I used to write a review/recommendation for every cd I bought. Now I am terribly behind, and this is quite the frightening undertaking. I think I’ll split it up into two or three posts. . . anyway, let’s get going on this!
Tenth Avenue North’s “The Struggle” album. I was so excited for this cd to come out in August 2012; I bought it immediately. Maybe a week afterwards, I took a trip to California with my youth group, and not wanting to part with my new cd, I loaded it onto my ancient mp3 player and took it with me. Now every time I listen to it, I feel a little like I did on that trip: free. Free to feel anything I’m feeling without beating myself about it. And I think that this cd might have been used to aid in that a little; I think that was something Tenth Avenue North hoped for. “Hallelujah, we are free to struggle/ we’re not struggling to be free/ Your blood bought and makes us children/ children, drop your chains and sing/.” Those are lyrics from the title track, which is my favorite song on the album. My other favorites are “Losing”, “Don’t Stop the Madness”, “Strangers Here”, and “All the Same.” “Losing” is a song about forgiveness. It admits that although it’s necessary, forgiveness is stinking hard, and begs the Lord to teach us grace to do it anyway. “Don’t Stop the Madness” shares the hope that suffering is not pointless, praying that He would continue allowing us to suffer as long as we need to. “Strangers Here” reminds us that everything here is temporary; we don’t need to chase anything but the eternal. And “All the Same” is the song that really reminds me of my week in California. My youth group was so diverse, but in that bus, on the road all day, eating snacks and singing and reading and sleeping. . . I realized that we had the important things in common. We were all there for different reasons, but we were ALL THERE. I treasure the song and that little lesson. I think this album can give moments like that to a lot of people.
Chris August’s “The Upside of Down” album. I’ve been a fan of Mr. August since the beginning of his career, and I’ve loved seeing him grow as an artist; his style has become more specific and his lyrics just get deeper and deeper! I got this cd in fall 2012, and if it had come into my life a little sooner it would have been the only cd I listened to. If you don’t really feel much of anything right now, go buy this cd, sing along with the songs, and mean what you sing! It will give you the words you need. My favorites are “The Upside of Down”, “This Side of Heaven”, “Let There Be Light”, “I Believe”, “1989”, and “Water Into Wine.” “The Upside of Down” has a fun sound that I love to sing along with, but it also has this line that makes me praise in agreement every single time: “In the midst of this sadness I’m closer to You now/ that’s the upside of down/.” I know the truth of that. “This Side of Heaven” is an excellent reminder for me to keep out of pointless debates, especially if I feel like I have the answers. “Everyone’s got their own opinions/ there’s nothing they don’t know about/ but in the end, nobody’s winning/ ’cause nobody’s got it figured out/ oh, the things we think we know/ but honestly, we really don’t/ this side of Heaven/.” “Let There Be Light” is a good-mood bringer and a prayer worth praying. “I Believe” is the song that made this album what I needed. We all need to sing it at some point; we all need to declare that we believe in our Lord despite the way everything looks and feels. I will always adore it. “1989” is a cheerful, light-hearted look at child-like faith; it makes me smile brightly. And “Water into Wine” is simply beautiful, both a prayer and a declaration of our own personal miracles from Him. Thank you for birthing this cd, Mr. August!
Brandon Heath’s “Blue Mountain” album. Brandon Heath is a biggie for me. This cd is a bit different from his previous offerings, but it’s still lovely and special. A bit of a country vibe, but don’t let that scare you off, it’s not overwhelming at all. He created a fictional mountain-side town and wrote these songs to tell the stories of the people there– people just like us. I think it’s a unique idea and that he carries it out well. My favorite songs on the album are “The Harvester”, “Diamond”, “Love Will Be Enough For Us”, “Paul Brown Petty”, and “Dyin’ Day.” “The Harvester” is a great opener for the cd. It gives us a clear picture of what Jesus was talking about when he said that the fields are ripe for harvest, and asks us: why are we sitting around? “Let’s harvest this field from sunrise to sunset/ the Master is coming are we are not done yet/.” “Diamond” is probably my favorite on the album. It carries a determined, optimistic tone, and reminds us that although we aren’t perfect, we are being refined and we have value. “Love Will Be Enough For Us” is an adorable love song that captures my longings– simple life with the people I love. “Paul Brown Petty” is a biographical song, which are always interesting to listen to, at least to me. It reminds me of my great-grandfather in some ways, so of course I like it. And “Dyin’ Day” is one of those songs that gives me chills every time I hear it. It’s written in the perspective of a prisoner who is dying, but halfway through the song you realize– you are that prisoner. And it becomes even deeper to you, and you pray that you can have the humility and grace that the man in the song does. I am in love with this song. A winner once again, Mr. Heath!
Red’s “Until We Have Faces” album. I am slightly obsessed with Red. If I need a fix of emotional music, they are my go-to. This album, again, would have been something I clung to if I’d owned it earlier in life, but maybe hearing it later gave me more insight into what had been happening inside me? Anyway, my favorites on this album are “Feed the Machine”, “Faceless”, “Let it Burn”, and “Hymn for The Missing.” I think a lot of their songs are up for interpretation, but to me “Feed the Machine” speaks of the things we do because we think we have to, things that fill a void for a little while or make us feel something. The song reminds me of the reality that nothing from this world will fix what’s inside me; when I remember that, it’s almost like waking up. “Faceless”. . . I don’t even know what to say about this song. It captures where I once was so accurately that I’m sure they went inside me and wrote about what they saw. If you are struggling with depression in any amount, if you ache to feel Jesus with you again, this is your song. It speaks for you. “Let it Burn” has a sound that grabs me and makes me listen. I think it’s written about moments when you can’t see anything but pain and hardship, and you wonder how long Jesus will let it go on. Very honest, with a teensy bit of peace at the end. And “Hymn for The Missing” reminds me of my sister. It takes a look at how it feels to know someone and suddenly lose them, not necessarily through death but in their interactions with you; you can just sense the distance, like they aren’t even there with you. I ache with the song. Red knows how to dig into me.
The Afters’ “Light Up The Sky” album. I’ve enjoyed The Afters since middle school, so I finally got one of their cd’s last year. It’s perfect for when I’m craving some simple, light-hearted but real truth in my head. My favorites on the album are “Start Over”, “Runaway”, “Saving Grace”, and “For The First Time.” A lot of these songs end up making me smile; I can sense the honesty in them. “Start Over” is a fun anthem that encourages us to be excited about the opportunity to keep trying. “Runaway” is another song that reminds me of my sister; it tugs at me. I think we all have someone we deeply love who doesn’t even like herself, let alone believe that someone else could love her. The lyrics of this song are our words for them. “Saving Grace” is just a happy song (this cd is pretty much the cd of happy songs), rejoicing in the work Jesus does in our lives every day. And my VERY favorite song on the album is “For The First Time”; it captures a little of the wonder of waking up knowing anything can happen because you have been given grace. The Afters have brought a little more cheer to my life with this cd.
Yes, I am definitely going to have to split these reviews up into a few posts. Many more to come soon! But for now, I hope you’ve learned of at least a song or two that could become a part of your life. These cd’s are my friends and I am more than happy to introduce you to them.