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Glimpses - Click to view!Why is it that independent records seem to hold so much more creative promise than their mainstream counterparts? I suppose it's due to freedom of experimentation. Bands don't have to answer to the big record exec holed up in the 37th floor of his downtown high-rise. Sure, only 50 people know of their music, but at least they have the liberty to record anything they dang well please!

Okay, so the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Let me step back in time to prove my point. My sisters and I were spending a early summer vacation at Spirit West Coast Del Mar, the first event at the famous race grounds. We slouched underneath a white tent to take the weight off our feet, and we watched this band pour out their energy upon a flailing crowd. The keyboards, guitars, and lead vocals all screamed "different" to us, and we sat enthralled at what happened to be the climax of the show. After that song, we made our way to the merch table and asked what album held that tune. A loyal fan (hailing from their church, no doubt) handed us their independent release, Glimpses, and simply said, "track #12." Shortly after this encounter we would hear Something Like Silas' Sparrow Records release, Divine Invitation, and choose to use that as a touchstone instead of this absolute gem that sat collecting dust in my CD rack.

When comparing the independent and Sparrow releases, the first note of interest is the genre switch. Divine Invitation, while sounding different than other praise and worship releases, is cookie-cutter friendly compared to Glimpses. In fact, if Glimpses were the first album to be reviewed by cMusicWeb, Something Like Silas would be a modern rock band, not a praise and worship band. Glimpses contains songs that hold hints of Christ (songs about Him, songs reflecting Christian values, etc.), but most of the tracks aren't written as congregational movement of praise.

Everything traditionally expected from the Christian music industry never reaches the surface in this album: there are no safe moments. Lead-singer Eric Owyoung spends much more time in his falsetto range in an overall experimental tone. The keyboards play a dominant role rather than being mere background fluff. The rhythms are sporadic yet uniform, the guitars rely much more on investigational distortion and Hendrix-style solo work, and programming is splattered throughout the songs. In other words, these are not the radio-friendly worship songs heard on Divine Invitation. From the powerful intro of "We," to the meditative trance of "Introspectively," and into the clever marriage of hymn "It is Well" to David Crowder's "Thank You," Glimpses holds a musical diversity that should have been forefront in the Sparrow creation.

I will applaud one thing: the original version of "In the Burning," the song my sisters and I fell in love with at the summer music festival, lacks a certain punch. The guitars are not nearly loud enough, and Malina Owyoung's vocals hold much more depth in the Divine Invitation version. But the Glimpses version of "I Fall" works so much better in placement and arrangement. Eric's vocals actually die into a croak when he sings, "And all this world is gone," and the music corresponds to his premature death.

So as you can see, I'm back to my argument. I'm actually angered at the changes that took place between these two releases, but what can one expect when a band makes the jump from the independent scene? I would have hoped Something Like Silas could have maintained the diversity found on Glimpses. One can only hope that, rather than entering the sophomore slump, Something Like Silas will return to the power of Glimpses and craft a music album—whatever genre it may be—that will knock aside any sort of false creativity… and be allowed to do so by whoever cuts the checks.
- Hollie Stewart
April 2005
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