I don’t do too much reviewing on this site, and I don’t really have the time or expertise for a good blow-by-blow evaluation of these albums, but I thought I’d draw attention to a couple I’ve been listening to lately.
I make no secret of the fact that I typically dislike Christian pop music. It is usually very derivative, very safe, and very corny. I’d rather listen to someone interesting with whom I disagree any day. So, when a friend claimed that Josh Garrels’ album was his favourite of any kind ever, and when he said it’s a free download, I thought I’d check it out (I’m also pretty stingy).
Having given it a few listens, Josh seems to me to be the born-again lovechild of Jack Johnson and Tracy Chapman, sometimes being the acoustic guitarist, sometimes donning a 10-gallon New Country hat, and sometimes unexpectedly breaking out into how I think Aretha Franklin might sound if I ever listened to her.
Although that ought to endear him to me about only one-third of the time, the combination is pleasant, if not always as musically challenging as it might be, and there are some strong songs on the album. For my money (oh wait, I didn’t pay!), the album is never better than on the first track, and (perhaps as a function of his over-generosity), the album feels a couple of tracks too heavy to be able to get one’s head around it in a single listen. Nevertheless, I rate it pretty highly, especially given how totally free it is. Get the album here (or from me, but I think Josh wants you to sign up for the album. Sign up then get it from me):
Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
English folkster types, Mumford & Sons, are not trying to fish in the Christian music pond — their album even contains swears on at least one track — but on their way to critical acclaim in Britain, they’ve managed to turn out some very interesting Christian-themed songs.
I have to say at the outset that their success is surprising to me, because I didn’t know the UK was so broadly in favour of quite that much banjo or mandolin or whatever it is they keep playing, and the rhyme schemes can be annoyingly two-dimensional at times. Nevertheless, the depth evident in their album outweighs those gripes, and thoughtfully putting Christian ideas and songs based on Plato’s Republic out there on the radio when other artists are singing about whipping their hair or lipgloss does set them quite far apart.
So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s land
So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be
And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again
And another one:
You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart