Friday, October 25, 2013

The Music I'm Listening To

It's been a while since I posted about some the new albums I've been digging into lately, so I thought that it would be good.

We know he’s talented. He’s produced over a hundred records. He’s played in multiple bands. He’s put out half a dozen solo albums. We all know Aaron Sprinkle is talented. But do you really know Aaron Sprinkle?

If you’ve listened to his latest record, you do.

Over the course of twenty years, Sprinkle’s life has been dedicated to creating and producing music. Outside of his own musical endeavors (playing in bands Poor Old Lu, Fair, and Rose Blossom Punch, and making his solo material), Sprinkle has engineered and molded records for countless talented musicians, building for himself the much-deserved reputation as an outstanding producer.
It’s through his exposure in the studio that he’s been able to cultivate his own style as an artist. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people that inspire me,” he explains, “They push me to grow and explore and hone things that I wouldn’t have had on my radar before… like this record. You would have never heard anything like my new music on any other record I’ve done.”

It’s true.

Water & Guns, Sprinkle’s fifth solo album, is unlike anything he’s done before. Yes,
exposure to varying musical styles expresses itself tangibly in each track, but there’s something new in the mix – his electronic roots. Reaching back to his musical beginnings, Sprinkle douses his new material in colorful synth, programmed percussion, and keys that sprout and flourish, making this his most vibrant record to date. It’s a pop album – its catchy melodies, synth, and acoustic guitar color the entirety of the record – but for Sprinkle, it’s more than that.

“I started making a record that I thought people would want me to make, and ended up making a record that I just really enjoyed,” he confesses, explaining, “I wanted to portray who I am now. I wanted this album to reflect me.” Musically it’s an epic, pop album. Lyrically, it’s a journal. The record’s upbeat sound juxtaposes its heavy message in a flawless marriage of playful purposefulness.

With songs that deal with topics from grace and blessings to sin and death, Sprinkle furthers, “this record took so long because I changed my mind in the middle of it – I thought no, this is isn’t what I want to do. I want to write about real things I’m dealing with.”

A perfect example is the track “Alright”, a song that could easily act as the album’s anthem. The lyrics, “When your life rips at the seams / When it seems like the worst is really happening / When you can’t see the light / It’ll be alright” encourage perseverance through trial. The electronic, danceable track breathes joy in sound and hope in content.

Similarly is the springy track “River of Lead”, an optimistic sounding song that couples lively keys and an upbeat, sing-able chorus with a weighty lyrical topic. Singing about being consumed, Sprinkle delicately addresses human nature’s attraction to destructive behavior. The lyrics, “Down this river of lead I roll / Feel it pull me underneath / If the fire don’t kill me the water will / Feel it pull me underneath / Lay me down to sleep / I pray there’s something left to keep” transparently speaks to all-consuming struggles and the desperation for relief.

“Whisper Something”, “Heatstroke”, and “I’ve Missed You” offer the same mixture; profound lyrics that cover themes of reconciliation, death, and longing are woven within strong, accessible beats and addictive melodies. Sprinkle curated an album that speaks to both contemporary, pop-enthused music lovers and those thirsty for poetic lyrics that resonate.

“I want to relate to people,” says Sprinkle, “I wanted to be honest, both musically and lyrically. I’ve realized that every time I’ve been brutally honest in an intimate setting, I’ve never been greeted poorly. This is what I like, this is how I feel, this is who I am.”

This is Aaron Sprinkle. Enjoy.  

Beautiful Eulogy is a Portland, Oregon-based group made up of artists Braille, Odd Thomas
and Courtland Urbano. The group introduces a distinct and directive sound that’s driven by a desire to worship and glorify the God of the Bible, based in the context of its members’ hip-hop roots and shaped by influences like electronic music, folk songs and old hymns.

The natural way Beautiful Eulogy came together parallels its organic creative process. As its members cooperated on various musical and church-related projects, they realized their chemistry and the opportunity before them to form a completely collaborative group that would emphasize a new gestalt — one that would allow them to steer away from a pure hip-hop trajectory while holding onto its origins, and that would free them from the courses of their solo careers while applying their individual talents to a collective. 

“We’re reinventing ourselves together,” the group says. Its members enjoy their creative
freedom within self-imposed boundaries, by predefining their work’s message, sound and purpose. This type of intentionality is central to the way Beautiful Eulogy creates songs, settling on concepts and driving them through a process and reprocess of musical and lyrical shaping.

The resulting tracks are lyric-driven, but contain an equally deliberate musical backdrop. This panorama enhances and clarifies the presentation of weighty spiritual and theological truths, inviting listeners into the artists’ ideas about and experiences of God. Listeners may have first heard Beautiful Eulogy on Rapzilla’s King Kulture compilation, or featured on “Misconceptions,” a track from Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtape. Beautiful Eulogy’s debut album, Satellite Kite, serves as a foundational prototype of the group’s approach and ambition.

Their new album, Instruments of Mercy is available now.

Having joined the Christian group, FFH, in 1999 and contributed to seven No. 1 radio
singles, seven GMA Dove Award nominations, and records that have sold into the millions, Michael Boggs is no stranger to the music scene. When FFH took some time off the road in the fall of 2006, Michael stepped into the role of worship leader at a fast growing young adult gathering, Kairos, in Brentwood, TN hosting nearly 1200 college students and young adults every week, and has served as a regular guest worship leader at various churches, including Max Lucado’s church, Oak Hills, in San Antonio, Texas.

Although Michael continues to keep a rigorous, solo-touring schedule performing and leading worship over 100 dates a year, he has established himself within the music community as one of the foremost sought after songwriters. Lending his songwriting ability to other artists, such as FFH, Diamond Rio, Big Daddy Weave, Anthony Evans, Josh Bates, Jason Crabb, Selah, Matt Maher and more have garnered him multiple Top 10 singles as well as a featured song in the major motion picture release “Facing the Giants.”

In April 2010, Michael took home the Dove award for Country Recorded Song of the Year for “Somebody Like Me,” at the Gospel Music Association Dove Awards where he was also nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year. The same year, “Somebody Like Me” served as the featured single from Jason Crabb’s self-titled Grammy award-winning album.

In the Fall of 2010, Michael’s song, “Said and Done,” was featured on the Max Lucado: Out
Live Your Life CD, and carried the banner for Lucado to AC/ CHR/ Soft AC radio. “I’m proud to have this single carrying the message of Out Live Your Life to listeners,” says New York Times best-selling author, Max Lucado. Following the Out Live Your Life release, Michael Boggs debuted his first solo record, More Than Moved, on October 19, 2010 through in:ciite and Word Entertainment.

In February 2011, Diamond Rio’s album, The Reason, received a first-time Grammy, spotlighting “Reaching For Me” as one of the album’s featured singles. Matt Maher’s latest radio single, “Turn Around,” which Michael penned with the artist, topped the charts and remained in the Top 10 for over 16 weeks and earned him a 2012 ASCAP Award. In 2012, Michael was also honored as CCM’s Songwriter of the Year.

When asked where this journey is taking him now, he laughs and says, “Those plans have never been up to me. I’ll just continue to follow Jesus.” His new EP is titled More Like a Lion.

How about you? What's new on your playlist?