Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sixteen Cities

Sunny optimism takes the chill out of winter

Sixteen Cities
Artist: Sixteen Cities (http://www.sixteencities.com/)
Label: Centricity
Length: 11 tracks/39:17 minutes

The opening “Just Wanna Dance” to Sixteen Cities self-titled debut has a wistfulness that reminds me of Owl City, best known for the song “Fireflies.” Even though the two artists are different, I see some likeable parallels: simplicity of thought, an earnest voice, electronic enhancement (though here it just adds a little style rather than being predominant), and a sunny optimism that some might dismiss for its sweetness, but which I welcome in a world that has no shortage of heaviness.

One example of the bright outlook is “Sing Along,” where vocalist Josiah Warneking declares, “I love the way the stars shine for you, and every single mountain bows down. I love the way the universe is singing your song, so I try to sing along.” This chorus is carried by soaring pop/rock led by Dustin Erhardt’s shimmering guitar.

In a time when many are discouraged, I applaud songs like “Someone’s Work of Art” and “Bleeding for You” that emphasize the worth of a person. Teens and twenty-somethings, which have been the band’s primary audience, will find this affirming, as will all who are in need of encouragement. Like Owl City, Sixteen Cities, who get their name from a passage in Joshua 19 that deals with dividing the land, conveys hope.

They share it in places that might seem the least welcoming, but where it is truly needed, the public schools. It seems fitting since these songs are radio-friendly and God-pointing, without being preachy or too heavy. They have the subtle persuasion that is appropriate for this environment. The lyrics are not always explicit in speaking of God; and the name of Jesus is not used, but it’s not hard to figure out what they are referencing. They have the potential to reach a broad audience with the message of God’s love and grace.

The songs are not all sunny and light. Some plead for being saved from oneself. One standout ballad, “Pray You Through,” is about being there for someone when words are inadequate. The CD ends on a plaintive note with a piano ballad called “Winter.” It’s about a prodigal who wonders if he can find his way home.

This debut takes the chill out of winter and points us home.
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