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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Do You Feel

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jul
Do You Feel
Sounds like … a voice resembling Justin Timberlake or Michael Jackson performing energetic power pop and piano rock similar to Relient K, Ben Folds, Jack's Mannequin, and The Swift.At a glance … Bryce Avary improves with every release, adding stronger songwriting and more polished production to his already fun and infectious sound for Do You Feel.Track Listing Break It Out
So Much Love
Do You Feel
All I Have
High Life Scenery
A Song Is Not a Business Plan
Taken Aback
Run to You
Hold It Up
So, In this Hour …

The term "summer album" gets thrown around a lot to describe energetic music that's played while having fun in the sun, maybe driving around with the windows down. Catchy, but not necessarily something you would devote much attention to. Similarly, "ear candy" is often delicious and fluffy, but often lacking in substance.

Both terms are appropriate for Bryce Avary, a singer/songwriter in his mid-twenties who performs almost all the instrumentation himself under the moniker The Rocket Summer (he's joined by other musicians in concert). His sophomore effort "Hello, Good Friend" was enjoyable enough for us to name him one of 2005's best new artists, though one couldn't help wondering how he'd fare with stronger songwriting and more polished production. Do You Feel answers that speculation with impressive results.

Co-produced by Avary with Jim Wirt (Jack's Mannequin, Incubus), this third album is more stylish and varied than the last in almost every way. That much is evident from just the first single "So Much Love," a terrific bouncy piano pop number elevated by some slick, retro-sounding horns—the same style featured on Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.

Several songs seem clearly derived from Avary's faith too. The Relient K-styled pop-punk of the title track feels like a paraphrase of Romans 8, and it's hard to mistake his hopeful cry for renewal in "Save." The ballad "Run to You" is a confessional seeking to regain child-like faith, and the upbeat finale "So, In This Hour …" prayerfully closes with a declaration of surrender and commitment: "Please take my life and use it, I'm ready."

Avary's kid-like vocal may still be an acquired taste for some—like Justin Timberlake or Michael Jackson fronting a rock band—but I find it grows on you with time. Besides, it's overshadowed by the way he deftly balances faith and mainstream accessibility without proselytizing or vaguely generalizing. That The Rocket Summer delivers this newly matured sense of songwriting through a summer album's worth of ear candy only makes it more irresistible.

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