Category: Music

Love & Mercy: the spiritual haunting of a musical genius

As vapid summer pop music and mindless popcorn flicks reign supreme on the charts, a quiet little film called Love & Mercy explores the heart and mind of one of the most important musical artists of the last century. Brian Wilson - who ironically helped to perfect surf music, one of the most excellently shallow forms of pop ever invented - took a major creative and spiritual left turn when he stopped touring…  [more]

Joy Williams and the redemption of Venus

The last time Joy Williams released a solo album she was a blond purveyor of effervescent Christian pop. A career reboot led to a surprising wave of commercial and critical success as half of the alt-country/neo-folk act The Civil Wars, followed by the equally surprising crash and burn of that Grammy Award-winning duo. Now Williams is back with a lushly produced, highly arranged solo album called Venus. There has…  [more]

The faithful eclecticism of Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface

After a well-earned and slow rise to indie prominence with their 2013 LP Vessel, Twenty One Pilots just blew up the charts with a No. 1 album called Blurryface. Anyone even remotely interested in modern music with soul should be paying attention. Band members Tyler Joseph (vocals, keyboards) and Josh Dun (drums) have proven that genre rules are meant to be broken and that melodic and lyrical precision still have a…  [more]

Mumford & Sons’ milder Wilder Mind

So yeah, Mumford & Sons have ditched the prospector clothes and the acoustic instrumentation for Wilder Mind. It’s hardly surprising, either. Babel took the band’s trademark arena folk to unsustainable heights and, as with post-Rattle and Hum U2, it was time for the poster boys of populist Americana to dream it all up again. Unlike their Irish forebearers, however, these sons seem to have lost the…  [more]

Audiophiles and spiritual fidelity

Audiophiles seem to be having their moment in the cultural sun. Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, which purports to recreate the experience of vinyl LPs, has turned heads, even as numerous articles aim to debunk the idea that vinyl sounds better. In fact, several corresponding arguments are conflating technical, psychological, emotional and even spiritual ideas surrounding the value of music and the concept of fidelity.…  [more]

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell: sorrow in the shadow of the cross

Sufjan Stevens has so thoroughly inhabited his own creative space over the last 15 years that future critics likely will append the suffix “esque” to his given name. Where else can you find complex, understated, folk music with swirling mythological, environmental, Christological and psychosexual underpinnings? Stevens’ exceedingly rich musical prowess is prodded ever forward by the best kind of…  [more]

The spiritual disconnect in Imagine Dragons’ Smoke + Mirrors

Credit Imagine Dragons and front man Dan Reynolds for truth in advertising with Smoke + Mirrors. Behind its bombastic hooks and designed-for-arenas lyricism is … who knows what. Like Oz’s great and powerful wizard, the truth behind this multi-platinum act’s vaguely spiritual angst is hard to ascertain. The smoke is cool, though. The mirrors are definitely working. This is arena rock at its bloated…  [more]

Bjork’s Vulnicura and the rending of “one flesh”

In a world of disposable pop singers, Bjork is an actual artist. Sure, she came to public consciousness as the spritely voice of The Sugarcubes and might be best known for her bizarre swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards, but a cursory review of her 30-plus years of creative output reveals a disciplined, visionary, highly skilled artist attempting to challenge herself at every turn. With the release of Vulnicura,…  [more]

Finding communal comfort in David Zahl’s Mess of Help

I would say that books like David Zahl’s A Mess Of Help make me feel less alone in the world, if there were any other books like David Zahl’s A Mess Of Help to be found. The fact is, there are not. Conversations such as these are too often relegated to pubs, festivals and backstage green rooms. Few are we who equally obsess over things cultural and theological with this level of passion and borderline…  [more]

Andraé Crouch and making every minute count

Andraé Crouch passed away yesterday and I’m still processing it. I’ve been listening to his records since I was a little kid. For the last couple of years I’ve been honored to serve as the creative director overseeing his incredible song catalog at Capitol CMG Publishing. So no, I am not objective about his legacy in the slightest. Andraé was certainly one of the most influential…  [more]

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