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Under the Canopy

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Nov
Under the Canopy
Sounds like … Hawk Nelson's guitarist performing power pop and indie rock in the style of Aaron Sprinkle, Falling Up, Howard Jones, Jimmy Eat World, PFR, Leeland, and Tenth Avenue North.At a glance … Jonathan Steingard's first official solo project finds the Hawk Nelson guitarist crafting simplistic but enjoyable pop songs with an alternative flair and refreshingly honest Christian lyricism. Track Listing1983EverythingTo Lose Myself (I Found a Way)You Always YouHeart SetUnder the Canopy (I Found a Truth)The Siege of AtlantisYour Love Is the SignalAt the Bottom (I Found a Life)Curtains

Most know 25-year-old Jonathan Steingard as the guitarist for pop-punk band Hawk Nelson, but he's also kept plenty busy with other side projects. Previous bands/monikers include September Satellite, The Natural Anthem, and most recently, Fox Run, a project released in 2006 that he began recording shortly before joining Hawk Nelson. With each of these projects, Steingard demonstrates broad musicianship by performing most of the instruments himself, not to mention writing his own songs. At last, he now presents his first bona fide solo album, Under the Canopy, available independently online through various sites, including CD Baby and iTunes.

It needs to be stressed that this album is nothing like the pop-punk of Hawk Nelson, though "The Siege of Atlantis" comes close in sound. This is more like the alternative power pop of Jimmy Eat World, Falling Up, and the solo work of Aaron Sprinkle, particularly closing track "Curtains." At times, it even resembles the worshipful AC pop of MercyMe, Leeland, or Tenth Avenue North, though it's far more ambitious and alternative in scope. Most of the songs are heavy on synths/keyboards, oftentimes segueing into each other to create a cohesive work or worship experience. But Steingard still offers some inspired moments of soaring guitar pop/rock, especially in "You Always You," "To Lose Myself (I Found a Way)," and "At the Bottom (I Found a Life)."

Also refreshing is the way Steingard expresses his faith so overtly, yet with personality and vision—check out the parenthetical references to John 14:6 in the three interlude titles. The bulk of the album is rather worshipful in tone, or at least close to it, declaring contentment in Jesus ("Everything"), recognizing God's boundless love ("You Always You"), and pleading for guidance ("Your Love Is the Signal"). In "Heart Set," he clings to his faith in times of doubt by questioning where he went wrong: "When did I grow too old?/When did I learn too much?/When did I start to trust only what I can see and touch?/You never turned away, not even when I'd fight/You never waited for me to get it right"

Granted, "1983" feels a little out of place, apparently depicting Steingard's birth and how it changed his parents' world. And "The Siege of Atlantis" never really justifies the title's metaphor as it relates to the inner conflict between holiness and sin. But "Curtains" remains an intelligently crafted metaphor about the day Jesus returns to make all things new.

The songs may at times seem overly simplistic to some listeners, but it generally works in Steingard's favor, making his pop music approachable in both melody and lyric, like straightforward conversations with God. He shows strong potential as a solo artist with Under the Canopy, crafting songs as catchy as Hawk Nelson, yet different in style and more meaningful.

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