on September 20, 2011
This is the review we posted at eartothegroundmusic.com:
After 2 years, a tour with Taylor Swift, and right before embarking on another tour (with Matthew Mayfield and one date with Clarensau), NeedToBreathe has released its fourth studio album, "The Reckoning". Fans waited for two years, but they will not be disappointed with this effort. "The Reckoning" marks a high water mark for the band and maybe for rock this year. It really is that good.
Here's what you need to know: NeedToBreathe rocks. Its not simple rock music though. Its smooth, its clean, it sounds fresh and it sounds great. This album is so complete, with 14 tracks, that the fact that we waited for 2 years seems like no big deal. There is no filler on this album and that is a phenomenal thing. This is the band's 3rd straight 14 track album, which is something that never happens anymore. Its unfortunate that I have to taut that as a high point, but it's a huge album filled with huge sound. The instrumentation is superb and the album sounds like they took those two years, made it sound tighter, made it sound like they had grown, and made music that you can feel more than their other albums, which is hard to do.
The only complaint (I only have 1 minor complaint) is that this album sounds too big for an mp3 player or computer. It practically begs to be heard in an arena. I've seen Coldplay live and their sound can fill an arena, but when you listen to the album, you don't feel like it needs to be heard there. It's contained and fits perfectly on an ipod or speakers by your bed. "The Reckoning" makes Coldplay sound like they should be playing at coffee shops. (I love Coldplay, not bashing them.) This album, according to Entertainment Weekly, is "are as informed by Kings of Leon's arena muscle as they are by porch-pickin' country." This may have been true before "The Reckoning" but no longer; its a stadium rock album.
"The Reckoning" begins with the line: "Take us back to a simpler time." "Oohs and Aahs" kicks off the album in the same way "The Outsiders" did on the previous album. It sets the tone with a sound that builds, but this album begins with horns and pianos where the last album used clapping and harmonicas. The second track, "White Fences", shows the southern roots of the band beginning with mandolins and pianos and tells the story of, in my opinion, a love gone wrong. "Who's gonna mend these white fences?" croons frontman Bear Rinehart. The other "mellow" track on the album is the love song, "A Place Only You Can Go". It's a song that seeks to atone for past mistakes, rather eloquently. "Pain is alive in a broken heart,/ The past never does go away,/ We were born to love and we're born to pay,/ The price for our mistakes,/ Grace, she comes with a heavy load./ Memories, they can't be erased,/ Like a pill I swallow that makes me well,/ But leaves an awful taste." Mix in some bagpipes (what?!) and this song is almost enought to make you cry on first listen.
"Able" is a piano-led, softer song that is the one song on the album that shows off Bear's voice more than any other. The song allows his voice to be the focal point and that's a good thing as he has one of the purest and most powerful voices in music. Lyrically, "Tyrant Kings" is the standout track for me. The whole album is great, but the lyrics on this track make it so that you can't not feel them. "More times than not the ones you love are who you let down./ We're chasing something big our parents never tracked down./ The hardest part is looking back and making sense of,/ The humble tries and troubled times of where we came from." If you're from a small town or a community that felt like one, you know all about this. It perfectly captures the feelings. Towards the end of the album, "Devil's Been Talkin'" sounds like classic "Outsiders" NeedToBreathe and "Angel at My Door" is an upbeat, Southern inspired song.
The middle of the album is the star. "Drive All Night", "Slumber", and "The Reckoning" all capture the live, anthemic, NeedToBreathe sound. "Drive All Night" slowly builds (think "Fix You") to a crescendo that will make you want to play air guitar in your living room while singing "I need a girl who calls me baby,/ I need to know if she can save me,/ I need somewhere I can drive all night." The mantra of the album and what the band seems to be saying to everyone is the key to "Slumber". The song begs us to "wake on up from your slumber, baby, open up your eyes." It's the message that seeks to get you to get ready for what this band is capable of. The title track of the album is the band's message to the world with lyrics and harmonica like "they don't doubt us anymore" and "what will the whole world think?" My favorite line from the song is the bookend at the beginning and end. The last words are "never run away a boy, when you can walk away a man."
