Vota used to be a trio called Casting Pearls, but with its expansion to a four-piece and its signing to the well-regarded Christian rock label INO, the group has not only changed its name but also made some subtle but significant changes to its approach. The addition of keyboardist Riley Friesen has brought an element of electronica to the band's formerly guitar-heavy sound. The result is a tight, shiny, faintly crunchy, and ultimately rather ordinary brand of modern pop/rock — beneath the fauxhawks and behind the hipster eyeglass frames lurk guys who simply want to rock out and praise the Lord. There's absolutely nothing wrong with ordinary modern pop/rock, of course, as long as the hooks are there — and the only problem with Vota's self-titled debut is that the hooks are there but aren't quite as compellingly hooky as one might like. Singer Bryan Olesen sounds like he's channeling Bono just a little bit too heavily, particularly on otherwise fine tracks like "Not Finished" and the very nice "Give It to Me," and when the group bears down on a ballad like "Honestly" it sounds more like a contractual obligation than an expression of heartfelt emotion. But there are real moments of brilliance here, chief of which is the faintly exotic and melodically thrilling "Bye Bye." They've got the chops and the voices and the sound they need; just a little bit more acuity in the melody writing and Vota will be ready for the big time.
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