home state, California. Does Lovelite only do one-off dates? Or do you go on full tours around the country as well?

For most of our musical lives we've been mostly in California. We've recently started working with a new booking agent named mark mattingly at paradigm booking. We are hoping to play out more with this new relationship

Does Lovelite have any plans (tours, music videos, etc.) for 2011 yet?

Well we hope to participate next year in a lot the festivals as well as pursuing some touring. A music video is possibly in the works with a great filmmaker named Andy Reale. He works with come&live and he is incredible.  We also are working on more music. We love the writing and recording process

Get Lovelite's Nearness for FREE at

For more info on Lovelite visit

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Lovelite's Nearness

After the release of their phenomenal debut, Lovelite returns with a new EP, Nearness. Husband and wife, Andrew and Jen Polfer, wrote songs "wanting God to renew [their] passion and drive for ministry." The result: Nearness EP, an indie/worship album with luscious melodies, appealing instrumentation, and lyrics glorifying the Creator. 

A thick 80's synth lays the foundational soundscape of "Apathy." The fast-paced indie rocker showcases the couple's impeccable harmonies. "Brevity" brings the tempo down with serene instruments and more pretty harmonies. Musically, "Ambition" takes a more serious tone, fitting with the prayerful lyrics, "My ambition is to bring joy to You/I'll do anything if You ask me to." 

The title-track is one of the highlights of the album. Dreamy guitar motifs and Jen's rich yet angelic-like vocals pair well with the song's intimate lyrics- "Give me a nearness/I want to feel fire/Your friendship is tireless." 

"Invisible One" and "Finally Free" are vertically-focused worship tunes that could be suitable for corporate worship, as their melodies are easier to sing and follow than the other songs on the album.

Nearness is not your typical worship album; there are no cliche lyrics, predictable melodies, or bland instrumentation. With a lot of bands, I find, I must decide between creative music or solid lyrics. Lovelite is one of the few bands that offers both.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview: Haydon Spenceley

Haydon Spenceley shares about his new album, favorite bands, & songwriting...

When did you first get involved in music?

I think music has been a part of me from the earliest bits of my life. My mum's musical, as is my dad (although he won't admit it) so I was always around music growing up. I started learning drums and piano at nine, as well as singing in Choirs at Church and at school. Given my disability (I have Cerebral Palsy and use a manual wheelchair) and the diagnosis I'd been given as a small child, it was always seen as pretty unlikely I'd be able to play any instruments, but I loved them so much I just kept going and going with them. When I was about fourteen I started writing songs, all the way along encouraged by amazing teachers and friends, and then eventually, in 2003, made a CD called Project Freedom with help from a charity over here called Whizz Kidz. From there it kinda spiralled, so that, by 2007 we (Freeslave) had released four or five CDs, including a full length, and done pretty well nationally here. From there my own life unravelled a bit, and I went solo, almost while God was doing works of healing and reconciliation in my life, and now here I am, with a second solo album, and a big passion to share what God has done in my life and is doing, and is offering to all, whereas in the old days I was more interested in being cool and liked, if you get what I mean. 

What bands did you listen to growing up?

Delirious? were a big influence on me growing up. I remember being a kid and watching them chart back in 1997 and being almost obsessed with them. I've since found out that this isn't really healthy, and also that they're thoroughly decent chaps, rather than big shot rock stars, but that's hard to process when you're 12! I also loved Oasis, Blur, Pulp, British bands like that from the Britpop era. Later on bands like Matthew (amazing band, everyone should buy their one album) and a lot of Christian bands from the UK like Kato and Quench, that I've since had the pleasure of touring with.

You used to be a member of a band called Freeslave? Why did you decide to go solo?  

I think I sort of answered that already. Basically, the band would have carried on and worked, and probably still been going, if I'd handled it better, and been easier to be in a band with, and we'd communicated better as a bunch of guys, but sadly I lacked maturity and common sense, and acted like an idiot at various points, and something which could have been  really great came to an end just when we were at the point of achieving something special. That's a big regret of mine. Now though, as my life and circumstances have changed, with working for a Church, and also as I find the travelling you need to do for touring pretty arduous, it's quite nice to be doing things solo on my own terms.

What were some of the musical and lyrical influences for your latest release, Heart Strings?

