The Normals
A Place Where You Belong

Christians must straddle love and unease in this world. We are called to love nature as it cries out the glory of God; to love our neighbors; and to love our families. But we will inevitably be uncomfortable with the destruction of God’s creation; the sin in our neighbors; and the pain in our families.

The Normals explore these issues on their third album, A Place Where You Belong. As one might gather from the album’s name, the 11 songs in this collection focus on the comforts and ennui of our earthly home.

Musically, the production is both interesting and familiar. The lead vocals -- emotionally vulnerable and pleasing to the ear, if not "beautiful" in the traditional sense -- weave in front of and behind a backbeat that has just enough funk to keep things interesting, and all is trimmed with guitars, keyboards and background vocals to ensure the proper ambiance. The result presents the hometown, slice-of-life themes -- and some of the mellow acoustic sound -- of Counting Crows, through a Jars of Clay musical filter.

A Place Where You Belong opens with I’ll Be Home Soon, a plain and plaintive song that expresses a yearning for home in the old style. Once the band cleanses your listening palate with this slow, acoustic opener, they serve up a meal that includes the road-trip worthy (Romeo on the Radio), the slow and contemplative (Grace) and some contemporary pop (Less Than Love and King), ending with an out-there-waltz-anthem (Epilogue).

The album more than holds its own lyrically. Lines like, "Love is a contact sport / Beauty is an aisle at the supermarket / Truth is a notion to be left behind / Burned, and buried not seek or find" express discomfort with the earthly home, while lines like "the grace of a savior, the face of a lover / the absence of what I fear / I’m not alone, for here I’ve found my home" rests in what is best about this life.

As a whole, this is a solid effort that invites you to kick off your shoes, relax and contemplate the wonders and worries of home.