I am not going to say that 2012 was the greatest year for music ever. One, I still might be coming down off my 2012 music high, and two, I really don’t want to argue with everybody who would disagree with me, which I’m guessing would be just about everyone. However, for me 2012 was a phenomenal year. A sampling of some of my favorite albums from this sacred year are Mumford and Sons’ Babel, Of Monsters and Men’s My Head in an Animal, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Bon Iver’s Stems Project, and Lumineers’ self titled debut. This year was also graced by new material from Frank Ocean, Alabama Shakes, Imagine Dragons, alt-J, The Avett Brothers, Passion Pit, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes, Jack White, and the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.
My adoration now justified, one should have a better understanding as to why I was looking forward to this year so much. Surely after two years, some of these acts are ready to put out more material. Some of them have come through for me, others have left me waiting. However, there is a band that just put out a new album that had me pumped. Bellarive released their debut album, The Heartbeat, in 2012. If you are not familiar with this small band out of Orlando, they perform an interesting mix of eerie vocals and thought-provoking lyrics, that creates a very unique sound. In essence, they are perfect poster children for the mounting wave of new renegade Christian artists.
This change of face in the Christian music industry has been a long time coming. If you are not familiar with some of the major participants, check out bands such as NEEDTOBREATH, Jon Foreman, Gungor, and Beta Radio to get a good idea of how the industry has begun to evolve over the years. People’s reaction to this change varies greatly. Much of the controversy is encapsulated perfectly by a blog post that Michael Gungor released a few years ago outlining his frustrations with the industry. He stated many of the problems that he had with the current state of the industry, namely the lack of passion in the art. The post quickly went viral, and the a line in the sand was drawn. Either you were a cold and uncreative faker that only wanted music to make you comfortable, or you were a hippy looking for any excuse to flaunt your spirituality through the most hipster avenue accessible.
Bellarive does something beautiful for me. It blurs the line, which I think is good. While Gungor might have had good intentions, his post went big because it started a debate – the fodder of social networking. His points were made in anger, and while that passion may be good, it was directed towards the wrong target. At the same time, he wasn’t trying to crap on your newest Passion CD. He was pleading for a broadening of the definition of what worship music can be.
In Bellarive’s new album Before There Was, I see a marriage of the old and new. Boasting a congregational sound that wasn’t as prevalent in their first go, this new album strikes me as a call to a stripped down style of worship. Brutal honesty. This is something that characterized their last album as well, most notably in the song/spoken word of “Tendons,” which will forever be their masterpiece. While I cannot find a song of equal callibur on the new album, Before There Was is a strong follow-up and extension of the theme that began with The Heartbeat. Some solid music with some humbling assertions, and its well worth the listen.