Shoe the Doe LIVE

recorded in the studio May 2012

Episode 09: NMD “Lamaze”

“New Music Digest” is back with a stream of consciousness thoughts on new music from “MercyMe”, “Washington Projects” and “Owl City”.

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Showe Notes

 New Music Digest

In this segment we review several new albums! We listen to the first few songs and chat about what we’re experiencing.

MercyMe

From AllMusic.com

“Although praise & worship band MercyMe was founded in 1994, vocalist Bart Millard says that the group’s birth was a process God began in him during high school. Millard recalls, “My dad and my older brother were both football players. So naturally, that’s what I wanted to do as well. But I broke both my ankles in a high school football game and that ended my career.” Due to the injury, Millard was left with an elective class to fill and reluctantly joined the only available option: choir. With the prodding of his choir director, he was soon actively involved. During Millard‘s first semester in college, he was faced with the death of his father to cancer. The loss caused him to look for a change and a fresh start.Millard‘s youth pastor, who had recently moved from Millard‘s hometown of Greenville, Texas to Lakeland, Florida, invited him to work with the youth praise band. He accepted the offer and moved at the end of his freshman year of college. Millard says that the praise band involvement marked “the first time I had ever done anything with a band — just a local youth group who played for a Wednesday night service. But I fell in love with it immediately.”

Almost There

It wasn’t long after that Millard became friends with keyboardist Jim Bryson. In the summer of 1994, the two traveled to Europe as part of a praise team. The trip causedMillard and Bryson to consider full-time music ministry. In August of 1994, guitarist Mike Scheuchzer made the duo a trio. The three, who had moved to Oklahoma City, formedMercyMe. From there the group began to attract local promoters and found themselves opening for Audio Adrenaline. Following this, the band moved to Nashville and then to Texas. Their concerts grew to 200 dates per year. Bassist Nathan Cochran and percussionist Robby Shafferjoined the group, turning it from a trio into a five-member band. MercyMe, with six independent projects to their credit, signed with INO Records and released Almost There in August 2001. Thanks to the Dove Award-winning single “I Can Only Imagine,” it topped the Christian charts, made the Top 40 in the overall album charts, and eventually went platinum.

Undone

A rootsier album, Spoken For, followed in 2002 and also performed well on the charts; it also earned the band three more Dove Awards. In 2003, veteran Christian rocker Barry Graul of Whitecross joined the band as a second guitarist.MercyMe‘s third album Undone followed one year later, and again earned the group commercial and chart success; in addition to further action on the Christian and album charts,MercyMe singles “Here with Me” and “Homesick” earned play on adult contemporary radio, marking a new frontier for the band. The Christmas Sessions appeared in the fall of 2005, and the band’s fourth album Coming Up to Breathearrived in April 2006. With a sharper sound less indebted to soft rock, it earned raves from critics and still charted at number 13 on Billboard’s album charts. The church-focused All That Is Within Meappeared in 2007, and also broke into the Top 20 of the album charts.

The best-of 10 followed in 2009, and MercyMe recorded a concept album titled The Generous Mr. Lovewell for their sixth studio LP. It earned critical respect and commercial success, including a debut at number three on the overall album charts and three number one singles on the Christian chart (“All of Creation,” “Beautiful,” and “Move”). In 2012, The Hurt & the Healer followed, peaking at number seven on the charts and earning more critical acclaim. Eighth proper album Welcome to the New was released in April 2014, with a rootsier but danceable sound.”

The Washington Projects

From their website:
“Under the context of The Washington Projects, brother/sister duo Jekob & Rachael Washington merge insightful hip-hop, scintillating soul, rippling R&B, old school funk and pure bred pop. It’s an astonishingly inventive merger that’s given them instant accessibility steeped in street credibility, while breaking down boundaries more than any other eclectic troupe in recent memory. And while this fitting moniker may appear to be a new force on the horizon, the pair previously comprised two thirds of the Word/Warner Brothers recording group SoulJahz, who took the industry by storm in the early 2000s with a jaw dropping spread of radio singles, press acclaim and prominent appearances.

For starters, the troupe performed alongside the lauded (and diverse) likes of No Doubt, Nelly, Counting Crows, Ja Rule, Ashanti, Garbage, Boyz II Men and Erykah Badu (to name a few) on a cross country tour in support of its major label debut The Fault Is History. That project also set a streak of precedents, making SoulJahz the first new hip-hop/funk/soul act in history to write, produce, executive produce and co-engineer a major label album, not to mention group member Rachael becoming the youngest composer/producer/songwriter in the history of Warner Brothers Records (she was 17, beating out Prince at 19). Extensive features followed on CNN Headline News, E!, Billboard, The WB, plus a slot on Sessions@AOL beside Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Red Hot Chili Peppers. But even with the tremendous amount of buzz and overwhelming fanfare, record label red tape soon wrapped itself around the burgeoning band, putting an extreme delay on what would’ve been its sophomore CD.

“Basically we had recorded a bunch of songs & turned in a partially completed record after being gone on tour for at least a year and a half on that first record, but the entire staff of our label flipped upside down in the process,” Jekob recalls of the incredibly trying time. “When it came time to talk with the new cats, they had a different thought process on where our sound needed to go and there ended up being a lot of problems. We basically had our second record shelved entirely and spent the next several years trying to get out of our contract.”

