Out of Body


Elektra, 2020


REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp


In uncertain times, the familiar is more comforting than the experimental. There’s a time to take risks, yes, but there’s also a time to take refuge. Following two somewhat polarizing departures from Needtobreathe’s signature sound and the subsequent exit of original bandmate Bo Rinehart, Out Of Body sees the group cast aside attempts at novelty and return to what they know works. And in 2020, it couldn’t have come a moment too soon.

Album opener “Mercy’s Shore” sets the tone from the first few bars, highlighting lead singer Bear Rinehart’s distinctive South Carolina voice over a backing of Southern rock-meets-bluegrass-meets-folk guitars. With an extended nautical metaphor that carries through the entire song but never wears out its welcome, the song powerfully evokes struggling through life’s trials and relying on grace to get through. It feels like a fresh start for the band, a release of pent-up frustrations and pressures.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That release continues in songs like “Alive” and “Survival,” a pair of crowd-pleasers (the latter of which brings in friends Drew and Ellie Holcomb for guest vocals) which extend the theme of letting go of expectations and leaning on faith. Where “Alive” does this with a pop-influenced melody, “Survival” leans into country, and in both cases Rinehart’s folksy vocals keep things firmly in Needtobreathe’s lane.

“Hang On” and “Child Again” both see the band turning wistfully to innocence gone by, something they are eager to reclaim personally, thematically, and musically. These are not the kinds of songs that budding songwriters can pull off convincingly, but for a band on its sixth album, the message is compelling.

But lest you think Needtobreathe has learned nothing new from a few years wandering in the wilderness, a quartet of songs on the album’s back half prove that there is more to their introspection than a simple longing to rewind. “Out Of Body,” the production of which almost makes you wonder if it was a leftover track from 2016’s H A R D L O V E, is an exploration of purpose, a song which asks who we were made to be. That question becomes explicit in the gospel-flavored “Who Am I,” which features one of Rinehart’s most impressive vocal performances and an emotional message about love, acceptance, and redemption. And in love song “Banks” and penultimate track “Bottom Of A Heartbreak,” the attention turns to the friends, family, and God who provide that love, those who are “the banks for your river.” When you listen to these four songs back to back, you hear both the pain of what has passed and the maturity of lessons learned. It all makes for great music.

Out Of Body is a return to form for a band that had veered off its well-trod road to success; it’s an album that builds upon the successes of 2014’s Rivers In The Wasteland and H A R D L O V E while reining in the experimentation that alienated some fans. One could argue that bands should resist calls to rein in risk, that they should always be pushing the limits and striving for something new. But in 2020, there’s something to be said for the comfort of the familiar.

Rating: A-

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