I hope that we'll be hearing about this band more and more as the success of their tour with Taylor Swift and their live energy become known. If you get a chance to see them live, do it, you will not be disappointed. This album jumped way up my list of albums of the year and is easily my favorite rock album in years. It's complete and shows that the band is poised to prove to the world that they are here to stay.
on September 20, 2011
NEEDTOBREATHE had me at "Signature of Divine (Yahweh)," which was my favorite song of 2007. The music scene that year featured some impressive new albums by my favorite faith-based mainstream bands, Lifehouse and Collective Soul. I owned Daylight so I immediately purchased The Heat and NEEDTOBREATHE instantly became my favorite band. Rarely can a rock band give me goose bumps or tingle my spine when I listen to their songs, but this band has an uncanny ability to get deeper and more emotionally penetrating with each release. For sure, The Outsiders was the top album of 2009 and really put the band on the map with stand-out hit songs "Lay `Em Down" and "Something Beautiful," landing them a major tour opening for Taylor Swift.
The Reckoning has been my most anticipated album of 2011, and I'm pleased to say it exceeds my expectations as I couldn't imagine they could outdo themselves. This incredible band has once again released their newest best album. They rock harder than ever in the stellar opening track, "Oohs and Aahs," a fitting tribute to their energetic and awe-inspiring live shows. The song ends with a jam session which highlights their outstanding musicianship. I had been listening to "Slumber" and "Drive All Night" as singles that preceded the album release, and they are fitting examples of the excellence of this band. Something I noticed after heavy rotation of those songs and also the show-stopping "Devil's Been Talkin'" is how brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart have continued the "outsider" theme with the clever use of the term "victim" in all three songs. It personifies the brothers' challenge of standing up for what's right in a dark world, which is the cohesive theme of The Reckoning with fourteen amazing songs.
"White Fences," "Maybe They're Onto Us" and "Keep Your Eyes Open" are also stand-out rockers and all focus on the concept of staying true to principals of self-discipline and humility despite the band's sudden thrust into the limelight. These are some of the most grounded regular guys in a ridiculously gifted rock band. It seems to come from their family upbringing from Possum Creek, South Carolina as sons of an Assembly of God pastor who formed this stellar band with boyhood friends bassist Seth Bolt and drummer Joe Stillwell. They've never lost sight of their calling to focus on truth in their songs, which is especially found in some of their most heart-wrenching ballads to date, "A Place Only You Can Go," "Able," "Tyrant Kings" and gorgeous closing song "Learn To Love." Some of my favorite lyrics on the album are in "Devil's Been Talkin'" which is a banjo-led surefire concert favorite featuring Bear passionately belting out "The Truth will set you free." The lyrics I can't stop singing are in my all-time favorite song, "Drive All Night" which is the ultimate story of "outsiders." The song has such a hooky melody and just like "Something Beautiful," is another guaranteed hit song. The song builds to the incredible lyrics "Beg the Book to turn the page, `cause I get stuck where the villains get away. Somewhere in this wretched tale, there must be a line where the victim gets his way, just one time. Oh I'll get mine." When Bear sings that line, my heart beats faster and I get swept up in the emotional stirring of my soul, just like in "Signature Of Divine (Yahweh)" which melts me every time I hear "Take me, and pull me through. Cause I can't move without You. I won't leave you alone, You say, It will be okay." Thank you Bear, Bo, Seth and Joe for continually serving those "gourmet" musical moments and for sure, "it will be okay."
