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Monday, January 10, 2011

Media/Music Monday - A Rotterdam November - Love Is...

So I am attending RAGE Music Festival 2011--anyone with me? And I figured what better way to prepare than to review an album from one of the bands that will be there?

From their MySpace:

The name “A Rotterdam November” is the brainchild of Jared Nelson and contains a metaphorical meaning describing the mission and heart of the band. The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands was bombed during WWII and the main part of the city was completely destroyed. At that time, a Russian/French sculptor saw the wasteland and dubbed it “the city without a heart.” However, the spirit of Rotterdam was determined to “…go on, eyes firmly fixed on the present and the future, and not to linger in the past.” As a result, architects were presented with the opportunity to reconstruct the heart of Rotterdam from scratch and so they did. As it stands today, Rotterdam is an old city with a new heart. This is the analogy for Christians; the enemy’s goal is to destroy mankind and he has been partly successful through Adam’s original sin. However, that is not the end of the story, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, mankind has the opportunity to be reconstructed with a brand new heart. Spreading this message through music, whether directly or indirectly, is the goal and desire of the band A Rotterdam November.

A Rotterdam November has two albums out. The quote above pretty much refers to their first, self-titled effort, which has a lot of brilliant war references, including a song called 1914 about the 1914 Christmas Truce during World War I. Perhaps their most popular song from that album was "Trainwreck," which may be my favorite love song, given its emphasis on "I can't be perfect." (It starts out, "I can't ever promise I won't let you down...I won't give my word you won't get hurt.") My favorite is still "City Without a Heart," which is just ridiculously catchy.

So, like many Christian (and probably other independent) bands, A Rotterdam November, or "ARN," lost a couple members between their first album and their second. I was rather concerned that one of these losses included the aforementioned Jared Nelson, who, if I recall correctly, was credited with most of my favorite lyrics. So when I found out that they had a new album coming out, I was a bit concerned that it might be weaker lyrically.

So, how is "Love Is..."?

The album seems to focus rather more on love and broken-hearted relationship songs, which is probably a smart move, given the popularity of "Trainwreck." Honestly, since I'm not terribly interested in having a relationship (!), those kind of songs don't always appeal so much to me, although several of these are for girls who are afraid to

The melodies are fairly catchy, though there are no songs that make me want to drop everything and sing along like "City Without a Heart" on the first album. Lyrically, it took a while for anything to actually catch my ear the first time through (aside from the fact that "Anemone" rhymes "Sometimes I wish I'd met you long before" with "A flower where the world only sees a w...", which is the first time I think I'd heard that particular word on a Christian album!).

Then I stumbled across "Problematic," which says, "A bird isn't free when it's in flight/It's chained, chained, chained by the distance it creates." That's when my ears perked up and I realized that yes, there are some good lyrics here. Good thing, because some great lyrics, and melodies, follow. "Letter" is a song sweet enough to make most girls' hearts melt, I reckon. I fell in love with "We Still Believe" on the first listen was. It's an acoustic song that is about as far from "City Without a Heart" as you can get, but it's pretty and the lyrics are explicitly Christian, which is something you don't get on a surprising number of Christian rock albums.

In fact, there are even direct Biblical references (albeit most of them would go over the heads of non-believers). I found an explanation of the lyrics of "Love Is..." through Google (couldn't access it from their main site): It references Psalm 56:8-9 (I semi-arbitrarily cited NASB):

You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.

So lyrically, this album seems to have more direct Bible references than the previous one, but fewer historical references, and perhaps not quite as picky about grammar (the previous one actually uses the subjunctive and asks "If I were drowning...").

At any rate, I'd say "Love Is..." holds up pretty well lyrically and musically--not quite as intense as the first album, but quite good nonetheless. If "Trainwreck" is your favorite ARN song, then "Love Is..." is probably going to be a great album for you. Even if it's not your favorite, it's worth having.

(Psssst, now you can get up to 12 songs from High Flight Society for $5! Pledge $5 (the money will only leave your credit card if they reach their funding goal) and once they've completed it, they'll send you their 6-song EP. And you can get their previous EP--that's 6 free songs--here!)

FTC disclosure: I received "Love Is..." as a "donation gift" for supporting Effect Radio. I figure that I basically paid $15 (at the time) for it, but you could also consider it a "free" CD if you wanted.

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