Review: Judah & the Lion’s new album captures elements of old releases

Katie Matthews, Editor-in-chief

The first time I saw Judah & the Lion in concert solidified my love for them.

Their engaging stage presence paired with their catchy tunes and relatable lyrics drew me and so many others to the band, and with their new album Folk Hop N’ Roll, they will lure even more people in.

Their album (released Friday) was on sale at their concert which I attended on Valentine’s Day, and let’s just say that it was not only one of the best Valentine’s Days, but it was also one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to (which is saying a lot because I’ve seen a lot of big names, including Maroon 5, in concert).

At the concert, they played a majority of the songs on the album, and the crowd’s instant favorite was “Take It All Back” which the band debuted at Ben Rector’s concert series in October. The song also shot up to the band’s number one selling song on iTunes. An extremely memorable song with the repetitive lyric “I’d take it all back just to have you” and the song’s unique beat make it stand out compared to others.

Another extremely catchy song on the album is “Uh-Huh, Yeah!” that leaves listeners humming and tapping their feet along. The lyrics are relatable, and the message of the song inspires acceptance and helps everyone “feel the connection” with each other when they listen to it.

Other songs that keep the love theme are “Forever, Always” and “All I Want Is You”. These songs focus on the more romantic side of love, but they surprisingly don’t end up being sappy like a lot of popular love songs because they keep their faster tempo and edgy sound.

Another song that pushes the boundaries between genres is “Insane.” When frontman Judah Akers said that “Insane” was probably the band’s favorite song off the album, it was kind of shocking because the song is not the peppiest or most exciting track. It is, however, extremely emotional. The song describes how everyone feels like they’re going crazy sometimes and that’s okay because most of the time people resist the insanity.

While this message and many others the band conveys are important, without Judah and the Lion’s unique sound, they would not be as successful.

Compared to other artists in their genre, if they even have a genre, they definitely stand out thanks to banjo player Nate Zuercher and mandolin player Brian Macdonald. Another contributor is drummer Spencer Cross who is the backbone of the band providing solid beats that make listeners tap their feet and nod their heads. The banjo and mandolin, two mostly folk instruments, blend well with the electric sound the band is trying to incorporate.

Another focus of the album was to create something that embodied what it is like to see the band in concert, and producer Dave Cobb and band did accurately capture the experience.

The title of the album Folk Hop N’ Roll embodies the band’s main mission to blend their backgrounds in music by bringing in elements of folk, hip hop, rock and roll, and pop. The song “Folk-Hop Sound” kind of explains the goal the band has, and while the idea is unique and interesting, some of the songs fall flat including “Folk-Hop Sound”.

Other songs that experiment with the new sound and don’t accomplish the goal as effectively as the rest of the album are “We Own the Night” and “Graffiti Dreams” which are still good songs, they just aren’t comparable to the rest of the album.

The song that strays the farthest from the others is probably “Reputation” which seems like a version of “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett. The chorus itself is pretty solid and reminiscent of Jett, but the verses are similar to an Eminem sound that just doesn’t fit with the band’s other sounds on the album.

While the band is exploring a new sound, fans of their older album Kids These Days and their EP Sweet Tennessee might be left a little disappointed by their new direction because the band’s older sound was more folk oriented.

Overall, Folk Hop N’ Roll is another success Judah and the Lion can add to their list. Their new sound may stray from their previous album, but it will also attract many more new listeners. The album is bringing together not only various genres of music but also fans of all ages and backgrounds. The band was successful in their goal; everyone can find something that they love about Folk Hop N’ Roll.