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Following the success of the rereleased “I Can Only Imagine” single and the faith-based movie of the same name, MercyMe continues to gain momentum as a popular contemporary Christian band. Similar to many music artists, 2020 provided an opportunity to take a break from touring and instead focus on writing. Now the band has released inhale (exhale), its newest studio album since 2017’s Lifer.

inhale (exhale) feels a little different than most pandemic releases. Unlike the wrestling and emotional soul-searching that have characterized many new albums, MercyMe’s latest offering embodies an upbeat feeling: gratitude. “The fact that we’ve been here for 27 years and people still care is mind blowing,” frontman Bart Millard told Billboard. “I’ve never been more grateful for the fact that I still get to keep doing this.”

This gratitude is evident throughout the album, as the overall sound gravitates toward an uplifting, feel-good experience. “Almost Home,” the lead single, is a new Christian radio favorite due to its message of perseverance. Tracks like “Blessed” and “The Moment” remind listeners to pause and soak in God’s faithfulness. “On Our Way” is special for Millard because his son Sam joins him on it. Millard is also joined by his close friend Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts for “A Little Love” and disco era’s Gloria Gaynor for “Brand New.”

While Millard often draws from personal experiences for MercyMe’s songs (as is the case with “I Can Only Imagine”), this time he sought to write about others and for others. “Say I Won’t” and “Bright Side of Broken” were inspired by the struggles of two friends, and the messages behind these tracks offer hope when all seems lost. inhale (exhale) doesn’t seek to gloss over the struggles brought by the past year; rather, the album acknowledges the pain but offers a stunningly simple reminder: “Where there’s broken, hope’s not far behind.” (Fair Trade Records)

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