Revuew Rating: Must Listen! [4.7 / 5]
The Smallbone brothers, better known as sensational group for KING & COUNTRY, are set to release their third album, Burn the Ships, October 5. The band is well known for their wildly popular No. 1 hits “Priceless,” “Fix My Eyes,” and “Shoulders,” and their music has been featured on the Emmys, Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football, and others. Along with this success came two GRAMMY’s, four Dove Awards, and an impressive 60-stop international tour. The group, comprised of Australian-born brothers Joel and Luke, looks to achieve new heights with this 10-track album, serving as co-producers and songwriters. A very vulnerable project, many tracks draw direct inspiration from events or tragedies the brothers have witnessed in society or experienced personally. Luke shares, “My hope is that if I have gone through some form of suffering, maybe there is someone else who has gone through something similar who can take a bit of hope that there was someone else just like them.”
If you’ve listened to the radio over the last few months, then you’re familiar with “joy.,” a bursting, celebratory anthem and the album’s debut single. It has been streamed over 12 million times, with the accompanying music video surpassing 1 million views in mere days- it’s clear this track is sharing truth and encouragement that people are clamoring to hear. The lyrics remind us that every day, we can choose joy over our circumstances. About to be similarly popular is “Burn The Ships,” the album’s title track. The introduction is built with a choir of reverberating harmony, and the catchy chorus explodes with an uplifting, inviting chord progression. The verses focus on the raw vocals, until the bridge makes a declaration with organ block chords. This tune invites us to unapologetically leave our past and turn over a new leaf, like striking a match and burning a ship without looking back.
Indicating the personal level of this project, “Pioneers,” is a track the brothers recorded in vocal collaboration with their wives, Moriah and Courtney. This song, carrying an intimate, celestial framework, acknowledges and celebrates the trials and sacrifice it takes to build and grow a forever commitment in our relationships. Carrying upbeat momentum is “Never Give Up,” a fun, popping tune written in collaboration with the duo’s sister and fellow Christian music artist, Rebecca St. James. The accompaniment uses a relaxed groove with soft beats and finger snapping to frame their reminder to “Never ever ever ever ever give up.”
An emotional track full of hope, “God Only Knows” is a beautiful balance of quiet understanding and uplifting empowerment that will surely leave an impact on many. The band reflects, “We’ve walked with those we love as they’ve battled through loneliness, we’ve heard your stories of great loss and lately, we’ve seen several in the public eye take their own lives. In turn, we were compelled to write and portray an honest, yet hopeful, song/video for us all during difficult seasons.” The song begins with a unique, repeating cadence of tones. Rhythmic accompaniment is added, forming a stormy background, until the repeating cadence falls away and vocals enter for the first verse. The lyrics begin by painting pictures of fear, loneliness and darkness. The composition of the song changes as it transitions into the chorus, simplified to just piano and vocals, and then repeats in contrast a second time with all the strength and style of the initial accompaniment. The message found here reminds us that only God truly knows our past, pain and suffering and also confirms that above all else, there’s a special love for us that only God knows and gives freely.
As the brothers explain, this album’s foundation is built on vulnerability and transparency, as they draw inspiration from very personal experiences. “Need You More” was formed in the midst of a moment of fear for Luke and his wife, Courtney. Courtney found their son Leo blue and not breathing. While driving to the hospital, Luke prayed out loud to God, saying “I need You more/more than ever before,” and pressed record on his phone. Due to quick CPR and prayer, Leo thankfully recovered quickly. The track “Need You More” was born out of this moment, and the group decided to actually include that original recording from the car in the final cut of the song. The first verse starts immediately from silence, solely consisting of reverb and synthesized solo vocals, joined with simple accompaniment of bass and twinkling tones to help frame the song as it continues. The whole tune carries a still, delicate, celestial-like vibe, possibly providing insight into how Luke felt as he called out to God in that moment.
Burn the Ships is definitely a release to look forward to. The Smallbone brothers have a lot to share with this album, using their smooth, warm vocals and relatable songwriting to touch many. Each track communicates a significant depth and takes you on a different adventure than the song before. Today’s pop style, found in many of the album’s upbeat anthems, will immediately catch the listener’s attention. The duo’s humble vulnerability is clearly evident, providing relatable worship experiences to all those who have ever been in similar circumstances and needed to be reminded of His promises and truths. When speaking of the album, Luke concludes, “The thing I am most proud of with this album is that when I look at all 10 songs, they all have a special place in my heart and there is a real significant story with each one. This album is about those songs in our hearts being exposed to others, and hopefully others will expose their hearts too.”