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Elizabeth is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and author. Her first book “Beyond Black and White” is available now. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

Album Review: Phillip Phillips Shines Bright from “Behind The Light”

Phillip Phillips Behind The Light

Phillip Phillips has just released his sophomore effort, Behind the Light. The album’s title is derived from a lyric in “Alive Again” (“I see myself again / Behind the light I flicker”), which speaks to the notion of re-discovering yourself from the shadows, or in Phillip’s case, allowing fans to uncover a side of his musical identity that hasn’t been revealed before.

As a result, Behind the Light boasts a more rock-oriented sound with intricate instrumentation and powerful production – an evolution from the rootsy-folk driven sound which dominated his platinum selling debut, The World From The Side Of The Moon. Though ambitious, the new album still retains that authentic feel which drew listeners into his music in the first place.

Phillip leaves his artistic mark all over the album, which he produced in collaboration with Derek A.E. Fuhrmann and Gregg Wattenberg. The songwriter was involved in the writing of all of the songs, sharing co-credits with the likes of Fuhrmann, Wattenberg, Todd Clark, Jon Green, and David Ryan Harris and being the sole writer of “Trigger”, “Open Your Eyes”, “Thicket”, “Face”, “Don’t Trust Me”, and “Armless Crawler”.

His song-craft has grown in depth, with lyrics containing ideas that are more mature, more introspective, and more thought-provoking, and that cover a spectrum of moods, emotions, and energy. Behind the Light is heavy with imagery of light and dark, day and night, and nature, with fire serving as an overarching metaphor that is woven throughout the album. The fire rages from the colourful cover art to the tracks themselves, which follow themes of being true to oneself, finding strength, and coping with the passage of time.

1. Searchlight

Take one step / And make it count / Hold your breath / And let it out

The first track begins with this mantra, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The searchlight in question is the signal set out to call back a loved one to rescue the speaker from the darkness and bring them back to life (“You cure my disease like a remedy“). Phillip’s earnest vocals mixed with a pulsating back beat and infectious stomp-clap make “Searchlight” a contender for his next single.

2. Raging Fire

Before the flame goes out tonight / We will live until we die

With a blend of a moving beat, jammin’ instrumentation, a catchy chorus (c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, won’t you turn my soul into a raging fire?), and a sweeping vibe, this love song about living in the moment and holding on to what’s real is the perfect choice for Behind the Light‘s lead single.

3. Trigger

It was too late to give you love but it was too late to give you up

Feelings of conflict and pain scorch through this distressing tale of dealing with someone who harbours deep inner emotional turmoil in their heart and mind. As their loved one is torn needing someone to help pull them away from their fears and wanting everyone to just leave them be, the speaker is also torn between reaching out or releasing.

4. Lead On

Running through my blood / You are the rarest drug
With every word I breathe / I see the way you’ve changed me

This funky folky track is all about that compulsion to follow the one you’ve fallen for whenever they go, even to treacherous, unknown places (down the rabbit hole), and even when you know you’ll get thrown down and burnt down. It’s love and it’s maddening.

5. Alive Again

Higher and higher / Like a flame on fire / I feel alive again

Soaring and uplifting, the refreshing “Alive Again” has the sing-along potential of “Raging Fire”. This is a song that encapsulates that feeling of rejuvenation when you’re with someone special – the darkness fades, you’re no longer afraid, and your desire burns brighter and brighter.

6. Open Your Eyes

Open your eyes / Open your heart
And then watch it fall out watch it align and bend

In this encouraging song, Phillip speaks to the importance of representing who you are as you truly are. Our bodies may age and our spirits may grow thin, but it’s never too late to live for the day and let your individuality show, because it’s all yours and all you.

7. Fool For You

What you’re made of / My sugar and wine
Down from above / You make me so high

A love letter provides the inspiration for this heartfelt song about letting the one you love know how much you care about them. Despite being young, insecure, and a work-in-progress, one thing is for sure – that they are a fool in love and will not hold back from saying it out loud.

8. Thicket

Our love was just a dream, just a dream
With all my heart I gave you everything

Whereas the previous tracks have all shared that folk-Americana-pop sound Phillip is known for, ‘Thicket” is where the rock elements start to come out and the vocals start to let loose a little. With a killer opening melody (with a mournful cello and shadowy foreboding vibe) that carries on throughout the song, this song is about trying to get through to someone who refuses to feel, see, and face their troubles.

9. Fly

You think your fight is over / It’s only so much closer
I reach my hands to the sky / And fly

This is by far my favourite song on the album. Like “Thicket”, “Fly” is a dynamic rock-influenced tune, and it is the most experimental departure from Phillip’s earlier works. The song encapsulates that experience of loneliness and isolation while waiting to grow into who you are. Life is a maze where you have to face down walls to break and climb, and ultimately, you’ve gotta lose yourself in order to find yourself. With its strong message and wickedly awesome wailing guitar solo, “Fly” would be ideal for action movie soundtracks.

10. Unpack Your Heart

Bring your secrets, bring your scars / Bring your glory, all you are
Bring your daylight, bring your dark / Share your silence / Unpack your heart

Loaded with the most quotable lyrics, “Unpack Your Heart” is a hopeful song of unconditional love and acceptance. The speaker invites the one they care about to let down their guard down, lay out everything they’ve kept hidden (“Your sorrow, your beauty, your war, I want it all“), and unload it all onto them for safekeeping (“Your deepest regret dies with me“).

11. Face

I’ll take it out of your head / I’ll take it out of your thoughts
Give you a reason to stay / Give you a reason to not

“Face” is the song that grabbed me the most initially, with its live acoustic recording completely stripped of production. The song deals with the back and forth, run around of love – of having your heart broken and walking away, only to find that it’s not completely over on both ends (“the further I go, the closer you seem“).

12. Midnight Sun

So stay strong live on / And chase the midnight sun

Phillip injects a ton of feeling and conviction into the words in this motivational, anthemic track about marching on and thriving, in spite of the setbacks and difficulties here and up ahead in life. Goals (“take small things, make up something more to see, make it bigger than it seems“) and optimism (“When you see yourself as the darkest shadow, I see you as the light“) counteract the anxieties and fears caused by the passage of time.

The deluxe edition of Behind the Light includes three exclusive tracks: the soothing “My Boy” (everything will be okay, my boy, everything will be better now, my boy), the triumphant “Don’t Trust Me” (“You’ve got to live to know who you are” and seize the day) and the woefully nonchalant “Armless Crawler” (“Knowing now that we can not change the future / Here it goes again“).

Overall, Behind the Light achieves its purpose of presenting Phillip as who he truly is as a musician – a commanding and organic singer-songwriter with relateable and emotionally compelling material. Now that what was previously behind the light has now seen the light, this collection of music is sure to dominate the soundtrack of listeners’ lives as well.

Phillip PhillipsBehind the Light is available on iTunes. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @Phillips.

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