Despite the lack of a new CD, the band took trips to Iraq in 2005 and 2006 to entertain troops, though back home in America, their lawyers and a constantly switching staff of label executives were waging war of their own. Eventually the group was allowed to exit its deal, but at the expense of leaving the SoulJahz moniker in the label’s hands.

“As all of this went down, we literally retreated to Hawaii for a time because we have family out there, which were the bonds that helped keep us going,” Jekob contends. “But it actually all turned out to be a very good thing because we recharged our batteries and the break helped give us a fresh perspective and new start. SoulJahz has a certain amount of recognition as a brand, but The Washington Projects is a name that’s even closer to our hearts because no one can ever take it away from us!”

With the battle flames dying down, The Washington Projects hit the studio for its debut in this format Commanders of the Resistance, an enthralling soundtrack of hope covering just as many relevant themes as it does sonic spectrums. Both videos released to support the record quickly jumped to #1 on the Gospel Music Channel. The group toured extensively including an overseas tour of Europe supporting the troops alongside groups like The Nappy Roots and more..

The Washington Projects latest project is sure to change the way you hear Hip-Hop & R&B. The 11 song album entitled “Light Up The Dark” encompasses the true heart of the groups vision and goal. With the smash hits like “My Dream”, “Light Up The Dark”, “You Are Beautiful”, “Work” & “Justus”, this album is bound to keep The Washington Projects name on the lips of many listeners to come.”

Owl City

From their website:
“No matter where he goes, Owl City mastermind Adam Young is constantly creating music. It doesn’t matter if he’s backstage before a gig or sitting in an airport terminal, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist will typically be penning tunes on his laptop. His third full-length album nods to that process with the highly apropos title Mobile Orchestra [Republic Records]. Following up his acclaimed 2012 studio album The Midsummer Station, the record sees Owl City progress once more, veering off the beaten path in the process.

“Mobile Orchestra is all about variety,” he asserts. “In the past, I’ve set out to make albums that were designed to be a singular listening experience, flowing from track to track. This time around, the songs are like ten rabbit holes that go off in different directions. I had never approached a record like this. I wanted to clear the slate and forget what I knew in order to create a new experience. I spent two years working on it, and it had the time to grow in between every idea. That’s why there’s so much going on.”

There was no rush for Owl City. These songs got the chance to evolve as he built them and then sought out the right co-conspirators. The first single “Verge” merges his bright, buoyant production and shimmering vocals with a booming soulful refrain from Aloe Blacc. It blurs the lines between electro, alternative, pop, and R&B all at once, while remaining perfect for the dance floor.

“You’re thinking about those moments in life where you’re on the edge,” explains Adam. “It’s like the last day of your life as you know it, and tomorrow everything is going to change. It could be a college graduation. It could be a new career. It could be your wedding day. You’re not sure how it’s going to go, but you’re confident that you’re going to hit the ground running. We reached out to Aloe out of nowhere, and he was so gracious and kind to lend his incredible talent to the track.”

At the same time, the band steps completely outside the box altogether on “Back Home” with country star Jake Owen. “That’s probably my favorite because it was so fresh for me to try something else,” he admits. “I’ve done acoustic tracks before but never like this. I’ve been a big fan of Jake’s for a couple of years. I listened to a lot of his records, and he was a gateway into the country world. We married this pop sensibility with his voice and told a story about how it feels to come home—especially after a long trip or, in our case, tour.”

Then, there’s the love letter to all things nineties with none other than Hanson’s “Unbelievable.” Wanting to capture a nostalgia for the era, Adam reached out to the pop powerhouse, and they cooked up this jovial anthem. “That one is so much fun,” he says. “It goes through everything we love about that era, and Hanson fit perfectly.”

Elsewhere, “Thunderstruck” with UK trance diva Sarah Russell proves utterly propulsive and club-ready. As Adam assembled the music, the entire vision came into focus in late 2014 for Mobile Orchestra. “What each of these collaborators does is so different from what I do,” he continues. “It felt so right and natural to reach outside of my comfort zone and join forces with artists away from my world. That process was awesome. Once these people got on board, it really gave the project steam. The train was finally moving.”

The train really never stopped though. The Owatonna, Minnesota native remains an avant garde hitmaker in his own right. With total album sales over 2.5 million and single sales surpassing 18 million globally, his smash “Fireflies” from 2009’s Ocean Eyes received a five-times RIAA platinum certification in addition to going #1 in 26 countries. “Good Time” featuring Carly Rae Jepsen went Top 4 in the U.S. and racked up sales of close to three million. He composed the theme song for filmmaker Zack Snyder’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and an original tune for Disney’s Academy Award winner Wreck-It Ralph, while Owl City’s music has seen placements everywhere from The Croods and Veggietales to Smurfs 2.

Even with all of the collaborations on Mobile Orchestra, everything still stems from Adam’s vision in the end. “I’ve always got that laptop out,” he remarks. “You can do so much with layering, tones, and sounds. It’s literally like an orchestra in a box. If you just take the time to breathe life into it, it can be beautiful.”

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