City Alight - St Paul’s Castle Hill
St Paul’s Castle Hill have a strong history of songwriting and recording. Their latest CD, City Alight, is a fine addition to their catalogue.
Very attractive cover art, matched by a well presented interior booklet, reflect a strong commitment to high production values. These are evident on the CD as well. They clearly didn’t have a huge budget, but the album is very listenable. The credits show they have used external producers, and this always results in a better product.
The musical genre is an alternative Christian rock, very similar to what you will hear on a Hillsong United or PlanetShakers album. I’ve complained before about congregational albums taking such “soft” genre options, but these guys have done it well, and I enjoyed the album’s very credible “alt” edge. Besides, tweens seem to love this stuff, and that is clearly their target audience.
These (presumably) young songwriters have a mature grasp on the songwriting process. Soaring anthems and sweeping ballads are the order of the day, and they employ all the requisite tricks to make the music memorable and enjoyable. Some may complain that it is all a little cliched, but that’s really a plus when it comes to congregational music. St Paul’s could teach a few things to some other local songwriters, who need a bit less Bach and a bit more Britney in their music.
Lyrically, the album is strong throughout. The songs focus on the majesty and glory of God, and our humility before Him. They are scripturally inspired, and I’d happily sing any of them in church. I have one concern in this area, though. I found the lyrics to be weak in terms of redemptive theology. It’s worth recalling that a holy, majestic God is a terror to us - apart from the cross!
But this should not detract from what is an excellent album, featuring songs that are certain to please teens and twenty-somethings especially. God-willing, we can look forward to many more such albums from the team at St Paul’s.