Monday, March 18, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Plumb "Need You Now"

Need You Now
(Curb Records)

2013 thus far has been
a banner year for new
music. And offering
an array of delightful
aural flavors, the latest
from Plumb is a record 
that I simply can't
stop listening too.

Tiffany Arbuckle Lee first emerged onto the international music scene in the late '90s, fronting the alternative Christian rock band, Plumb. After two studio records, the singer / songwriter parted with her band and assumed the name Plumb as her own, and in 2003, she released her first solo record, Beautiful Lumps of Coal. Over the years, Plumb's music has been featured in such movie and television soundtracks as Bruce AlmightyDawson's Creek, and Just Married. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Michelle BranchMandy Moore and Jaci Velasquez. And as a driving force in the thriving Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre, Plumb also scored a huge #1 Billboard dance hit in 2010 with the single, "Hang On."

After taking an extended break from the biz to focus on family, Plumb has returned with her fourth studio album, Need You Now. And along with producer and songwriting partner, Matt Bronleewe, she has created a riveting 12-song collection. 

"Invisible" is haunting and edgy. Given her reputation and success in the Christian music market, the lyrics, I cannot see you, but I can feel you — I just wanna be with you, could indicate a relational God-type message. However, when the eerie-sounding guitar work and vocals are combined with the lyrics, recollections of Glenn Close boiling that bunny are conjured up immediately. Good stuff, to be sure. A chilling opener.

Featuring Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine, "Drifting" is a positive, high energy song, filled with hope and encouragement. An amazing message indeed.

Offering a fly-on-the-wall look into a marriage that stays together despite the realities of life, "Beautiful" possesses a musical feel that's reminiscent of John Waite's 1984 hit, "Missing You" — making for a love song that's honest and pure.

"I Want You Here" is an epic piece of work. Plumb delivers these powerful lyrics with incredible passion. And in concert with the brilliant orchestral arrangement, this one will rip your heart out...

"'I Want You Here' was inspired by the many
little lives that departed this world much
sooner than hoped. It is a prayer for strength
in the midst of heartbreak, and I hope you'll
feel free to share with anyone you know who
has suffered such a loss. My dream is that
these will know that they are not alone and
may even yet find joy in their grief by
believing that God is in control."

An ├╝ber infectious earworm, "Say Your Name" is a catchy break-up sing-along — a personal favorite of mine from the record.

Speaking to Christian hypocrisy, "Unlovable" is perhaps the most important song of the set. From alternative lifestyles (You don't understand me so you push me away. And you claim Jesus lets you live that way) to unwed mothers (She's got a child and no place to live. But all we can think about is our politics) to our Saviour (So we say we love Jesus. But didn't we kill him 'cuz we thought he was different), Plumb addresses the un-Christ-like way in which so many Christians treat those who are "different."

A moving, modern song of faith, the title track recently spent six weeks at #1 on Billboard's Christian Music chart...

"'Need You Now' was born out of anxiety
and panic attacks I had as a teenager. I've
learned over the years that no matter how
many times I've cried out to God, for
whatever reason, He never grows tired.
He never leaves us alone or gives us
 more than we can carry because he
loves us. No matter what we've done.
 I'm so thankful this song that has helped
me, can give hope to others as well."

"I Don't Deserve You" delivers another fabulous and beautiful message of faith...

You never give up when I'm falling apart. 
Your arms are always open wide.
And you're quick to forgive when I make a
 mistake. You love me in the blink of an eye.
 (From "I Don't Deserve You") 

Oddly, after nine consecutive, reasonably coherent and lucid tunes that convey positive messages of faith, love, hope and encouragement, Plumb once again goes "bunny boiler" on "Cage." But honestly, I kinda dig it...

I've got issues, that's for sure. 
But it's why you kinda like me,
 I know it boy.
(From "Cage") 

The record wraps with a real gem — the Leslie-laced, "At Arm's Length." It's so warm, ambient and engaging that it doesn't really matter that it's seemingly about a once bitten twice shy, dysfunctional, love on the rocks relationship.

Plumb travels all over the map on this one — making it virtually impossible to pin her down musically. And although that often can prove to be a bit jarring with some artists, it works for Plumb. In sum, Need You Now is a colossal treat, not unlike getting an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. And it likely won't be coming out of my hi-fi deck any time soon.

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)

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