On Closer, Shawn McDonald defies anyone who thinks he may have shown all the nuances of his voice and songwriting on his first three discs. The critically acclaimed Christian singer/songwriter emerged from a prolonged hiatus more resilient than ever, and more tuned in to the type of artist that suits him best. Described as everything from "trippy folk-pop" to "stripped-down earthiness" on prior releases, McDonald illuminates new facets of his identity on his fourth full-length release. Closer finds him at his deepest and most thought-provoking, due to a series of challenges in his personal life that inspired his lyrics. But ironically, this combination showcases a greater sense of something that was missing in the past, namely the sense that he's having fun. The catchy, syncopated backbeats, the layers of acoustic guitar, and the funky grooves invite listeners on a journey that is only inches outside the sound of Mat Kearney and Brandon Heath. McDonald probes for answers on songs like the title track, where he sings, "We're looking for color in the shade of gray/trying to find change from the old mundane." The album carries on with a sense of urgency and earnest yearning, but the brightest moments, like opening tracks "Better Way" and "Hope," give the singer his identity. And getting to know the real Shawn McDonald gives the artist what he truly has lacked in the past: traction.
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AllMusic Review by Jared Johnson