Review Summary: A delightful hodge-podge of rootsy folk and crunching alternative rock.
I have always considered autumn to be the most contemplative of seasons. Everything about the atmosphere invites introspection – the chilled air, the crunching of dried leaves beneath one’s feet, and the way the tree line looks like orange and brown watercolors spilled across a broad canvas. Perhaps for obvious reasons, it is during this time that I seem to connect with music the most. The guitars blaze with the fury of a freshly lit camp fire, the drums echo like a tree falling deep in the woods, and messages hidden in the lyrics ring out like profound statements on life. To put it simply, my surroundings have always served as the tangible half of my music, offering me the opportunity to see, smell, taste, and touch each eloquent note. The first album to define the season for me this year is Needtobreathe’s The Reckoning
, a release that is by no means “ambient” but still manages to embody all of autumn’s traits with its combination of rural country-folk and bluesy, Springsteen-inspired Americana.
is a strange record, really, because it seems to have a foot in every style of music imaginable. Want huge, memorable riffs? Needtobreathe has you covered with ‘Oohs and Ahhs’, a track that features thunderous drums, blistering electric guitars, and eerie falsetto vocals sure to anchor your upcoming Halloween soundtrack. Then maybe you want some jangling, country-styled banjos to balance the intensity? No need to fret, the bluegrass influences of ‘Slumber’ should satisfy your craving. Or how about grandiose pop, a la Kings of Leon? You guessed it, The Reckoning
has its share of mainstream gold as well. Perhaps the best example of that would be the accessible, slowly ascending ‘Drive All Night’, a track that would have felt at home on Born to Run
. The freedom-seeking lyrics also lend it a certain sense of Springsteen-ness, boasting quotable lines such as “I need a girl who calls me baby…I need somewhere I can drive all night, out into the darkness.” This is not a sentiment limited to ‘Drive All Night’, but rather one that permeates the entire record. While serving the album’s country-boy charm rather well, it also gives Needtobreathe the feeling of a band that is beginning to break free of its own confines. With each boundary they cross, they come one step closer to realizing their full potential – and that’s what The Reckoning
is all about. It is not Needtobreathe’s magnum opus, but it strives for freshness – and better yet – consistency within that sense of novelty.
A lot of albums that shoot for experimentalism fail on numerous fundamental levels because the songs lose what made them music to begin with. They might come up short lyrically, emotionally, or in some cases, the music just doesn’t work
because of its insistence on being completely, unequivocally unique. With an album like The Reckoning
, that is not the case. First of all, Needtobreathe isn’t an off-the-wall progressive metal act, or some kind of super pretentious group of indie gurus. This is more or less straightforward rock, and the aspects that make it qualify as “genre-busting” or “style-blending” lie solely in the album’s ability to effortlessly merge so many aspects of classic rock, blues, folk, pop, Americana, bluegrass, and country. In fact, The Reckoning
’s only fault may be that it doesn’t maintain the steam it gathers from the first half of the album, dying off rapidly in both energy and new ideas over that latter half. If Needtobreathe find themselves equally inspired in the near future, and they narrow down their track selections, then it is entirely possible that we may not have heard their best work yet…which considering the quality material present here in frequent doses, that
is something that listeners can be truly excited about.
is a surprisingly cohesive work that displays everything you need to know about Needtobreathe, from their showy side to their more reserved acoustic ballads. While its tones range from bone-chilling (‘Oohs and Ahhs’) to pastoral (‘A Place Only You Can Go’), there is never a moment that feels disjointed or out of place. It may not be memorable over the course of its entire length, but there are simply too many unique offerings to overlook what Needtobreathe brings to the table. This is a truly inspired effort with some outstanding individual songs, and it indicates only positive things moving forward for this band.