Some have described the music of the Robbie Seay Band as one of the most innovative contributions to modern Christian pop and worship. Others are less impressed, calling them nothing more than a typical modern worship band. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.
It’s amusing to me that so-called “post Christian” twenty-somethings can be so passionately divided over the music they deem worthwhile. Robbie Seay Band’s alternatively minded home congregation, Ecclesia Church Houston, is primarily geared to that demographic, and left-of-center Christian author Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) had also endorsed the music. Yet a quick scan of the websites and blogs concerning Seay’s recent albums reveals some disagreement in the ranks—and that’s not even factoring in the enthusiasm of more conservatively minded Christian sites.
I too am a little divided over Seay’s music, particularly with their third major release Miracle, though I’m somewhere between very good and excellent. The strengths remain consistent, despite the changes in band roster in recent years, thanks to Seay’s songwriting and vision. However, that same consistency is beginning to wear, revealing some limitations to Seay’s creativity.
The most obvious positive is Seay’s warm and comforting foggy rasp of a vocal—though somewhat reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, it goes a long way in making the overall sound more distinctive. As with previous efforts, the lyrics on Miracle are a bit straightforward, though they’re certainly more poetic and thought out than the typical worship band—Seay could hardly be accused of rehashing predictable phrases.
But the primary asset to the Band’s sound is ambience with a capital A, soaking the mix with shimmering guitars and keyboard textures. Enlisting help again from producer Tedd T (Mute Math), Seay steers his sound comfortably between the upbeat modern worship of David Crowder Band and the shoe-gazer alt-pop of The Glorious Unseen.
As terrific as it all sounds, though, there’s not much to Miracle that sets it apart from Seay’s previous work. If you’ve heard his music before, there’s nothing here to change your mind one way or another. Moreover, about halfway through, the songs begin to sound the same—not a bad thing considering how good everything all sounds, but repetitive nonetheless.
That’s somewhat disappointing since Miracle is largely inspired by the personal stories of friends and family back at Ecclesia. One would think the songs would have a little more personal resonance and variety to them, but the album proves more about the relentless pursuit of God’s love, with few upbeat tracks aside from “Love Invades,” “Awaken My Soul,” and an undeniably rock solid cover of Jon Foreman’s “Your Love Is Strong” that merely employs Chris Tomlin’s U2-inspired style.
Seay is usually at his best when delivering powerful anthems with words that sound like hymns. “Kingdom and a King” is a boldly worded declaration of worship, Christian faith and commitment to service: “My heart is beating faster in my chest/As I sing of where my loyalties will rest/To never wait on the governments to move/As the broken and the poor cry out to You … Oh God, may we be focused on the least/A people balancing the fasting and the feast/A call to give, and to serve and celebrate/For You are great.” There’s also some cool call-and-response interplay to the chorus of “Let Our Faith Be Not Alone,” making it sound like a modern-day creed set to Coldplay styled pop, celebrating the faith common with saints through the ages. (I also like that the song if followed by “We Are Not Alone,” sort of a confirmation to the previous declaration, though in no way is it better musically.)
Other tracks aren’t nearly as impressive. “Crazy Love” is certainly not typical worship, nor is it particularly insightful with its half-baked lyric about our love for God. Something’s missing from that song, as well as the title track, which sounds a little too AC pop (and yes, it’s the first single). Though it’s focused on the point in life where we choose to trust in God or give up hope, it doesn’t seem to say enough—but I may be the odd man out here, as I can imagine it being used with homespun videos on YouTube celebrating church mission trips.
By the time we get to “Lament (We Cannot Wait)” (featuring Breanne Düren of Owl City fame) and an adaptation of the hymn “Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go” (featuring new Sparrow Signee Audrey Assad), it feels like one contemplative ballad too many—which is to say these are very good songs that stand well on their own, but sound sluggish after the similar material preceding it on the album.
If it sounds like I’m hedging a little, then rest assured, the high points outweigh the lows on Miracle. There’s a sameness to Seay’s music that I believe causes him to fall short of something greater. But there’s also still enough here that sets Seay apart, making him an interesting addition to the crowded modern worship scene and well worth checking out for yourself.
Standouts: “Kingdom and a King,” “Let Our Faith Be Not Alone,” “Your Love Is Strong”