Christopher Giles Finding My Way
Finding your way into an established genre can take years of tinkering, second-guessing and blind groping in the dark. Many musicians fall through the cracks between genres, not sure if they’re pop or rock, folk or Americana, rap or R & B. But Christopher Giles, he’s found his audience and taken hold of an established genre.
Giles’ first album, “Finding My Way,” drops April 14 of this year. What it falls on is a strong bedrock of well-established contemporary rock ballad music. “Finding My Way” adheres to the current trend of God-fearing contemporary in its rock elements and clear lyricism, a trend that’s been in effect since around 2003. Each track features bursting rock cries that soulfully fade into clean dénouements. The album’s single “Let Me Know” is a pleading spiritual appeal, successful in its earnestness without the overt mention of religious themes that often take casual listeners and non-religious types out of the dream that good music conjures.
Despite the aversion to mentioning Him, His Son, or any other regal capitalization, many of these songs exhibit a clear message of religious vigor. Christopher’s image is a far cry from the stereotypical idea of ‘Christian contemporary rock.’ Having gotten his start in leading worship, one might expect shaggy hair, a youth minister goatee and a plaid, short sleeve shirt. Christopher Giles and his music may be best visualized as a cocktail of one part Stephen Curtis Chapman, to two parts Chris Daughtry.
It’s clear that an evangelist with a soft touch has crafted these lyrics, their romance and desperate longing stemming from a heart under tattooed pectoral muscles and a snugly tied bandanna. This co-habitation of religious reverence and the rock lifestyle image isn’t necessarily something new; bands like Skillet have fused an even harder rock sound with a Christian lifestyle and message, while Giles’ doppelganger Daughtry has recorded with Christian rock band Third Day. Therein lays one obstacle in the way of this album’s breakout success.
Falling into a genre or established image and sound is a safe way to find an audience. Sure, a band may ebb in flow in the tedium of that same sound for a while, picking up listeners intermittently, but the rock audience wants some motor. Regardless of whether the artist is motorcycle or moped, there needs to be something unique that catches in their brains. Where the true shame lies is that Giles is an eloquent writer bursting with insight as an adamant blogger. He almost daily posts ideas, arguments, opinions, struggles and revelations on his blog. And yet, his lyrics are in line with the status quo. For the time being, Giles’ greatest messages are frozen on the computer screen, begging to be put to music.
Where the album attempts to break free is in the song “Lights in Stereo.” Christopher is the front man for the dance and rock cover band “One Wild Nite,” their demo tape featuring harder alternatives to “Finding My Way” such as Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire.” In “Lights in Stereo,” Christopher Giles breaks genre. It starts with dancey “oh oh oh” vocalizations and launches into lyrics that seem uncharacteristic against the rest of the album. The line “…Vegas strip, but you can keep your clothes on…” seems to lose the pensive, reflective tone the rest of the album espouses, obscuring the message with “I’m a rock star” mentality. The music on this track is higher energy, truly a welcome holdover from “One Wild Nite,” and I’m excited to see such versatility and willingness to branch out beyond the stencil other Christian bands have set. Giles just needs to be careful not to fall into too-secular of a sound with mixed messages.
In short, “Finding My Way” is a bit like trying out your friend’s church. Its welcoming, familiar, has a clear message, but it doesn’t quite feel personal and is a bit off-putting when it tries too hard to relate. For a sermon to be widely accepted, it must be widely applicable, and that sometimes makes for a generic or scattered album.