Evan Wickham’s Make Us One is among the most expansive and cinematic modern worship albums since Gungor’s Ghosts Upon the Earth. His explorational and original artistry combines co-writes with Matt Maher, Pete Kipley, Chad Bohi, Tyler Chester, Aaron Keyes, Bryan Brown, and Michael Gungor himself, yielding a refreshingly listenable worship encounter. The songs are each uniquely beautiful, and for the most part each word is easily heard, not lost in the production mix. The lyrical content is poetically, emotionally, and theologically rich. And all members of the Trinity, even the oft neglected Holy Spirit, are included in its rhapsodizing. Like God’s creation, there is endless variation; expect the unexpected in this lovely mix of worship, personal listening, and special music. The album borrows from some of Hillsong’s recent retro synthy atmospherics, and there are sprinkles and sweeps of guitar, strings, piano, and a cornucopia of sounds to fly and float and jump into—ear candy, vocal clouds, starry twinkles, and melodic climbs. The dreamy yet rhythmically anchored title track—“Make Us One”—begins this journey of love and discovery. Next, tribal drums, moody guitar, evocative vocals and layers of sound cry for God to “Come for Us,” addressing both Jesus and the Holy Spirit directly. The bouncy pop of “Intimacy” has a sugary Loveboat theme song vibe that is strangely compelling. Love and adoration are a thread throughout every song. The emotional and spiritual lift on the exquisitely penned “The Day That He Returns” infuses ascendant hope in the face of grief. “Risen” is a new Easter Song with a retro 60’s pop feel. The most unforgettable and dramatic song has to be “Human Soul.” It’s anguished strings, Broadway meets Michael Card/Mozart meld of Jesus in the garden fused with the listener’s close-up witness has to be not only the center point of this album, but one of the most amazingly visceral experiences facilitated by a worship song in the past year. “No One Like You” and “Shepherd of My Soul” continue with congregationally-hued love songs to our God. And whether encouraging people in their marriages in the reflective/transparent “Don’t Give Up” or supplying songs for almost every sacrament or service need from weddings to funerals, Wickham gifts us with the joy of being surprised. The collection fittingly ends with the perfect benediction to an album or service: “Yours Is the Kingdom”—the kind of send-out and off that reminds us of God’s love for us, presence with us, and his mission through us.
More: Let’s hear it for the handheld drum, for imagination and the courage to play and sing a new song, for lyrics that make use of language and metaphor and literary devices that not only uphold Scripture, but expand our experience of it. Gratitude for music that reveals, startles, washes, lifts, transforms, and mostly for artists that dare to take a left turn when most are going right.
Less: Some of the instrumentation/arrangement occasionally saps energy from the words and melody, by stealing too much focus.