Plumb’s Album “Exhale”
Refreshes the Worship Genre
As I have been absorbing Plumb’s new album “Exhale” for the past few weeks — which releases May 4 — I remembered something from my interview with her in 2014. In Plumb’s hit song “Lord, I’m Ready Now,” which was released on her album “Need You Now: Deluxe Edition” last year (and will also be included in the new album “Exhale”), Plumb was singing about the frightening but exciting step of telling her life story — including the miraculous restoration of her marriage — in her book, “Need You Now: A Story of Hope.” She explained it this way in the interview:
[Lord, I’m Ready Now] captures where I’m at now, saying: all the walls are down, all the secrets are out, I’ve been exposed, here’s the book, everybody knows everything now. Instead of wasting any more time, I want to live for You because everything from the past…the times when I was not living for You the way that I should have…You’re still able to use that. Nothing is wasted. And because You’re redemptive I don’t have to look back there with regret. I can just be thankful that Your mercies are new, and You’re letting me start over. So I’m ready now, I don’t want to waste any more time. Let’s go.
With her new worship album “Exhale,” one might make the argument that it is a chronicle of all the rejoicing and peace in Christ that she’s discovered since surrendering and saying “let’s go” to God; and, like a careful sketch artist, she traces the shape of her Creator in all of it — thanking Him for “using all things for good,” as the Scriptures say.
It’s an album that directs every spotlight within reach to the Good Shepherd, and it captures the idea of giving — “exhaling” — all the spiritual riches that Christ pours into us, not hoarding them for ourselves, but immediately dispensing them anywhere and everywhere we go.
Musically speaking, the album has an unforgettable character — a unique texture.
Let me explain why I use the word “texture.” Besides strong melody, interesting and emotive chord progressions, and the band’s/singer’s performance, my ears always gravitate toward the little things, the little sparks and flecks of texture that give an album a unique character. It’s kind of like the way wine tasters or coffee cuppers — yes, coffee tasters are actually called “cuppers” — look for the little “notes” in a quality vintage or a hand-roasted brew of coffee: a hint of chocolate here as it first hits your taste buds, a light tangerine note there in the aftertaste.
To best describe the character of this album, I might start by explaining a guitar playing technique called “palm muting.” It’s when a guitarist slightly dampens the string so that it creates a resonating thump while also playing a note. It’s both percussive and melodic. When you combine that kind of percussive rock guitar — a style that’s subtle — with lush, gorgeous synth pads, which Plumb does frequently on this album, it stirs the emotions.
Actually, I might even use phrases like “hints of ’80s vintage” or “neo-New Wave” to describe the album’s subtle character. I can’t help but think of The Cars and their mega-hit “Drive,” and the way that song somehow pulled every mood from your heart out all at once — nostalgia, longing, awe, a touch of melancholy — using stabs of palm muted guitars and staccato keyboard arpeggios in the foreground as gorgeous synths filled the background space.
“Exhale” borrows from that tradition, and it does so with restraint and taste. Songs like “Exhale,” “Smoke” on the chorus (and, oh, what a melody in the chorus! tears filled my eyes immediately: “You are my shelter when it all goes up in smoke” — Amen!), “Great Is Our God,” “Champion,” and “Sleep Will Be Sweet” are all examples of this subtle sound.
But, really, that’s just one color of this album. Epic rock anthems explode with the kind of stadium-sized worship that make you stand on your feet, shout worship song lyrics at the top of your lungs, and stretch your hands to Heaven: “Resurrection,” “Great Is Our God,” and “We Stand For You” soar into the stratosphere in this way — just to name a few.
And then there are the refreshing EDM elements on songs like “My True Love” and “Broken.”
Or songs like “Faithful” with its melody that nimbly, lightly skims, weaves, and floats through its notes like an ice dancer. Or the song “Restored” with Plumb’s hypnotizing falsetto singing in the breaks.
“Exhale” draws from an intriguing variety of influences, and somehow it all works. It might be the first worship album that subtly combines the nostalgia and style of The Cars and other early New Wave bands with the big hook songwriting of modern worship anthems, with a little EDM for good measure — and all topped off with the instantly recognizable voice of Plumb (who, by the way, makes great use of her range with some pristine layers of high harmonies throughout the album). It all adds up to a very unique texture — a refreshing new angle on what a modern worship album can sound like. And the best part: infectious gratitude, rejoicing, and hope in God spill over the edges of every song.
You can find links to pre-order the new album “Exhale” and learn more about Plumb at Plumb’s official site.