The Waiting 
Artist: The Waiting 
Label: Sparrow
Time: 44:55, 12 tracks

I gave up pop music for lent about ten years ago, and I just never got back into it.  Occasionally, however, I'll break my fast and listen to a band that makes pure pop music.  Those days are rare. The Waiting, however, convinces me that those days should be more frequent.  
The Waiting have been billed as a band that makes well-crafted alternative pop rock.  The alternative part is a bit  misleading, but this stuff is certainly well-crafted pop rock.  I suppose if you only listen to Michael Card, this might be considered a bit edgy, but otherwise I don't see that descriptive label fitting neatly.  
Musically, The Waiting have a real gift for writing simple, memorable melodies suggestive of many sixties bands.  If you've seen the movie "That Thing You Do" you have a pretty good idea what I mean.  Basic stuff that owes its success more to being catchy than creative.  The Waiting's music occupies a space on the musical map somewhere between Buddy Holly and Wilco and invokes better days and happier times a la The Beach Boys.  Although Brad Olsen's lead vocals are slightly reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, The Waiting aren't quite that quirky.  Fans of bands like P.F.R., The Newsboys, and Hokus Pick will find another home here.  Another comfortable perch to place your earphones.  
To be honest, I find the album somewhat uneven and get impatient--finger poised over the skip button to take me to the good songs.  One of those, "Hands in the Air," is among the more musically creative songs and employs different paces and an effective break of silence to keep things really interesting.  I wish there had more songs like that one, songs with an effective combination of interesting music and insightful lyrics: 

       How I hate a morning starting out this way
       On these lonely, raging mornings I would whip You if I could
       But you're on the mighty side of strong
       And the perfect side of good
       If I raise my hands will You grab me by the wrists?
       And will You try to pull me from the fray?
       And even if my fingers join together into fists
       Will You hold me firmly anyway?
       Because I would try to escape You but for everyday I'm sure
       That You're on the huge side of big
       And the holy side of pure.
The album's real strength is Brad Olsen, Todd Olsen and Clarke Leake's collective ability to write distinctively Christianese content with remarkable reverence for God, our Maker, yet without resorting to banality. One of my favorites is "How Do You Do That?" which offers amazement in light of God's ability to forgive and forget: 
       Maybe I could understand how you called the darkness light
       Maybe I could understand how you made the waters flee
       Maybe I could understand how you gave all creation life
       I'm an educated man
       It's not too hard for me to see
       But there's something about you that confuses me yet
       First you forgive and then you forget
       How do you do that?
That may not be one of the more poetic examples available, but it's an effective one when coupled with the music.  Lest you think the entire album is worship and/or sanctification-oriented, "Better Off as Friends," for example, offers witty remarks about boy-girl relationships.   
This is a better album than it's predecessor Blue Belly Sky because it shows more creativity both lyrically and musically, and it has a greater number of quality songs.  (I miss the suits the band used to wear, however; the suits fit their faux-retro, clean-cut image and style.)  It's also another excellent Steve Hindalong assisted production.  The Choir's drummer and principle songwriter has proven himself a worthy producer yet again with an album that is clear, crisp and entertaining.  
Some people subscribe to a view that Christians being made in the image of the Creator ought to be writing music that is more creative than their mainstream counterparts rather than merely imitating them.  While this is a worthy pursuit, it's not always realistic.  There is also nothing wrong with a group of musicians adopting a current form of music, and attempting to be absolutely the best at playing that particular musical form.  The Waiting has the potential to fulfill that expectation and become the best modern pop rock band they can be.  Although their self-titled album may not be chock-full of musical invention,  they write solid sing-along songs with distinguished messages of worship, wit and modern relevance.  Put them on your list of bands to keep your eyes on.  
By Steven Stuart Baldwin
Four tocks for well constructed content more than creativity.  

I love these guys. Ordinarily their type of midwestern guitar pop alternative rock isn't something I listen to, and ordinarily I don't listen to lyrics much at all. But The Waiting has a great knack for writing openly-Christian lyrics without falling into religious cliches like many Christian bands do. I worship when I listen to these guys; not much music causes me to do that! The music is maybe a tad more aggressive than their first album, and they've added a couple new guitar effects pedals, but other than that this is very similar to their first album (great). Go buy it. 

By Josh Spencer