I love bands like Mutemath, Aqualung, Stateless and Telefon Tel Aviv. If I could scratch the surface of their songwriting skill and inherent creativity I'd be pretty happy. Lyrically I wanted to write a hopeful record, and give a picture of who I've been as a person and an artist, and the person I am now, and shine an expectant light on the life that is to come, if we choose to accept the offer that God makes to us in Jesus.

Do you have a favorite song from the new record?

I have two. Crying, and Masterplan. Crying, I wrote on September 12th 2001, after praying around 9/11 and seeking God for His voice and heart about what was going on there. The idea that human violence one to another, in whatever form, breaks the heart of God is, I think, valid and important for us to grasp as it was then and has been throughout time. Masterplan is very personal, as it deals with the issue of beauty and self-worth. As a bloke, I'm not supposed to think of myself as beautiful really, not very manly that, but God delights in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zeph 3:14-17). Throughout my life I've struggled with self worth and self image, because of being disabled, feeling less than a man, and not thinking that I stand comparison with other people, because of that and who I've been, but God loved me so much He sent Jesus to die for me so that I could know Him, love Him, and be made like Him, and through Him, I am made beautiful. If we're made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and God is love and beauty, how can we not be a little bit like that, even in our fallen state? Once we accept Christ as Saviour and friend, we are restored, reconciled, made new in Him, beautiful. When I started to write this record, every show we were playing I seemed to meet people who struggled along similar lines to me, and it seemed like it is God's heart for this generation that we, in humility, know who we are in Christ, how beautiful we are, that we are hidden in the palm of God's hand, that He covets us, that He loves us, and rejoices over us. I think if we, as a Church really got this, it would revolutionize our lives, and the ministry we exercise in the world.

What was the inspiration for “Lost My Heart?”

I wanted to write a song about putting God above and before every other part of my life. Singing "Take it all from me, all the treasure of this life to which I cling, till you are the only thing I adore" every time you go on stage is a humbling thing to do, and also a dangerous prayer. I long for many people to join with me in singing that, and seeking ways for our lives to reflect it.

What do you hope listeners take away from the album?

I hope people meet, get to know, fall in love with, and commit their lives to Jesus, and if my album plays some part in that then there could be nothing better than that for me.

Where do you draw inspiration for your songwriting?

All over really. More often than that experiences trigger a desire to write, and then I bunk down for a while and get on with it. I have large swathes of time when I don't write a note, and then it all happens at once. This year I've found writing very difficult, because a lot of the joy, and drive and determination, which drove me on in the past, has disappeared. I've had a few industry-related disappointments, and felt let down a few times, as well as feeling like I've let people down a fair bit too, but I'm emerging blinking into the songwriting sunlight once again right now, getting ready for my next project.

Do you have any songwriting tips for amateur songwriters?

Write what you love. If you love it, others will. If you hate it, they probably will too. Don't force it, it'll come, and if you write about or to or for God, keep it that way. Don't get swayed by a desire to sell units or for radio or whatever else. He delights in you, He is your audience, your fanbase. If you offer, truly offer something to Him, for His use, don't be surprised if He takes it and uses it in ways you've never dreamed of. Oh, and always love on your band, be friends with them, and stay friends with them whatever happens. I didn't do this well, a few times in my life, and I regret the loss of people from my life much more than I enjoy listening to the records I've made. You'll be friends much longer than you'll have good hair.

Any plans for music videos or tours?

The record's out on November 22nd, digitally all over the world. Please buy it, share it, love it, and tell your friends about it. All sorts of things could happen after that but for now I'll try and remain content and carry on serving at home, and just see what God has in store.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Haydon Spenceley's Heart Strings

Two years after the release of his debut album, U.K. artist Haydon Spenceley is readying for the release of his second solo album, Heart Strings. A glorious fusion of synthpop and rock, Heart Strings weaves through a myriad of spiritual themes including, love, surrender, and hope.

Heart Strings opens with the bright, poppy title-track, similar in vein to Owl City (minus the vocals), but with more straightforward lyrics. "Hiding Place" is just as upbeat, with fast-paced percussion. One of the highlights of the album, "Lost My Heart," is an atmospheric, melancholy tune. The message can be summed up by verse 6:20 in the book of Matthew, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (NIV)."

Songs like "Lay It Down" and "Save My Day" are synth-based but have more of rock edge than others. The acoustic-driven "King of Glory" has a slight folk-flare to it, reminiscent of John Mark McMillan. "Masterplan" is the epic closer- somber and slow-building, carried by strings and haunting vocals.

