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The commodification of worship music in the past decade has, invariably, stunted creativity and originality within the genre. It’s almost as if artistry and adoration have suddenly become strange bedfellows, diametrically opposed instead of marching hand in hand.
Since the need for safeguarding the bottom line has caused the craftsmanship of worship to become stagnant, it’s a rarity to hear a debut like Leeland’s Sound of Melodies which releases August 15. The Texas quintet was christened after 17-year-old band leader Leeland Mooring, the ensemble’s youngest member, lead singer and principal songwriter.
Given Mooring’s and his teammates’ ages, one would expect Sound of Melodies to sound young. Instead, the album is mature and textured, an intricately layered affair that calls to mind the group’s Brit-pop influences—namely, U2, Travis, Muse, Delirious and other torchbearers from across the Atlantic.
Leeland got its start practicing nightly in a funeral home, but its compositions are far from dirge-like. The band’s songs aren’t congregational, but they brim with humanity and brokenness—plaintive elegies full of urgency and solemnity.
“We’re leaping over walls to get to you/Would you pull us along?” asks Mooring in “Reaching,” a sonnet that could pass for a Coldplay outtake from the X&Y sessions. Elsewhere, he sings, “You’ve stolen my heart, yes you have,” and one can imagine him nodding with conviction. In this sense, Sound of Melodies possesses the universal appeal of the Psalms, as its numbers are Davidic and relatable even when they aren’t readily replicable in a corporate setting.
But “worship” is a verb, and the members of Leeland use it not only to venerate their Maker but also as a vehicle to fulfill the Great Commission. In what’s clearly the pinnacle of the record, “Tears of the Saints” paints a haunting, apocalyptic
picture of the time when every knee shall bow: “All Your children will stretch out their hands/And pick up the crippled man/ Father, we will lead them home.”
In the 2000s, the modus operandi of worship is to rehash popular praise choruses in a way that’s palatable to the positive-hits constituency and conducive to radio airplay. Leeland could have chosen that route, but the band is too precocious for that. Sound of Melodies is worship music that faithfully straddles the continuum between the sacred and the secular, a disc that—though in spots too fresh-faced and eager for its own good—demonstrates that Creator and creativity shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
Review Provided by CCMmagazine.com
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