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Things You Can't Stop With Your Hands - Tara Leigh Cobble (2006)

If indeed God's pursuit of us can be termed a "Sacred Romance," asthe title of Brent Curtis and John Eldredge's book suggests, many of us who are dudes balk at the "romance" part. The notion that God seeks us like a smitten lover may captivate the hearts of our sisters, wives and girlfriends, but on the masculine breed the effect is simply lost.

Smile, It's The End of the World - Hawk Nelson (2006)

I'd seen Hawk Nelson play a high school here in Ottawa in 2002 or thereabouts on the strength of their introductory independent EP, and remembered their name when the Tooth & Nail signing was announced. But it wasn't til my burgeoning radio career took off that I realized two things about them: a) they're better than I'd given them credit for and b) they're valuable additions to the canons of Canadian content, something not to scoff at in the Great White North.

B Collision: The Eschatology of Bluegrass - David Crowder Band (2006)

If you’ve read any of my reviews for this band, you’ll know that I always seem to study their work, because I’m always yelling, “Ooh, ooh, I’ll take DCB! Let me at it!” I sported a similar attitude with this recording... that is until Mr. Dan Ficker let me know that this remix record was bluegrass in style.

But I took a stab at the CD nonetheless. I like a fair bit of country, and I’ll listen to bluegrass if it’s ever in close proximity; how bad could this album be?

And The Land Of Fake Believe - Eleventyseven (2006)

Just as eleventyseven walked off the stage the first time I saw them live as the opening band for Superchic[k], my fellow concert security friend exclaimed, “Hmmm… These guys could be the next Green Day.” While I cannot predict the future, I can pronounce that this trio is the best new offering I have found in the pop-punk genre in CCM for at least two years. I do admit, however, that musically this new band is nothing that I have not heard before. Lyrically, on the other hand, eleventyseven is out to set a more positive tone.

The Chess Hotel - The Elms (2006)

Scan the back cover of The Elms' latest album and you'll see four anonymous heads of brown hair. Their animosity reflects the sweeping generalizations introduced through this album; The Chess Hotel is music for the every-day man working the blue-collar factory, the Midwestern woman keeping house, and the simple Southern couple just learning what it means to be in love. These characters serve as pieces to an intricate chessboard passed down from generation to generation.

Back To Bedlam - James Blunt (2005)

James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," from his popular CD Back To Bedlam, was all over TV, especially as part of several TV show soundtracks that appealed to twentysomethings. Then it became a huge hit on the radio. The well-promoted ballad, about seeing someone beautiful you used to love on the subway with their new love, really touched the hearts of millions around the world.

Nothing Left to Lose - Mat Kearney (2006)

It's clear from the outset that Mat Kearney is something of a different breed. One song, with its acoustic charm and Kearney's signature falsetto will remind you of the best of current pop/rock radio fare. Then the next track will feature Kearney's spoken word delivery and understated vocals, blending folk/rap elements successfully. On Nothing Left To Lose, Kearney weaves effortlessly between the two to create an album that feels both experimental yet cohesive.

Daylight - Needtobreathe (2006)

As I write this, renowned magician and idiot David Blaine is about to star in an ABC special called "Drowned Alive." The idea here, according the promos ABC has been running, is to hold his breath underwater for nine full minutes or die trying. To do so will be a tremendous triumph of man over himself. A wonderful display of the potential of the human will and body. And incredibly stupid.

The Incredible Walk - Phanatik (2005)

Cross Movement has seen better days. The crew that once captured the interest of mainstream rags like The Source and Time and seemed poised to burst through the atmosphere of the Christian industry has been laid relatively low lately. Their most recent LP was released on a label of their own making that hasn't made many waves outside of the CCM harbour. And even within the Christian industry, Cross Movement Records is by no means a heavy hitter in the vein of Gotee, the current hip-hop powerhouse, or the former Uprok Records.

Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia - Various Artists (2005)

A companion (or alternate) piece to the original movie soundtrack, the Narnia Inspired By album features eleven newly-written songs from an assortment of popular Christian artists. For the most part, those involved stick to that which they know and do best. Jars of Clay’s “Waiting for the World to Fall” is an engagingly wistful slice of harmony-rich modern pop recounting youthful wonder lost. The eminently spirited “New World” shows TobyMac’s dexterity with both hip-hop and grunge to be little diminished since his glory days with dc Talk.

The Boy vs. The Cynic - John Reuben (2005)

You're probably not the person you want people to think you are. If you're like me, you're at least two people, and probably more. You're one guy at work and another guy at home. You're one girl at school during the week and someone else when you're alone, journaling your innermost thoughts. You're probably a lot more polite at church than you are when you hit the parking lot and strap into your seat and your brother is threatening to smear boogers on the back of your neck. It's just human nature.

There Will Be A Light - Ben Harper, The Blind Boys of Alabama (2004)

Since at least the mid-'90s, singer-songwriter Ben Harper has attracted the ear of certain church folk due to his spiritually-tinged (though sometimes ambiguous and other times profane) lyrics. The ever-present -- and often pointless -- question of the artist's true standing with the Creator of the universe was posed, and merit could be found on either side of it. But not until Harper recorded an album with legendary gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama in 2004 had his affiliation with architects of Jesus music been so close.

Eternity is Now - Telecast (2005)

Having grown up in the church, I've sung my fair share of songs written about "the sweet by and by." I've listened to sermons about the streets of gold. I've read the Biblical accounts of the heavenly gates (not just pearly, but decked out with twelve kinds of semi-precious stones). But I've wondered how we can live in the "here and now" in an effective manner. I don't want to see this life on earth simply as a time marker until we get to heaven.

This Allure - This Allure (2005)

For all the hype (whether negative or positive) surrounding the Los Angeles based website, it's proven to be a great place to find new bands. I'm only able to write about This Allure due to some friend-hopping and friend requests. And rest assured: this isn't your typical Myspace band. There's no striving to sound like the latest fad; there are no glamour photos; there's no PR tactic to try and draw a large collection of fans. It's just a group of guys making music—something that I believe should be the goal of every band.

The Face of Love - Sanctus Real (2006)

With just two albums and four years under their belts since signing with Sparrow Records, the lads of Sanctus Real have already tasted more critical and popular success than most groups do over the course of their entire careers. Their major-label debut, Say It Loud, netted the Toledo foursome two Dove nominations, Best New Artist honors from CCM Magazine and the highest first-week sales figures for any debut rock album in the Sparrow catalog. And rightly so, given its irresistible amalgamation of guitar-driven classic rock and tuneful modern pop.

Be - Common (2005)

Before he became an MTV personality and punch line for late-night talk show hosts, Sean "Puffy/Puff Daddy/P.Diddy/Diddy" Combs was the Midas of mainstream hip-hop. Known best for introducing the world outside of New York to iconic emcee Biggie Smalls, Combs dropped a hit album of his own while producing tracks for the likes of Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey among others, and earned a reputation as one of the industry's top hit-makers. Virtually every project caressed by Puff's digits, it seemed, turned instantly to gold.

Symphony In Red - Symphony In Red (2005)

If one were trying purposely to minimize their chances of success in the music business, they could, say, try to convince the members of Iron Maiden to open for Ashley Simpson. On the other hand, they might hire Celine Dion to sing a few cuts on an Anthrax tribute album. Truly daring souls could always ring up the boys in Metallica and ask them to write a tune for Hilary Duff's next Lizzie McGuire movie.

Paper Crane EP - Jamie Barnes (2005)

I've tried to buy an Iron and Wine CD on several occasions. Yet each time, I read something in the lyrics that discourages me, because it's something I don't wish to have playing through my mind. Of course, I can always buy individual tracks, but I'm still a child of the "˜90s"”still delighted and dazzled by an entire CD in physical form.