We’ve teamed up with our friends over at One Man In The Middle to bring you regular, unbiased and honest reviews of music albums aimed at the Christian marketplace. This week we have Speed Of Light by Philippa Hanna with an outstanding overall review score of 10 out of 10.
Philippa Hanna is an acclaimed British singer-songwriter, based in the USA from the summer of 2016. Recorded in Nashville, her forthcoming fourth album ‘Speed Of Light’ tackles the challenges of life head-on, offering listeners a message of hope in the face of adversity.
Since her 2007 debut, Philippa has released three studio albums, an EP and a live DVD, and published two autobiographical books. Her intimate and honest approach to performing has seen her become an in-demand opening artist, touring with international acts like Lionel Richie, Leona Lewis, Wet Wet Wet and Collabro. Her music has been heard on BBC radio and TV, Christian radio across the world and recent single Even Now topped the iTunes Christian & Gospel Chart on it’s release.
Born into a musical family, Philippa knew from an early age that that making music was all she wanted to do. Her music frequently draws upon her experiences of a turbulent youth, and the Christian faith she found in 2004. She aims to offer a positive message for fans: Songs like I Am Amazing and Raggedy Doll have seen Philippa champion self-esteem in young people, and she also works as an advocate for children’s charity Compassion International.
I am very pleased to say that Philippa Hanna is back with a brand new album. Having been dropping hints and clues through interviews and in her live performances for a while “Speed of Light” is about to hit the shops / digital music stores. The album officially launches on Friday 29th April and this is Philippa like you’ve never heard her before!
I have always been very keen to say that Philippa is one of the best Christian Singer / Songwriters that we have in the UK and this album further cements that reputation. Unfortunately for the UK she is soon to be moving to the US for a season so I might have to change that statement! For now however we can be rightly proud of this young lady from Sheffield who is creating very real music that people can connect with.
If you are familiar with her music then you will know that Philippa has always stuck with the acoustic sounds, particularly on her last album “Through The Woods”, but this time she has definitely moved towards a pop style. I use the word ‘pop’ with caution because it is a cover-all term that doesn’t do justice to this album. There is more electronic instrumentation and backing than anything that Philippa has used previously.
“Let You Lead” kicks off the album and straight away you hear the difference, gone is the slap / strum of the acoustic and an electric guitar opens up the song. Philippa’s voice is as pure as ever as she sings about knowing that if you trust God He will lead you in the right direction. This is a recurring theme in these songs and I think it’s a well judged and reassuring message that is brought through the songs. Philippa’s writing skill hasn’t deserted her as she takes these common worries and problems and turns them into songs that all Christians can identify with, at the same time she emphasises that despite our frustrations we can trust God. This is particularly seen in “Perfectly” when she reminds us (and herself) “No need for me to second guess / you’re not the God of second best.”
“Speed of Light” is the title track and is an incredibly catchy number which talks about how cannot run away from God. This is not in the negative sense where you will never get away with anything because you will be caught, but in a more positive that His love will always find you, no matter where you try to hide.
“Embers” is about a broken or damaged relationship with God and really is quite a lovely song bringing out the best of Philippa’s vocal performance. The depth of this song is increased by the inclusion of a guest artist in the form of Kevin Max (K-Max from the iconic band, DC Talk). His vocals are exactly right for this recording as the reply coming back. The song is over all too soon!
“Arrow” is the second track from this album to be released as a single. This is, once again, Philippa doing what she does well, taking an ordinary object and infusing it with a new meaning about how we see can see life. Raggedy Doll is one of these tracks and this one focuses on the idea of an arrow flying exactly where it is meant to go because it has been released in the way it was intended. What a great picture of the Christian who finds their God given calling and throws themselves into that vision! This is definitely Philippa!
“Even Now” was the first single released from this album. It revisits some of the topics from early on in the album. When life changes unexpectedly and we are weighed down by the thing that has happened we know that even now, at this desperate point we can trust God. This is perfect single material with an incredibly catchy chorus, like so many on this album, and a great sound.
The last track that I want to highlight is another departure for Philippa because it is a cover and it is very definitely in the worship stream of Christian music. “It Is Well” is a classic hymn that many of us are familiar with, and in 2014 Bethel music released a worship song using inspiration from that hymn and it is this that Philippa recreates. It’s a great version of the song and benefits from Philippa’s brilliant vocal. If the worship section of the market were not so overcrowded I think I would be leading calls for Philippa to record a worship album!
There is an element of worship in all of this album. There are declarations of God’s goodness and our response to his overwhelming passion, and a heart’s cry to reignite the fire of the relationship with God and many more aspects of worship all included here. It took the “It Is Well” track to remind me that these things are embedded in this album as much as the relatability of the topics and the brilliant song-writing.
Through this album each song is different and the tracks move us forward “faster than the speed of light” with driving beats and rhythms that sound fantastic. Using picture language and some fantastically catchy hooks these songs all stand out in their own ways. I have mentioned before that some people release an album and all their tracks sound similar. What Philippa has managed to do is cross the boundary out of the more acoustic sound and yet keep her unique style of writing and effortless, passionate performance.
Philippa is all about crossing boundaries and I believe she is doing this a lot with how she has approached her career crossing between secular concerts and overtly Christian concerts.I am sure that her attitude and the way Jesus shines through her (and Joel) when she is speaking and singing will draw many new followers not just of her music, but also of the One she lives to serve.
For track listing, ranking breakdown and more check out onemaninthemiddle.com