Band Name: Manny Jasus
Album Name: 5 Songs EP
Best element: Unconventional worship songwriting.
Genre: Acoustic Worship
Label name: N/a
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian worship music has been written for almost 2000 years now, solidifying its place as one of the longest-running genres ever (I think African tribal and Indian music are the two major genres that exceed it, as well as the folk music of every tongue and tribe). And even though it’s been around a long time, only about 40 of those years have seen the guitar make its way into worship songs.
But in the last 15 years, worship music has seen an explosion of releases, which is short for “a great amount of songs and albums that all sound like the genre-busting album that started the trend.” And that’s where Manny Jasus comes in- riding the line between finding his own voice and hanging back in the comfort of the already-established worship sound.
Jasus’ debut EP Five Songs is basically a teaser of his talent. At the end of the 18 minute CD, it feels like there’s a bigger project that this is only a part of, due in part to the varied approaches Jasus uses, the stark approach of nothing but vocals and an acoustic guitar, and the fact that some of these songs are really, really good.
Opener “Bon Voyage” is definitely a highlight, as Jasus takes the three main components of any worship song (strum pattern/chord placement, melody, and lyrics) and puts his own spin on them. I say strum pattern/chord placement because in any good worship song, the objective is to make the song as unique as possible while still conforming to chords that make the songs conducive to being easily played by people of marginal guitar talent. And Jasus effectively does that, mixing up the formulaic patterns with a earthier, moodier style than is often expected in worship. The melody is ridiculously catchy- I hum the hook quite often, as it’s just really tight.
The tone he puts out his melodies with is also a positive feature. He’s a tenor that has a lot of the same emphasis that Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins put on his melodies, but with some inflections of Adam Levine of Maroon 5 in the way he ornaments his melodies.
The lyrics are especially good- an extended metaphor comparing live to driving, “Bon Voyage” breaks the norm of worship songs. “Rise” is another track that breaks the norm, sung from the perspective of God addressing men. It’s a very interesting take on the Christian life- a very welcome new perspective. Great melody and non-conformist chord placement also occur in “Rise.”
The other three songs are standard worship fare- strum patterns that don’t excite (“Turn”) or vocal melodies reminiscent of other songs (the otherwise very nice, folky “Benediction”) or gimmicky lyrics (“What’s in a Name?”).
The songs run the gamut from mellow to upbeat to mid-tempo plodding, and while they never reach outside of the restraints of a worship song, there is variation in mood in these songs. One minor note is that the recording of these songs sometimes maxes out whatever he recorded on, creating a staticky, distorted sound on some louder tracks. It’s not bad, but it is annoying.
Jasus has some decisions to make- he can push himself and write more of his more interesting work, or he can keep straddling the line between great and good. Either way, the Christian music world has a very promising new entry into the worship music canon in Manny Jasus.