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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

La Loop

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jun
La Loop
Sounds like … the playful acoustic pop of Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz, combined with Beck's hybrid of acoustic guitar and programmed loopsAt a glance … Riley Armstrong's fourth recording can get a little monotonous from dwelling too much in the same laid-back style, but his smart songwriting still makes it fun to listen toTrack Listing Anthem from 4th Place All the Good Ideas Are Gone Melting Above Every Name A Calendar for Clean Water Fall to Find You Cassette Decks A Lot Can Happen in a Year Cell Phone Birdhouse

People might have a hard time recalling the first artist signed to Flicker Records, especially now that the label has followed a more hard rocking direction, but Riley Armstrong was once Flicker's flagship artist with his self-titled debut in 2000, followed by 2002's Whatever the Weather. In the time since, the guitar-toting folkie left the label to simplify his life, returning to his Canadian homeland to become a family man. Armstrong went on to release La Loop through indie label 7Spin Music, now distributed through Provident Music Group, which also inked a distribution deal with Flicker—things really do stay the same in spite of change.

Likewise, while Armstrong's style hasn't changed that much, the music fits differently in today's cultural context. Six years ago, he was the quirky dreadlocked singer who played silly songs to youth groups like Weird Al Yankovic on acoustic guitar (remember his radio single "Sleep?"). Now, sans dreadlocks, he's evolved into Christian music's answer to Jack Johnson. Just as Johnson playfully sings about "Banana Pancakes" and romantic longing, Armstrong sings about checking pockets before doing laundry ("Cell Phone") while also offering up a love song ("Melting") and commenting on the side effects of television ("All the Good Ideas Are Gone").

It's cool to hear Armstrong play with a band for tracks like "Anthem from 4th Place" about freedom in humility, and "A Calendar for Clean Water" about storing our treasures in the eternal. Yet his more distinctive sound comes with playing to less interesting programmed drum loops on songs like the worshipful "Above Every Name" and his meditation on brokenness "Fall to Find You," though his ode to '80s analog recording "Cassette Deck" is a standout for its resemblance to Beck. Overall, La Loop would benefit from more dynamism, in both vocal and style, but Armstrong's smart songwriting remains a pleasure to listen to.

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