Heart Strings is the perfect album for synthpop and 80's electronica fans. My only complaint is that the production is a bit lacking. Some spots sound a little empty. That aside, Heart Strings is a solid album, oozing with originality and the love of Jesus.

For more information on Haydon Spenceley visit
Heart Strings pre-release is available on NoiseTrade.
Be on the lookout for an exclusive interview with Haydon to be posted shortly!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Revelation Generation: Sunday

Sunday at RevGen was noticeably lighter in attendance than the previous day. It picked up in the evening, but I think RevGen may want to consider going back to a Friday and Saturday for next year. Anyway, I was super excited about the line-up for Sunday, because I hadn't seen quite a few of the bands live before, which is very unusual considering I've seen well over a hundred Christian bands.

After an interview with The Ember Days, I staked out a spot at The New York stage in anticipation for indie rock group Between The Trees. I honestly didn't expect them to be as energetic as they were. They seemed to genuinely enjoy the RevGen crowd. I was surprised to learn a few days later that Between The Trees is disbanding at the end of the year :(

As Showbread emerged on the Philadelphia stage, it was very apparent that they hadn't had much sleep recently. Even though Showbread's performance was more subdued than usual, they still performed their songs passionately (but then how can you sing "I hate music because of you" and not be passionate?) and Josh even threw in a few jokes like, "What has eight wheels and is green? Grass; I lied about the eight wheels." After "A Man With A Hammer," I headed over to the Come&Live! Stage.

A number of people earlier in the day had encouraged me to check out a worship band called Ascend The Hill. I was late to their set and only heard their last two songs, but that was all it took to make me a fan. The band recently released a new worship album, check out my review.

I've been a fan of Emery since their debut album, so I was really stoked about seeing their live performance for the first time. It was one of the few performances that I stayed for the full set. Josh Head is like the Xanadu of Emery, if you're familiar with Family Force 5. He gets the crowd going by jumping around the stage, moonwalking, and jumping off the stage to interact with the crowd. But he also contributes to the vocal duties (screaming) and he plays keys. Emery opened with one of my favorites, "Studying Politics" then they moved into an oldie but a goodie, "The Ponytail Parades," off of their debut. Half way through their set, they announced that their upcoming album would be released in January and it would be the "heaviest album [they] ever recorded" (I hate it when bands say that. It's rarely true.). Emery closed with the infamous "Walls" (I have to wonder if they're getting sick of that song).

Mae is not really my thing, but their set was enjoyable, minus their opening song which was really mellow, and frankly, a bizarre opener. There seemed to be a number of dedicated Mae fans in the crowd, faithfully singing along with the band. I may not be into Mae, but it's a bummer they're breaking up because from what I saw, they're a really talented bunch.

I missed The Ember Days' set on the Philadelphia Stage the day before, so I made it a point to get myself over to the Come&Live! stage to see their second set. They announced that they were going to start by playing through their new EP, Finger Painting (a phenomenal album btw, get it for free at, along with Ascend The Hill's new album). After the first song, I had to leave for a last minute interview with Showbread. I wish I could have seen The Ember Days' full set, but I was not about to pass up an interview with one of my favorite bands.

The O.C. Supertones set was an unexpected surprise for me. I'm not a fan of ska, but the Supertones stage presence is unmatchable. I don't think I can put it into words, it's something you have to see for yourself. I had to move away from the dancers in the crowd a few times because I started choking from the dust rising from the ground. A slight, but steady wind blew the dust on stage and I caught the vocalist, who is known as "Mojo," coughing a few times. RevGen was one of the few festivals that the Supertones were reuniting for, so it was a treat to see one of the most beloved Christian bands of all time.

Anberlin was the headliner at the Philadelphia stage on Sunday, and the only headliner that I saw at RevGen. The Florida-based alt. rock group opened like lightning with "Godspeed." Following was "The Resistance" and "Whisper & Clamour," during which the crowd surfing began. Anberlin continued with fan favorites like, "Paperthin Hymn" and "Unwinding Cable Car." At this point I was exhausted, as much as I wanted to see the rest of their set, I couldn't force my eyes open for much longer.