CLOSING THOUGHTS (Staff Review, NewReleaseTuesday.com)
I am literally blown away. This is a ridiculously fantastic album on all levels. You can be sure this is a 5 star masterpiece that will propel NEEDTOBREATHE to major headliner status just like GRAMMY Award winning bands Train, Kings of Leon and Muse. All I can say is "ooh and aah" as I listen to each incredible song. The meteoric rise of this band from Daylight to The Reckoning is unprecedented and extremely well-deserved. If you've been waiting to jump on the NEEDTOBREATHE bandwagon, it's time to "wake on up from your slumber, baby open up your eyes." This is the best album I've ever heard. Bo Rinehart is a hit song-writing genius. Just like everyone else including Taylor Swift, "More Time," "Lay 'Em Down" and "Something Beautiful" captivated me. Every song is on this album is a guaranteed hit, especially "Oohs and Aahs," "White Fences," "Slumber," "Maybe They're Onto Us," "Keep Your Eyes Open," "Devil's Been Talkin'" and my Song of the Year-"Drive All Night." This deserves the GRAMMY award for Album of the Year. It is time to make history. Just like The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, The Reckoning by NEEDTOBREATHE is the Album of the Year by THE Group of the Year.
on September 22, 2011
NEEDTOBREATHE is one of those bands you stumble across and find yourself loving song after song, wondering why it took you so long to find them.
Their new release "The Reckoning" has all the makings of a hit - catchy hooks, stellar vocals and brilliant lyrics. If you've heard their previous records, you'll know what to expect. And you'll get it, plus a whole lot more. Critics are putting their sound somewhere in between Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons. I wholeheartedly agree with that comparison - lead singer Bear Rinehart's vocals do compare with that of the scratchy huskiness of Caleb Followill's, and they have the rock country sound of Mumford & Sons that banjos instantly create. But comparisons are just that, and these guys are definitely in a league of their own.
"The Reckoning" is not so much a new direction for the band, but more of a fusion of previous records plus experimenting with new sounds and instruments. It has the rock of "Daylight" (2006), the midtempo hooks of "The Heat" (2007) and the Southern feel of "The Outsiders" (2009).
"Oohs and Ahhs" - This song has got to be one of the most killer openings to a record. It starts off all cool and smooth, and then explodes into a massive chorus. Then just when you think it's over, it comes blasting back at you with about a minute of instrumental goodness including some incredible trumpets. Definitely a standout track. Epic. 5/5
"White Fences" - Then we lead into the second track, which starts off with the more familiar strummings of a banjo. A song about struggling with a fallen home-life, and who and how is that going to be fixed. "You leave me in the dark/recounting all my sins/who is gonna mend these white fences?" The song paces really steadily and will quickly have you swaying along. 4.5/5
"Drive All Night" - One of the first singles and the first tastes we got of the record. It's a perfect driving song, and as the band have said themselves, a great song if you want to get in the car, wind down the windows and just get away for awhile. They tap into something we all feel - that feeling of just needing to get as far away as possible, even just for a little while. You'll feel it when the song peaks as Bear screams, "Somewhere in this wretched tale there must be a line where the victim gets his way, just one time. Oh, I'll get mine..." A pure rock song. 5/5
"A Place Only You Can Go" - The pace slows down with the first downtempo track. It's a beautiful melody but it's Bear's vocals that really carry it. It's clearly from the heart and it's a rare thing to hear true emotion in a singer's voice on a formal recording. It seems to be most often reserved for a live show, but not in this case... while polished, of course, the rawness hasn't been lost. It's also the first time we hear a Celtic flavour from the band. 4.5/5
"Slumber" - This track was the very first taste we got of "The Reckoning." And didn't it just blow everyone away? It's stripped, but yet so powerful. The lyrics are meaningful and once again, something everyone can relate to. "Days they force you back under of those covers/lazy mornings they multiply/glory's waiting outside your window/wake on up from your slumber/baby, open up your eyes." It also has some new sounds of what sounds like a xylophone? That's cute. 4.5/5
"The Reckoning" - The title track from the record, and what an amazing one it is. The first verse introduces us to a beautiful lyrical melody - it's simple and that's what gives it it's pure brilliance. This song is a great choice for the title of the album because I think it sums up where they are right now. They're really starting to be more known as a band, and it literally may end up being their "reckoning time." 5/5
