Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nicole Croteau: Anchors and Silhouettes Review

Late last year, Press Play’s Sada Johnson announced that she was leaving the band. As a big fan of Press Play, I was both disappointed with the phenomenal female vocalist’s leave, as well as very excited to find out who would replace her. Shortly later, Press Play announced Nicole Croteau as the new female vocalist for their band, and Nicole signed a deal with Dream Records. Anchors & Silhouettes is her debut, but Nicole is not new to Christian music. In fact, Nicole once entered the Colgate Country Showdown in her home-state of Montana, and came in at fourth place among the 200 entries. And now, with Anchors & Silhouettes, Nicole speaks through her country-flavored acoustic pop with a message of hope despite our hardships – holding on to the Anchor of our souls despite our failures (our silhouettes).

All of the tracks off Nicole Croteau’s album Anchors & Silhouettes reflect around a deep love of Jesus Christ and learning along the way. This is easily noticeable through “Falling,” the opening track straight through to the end. “Falling” could easily work as a love song to any individual, but Nicole makes it obvious that the love of her life is Jesus, not any person, and that only He can satisfy us. The bluegrass elements and wonderful background vocals from Nicole’s sister Olivia are excellent, setting apart Nicole from the Christian music industry with her unique and heart-felt sound. “Storyteller” has more of an acoustic feel to it, encouraging the listener to hold on through touch times: “Don’t doubt in the dark what you knew in the light/ don’t give up your heart what you need to survive…” It’s also quite obvious that Nicole’s poetic songwriting is very attractive. “Butterflies” follows, a very fun song about the unpredictable love of God and how He loves to reveal Himself to us.

The heavy bluegrass scheme of “Amazing” combined with the fast-paced lyrics speaking of learning to wait on God make for a very relatable track, but the strong fill-ins in the back also make it a fun listen. The slow acoustic track “Pushed Down” challenges the listener to walk in freedom and be the one to fix the broken relationships in life. “Sacred Romance” also speaks of being in a deep love with Jesus that no one could ever take away. The soft acoustic guitar backing was perfect for accentuating the peacefulness of this song.

A little more upbeat with a moderate contemporary feel, “Butterflies” speaks of knowing that God is near for us at all times, while “The Rescue,” with awesome harmonies, speaks of how we often wonder if God is listening to our cries for help, but truth is, He heard it long before we ever uttered it – a very encouraging message to hear from Nicole and her astonishing vocals.

“Hurricane” is made up mostly of acoustic guitars, a soft cello sound, and Nicole’s angelic vocals, as she sings a powerful prayer for God to blanket us with His love as we surrender to Him. Sounding like Holly Starr, “Devon” follows, a track Nicole wrote for a friend who lost her mother, who had also been influential in Nicole’s own life. This melodic track reminds the listener that those we have lost in this life are in a better place and we will see them again. It’s a bit tear jerking for it’s relatable message plus it’s sad feel, but the message will no doubt become an anthem for those who are struggling through the loss of a loved one.

With heavy drums, “The Getaway” has a flight-or-fight feel to it, especially for its fast-paced lyrics that speak of holding true to what you believe in and not letting up. And lastly comes the bonus track “Thirsty Roots,” that Nicole wrote roughly three years ago, entering a state competition (as previously mentioned). The serene acoustic-guitar track speaks of waiting for the right person that God has designed for us instead of experimenting with our own choices. It has a great message, and the country feel and lyrics make it all the more breathtaking, a fantastic closing to Anchors & Silhouettes.

All I can say is that Anchors & Silhouettes from Nicole Croteau makes me really anticipate a new record from Press Play! Nicole’s vocals, similar to Dara Maclean or Holly Starr, are dynamic; and Nicole’s mix of upbeat bluegrass tracks with slower acoustic guitar tracks combined with her superb lyrics and songwriting makes it a fantastic listen. Good job, Nicole!

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: March 13, 2012

Track listing:
1.  Falling
2. Storyteller
3. Pushed Down
4. Amazing
5. Think About It
6. Sacred Romance
7. Butterflies
8. Rescue
9. Hurricane
10. Devon
11. The Getaway
12. Thirsty Roots

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