His Name Is Alive
His Name Is Alive is one of those groups who have had a hugely varied output over the course of their nearly 10 years together. Unfortunately, they're also a group who has been wildly inconsistent as well, releasing some albums that are melancholic and brooding (much of their earlier material) and some that are downright poppy (the last disc Fort Lake). One couldn't fault them for trying new things, especially when they pulled it off much of the time and as someone who started listening to them almost a decade ago, I've followed them for quite some time now.
All that said, it sort of pains me to say that this new release doesn't do anything for me. I'd read some different things about how the group had changed their styled again slightly for the release (encorporating more electronic beats) and some positive things said about it, and I was hopeful that they could pull off yet another genre jump. Having worked a bit of blues into their music in the past, even the title of the disc gave me some hope that they could couple everything into a sound that worked and continue the excellent streak that they'd been on with their last two releases.
The lineup of the group has changed over the years, and on this release the majority of the music is done by simply two people. Warn Defever (who's been the main player since the groups inception) and Lovetta Pippen (the soulful lead singer who joined the group awhile back). The album consists of what sounds like light R&B for the most part, with wubbly beats and overwrought vocals and lyrics, and it simply seems like something we've all heard before. In fact, if you've heard the group before, you'd probably not even recognize them upon listening to the aptly titled first track "Nothing Special." With a top 40 beat and some synth strings and piano, it has a nice melody, but simply fails to register.
The style does manage to work in places (like still slightly trip-hoppy "Write My Name In The Groove"), but for the most part, it's the track that don't follow this new style that still sound the best. "Our Last Affair" is a nice, spare track with only acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment while "Karins Blues" is the only actual song on the release that has a blues sound at all, and it swaggers along with enough gusto that it makes you wish they'd used the style much more often. Although it's a decent version, the inclusion of "Are We Still Married" again (it can also be found in two different versions on one of their previous releases) perhaps makes one wonder if the group is wearing a bit thin on material.
I do give the group some credit for not being afraid of jumping into different musical styles headlong, and they do manage to pull it off part of the time. Granted, most of my dislike for the album may be the inherent style of the songs (I really don't care for lite R&B music at all), but there are a couple tracks on the release (like the excellent aforementioned "Karins Blues") that makes me wonder how good the album could have been if they'd gone in a different direction.