RevGen continues to top its line-up every year. And as far as Christian music festivals, it has one of the most diverse line-ups. I'm upset as I'm writing this though, because this year is probably the last year that I'll be at RevGen for awhile (I'm moving to Nashville next summer). But for those of you that will be in the Frenchtown area next September, don't miss out on one of the greatest Christian music festivals!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Revelation Generation: Saturday

For most people, Labor Day weekend is a time to get together with family and friends to celebrate the last weekend of the summer. For Christian music junkies in the New Jersey area, like me, Labor Day weekend is a time to see performances by some of the best bands Christian music has to offer at Revelation Generation Festival. Revelation Generation, or RevGen as it’s commonly referred to, has only been around for six years, yet the festival has already attracted thousands because of its diverse, top-knotch line-up, featuring artists from worship to folk to metal. RevGen boasts five stages: New York Stage (mainstream acts), Philadelphia Stage (alternative/metal acts), Nashville Stage (folk, pop, worship, and indie acts), Urban Stage (R&B, Rap, Hip/Hop acts), and Come&Live! Stage (mix of worship/metal acts mostly from the Come&Live! label).

As with previous years, RevGen had a fantastic line-up in store for attendees. The 2010 line-up included typical festival headliners such as tobyMac, Anberlin, and Skillet; artsy bands like Mae, solo-artist Dustin Kensrue, and Shawn McDonald; the line-up also included some unlikely artists, O.C. Supertones and Lou Gramm (formerly of Foreigner). This year RevGen took place on a Saturday and Sunday, departing from the typical Friday and Saturday, as in past years.

Britt Nicole was the first artist I was able to see at RevGen. She was very bubbly and energetic on stage, which certainly matched the personality of her two albums. Britt kicked off appropriately with “Welcome To The Show.” “Glow” and “Set The World On Fire,” followed, along with the spunky “Headphones,” which she dedicated to the ladies in the audience. Britt had a very engaging performance, but I had to leave halfway through her set to attend the Robbie Seay Band press conference.

Only two other media outlets joined the press conference with Robbie Seay, so it was very informal, which made for more personable and honest conversation. Robbie shared about the service work that his church, Ecclesia, has been involved in, (including the founding of Advent Conspiracy), as well as stuff about the band.

With a half an hour until The Almost’s set, I decided to watch BarlowGirl in the meantime. Unsurprisingly, the crowd for BarlowGirl was mostly female, but I did see a few guys singing along and one was even playing the air guitar. BarlowGirl once again had technical difficulties at RevGen. Last year it was a malfunctioning guitar pedal, this year, it was the guitar that malfunctioned. But BarlowGirl pulled through and it was one of the most enjoyable sets for me that day.

I almost didn’t recognize The Almost as I headed over to the Philadelphia stage. As I got closer I realized why, Aaron Gillespie had gotten a haircut. He explained that his dreads were starting to reek, so he chopped off most of his hair. The band played a well-balanced mix of popular tunes from their two albums. My favorite though, was a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” They brought intense energy to the song, and even though some of the crowd probably wasn’t familiar with Petty, they seemed to enjoy it. The Almost finished their set with the stirring “Amazing Because It Is.”

Robbie Seay Band was my most anticipated act of the evening. Robbie opened with “Love Invades” off of his most recent album, Miracle. Another uplifting worship song, “Song of Hope” followed. After the catchy “Crazy Love,” Robbie performed a more upbeat and pop-ier version of Jon Foreman’s “Your Love Is Song.” I was disappointed when the band’s set ended after only six or seven songs.

For a number of people, even including a few bands that had performed at RevGen, Dustin Kensrue was the highlight of RevGen. Most well-known as the lead singer for alt. rock/post-hardcore band Thrice, Kensrue’s solo music is authentic folk/acoustic. His performance was very informal and intimate, armed with just a guitar and harmonica. Kensrue started with “Pistol,” which definitely seemed to be a crowd favorite. Following a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Salsberry Hill,” was a song that I don’t know the title of, but that’s okay because Kensrue didn’t know the words. After the intro he abruptly stopped to ask someone in the crowd what the first line was to jog his memory. Kensrue later mentioned his appreciation of the crowd. He stated that he usually plays in secular environments and he thought it was cool that the RevGen audience understands the illusions in his songs. I really wanted to stay for his entire set, but I had to leave to finish homework (yes, I had homework due on a Saturday at midnight, blech). As I headed to my car I heard Kensrue playing an acoustic version of my favorite Thrice song, “In Exile.” Even though I’m only a casual fan, this ended up being my favorite performance of the whole festival. It’s very rare that I come across performances with such a feeling of authenticity as with Kensrue’s performance.

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School: Arcadia University '11 Major: Accounting