Coming Up to Breathe
There's a reason MercyMe is the hottest act in Christian music. The band has written hit after hit, time after time. With their latest opus Coming Up to Breathe there appears to be more coming. In a concerted effort to revert back to the days when they were more a rock band and less of a hitmaking machine, MercyMe delivers. While it's certainly not heavy metal, the songs definitely keep driving forward. Guitars are more prominent and production leans on a more earthy formula. "No More No Less" is a perfect example of straightforward rock meeting MercyMe; it isn't brain surgery but it is rock & roll and it's done well. The half-time breakdown at the song's conclusion takes it to a whole different level. The background vocals literally sound like the Temptations and are some of the best heard yet this year. One area MercyMe will never ignore is in the lyric department. Vocalist Bart Millard delivers some of the most poignant and heartfelt thoughts on Coming Up to Breathe. He and band take the cut "Bring the Rain" and weave it into praise & worship splendor while lyrically telling a relevant story. "Last One Standing" turns up the rock. There's a musical breakdown that could easily be the Foo Fighters when the vocals re-enter the distorted mix and set the tune off. "Hold Fast" is rock with polish and Nathan Cochran's bass groove not only sounds heavy but its very tone exudes sweat. The mid-song bridge shows the band at their pinnacle when the guitars build to Millard's intense vocals. "One Trick Pony" is one of the most diverse cuts, sounding like it's being played from the front porch in the swamps of Kentucky. This feel-good vibe drips with blues and country swagger, with acoustic leads sprinkled throughout and growling with soul. Even when the band plays what appears to be a more subdued melody like "Where I Belong," the guitar nuances and dynamic shifts soak the tunes with flavor that build to the lead guitar. Don't think MercyMe aren't delivering the hits. "So Long Self" has mass appeal musically and lyrically; the coolest part about the poppy hook is the ELO type vocals that penetrate the song's middle. MercyMe is able to rock on portions of each song but they always bring it back to a memorable chorus or a hooky verse. That's the formula that has always worked for them, and it does here, too.