My Rating: 4.7 / 5
Florida-based band Tenth Avenue North has stood out in the music community for its beloved, upbeat, unique sounds fused with impactful, sincere lyrics. Their fifth studio album, Followers, is certainly no exception, as the band's passion for following Christ with their lives and music is evident throughout the collection. "So many leaders, You ask for followers," lead singer Mike Donehey sings in their latest acclaimed single, expressing the core of the entire album. Followers immerses listeners in a wide assortment of sounds and rhythms while driving the impact with powerful, relatable themes and lyrics.
"What You Want" is a pre-release single that captures the heart of the entire album in one track. The song blends electronic pulses with electric guitar, percussion, and keyboard into an escalating, upbeat song with an energetic payoff across the chorus. The overall tone is light and joyful. Its power, however, lies in its lyrics. "So many leaders, You ask for followers, so take the lead then because You're my Father," lead vocalist Mike Donehey sings across the bridge before dropping into the chorus. "You’re changing my heart to want what You want, to love how You love, and that is enough." The rest of the song expresses how easy it is to get caught in our own desires and agendas, but there is "freedom in this surrender." It's a powerful reminder with an adrenaline-packed melody, making "What You Want" this reviewer's favorite track on the album.
"Overflow" drops the tempo slightly but continues the joyful, celebratory tones. The electronics continue, with pulses and synths accompanying a steady beat and background vocals. Drums and electric guitar join the chorus, raising the energy level. This is one of Tenth Avenue North's greatest strengths in the album - the ability to build up until the perfect moment to release their energy. Its lyrics match that energy, celebrate the love of Jesus Christ and the overflow of joy only He can provide. Tied together with the bright instrumentals, the song perfectly complements the rest of the album.
The slower "I Have This Hope" is a well-timed change in pace that places an emphasis on the lyrics. Written during a time of pain and uncertainty, the song is inspired from the words of Isaiah 43. Aside from the acoustic piano notes and the electronic keyboard foundation, light percussion, and strings make the gentle, calming melody that smoothly rises and falls. Mike Donehey's projects his vocals with added emphasis, singing of Christ's goodness through good and bad times. "I have this hope, in the depth of my soul," he sings in the chorus, "in the flood or the fire, You're with me and You won’t let go." A beautiful and impactful reminder, "I Have This Hope" is easily one of the most powerful songs on the record.
Towards the close of the collection is "Control (Somehow You Want Me)." Electric guitar chords, keyboard, and upbeat drums compose the verses, joined by drumbeats and escalating in tempo, tone, and volume across the choruses. Though starting with a slower and calmer sound than its predecessors, the power increases throughout the song's runtime. It's lyrics express God's love and desire for us, juxtaposed with the need for surrender. "Here I am, all my intentions, all my obsessions, I want to lay them all down in Your hands," the song opens. "God, You don't need me but somehow You want me … somehow that frees me to open my hands up and give You control."
Across the album, Tenth Avenue North has written many beautiful, eloquent, and impactful verses. Their strength is in their simplicity and relatability, but without feeling chopped apart or watered down. For instance, "Sparrow" borrows from Luke 12 and expresses the Father's care and love: "You see the sparrow, You see me here, with the pain of my past, and the depth of my fear … my hope is secure under heaven's eyes." "Fighting For You" expresses Christ's love from the perspective of sacrifice and pain: "For you, My body was broken, you are never forsaken … (in) every trouble that you ever walk through … My child, I am fighting for you." Such verses are saturated throughout the album, maximizing the impact of each song.
Once again, Tenth Avenue's latest work does not disappoint listeners. Their full arsenal of instrumental, vocal, and lyrical skills is on display, ranging from energetic to contemplative and everywhere in between. In addition, their verses are powerful, pointing to the hope and joy only Christ can provide. For longtime fans of Tenth Avenue North, new listeners, or audiences across many other genres, Followers is well worth listening.