By BRUCE DENNILL
Artist: Zach Williams
Thoughts: Every bit as country as he is Christian, Zach Williams provides something for both markets in this polished, sincere paean to not only getting through tough times, but doing so with reliable help. A great singing voice is also well used to convey strong emotion.
Artist: Wendy Oldfield
Thoughts: Rootsy and thoughtful, this song lyrically examines the notion of home – the reality of it being emotion and texture and time as well as place. Oldfield’s voice has a sultry, smoky edge to it over sprightly instrumental backing and a melody that slightly recalls Fairground Attraction.
Artist: Finding Faith
Track: Good Hands
Thoughts: Australian-Canadian duo Finding Faith cloak their belief-inspired lyrics (the hook is “the hands that hold it all are good hands) in layered, thoughtfully-constructed production, built on a foundation of keyboards and synths. The result is a chart-friendly pop sound that quickly gets under your skin.
Artist: Anna Wolf
Thoughts: Moody and dark, Gong recalls the less mainstream moments of artists like Tori Amos, a sinister fairytale lyric woven into changing time signatures that unsettle on a first listen. On repeated spins, though, the arrangement starts to feel more natural, and Wolf’s multi-octave vocals help uncover the emotional heart of the piece.
Artist: Cherry Pill
Track: Tears That Flow
Thoughts: Providing an interesting instrumental platform – violin plus nuanced guitar, here – Cherry Pill suggest a diversion from their folky style with quirky timing tweaks as this tune starts. But it settles into a more straightforward pattern – beautifully played, but more like MOR folk-pop than the slightly edgier feel of the opening passages.
Artist: Albert Frost
Thoughts: The sunny, choir-backed intro riff is a little misleading in terms of the tone of much of what is a relatively thoughtful tune for much of its running time (particularly in the verses), but that and the powerful lift into the chorus – plus the trademark solo – leave you feeling better at the end of the song than you did when it started.
Track: Hey Boy
Thoughts: The fantastic full-throttle vocal and funk strut of the first 30 seconds is up there with Sia’s considerable best. The rest of the song? More predictable, less thrilling (but still solid) pop, with Nigerian rapper Burna Boy adding vibes more than a standout individual contribution.