Phillips, Craig & Dean

Top of My Lungs

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Christian pop music carries with it twin dangers, and each is kind of a mirror image of the other: one danger is the risk of falling into saccharine sweetness; the other is the risk of treating sacred things in a casual, flip manner. For both of those reasons, pop songs about sin and redemption tend to succeed best when they focus on the sinner rather than the Savior -- in a pop context, you kind of have to sing about Christ in general terms so as not to sound disrespectful, whereas you can sing about yourself in the kind of gritty detail that tends to make a song compelling. So how do Phillips, Craig & Dean walk that particular tightrope? Pretty well, which shouldn't be a surprise, since they've now been doing it for about 16 years. On Top of My Lungs their sound is based in sturdy folk-rock, and when it fails sonically it's usually because producer Nathan Nockels couldn't resist throwing in that dang string section where it doesn't belong (most egregiously on the slightly syrupy title track and the equally over-sweet "Saved the Day"). When it fails lyrically it's because they sound too offhanded about their Lord ("That's My Lord"). Not surprisingly, they succeed best when they rock out about the path of salvation ("One Way") and about their own religious commitment ("For Your Glory"). Overall, not bad at all.

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