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The Phantom Tollbooth finally reached the point where we can't do a full review every CD we received.  We thought we'd say something about them.

Artist: Ani
Label: Ilham Records
Ani is as uniquely blended her two worlds of music and social activism into one. She speaks and sings her message of social justice, her angst against patriarchic practices within Islam, and peace, from a Muslim's perspective. One of her current struggles is to chip away at the discriminatory practices against Muslim female performers by American Muslims, which are contradictory to Islamic teachings and traditions. One is an interfaith concept album comprised of original compositions reflecting the faith traditions of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. "Kyrie Eleison" is the Christian offering. The music is quite varied; her vocals are pleasant. This is an interesting album that will be mostly appreciated by fans of world music. (Shari Lloyd)

A Thrill of Hope
Artist: Jennifer Daniels
Label: TNtrees (Indie)
"My next album will be more organic," Jennifer Daniels told me after the release of her top-notch 2004 studio Summer Filled Sky CD. It's Christmas 2006, and that next album is here, although it's not a full-fledged album. The six-track A Thrill of Hope Christmas project will delight listeners who are long-time fans or brand new to Daniels' music, as she offers two original compositions, "A Word about the Star" and "Norman Rockwell" (the latter includes both hilarity and solemnity in separate breaths, as the family cat has made off with the baby Jesus from the manger scene, and as the narrator rescues Jesus, she remembers the pain Jesus suffered). Some of the traditional Christmas songs are indeed more organic, with neat rocky edges given to "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "O Come Emmanuel." Her version of "O Holy Night" (from which the title of the project is culled), available free for download last year, is brilliantly recorded and sports Daniels' incredibly vast vocal range. Ending with a beautiful acoustic recording of "Silent Night," A Thrill of Hope is a wonderful Christmas treat. (Olin Jenkins) December 2, 2006

Mistakes of a Pride Driven Heart
Artist: Failure to Excel
Failure to Excel hails from Rising Sun, Maryland, and we bought a copy of the CD from the band at a Maryland show a few weeks ago. Mistakes of a Pride Driven Heart is a fantastic demo. Kind of a theme record the lyrics are pretty dark, illustrating the condition of the "pride driven heart," but they're also sprinkled with hope. That hope is conveyed as a surrender to One that is bigger than our fractured hearts and dreams. That is just the struggle we face here in a broken world, or at least have to navigate through once in a while.

The booklet and graphics are also fantastic. We did not have a problem seeing the pictures or lyrics at all. The music is exciting, intricate, and moving, in the vein of Underoath with more melodic-sung vocals. The songs, arrangements, instrumentation, the production, and musicianship add up to a very good EP work. (Tony LaFianza)

The Healing of Harms
Artist: Fireflight
Flicker Records
The Healing of Harms is this Orlando based band's first national release after independently releasing the EP On the Subject of Moving Forward_ Produced by the legendary Skidd Mills (Sister Hazel, Saliva, Skillet), Fireflight doesn't let up through most of the album. If you like Christian hard rock music, check out this album. It will not disappoint; however, after awhile, the album sounds a bit repetitive. (Shari Lloyd)

Dying For a Heart
Artist: Krystal Meyers
Label: Sony/Essential
Meyers' debut album earned her a Dove nomination for Best New Artist. While Dying For a Heart appears to be CCM's answer to Kelly Clarkson, it is still very good pop music with a heavy edge. Fans of Kelly Clarkson and BarlowGirl will find much to like here. If you liked the first release, you will enjoy this one, too. (Shari Lloyd)

We Can't Stand Sitting Down
Artist: Stellar Kart
Label: Word/Curb/Warner Brothers
After a successful first year which saw Stellar Kart nominated for New Artist of the Year and Rock Album of the Year for their debut project, which had three radio singles topping the charts and tours with Kutless, Falling Up, and Pillar, Stellar Kart returns with their second effort. _We Can't Stand Sitting Down_ will please fans of their previous pop punk release; however, fans of Relient K or Hawk Nelson will find they aren't quite as clever lyrically or as punky. (Shari Lloyd)


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