Mat Kearney’s “Young Love” album. You know those artists on the radio you always enjoy but never really look into? Mat Kearney was that for me until last fall, and now I am a dedicated fan of his. My grandma found his most recent album for me. It’s upbeat and clever, but it’s also raw and soul-touching. My favorites from it are “Ships in The Night” “Count on Me” “Sooner or Later” “Learning to Love Again” and “Young Dumb and In Love.” “Ships in The Night” has a great sound (the acoustic version is just as lovely, if not better!) and speaks into couples who are beginning to see that relationships aren’t just blessings; they can also bring about some difficulties. It voices the hurt of those difficulties existing, but at the end stresses never giving up on each other. “Count on Me” is just so brilliant and creative; you’ll simply have to listen to it to catch it. I have a blast and (awkwardly) dance throughout the whole thing. “Sooner or Later” is a hopeful anthem for those of us who don’t feel like we’re going anywhere. “The fear inside, the hills we’ve climbed, the tears this side of heaven/ all these dreams inside of me, I swear, we’re gonna get there/.” “Learning to Love Again” is beautiful; I was speechless the first time I heard it. It tells a story all of us can relate to in some way, of how time has brought us fear and pain so that we lost much of our freely-flowing love, hiding what’s left behind walls. It reminds us that everyone is learning how to love, and we don’t need to hide. And “Young Dumb and In Love” has to be my favorite on the album; it is so cheerful, I can hear him rejoicing in it! I smile brightly because of this song. I love that I can tell every love song is about the same girl. Major points for Mr. Kearney. [Tiny disclaimer: “Rochester,” the last song on the album, has one mild profanity. I normally get annoyed by that, but honestly, I don’t think a different word could be used. The song is a biography from the perspective of his father who had a very difficult childhood, and if he were to tell me the story in person and say that “he beat the h— out of Timmy/ Timmy beat the h— out of me/,” I wouldn’t flinch. Not my favorite song, but I think that it is art and has probably brought a lot of healing.]
Rend Collective Experiment’s “Homemade Worship for Handmade People” album. These worshipers from Ireland are refreshingly genuine and unique. My favorites on this album (a gift from my mom) are “The Cost” “Second Chance” “Build Your Kingdom Here” “Desert Soul” and “Shining Star.” “The Cost” is a powerful song that speaks of the hardship that comes from obedience– and Jesus being worth it. “I do not need safety/ as much as I need you/ You’re dangerous, but, Lord, you’re beautiful/ I’ll chase you through the pain/ and I’ll carry my cross/ ’cause real love is not afraid to bleed/.” “Second Chance” is a lovely reminder that although we fail, Jesus will let us try again, and not simply because He humors us; rather, “a second chance is heaven’s heart!” “Build Your Kingdom Here” has a fun, infectious sound, and begs Jesus to give us His strength so that we can be a glimpse of His kingdom right here on earth. “Desert Soul” is my hands-down favorite; I’ve spent a lot of time in the desert, and this song captures much of what I long to say when I’m there. It cries out for life that can only be found in Him, in times that make us feel like we’re not breathing. “All that I am is dry bones without you, Lord/ a desert soul/ I am broken but running toward you, God/ you make me whole/.” It’s hard for me to express the power in this song. And “Shining Star” is a song of celebration, both of who He is and who He tells us we are. My favorite thing about Rend Collective, besides their overwhelming variety of instruments, is that they are worshipful, but never theologically unsound or ignorant.
Red’s “Release the Panic” album. I know I’ve written about every album of Red’s I’ve gotten, but. . . they’re so good, guys! They have the rare ability to capture such difficult, indescribable feelings, and because they share I am able to express some deep pains I normally have a hard time expressing. Red’s songs are very open to interpretation, but that’s something I like about them; the meanings I’m sharing are the ones I’ve connected with (that goes for every album I talk about, actually!). My brother bought this cd for me, knowing all this; he’s the best. My favorites on the album are “Release the Panic” “Perfect Life” “Damage” “So Far Away” and “Glass House.” The title track speaks of things that make us feel alive for a moment but actually contribute to death inside us. It tells us to be aware and to let sin terrify us, saying “it creeps upon you, without a warning/ you think you’re thriving, but you’re decaying/ you’re gonna lose it all, there’s no escaping/.” “Perfect Life” warns against pretending we don’t have problems, because eventually the walls will crumble, and already we are “perfectly broken.” To me personally, this song also speaks against fantasizing out of discontent. “Damage” has incredible sound and is incredibly heartbreaking. It comes from a place of having sinned and feeling like nothing good is left inside. Yes, that’s a bit of a hardcore topic, but I have been able to relate to this song many times; it’s an odd comfort to have the words laid out for me, set to music that matches what I feel. I love that a small plea for healing is included in it. “So Far Away” is my favorite. Have you ever been in a place where you know that Jesus is with you and things are okay, but you do not at all feel close to Him? Here are your words. The first time I heard it, I cried. And “Glass House” expresses that to Jesus, our walls are just glass; it asks Him to break them and “make us whole again.” It also has great sound. Red deals with pain in a way many Christian artists are afraid to, and I am so thankful for them.
