Derek Webb

Stockholm Syndrome

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Derek Webb's fifth solo album is something of a surprise at first blush -- but then again, anyone who has followed his career since leaving Christian rockers Caedmon's Call in 2003 should know better than to be surprised by stylistic left turns. Much of his solo work has been in a folk-pop vein, even as his lyrical concerns have pushed the envelope of traditional Christian rock. On Stockholm Syndrome, he takes a giant step in a completely different direction, immersing himself in a glitchy, looped-up, hip-hoppish ambience -- gratefully, he resists the temptation to rap, but many of the album's quirky funk grooves wouldn't sound out of place on a N.E.R.D. or Gnarls Barkley project. Webb's tendency to emote in an explicitly Bono-esque manner remains a little bit irritating (especially on the bombastically U2-ish chorus to "Becoming a Slave"), but there's no questioning his individuality on tracks like the doo wop-meets-trip-hop "Freddie, Please," the almost torchy "The State," and the clicky, glitch-based "What You Give Up to Get It." All of these are robustly tuneful and hooky. Lyrically, Webb takes on issues of race and sexuality with much more nuance than you might expect, and in ways that his co-religionists are likely to find a bit discomforting. That's probably not a bad thing, either.

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