ALBUM TITLE: I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home)
ARTIST: The City Harmonic
BEST TRACK/S: Manifesto; Mountaintop; Yours; Holy (Wedding Day); Benediction
OVERALL RATING: 4.75/5
First off, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to share this album review with you. When frontman and keyboardist Elias Dummer, bassist Eric Fusilier, guitarist Aaron Powell and drummer Josh Vanderlaan, better known as The City Harmonic, first burst onto the Contemporary Christian praise and worship scene in 2011 with Manifesto, I told myself, Wow, this is different!, and the music really was. Exciting drum work, passionate vocals, a piano line that just wouldn’t quit, electrifying electric guitars, and a singalong chorus that captivated the listener at first listen, all came together to make Manifesto a welcome and rare experience unlike anything that was playing on Christian AC radio at the time.
Listen to The City Harmonic’s Manifesto
And just when I thought Manifesto was a shot in the pan, Mountaintop was released as a single from the full-length debut release, I Have A Dream (Feels Like Home). Mountaintop was one of my favorite songs of the year – it ended 2012 at number six overall – and for good reason. Lead vocalist Elias Dummer sounded AMAZING! and the powerful declaration of faith that Mountaintop was, with its solid chorus featuring the band singing the chorus in breathtaking unison, made Mountaintop an irresistible song for Christians worldwide. And let’s not forget that ridiculously delicious drum line!
Listen to The City Harmonic’s Mountaintop
So where does this put I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home), the band’s debut full-length release? In a rare league of its own. Now available locally via House of Praise, this release may be the most masculine CCM album I’ve ever heard. Listening to the Canadian foursome’s debut release in its stunning, satisfying entirety, I cannot begin to tell you what kind of journey you may set yourselves on when you listen to this album.
It’s that different from any CCM release to date. It’s that good. They have the JUNO Award to prove it.
I haven’t been this verklempt to review an album that I’ve connected to so personally since Jimmy Needham’s Clear the Stage. So let’s get started.
I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home) opens with Yours, which is an incredible opening song. There’s something about The City Harmonic’s drum lines; they are raw and powerful, and Yours showcases this, even as Dummer leads the band – and anyone listening to the album – in a powerful declaration of faith: You can have it all, all of it, Yours, referring to hopes, dreams, thoughts, sin, fear… it’s emotional and it’s primal.
Spark follows Yours, and the poetry of the verse lyrics can literally make a person hold his breath. When I breathe in hope and breathe in grace and breathe in God, then I’ll breathe out peace, breathe out justice, breathe out love. It’s a beautiful reference to the importance of the Holy Spirit in empowering a believer to become salt and light to his community. Shortly after Spark closes, we then hear a speech from Martin Luther King that transitions into Mountaintop.
That Mountaintop was designed to elicit communal singing is no small feat. It is hard to come up with anthemic songs, much less the kind that impacts both youth and their parents. Mountaintop is an absolute gem of a song, my favorite track off I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home).
Fell Apart follows Mountaintop. While the ubiquitous sing-along chorus is still there, it’s when the instruments disappear and Dummer’s voice is all that remains as he sings “You’re something real in the world of fake,” that this song becomes intensely spiritual. Be Still O My Soul, an almost hymn-like piano-laced track that starts off with Dummer singing far off, sounds wonderful as well.
Wake Me Up is probably my least favorite track on this release, owing to its rather synth-driven instrumentation. Getting past it into I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home), another previous single, is an easy decision.
Listen to The City Harmonic’s I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home)
I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) is a strong and viable follow-up to its Christian AC hit, Manifesto. While not immediately as catchy as Manifesto, I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) has a classic anthem rock feel to it, especially with the Hooooooooome singalong chorus at the end, which I’m sure will sound fantastic in large venues across the country.
Le Reve, Love, and Holy (Wedding Day) are particularly poignant songs that follow the energy and passion of “I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home). Whether it’s Dummer singing, “What could I do without You?” in Le Reve or Death, where is thy sting? in Holy, or tapping their inner Mumford and Sons for Love, we can see the sensitivity that Dummer is capable of, clearly making his voices one of current CCM’s most recognizable and beautiful voices.
By the time we reach Benediction, a song blessing the listener – the point of a benediction in the first place – we are spent, but because the song is so encouraging, we are energized once again. Live like you mean it, sing like you’re living for God, goodbye, He says goodbye… beautiful.
(Manifesto is then given to us as a bonus track, and is almost anticlimactic in its positioning. While easily The City Harmonic’s most popular song, the gorgeous ending of Benediction would have made the album satisfying in itself.)
I cannot express how phenomenal The City Harmonic’s I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home) is. Musically, lyrically, vocally, thematically, theologically, it is an absolutely stunning album, easily one of my favorite debut CCM releases of the decade, if not all time, and I do not say that lightly. Elias Dummer and his three bandmates have crafted a sonically pleasing, spiritually satisfying release that will stand the test of time.