P.O.D. ended its previous record, Murdered Love, with singer Sonny Sandoval dropping f-bombs and checking off a list of the many forms of baggage that Christians bring to the table. The Awakening takes up the cause by way of a concept record featuring a drug-addicted, alcoholic, home-wrecking, neglected man going through a series of mishaps before righting his life in the end. The record is simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking, from the pummelling opener “Am I Awake?” to the punk single “Speed Demon,” it’s a trip into the dark void of a soul that has lost all hope. “Criminal Conversations” employs a slightly dreamier aspect to the rock, aided by the haunting vocals of In This Moment’s Maria Brink and “Want it All” surprises us with the appearance of keys and trumpets hinting at acid jazz. For a band that’s been around for a couple of decades, this is a fresh entry to their discography.
Almost 30 years in and Satch still knows how to bring the rock, the whole rock, and nothing but the rock. The title track is a spacey rocker of the air guitar variety, while “If There is No Heaven” is the sort of driving rocker that has become his trademark, complete with sky-scraping solos and an indelible melody that burrows into your brain and never leaves. “Crazy Joey” highlights Satriani’s ability to switch from a simple mid-tempo rock number to lightning-quick scale work the next, topping it off with an injection of funky, bluesy riffs, while “In My Pocket,” reminds us he hasn’t forgotten how to make a dirtier, less-produced rock song. Shockwave Supernova is his 15th studio album and it hits all the marks we’ve come to expect: soaring solos, radio-ready, hook-heavy tracks and ambient tunes that feel so otherworldly they have names like “Stars Race Across the Sky.”
1 Hopeful Rd./Blue Note Records
With its sophomore release, this quartet proves two things: the mere idea of a sophomore slump can kiss their grits, and anyone who thinks rock is dead is dead wrong. Led by the dynamic vocals of Ty Taylor and a sound that embraces the ’50s and ’60s, this album is a treat. Whether it’s the gospel-meets-pedal-steel on “Run Like the River” or the blow-the-house-down mover “Strike Your Light,” the album burns with high-energy. Then you have bluesy numbers (“If You Loved Me”), mid-tempo love ballads (“Shows What You Know”) and straight up soul (“Before the Tear Drops”) to give the album some emotional equilibrium. Charisma and swagger flow through every inch of the record’s 42-plus minutes and it leaves us hoping that 1 Hopeful Rd. leads to another.