"Able" - The next downtempo track, and oh, it's so beautifully epic. It's smooth and easy on the ears. Bear's vocals carry it in the beginning, plus some awesome slide guitar, before it builds into a final verse of a gospel-like choir chanting the lyrics, "We were born with knives in hand, trained to kill our fellow man. If we're not better than the rest, how will children do their best? Find your patience, find your truth. Love is all we have to lose." Lyrically and musically, it's a brilliant song. 5/5
"Maybe They're On To Us" - Quite possibly my favourite track. It is super, super catchy. It's got this Spanish-flavoured groove that is hard not to get into. Not to mention, the awesome trumpets are back and making a very welcome appearance. It's a little bit dark and a little bit scary, and asks the big question, "who's gonna save us now?" It's a bit haunted, just like the cover art. One of my favourite parts is the little crack in Bear's voice on line, "my hands are shakin' like a leaf." You can rock out to this one in the car! 5/5
"Wanted Man" - Another great rock track. It has everything you'd expect in a NEEDTOBREATHE track - great vocals, lyrics and melody. I don't think it's a standout for me, but mostly because the tracks around it are just so awesome that it gets lost a little bit. 4.5/5
"Keep Your Eyes Open" - This song is everything you'll ever need in a song. Big call, but I can see it getting me through lots of tough times ahead. It's so uplifting and makes you believe you can be anything you want if you just believe in yourself, your faith and stay strong. But ironically enough, all I want to do is close my eyes and listen to it over and over. 5/5
"Tyrant Kings" - Lyrically, one of their best yet. Musically, it's catchy with a big sound. Bear's vocals are emotional and meaningful, even shaky at times but in a good way. To me, it seems to be a song about always being on the road, away from their families and being so close to greatness yet still so far away. "Shadows of greatness, its the story of a small town/all of this work and I ain't seein' any wages/I ain't gonna stop until I do/don't you know time is like a fortune when we take it/baby let me spend my time with you." 5/5
"Devil's Been Talkin'" - A huge track and probably the first that really has that Southern feel reminiscent of "The Outsiders." Catchy, loud and is bound to be a surefire hit playing in big arenas. Listen out for the "devil" whispering in the background! 5/5
"Angel At My Door" - I feel like this is a throwback to "The Heat" days. It has that mellow, midtempo feel which the guys are so good at. Once again, Bear's vocals soar all over this. 4.5/5
"Learn To Love" - The closer to the record is simply beautiful. It's a downtempo one and has an 'acoustic' feel to it, but yet could easily work in an arena if they got everyone to shut up and be real quiet for a few minutes. The harmonies are provided by Ella Mae Bowen, an upcoming artist also from South Carolina. She has a heavenly voice, which works so well with Bear's to create something very special. It reminds me of "Stones Under Rushing Water" from "The Outsiders." 4.5/5
Overall, this is a truly incredible album. I don't just say that because I'm already a fan but because I know how good these guys are. Hopefully this is NEEDTOBREATHE's breakthrough album, with the big break they so deserve. It's about time the nice guys came first.
Buy it. You won't regret it.
on September 20, 2011
My last favorite album was NEEDTOBREATHE's The Outsiders. I was very excited about the release of The Reckoning, but after being let down by so many artists releasing new albums that sound just like their last one, I was cautious about my optimism. I wasn't sure how the variety and excellence of The Outsiders could be matched without repeating themselves.
Now that I have listened to The Reckoning, I know I had no reason to worry. Every song on this album sounds brand new, while still keeping NEEDTOBREATHE's unique and excellent sound. I will spin this entire album again and again until their next album. Just like I did with The Outsiders.
on July 18, 2014
This is one of those "listen to no matter what mood you're in" albums that equally soothes the soul yet excites it at the same time. Long time fans of the band will not be disappointed as the tracks have a similar feel to the group's other hits, yet feel completely novel at the same time. With a playful mix of bluegrass roots and folk melodies, the album has just the right blend of upbeat and reflective songs. Definitely a satisfying answer to those who have been long awaiting the album after falling in love with the singles.
