Stretching oneself musically can be worth the effort for both artists and listeners.

JC Squad
Artisat: planetboom
Label: Venture3Media
Length: 12 songs/53 minutes

The first time I heard JC Squad by planetboom I only made it through the first two songs. The opening “dance party-like” sounds, which I associate with EDM are not my favorite. I wasn’t sure that I could return to it but I’m glad that I did. When I give myself a chance I can grow to appreciate something that is foreign. Also, in this case there is much more here than just rap and electronic sounds.

The opening lines set the stage:

Walk like I’m winning
Praise like it’s finished
Live with no limits
’Cause I know You’re the biggest

There is boldness, maybe even a little swagger. It’s a confidence that is sometimes lacking among Christians. Not self-reliance but a certainty grounded in the finished work of Christ. This echoes throughout.

One of my favorite moments on the title track, which follows, comes two-thirds of the way in. The style changes from rap to a beautiful synthesized classical interlude. This becomes the background for a multitude of individuals from different races declaring promises of Scripture.

One thing I find somewhat amusing is the end of the chorus: “We that JC squad/With that yah, yah, yah, yah.” I’m not sure what that last part means but it’s spoken like a sonic karate chop. Each syllable is pronounced like a verbal thrust.

The R&B influenced and repeated refrain on “Got Me Like,” sung by a female lead, soars gracefully. It effortlessly transitions to a male robotic-sounding voice on the stanzas and develops a funky groove.

Make-me-smile moments increase about half way through when the lyrics shift to:

Praise to the left, praise to the right
Praise to the front, praise to the behind

This lines get repeated to tight R&B guitar riffs. Think of it as a spiritual workout.

I like the voice enhancement on “I’m Alive.” Heavy metal drives home the chorus.

Though there are a number of songs with rapid fire delivery, big beats and heavy rhythms, there are more intimate moments. Keyboards and electric guitar gently intermingle on “Jesus is the Key.” I’m not sure what to make of the vocal; the slight modification doesn’t appeal to me. I might have preferred it unadorned. Nevertheless, the song is a soothing reflection on Christ.

The prior track, “All I Need,” which features a female lead also has a tranquil vibe. The elegant electric guitar sounds lead into an R&B groove.

“Ily (Live)” is in the modern worship mode. This is one of only two live recordings. The other, “Kamsahamnida,” has vigorous declarations of thanks and praise with prominent percussion and electronics.

“Battleborn” has heavy metal riffs that fit well with the structure and content. This touches on spiritual warfare and identity in Christ, recurring subjects.

Elegant electric guitar chords and a lovely female voice take listeners through the first stanza of “Loved by You.” It’s pop oriented but flavored by synthesized flourishes.

“Praise Over Problems (VIP Mix)” ends this on a triumphant note. With its emphasis on praise and God’s greatness it hearkens back to the victories proclaimed throughout the release. This has a definite urban feel but lacks appeal musically.

Even though some of the music is outside my comfort zone, I appreciate the excellence that I hear. The studio setting allows for considerable wizardry and avoids sounding stale. The vocals alternate between male and female leads, sometimes on the same song. The vocals and musicianship are top notch.

This is geared for a younger audience but may also appeal to those looking for creative alternatives to more mainstream expressions of worship. Don’t expect run-of-the-mill.

Michael Dalton