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Strangely Looking Forward - Click to view!It's only taken seven years together, but from the sound of the latest project from Daniel's Window, they're finally settling into a groove. Strangely Looking Forward represents a marked improvement in the strength of the band's music. While retaining the strong vocals of previous works, the new album tones down the "hip-hop" aspect of the group and focuses on tighter hooks and better writing. No doubt the rap lost prominence with the departure of Dave "Phunkee D" Vogrinc, who is no longer listed as a member of DW but still shares songwriting credits on a number of the tracks. However, much of the credit for the overall improvement in quality has to go to the production team provided by new label Cross Driven Records. Of particular note is the disc's master, Grammy winner Richard Dodd, who has worked with such artists as George Harrison and Johnny Cash. With that caliber of assistance, it's hard not to improve.

The title of the CD, Strangely Looking Forward, seems appropriate in a number of respects. The band is moving forward with a new label and new material, but they are clearly keeping an eye on the past as well. The new disc has 10 tracks, but reappearing here are 2 of the better cuts from Illuminate. Included are the energetic praise number "I'm Gonna Dance" and the poignant ballad "I Will Live For You." Excellent choices, good songs, but I have to wonder why it was necessary to recycle material. It seems like you should have plenty of songs to work with before you head into the studio, but maybe that's just me. I'm not a recording artist.

The new material is certainly on par with the recycled, beginning with the first song "The Solid Rock." An aggressive affirmation of faith in Jesus Christ, they had me with the lines "When all around my soul gives way / He then is all my hope and stay." It doesn't hurt, though, that they mixed in some heavy guitar riffs for good measure. It's enough for me to overlook the (once-again) mystifying rhyme that opens the track; the closing rhyme actually, wonder of wonders, made sense. Track 3 is the beautiful ballad "You Reign." The first half is "unplugged," with only strings and acoustic guitar accompanying the vocalists. The second half launches into "power ballad" mode, simply repeating the lyrics again but retaining the sense of wonder that God inspires. "Such a Long Time" comes next, taking a modern, more personal approach to the story of the prodigal son. Track 8 is a gentle encouragement to believers and unbelievers alike, entitled "He Will Run to You." The simplicity of its message belies its importance, the thing that we sometimes forget. It says, "He waits for your answer / He knows your pain / No matter what you've said or done / He wants you and He loves you just the same." How good is that?

There is much to be pleased with on this project. The group has managed to keep a hold on its signature sound while improving both the depth of its lyrics and the overall performance. Nearly as impressive is the fact that there is really only one clunker on the disc, "Kick It." While the song isn't bad listening, nor does it have questionable content, it doesn't really go anywhere. There's no point except, perhaps, to have fun. Which might be the point, but it cuts against the grain of the rest of the material either way. In the end, this is just a solid alt-worship album that's well worth owning.
- Scott Bush
December 2005
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