So, I refer to myself as a “music nerd” on my twitter profile. I don’t actually play music, but there’s always music on when I work, drive, walk or whatever. I also spend considerable time checking out “new” stuff (by “new” I mean new-to-me, as sometimes gems go undiscovered for a while). So, to live up the “music nerd” label, I thought I’d share some recent additions to my library which are getting lots of play lately.
Aaron Hale, Lenten Hymns Vol. 1. Indie-Folkish Aaron Hale shares traditional gospel hymns in new ways. This collection of melancholic lenten songs dealing with suffering and loss (eg. It is Well, Nothing but the Blood, and the particularly powerful, stripped down Jesus Savior Pilot Me) are completed with the traditional doxology followed by a “peppy” rendition of Christ the Lord is Risen Today, which I love, as it sums up the lenten experience with the surprising joy of resurrection which points to the victory which comes after suffering. Overall this collection is a good one for anyone who, like me, loves creative takes on older tunes. The theological richness of the hymns is retained, but given a stylistic makeover. They sing the same thing, but in a “language” which is accessible to a generation which prefers acoustic guitars to pipe organs. It respects and generally keeps the original melodies (in contrast to Page CXVI, who rework the melodies of the hymns) but brings them to you in a folky, simple, “unplugged” way. If you’re into the “new folk” scene (Mumford & Sons and the like), this may suit your fancy. And it’s available for free on Noisetrade (or you can leave a tip to support the artist).
In a similar vein, there’s Jeff Anderson’s 4 song ep, A Thousand Tongues, which includes an incredible reworking of the hymn O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. But the highlight of this work for me is the first track Glory to God, an epic piece featuring orchestral flares, and phenomenally passionate and vulnerable vocals, and a full range from soft tender bits to full on assaults. It’s top notch craftsmanship. It’s layered, and intentional, but not over-produced or mechanical. It’s honest, real, passionate art for the ears. I love this one, just wish it was more than four songs. Get it here.
If you want something with just a bit more bite, there’s the alt rock outfit Mike Mains & the Branches, who ,to promote their upcoming sophomore album, put their debut album Home on noisetrade (which has the added bonus of their next single). It’s definitely worth picking up. It’s not earth shattering in originality, but it’s well made indie alt rock, with some cool little twists. If you’re into metric or silversun pickups, this will be up your alley. I particularly love the vocal combinations. Very interesting. You can also check them out on tour with Christian power-poppers Relient K (not sure if that helps or hinders their credibility- I’ll leave that up to you). The tracks Stereo and Stop the Car are stand outs.
Why I never got into the Gaslight Anthem until recently is a mystery. But I heard the name tossed around, heard a couple tracks on the radio, but somehow it all got lost in the shuffle of life, and until just recently I hadn’t looked into them. But a couple of twitter friends set me straight, and I am grateful. I had an itunes gift card, and I invested it well. Their 2012 album Handwritten is incredible. A little more production than previous releases. Cleaner, more precise and polished, but still with enough edge to be credible. It’s beautifully put together, with classic punk influences with a touch of indie alt-rock (think Social Distortion meets Dashboard Confessional). Mulholland Drive might be the best track on my itunes right now. Seriously.
Josh Garrels is giving away 5 albums for a limited time! You can grab them on noisetrade, and any tips you leave go to World Relief’s work in the Congo. Josh mixes things up in cool creative fusion of indie-folk and hip hop. Weird combo, eh? But Josh makes it work. He provides the lyrical depth of a sincere street poet, and touches on themes of faith, compassion, mystery and struggle. It’s raw, profound and creative.
And when a little folk/hip hop fusion isn’t doing it for me, there’s the best hip hop album I’ve heard in a long, long time; Propaganda’s 2012 release, Excellent. It is just that, excellent. Raw, deep, honest, passionate, authentic; all the things hip-hop is supposed to be. Propaganda is part of the Humble Beast Records family, who make their music available as a gift or you can buy the album and show your support. Excellent can be downloaded here. Propaganda’s track Precious Puritans rattled a few cages among more reformed minded folks, as it put the puritans under the microscope and challenged neo-puritan and strongly reformed folks to be sober in their admiration of the puritan thinkers because of the complicity in the slave trade. Some folks took offense to that, but the overall message of that track is beautifully summed up when he says he’s equally uncomfortable with people quoting him, as he is equally fallible. But the album as a whole is brilliant, profound, and art in the truest sense. For Canadian hip-hop fans, you’ll see considerable stylistic similarities with K-Os.
On top of this, I’m still constantly listening to Mumford & Sons, Ascend the Hill (follow the link for free downloads, including their collection of re-imagined hymns), mewithoutYou, and the Last Bison (formerly known simply as Bison, who album Quill is fantastic!). There’s more to say, but this’ll do for now.