Album review: NEEDTOBREATHE’s ‘Rivers in the Wasteland’

The band’s return to its musical roots is a huge success.

After achieving commercial success with The Reckoning, NEEDTOBREATHE nearly broke up, guitarist and lead vocalist Bear Rinehart said in an interview with Relevant Magazine. The group’s newest album, however, was its saving grace.

Rivers in the Wasteland, the band’s fifth studio album, is a triumph to say the least. The idea behind the album was to return to the band’s roots of musical simplicity, and the record does that with ease. Every track is melodious and pleasing to the ears. The vocals are harmonious and haunting at times, and then rousing and riled-up at others. The music flows seamlessly between songs, and the lyrics are just oh-so catchy.

The album mixes slower, more acoustic songs like “Wasteland” and “Difference Maker” with rousing stomp-and-clap songs like “State I’m In” and “Oh, Carolina.” The band weaves between these two different types of songs effortlessly, and it results in perfection.

NEEDTOBREATHE’s dedication to a folksy, southern sound is what makes this album superior to some of its past albums. While the band occasionally gets a little loud in some of its songs, it always returns to that guitar- and vocal-heavy sound that defines this album.

For example, in “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now,” the song picks up, the drums get louder, the electric guitar starts wailing, and you can feel the rock sound coming on. But even when it is a really rock-based song, you can still hear those stomps and claps in the background and the acoustic guitar playing. The band makes an effort to keep that South Carolina sound intact, and it succeeds in that.

In today’s music world, the idea of deconstruction seems to be underappreciated, if not completely discouraged. In every new release of a Top 40 artist’s album, everything is bigger, faster, louder, better, more complex, more rhythmic, more heavy and simply more. NEEDTOBREATHE has successfully shown that deconstruction is sometimes a necessary, and often good, choice. This album breaks down the loud, complex sound of their previous albums The Outsiders and The Reckoning into a smooth, folk-inspired sound that leaves listeners captivated.

If you’re looking for an album that will get you up out of your chair and dancing around your room, this is not an album for you. There are only a few songs that genuinely make you want to stand up and air-guitar along with them. But if you’re looking for an album that has beautiful songs, amazing vocals and intentionally inspiring lyrics, then this is the album that you’ve been looking for.

Is Rivers in the Wasteland perfect? Not quite. But that doesn’t change the fact that NEEDTOBREATHE has brought new life into its music by returning to simplicity. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that Rivers in the Wasteland is NEEDTOBREATHE’s best album to date.

MOVE gives Rivers in the Wasteland 5 out of 5 stars.

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