I have only known the guys from South Jordan for a few months now but I was thrilled when they agreed to do an album review and an artist interview. I received the album a few days ago and have listened to it a few times trying to find the right words to say. Only being a 6 song EP I had some initial expectations, but they were absolutely blown away after I heard the first track.
This album, ‘Only Halfway’, is the first release from Bloomington, Indiana based South Jordan.
These guys actually met in an unorthodox manner. Thanks to a songwriting competition at Indiana University and a song that was written by Michael David Hall, these three were connected. Mike Chan and Bobby Campbell were already writing music themselves and were in search of a vocalist. That is where they invited Hall in for a jam session in March of 2008. South Jordan was formed. (This is shocking to me once you listen to this album at how incredible they have come together in such a short amount of time. When you hear his voice mixed with incredible near Christian lyrics but with a pop U2 attitude, you would never believe they have only been together this long.)
You do not get thirty seconds into this album to know that these guys have a ton of musical potential and talent. In the first track ‘Take Your Time’ you get your first dash of the power behind Michael David Hall’s voice. You are immediately thrown into what you think will be a Christian rock album but I felt after hearing the entire set of songs that they are more on the pop rock scene.
When ‘Heading to Mars’ kicks in the front door with the piano keys flowing you settle into a comfortable spot on the couch with a Matt Wertz, Dave Barnes meets Gabe Dixon feeling. One of the most powerful lines to me on this album is ‘I don’t want to be 19. I’m feeling 4 years ahead.’ This comes in the first half of the track and your lead into the middle with a heavy set of progression.
You get what is considered an acoustic version of ‘Fatal Flaw’ next. I do not feel that this should be considered an acoustic version. When I think of acoustic music I think of a smokey room with a Budweiser in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The piano is a major part of this song but the thing that gets me excited for this bands future is how his voice could honestly be mistaken for Ryan Tedder. From the first couple of tracks I felt that way but this song screams OneRepublic. The song writing here is also very closely matched to some of the best I have heard in the last few years.
‘Katie’ is the next track that begins on an upbeat pattern of honesty. This “Katie” girl is real and whether her name is really Katie or not is beyond me, but you do not get lyrics like this from your imagination. There is heartbreak behind some of this, but there is also hope and redemption mixed in there too. ‘It’s too bad that we met because you wasted my time,’ shows you that he loved her in a way but regrets her. The biggest regret of his life? Who knows? But it deserved a spot on a 6 song EP.
‘Skin and Bones’ starts like a track from a Broadway play. You think of the name of the song and you feel depressed and empty to start but when the harsh and deep piano starts they do a perfect job of getting you into that mood. And the Tedder sound comes right back here. A song like this begs for more and I am in search of a full length album from these guys.
The last track on the EP titled ‘Not A Trace’ starts the exact same place that you thought it would. The piano, however, might be too much for me at this point. I felt that in the first 5 tracks they did a very good job of creating a mood and making it fit with the song, the lyrics, the voice. But this is the only place on the album I would like less piano and more vocals. His voice speaks for itself and I feel like this is compared to putting steak sauce on a good piece of meat. It just does not make sense. Do not get me wrong, however, this track completes this EP very well and again with the Tedder-esque vocals toward the end with the way his voice carries just makes me warm inside. This album is incredible for a first release and these guys have what it will take to make it in this industry.
This album, although only 6 songs, is worth every penny you would spend on it. I highly suggest this album to each and every one of you and I would love to hear what you guys think of this hidden Bloomington talent.