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First impressions on upcoming Releases (Part 1)

So far in 2008, I seem to be more up to date in my listening of pre-release music than I have in recent years. Maybe I am just filling up my ears with some new music during the concert "down time" of the year. Perhaps I am simply excited to hear some new stuff from old bands. I know one thing - it is not a New Year's resolution. Those don't work for me. In any case, I thought I would relay to you some of my first impressions as I have experienced these four upcoming releases for the first time.

Unbreakable (Flicker Records)
Release date: March, 2008

A few weeks back, I heard the DJ on my local radio station speak about a buzz surrounding the new music of Fireflight. That is exactly what pushed me to find my pre-release copy of their sophomore release. I eagerly read the promo material that came with the disc and noted that the buzz is nothing new. This past Fall, the title track of Unbreakable was selected by NBC executives to air during the promotion for the new show "Bionic Woman" and eventually for the entire Wednesday night line-up. Soon a two-minute music promo piece was featured on NBC combining video footage and scenes from the show.

The single was made available for digital download on iTunes and select digital channels in November.

I generally like female fronted rock bands. But when Fireflight first came across my desk with The Healing of Harms in 2006, I think Flyleaf ended up with more spins and eventually took Fireflight off my radar. Though I was ready to give them a second chance. I liked what I heard. On first listen, the songs did not all sound the same, which is always a plus for me. I found myself quickly singing along, yet I don't remember much about the lyrics at the moment. There is a good mix of harder rock songs and softer anthems. Yet the music did sound a bit Paramore-ish at times. In the end, I would describe the music as similar to their debut, with an extra edge.

Sanctus Real
We Need Each Other (Sparrow Records)
Release date: February 12, 2008

I first became familiar with the music of Sanctus Real the week before my interview with the band during the See Spot Rock tour in February of 2003. I listened to their national debut release Say It Loud several times that week. After enjoying their live set for the first time, I immediately became a fan. It also helps that the guys are so down to earth.

My first glimpse of the sophomore release Fight the Tide came at the Icthus Festival in 2004, which I attended on my way to GMA week that year. I fell in love with the music right away, and was just as happy when I heard the whole album not long after. The Face of Love came out in 2006 during GMA week and I remember being shocked that the album was not available in Nashville at the local retailer closest to the GMA festivities. I had wanted to support the band on the day of release. Instead I found the guys in the hallway of the Convention Center and told them my dilemma. Apparently there was some distribution issue.

I did not play the third release as much as the first two. Though I had some favorites, the whole disc did not make as big an impression on me. I wondered if Sanctus Real was losing their place in my music listening habits. Until one day I saw them live and I remember exclaiming, "Wow! What happened?" I have always loved their live show, but suddenly I saw an additional band member on stage and realized this was the cause of my amazement at the music.

This same fifth band member may also be a huge part of what caused me to say, "Wow!" upon my very first listen of We Need Each Other. The fact that Peter York, President of EMI/CMG Label Group lent some bluesy lead guitar licks on the first track also added to the, "Wow!" factor. The music has more depth than previous efforts and may capture the same experience I have felt at a live show better than before.

Perhaps you have already heard the catchy title track, the first radio single that was also highlighted on their most recent Fall tour. The theme is heard lyrically throughout the album and the feeling of that song spreads throughout the whole effort, making this album a favorite of mine only after a few spins.