Jessa Anderson’s “Not Myself Anymore” album. I first found Jessa’s music online, and only listened because her name sounds a lot like “Tessa” and I want to be friends with anyone who shares it, haha! Over spring break I found her album at a sale, brought it home, and made friends with it. Her voice makes me jealous and her style is a little jazzy, a little singer-songwritery, which is enjoyable. My favorite songs are “Not What I Thought” “The Same Place” “Not Myself Anymore” and “Return.” “Not What I Thought” is a fun song that reveals a role reversal– the things we expect to fill us simply don’t, while Jesus does more than we could expect. “The Same Place” has an infectious sound and reminds us that although we’re different, we all have some common ground. “Not Myself Anymore” is my absolute favorite; I think it can give multiple impressions, but the one it left on me was one of knowing it’s a good thing that someone has left your life, yet still wondering why it had to happen; having the rational reason, but feeling like it’s not good enough. Gorgeous song. And “Return” is lovey both in sound and lyric, expressing the sadness and pain that comes with walking away from Jesus. I debated writing about this album because it’s not my favorite, but it somehow reminds me of some beautiful places I visited in my childhood, and that always tells me when something is art.
Jonathan Thulin’s “The White Room” album. My mom loved what she’d heard from Mr. Thulin on the radio, so I bought her the cd– and fell in love with it myself. His style is violin-laden yet upbeat, a bit electronic, and for some reason I want to say it carries a Middle-Eastern vibe, which surprisingly all works well together! Plus, his voice is killer. My favorites on the album are “Masquerade” “Coat of Arms” “Graveyard” “Bombs Away” and “Peeta.” They all make me flail around passionately (what, you don’t do that?). “Masquerade” made me gasp at the depth when I looked at the lyrics; it transparently says that not being genuine about ourselves when representing Jesus hurts people more than it helps, because we’re trying so hard to be perfect. “We are wearing our masks in the truth parade/ we are waving our flags, upholding this charade/ we are hiding/ while You’re watching/ and it’s killing me./” Wow. “Coat of Arms” reminds us of the importance of knowing what you stand for, because that will be what you fight for. “Graveyard” is gorgeous; it comes from having your heart broken by someone, and prays, “Can you raise me from the dead and/ lay my heart to rest so/ I can love again?/” “Bombs Away” has to be my favorite, it is so beautiful! It sits in the place of having desired and chased after sin, bleeding out the hurt battles of flesh and soul bring when flesh seems to be winning. I love when people write about this. And “Peeta” is based on The Hunger Games! What?! It takes many of Peeta’s admirable qualities and turns them into a sweet declaration we can share! Mr. Thulin, I am obsessed with your gorgeous poetry!
Switchfoot’s “Fading West” album. Switchfoot is infallible. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, and this cd is one of their more cheerful, I think. My favorites from it are “Who We Are” “When We Come Alive” “The World You Want” and “Slipping Away.” They all have great sound. “Who We Are” is a fun anthem that reminds us of the reckless dreams we had when we were kids and asks us to believe in them again, because that is still who we are. “When We Come Alive” tells us that even when we feel sparkless, simply continuing and trying proves that we have fire in us! “The World You Want” can be summed up by it’s poignant chorus: “Is this the world you want?/ Is this the world you want?/ You’re making it/ every day you’re alive/.” It explains that our actions are our religion. And “Slipping Away” is my favorite; it makes me soar. It captures a circumstance I find myself in all the time: not being able to express things the way I long to. “Remember that kid with the quivering lip/ whose heart was on his sleeve like a first-aid kit?/ Where are you now?/ Where are you now?/ Remember that kid didn’t know when to quit?/ I still lose my breath when I think about it/ Oh, where’d you go?/ Oh where’d you go?/” I will listen to these words for hours. This isn’t their best album, but when one of the songs is good, it’s good!