Though I’ve known him loosely through various Social Networks for several years, I first met Matt McCoy at the Experience Conference ’13 in Orlando where he was showing his brilliant Looptimus midi-controller. By the end of the week we’d traded CDs – up to then I had somehow entirely missed that he was a musician, & a member of one of my favorite worship teams, the Vertical Church Band – & out of all of the “schwag” from the conference, I ended up listening to his for most of the ride home. When I heard that he was releasing another, I was first in line for a review!
Matt’s latest is a very anthemic set – the high energy songs are pure fist-pump, & the ballads make you want to rise to your feet & raise your hands. Similar to Hillsong Young & Free in style, Matt’s very in-touch with the current 80’s electronica revival, which is not surprising given he is the founder/owner of the Loop Community – which is to say, he incorporates those elements well into this live setting. The loops work to support the songs, rather than distract or draw attention to themselves. Speaking of live, this is it – there is a great balance in the mix between the room & the band, & I love hearing the voices of people engaged in corporate song!
My only critiques can also be compliments (which I suppose it a good thing), depending on what you’re looking for in a worship CD:
First, I’d like to hear more originals. Matt is a strong writer, especially where hoook/melody are concerned, & I’d love to hear more of his own songs. That said, his take on the covers are fresh & definitely have his own unique spin that is worth hearing.
Second, like much of Elevation Church & Hillsong, this collection leans “horizontal” in focus, both the originals & covers. Lyrically, I am very drawn to “vertical” songs, who’s lyrics are written to God, rather than about Him, or our response to Him. The lyrical push of Hillsong’s “Stand”, where we sing, “I’ll stand with arms high & heart surrendered” is the centerpiece & sets the tone for the whole project, even the originals. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for these sorts of songs, & they’re good songs – as a worshiper I usually find myself engaged by a greater balance of vertical & horizontal corporate songs. That aside, this is still an excellent CD – passionate, well-produced, & well-performed!
The highlight of the CD is track #2, Matt’s original “Praise our God“, which I hope to use as a walk-in soon both at our church & will soon add to Saint Lewis’s set-list as well. It’s a strong, mid-uptempo Call-to-Worship anthem, with a strong melody, & chorus that is both classic/historic/Biblical (“To Him to sits on Heaven’s throne…“), & quite original, feeling like a “breakdown” (if it were driven my distorted guitar instead of synths, a mosh-pit would break out) – it’s really quite powerful on it’s musical merits alone. Necessary listening for all of you worship pastor audiophiles. Another highlight is Matt’s cover of Hillsong’s arrangement of the Apostle’s Creed, rightly titled “This I Believe (Creed)“. I had somehow missed the song when it was originally released, & having now heard both, I honestly prefer Matt’s!
Alive & Free is a solid release from a great worship leader/artist/creative, & a really nice fellow, to boot. Check it out, and – if nothing else – at least do yourself a favor & download “Praise our God”… man, it’s soooo good! Give it a listen below…