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The Overflow

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Mar
The Overflow
Sounds like … Brit-pop and Euro-rock with classic rock leanings, most reminiscent of Travis, U2, Tree63, and The ElmsAt a glance … Sorensen's got a fabulous Brit-pop sound that lends itself well to themes of love, hurt, and worship—now if he could just add some edge to the rock sound and the lyricsTrack ListingLove Somebody ElseWhat Love IsFly AwayUpsideFollow MeGloria 34Red FoneSanctuaryWorld Keeps on SpinningBethlehem GirlSing (Or the Rocks Will Get To)

In contrast with the artful Brit pop/rock sound of his debut, The Overflow, Taylor Sorensen's story is surprisingly simple. The 23-year-old artist from Adrian, Michigan, moved to Nashville to pursue a degree in Religious Studies at Belmont University. After graduation, he toured the Midwest with his backing band, The Free Doves, eventually landing a deal with Rocketown Records as their first rock artist.

Sorensen was introduced to industry insiders during Gospel Music Week 2003 last year, releasing a 5-song disc in the fall called The Fill under just his first name. Despite early buzz, I can't say that the performance or the EP appetizer blew me away; both reminded me of a warmed-over version of The Elms—rocking, but generic. "Follow Me" primarily follows a basic 12-bar blues-rock riff behind simple born-again lyrics of discipleship. "Sanctuary," a simple rocker lacking a strong hook, explains that we are spiritual beings, not just flesh and blood. Particularly grating is "Love Somebody Else," Sorensen's Cure-styled rocker about bringing faith to life by loving others. Catchy at times, the chorus has an annoying and seemingly meaningless rhyme: "Cause this is not New York/And this is not a store/And this is not the night/And this is not a fight/And this is not an automobile/And this not the way you feel/And this is not a shove/This is love."

Ah, but The Fill was only meant to pique interest. These same songs have been improved for The Overflow, produced by Dave Perkins (Over the Rhine, Chagall Guevara) and the team of Sam Ashworth (Charlie Peacock's son) and Taylor Harris. The studio version of "Sanctuary" takes on a more exciting U2 quality, while "Love Somebody Else" is punchier and livelier. "Red Fone," the most promising track from The Fill, is a melancholic-and-comforting U2-styled ballad that offers hope in light of hopelessness; here it's given an appropriately more artful and contemplative treatment.

The pleasant surprise is that the other tracks on The Overflow are much better than those on the EP, demonstrating Sorensen's love of Brit pop/rock. It's especially apparent on the handful of ethereal ballads, strongly reminiscent of Travis, Starsailor, Coldplay, or such U2 favorites as "40," "Grace," and "The First Time." Sorensen's vocal croon is a splendid combination of Travis's Fran Healy, Jeff Buckley, and Tree63's John Ellis (who coincidentally plays guitar on a couple tracks).

Transcendent and worshipful, "Gloria 34"—a loose paraphrase of the same-numbered Psalm—is gorgeous and floating Brit pop. Such poetic-fueled Scripture also inspired "Sing (Or the Rocks Will Get To)," a powerful praise ballad. "World Keeps on Spinning," encouraging perseverance in our earthly race, features the vocal talents of Sixpence's Leigh Nash; her bandmate Matt Slocum's guitar and cello skills are also on full display throughout The Overflow. More upbeat tracks like "What Love Is" and "Upside" are better suited to Sorensen's Brit pop/rock style than those from his EP. The rich acoustic arrangement underlying "Fly Away" neatly extends the comparisons to Travis, using the image of a free dove as a symbol for spiritual freedom.

As suggested by the title, The Overflow is focused on themes of unconditional love and faithfulness, though maybe too much so. To his credit, he doesn't rely on tired clichés, but the words aren't particularly revelatory or insightful either. Much like Kevin Max on his Stereotype Be album, these songs feel like they could have been written by any number of musicians with a religious background.

Are there qualities that make Sorensen a unique artist, musician, or songwriter? I believe so; he just needs to tap into them more. He needs to work on his rock sound a bit by adding some depth or edge. The classic sound is all well and good, but it's more the stuff you'd expect from a cover band on this album—if the band's truly exciting live, then let that shine through in the songwriting and on the recording. Sorensen can also use some fresher ideas and messages to inspire his music. It's with his solid, faith-based Brit pop sound that this up-and-comer impresses most, revealing an artist willing to work outside the box. The Overflow hopefully marks the beginning of a creative flood for Taylor Sorensen.