on December 22, 2012
I've been impressed by Needtobreathe in the past, but this is my favorite album of theirs yet. I haven't listened to THE OUTSIDERS, but compared to DAYLIGHT and THE HEAT, this one is more raw and organic sounding, but no less and indeed even more powerful. I love hearing a record that doesn't sound overly glossy and produced. This music feels like it can breathe, and this is a great, great batch of songs. The title track, "Maybe They're Onto Us," and the two singles "Keep Your Eyes Open" and "Devil's Been Talkin'" are the first ones that I would name check, but the whole album is extremely strong. I have to say that I don't care for the opening track "Oohs and Ahhs" and "Slumber" bores me (similar to "More Time" from THE HEAT, it just goes on and on...) but that is just personal taste. I have to give THE RECKONING five stars; there is just no other way. I think that Needtobreathe is demonstrating an encouraging career trajectory so far, that is, they seem to be getting better with each album. I would recommend this to anyone who likes any of their other stuff. It deserves to win them many new fans, as well. I can't think of many rock albums that I have heard in the last decade that have truly impressed me as much as this one. Very good.
on February 10, 2013
I'm relatively new to this band, this was the first of their albums that I took a good listen to. SO glad I did! I've been playing it constantly since it arrived and it is truly outstanding from start to finish, a full and complete mix of songs. I hear similarities to other bands that I enjoy; such as Kings Of Leon, Mumford & Sons, even a little of The Fray. That said, NEEDTOBREATHE tops them all, in my opinion. The Reckoning is the best compilation of lyrics, harmonies and instumentation that I've heard in a long while - maybe ever. Love the funk and realism of Ohhs and Ahhs; the regretful understanding that maturity brings in White Fences; the beautiful sweetness of A Place Only You Can Go; the immensely compelling pulse of Slumber; the intensifying, frantic pace of Maybe They're On To Us; and the ever-relatable poignancy of Devil's Been Talkin'. Every song makes you FEEL - the mark of true, natural, musical genius. I have since picked up The Outsiders and The Heat, and like them quite a lot, but The Reckoning remains my prized find so far. Anxiously awaiting a chance to see them live.
on January 24, 2013
This album has it all: Exceptional vocals, meaningful lyrics, incredible guitar, piano and base to form a great overall sound. I've listened to the album about a dozen times in 4 days and continue to find news things I like about it. Needtobreathe has a new fan!
I heard a song from this album on a TV show and was intrigued. I hit the web to identify the band and song and immediately sampled several songs on YouTube and Amazon. It didn't take long to realize these guys are really good and I purchased the MP3 album within an hour. I recommended the album to a family member with the description of "Mumford & Sons meets Coldplay with a Carolina-Indie twist." I'm not certain that makes sense but is as close as I can come for someone who has not heard Needtobreathe.
The opening track is not my favorite, but the rest of the album is very good. The best of the songs are White Fences, Drive All Night, Slumber, The Reckoning and Keep Your Eyes Open. But, really, there isn't a bad song on the album. This album easily rates 5 stars and is one I heartily recommend.
on August 7, 2015
I keep listening to this album hoping some songs would grow on me! I really don't think it's as good as prior albums so hope they go back to their old sound. Not one song has stayed in my head and I'm disappointed.
on May 1, 2013
I've delayed writing a review on this album for far too long. After streaming it on Spotify endlessly, buying it here, seeing them at the ACL music festival on The Reckoning Tour, and then again just the other night, I am fully convinced this is Needtobreathe's best work to date, and one of the greatest rock albums I have ever heard. The writing, excellent, profound and soulful in all the right places, but avoids sinking into cliché. The sound, loud, refined, and Southern-flavored leaves melodies stuck in your head so deep, they'll be there for years to come. Other reviewers who wrote predicting this is the record that will help thrust them into huge headlining shows were absolutely right, the absolutely jam-packed show they played at Stubb's last weekend showed this loud and clear. If you weren't a fan before, or if you've never even heard of Needtobreathe, now is the time to give Bear, Bo, Seth and the crew a listen.