Posted by: William | November 26, 2007

Encouraging Music

I believe one of the most important things we can give or receive as believers is encouragement. I believe it may be more important than possibly any other interaction we can share with another person. Frankly though, that’s a whole other article (don’t worry, the ideas are stirring). Today, I wanted to mention encouragement in another way. For me, and many other young people (relatively speaking anyway), music is a powerful force. To seek encouragement in music, I think, makes sense.

 

Over the past several months, looking for encouraging music has been a cognitive pursuit. Now, I don’t just mean looking for music that has a slew of feel good bible verses thrown around, but rather, music that really stirs my soul to feel more deeply about God; the true encourager. I’ve come across a handful of artists that I feel have done a really excellent job in this way. The music doesn’t necessarily always make me feel good in a human sense, but often offers some form of deeper encouragement.

 

 

Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans & Illinois

 

Stevens wears his love for the Lord on his sleeve, without cramming Christian pop-culture down my throat. I think most notable of his releases are Seven Swans and his more popular Illinois. Seven Swans sports a slew of folky instruments played masterfully, accompanied by well written words that, for me, rarely fail to provoke deeper thoughts about God and His redemption. The title track on the album is a mellow, but heart pounding; “He will take you, if you run, He will chase you. Cause he is the Lord.” He sings at the song’s crescendo. Illinois sports a wider array of instruments, and at times a more radio-friendly sound, but no less full of life. Stevens sings, “If I was crying in the van, it was for freedom from myself and from the land” in the albums single. There is encouragement all over these albums. There’s rarely a time when these albums don’t appear on my ipod’s “recently played” play list.

 

 

 

Shane & Shane: Pages

 

 

Shane & Shane have this kind of half-worship music thing going on. On one hand, the songs are really worshipful, but on the other hand, it’s really hard to worship in song to them. They have several other albums before this one with lots of good stuff, but this album I’d like to highlight because it seems to me that it is a little bit more commentative. Instrumentally speaking, the music does not particularly stand out from their contemporaries, although it’s good, what really sets them apart is the power of their voices and the depth of their lyrics. The harmonies are beautiful and will likely send chills down your spine. The lyrics are often psalms, taken directly from scripture, no interpretation added; good luck getting more profound than that! On one track, the two sing about the greatness of God to come through in the face of lies the devil tells us: “The devil’s singing over me an age old song that I am cursed and gone astray, singing the first verse so conveniently over me, He’s forgotten the refrain. Jesus saves.”

 

The Rocket Summer: Hello, Good Friend & Do You Feel

 

The Rocket Summer is on the opposite end of what I’ve listed so far. The songs are made up of what many would look at and consider just another cheesy pop-punk band. I confess, that was my standpoint at first too. But as I listened more, I found that the upety tunes and positive lyrics are more than skin deep, they’re more than just relatable on a surface level. In the song Tell Me Something Good from the album Hello, Good Friend, singer Bryce Avery says, “I wanna be like that mountain, I wanna stand taller and bigger than rest, see I just wanna be it, a guy who wins all the time, I wanna be a big star a king and rule my own life, and God I know that it’s wrong so please just make my heart right Inside and destroy my pride, So you can tell me something good…” It also interested me to find out that The Rocket Summer is comprised entirely of… just Bryce Avery; he started the band alone and still records alone. Bryce sings largely straight out of his faith on all kinds of real and specific topics. But I think one thing that stands out about his music (and you probably wouldn’t notice upon a first listen) is that it’s not only positive, but realistic and hopeful.

 

 

 

John Mark McMillan: The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down

 

A lot of McMillan’s music is worshipful, but not explicitly worship music. The songs are very honest. Nothing is glazed over about the emotion in them; at first, the songs don’t seem encouraging, because of the honesty and the grit. But listening more, I found myself approaching God with a similar honesty, which inevitably lead to encouragement. I highly recommend this album. I think you’ll find your prayers echoing his.

 

 

 

Jason Upton: Between Earth and Sky

 

This is the most recent of Jason Upton’s live albums. Jason Upton takes a certain amount of getting used to and in order to receive from it, you really kind of have to track with the song. It doesn’t do too well as music to put on the background. But to lay silently on your bed with this music on, it can be a great minister of encouragement and inspiration. Upton’s words are profound and prophetic at times, singing about the things that we often feel in the deeper darker parts of our heart and about the deeper parts of God’s character that we’re often too afraid to approach. He introduces those two depths to each other and in their meeting there has been much encouragement for me. “Don’t be afraid little warrior bride, victory’s on the other side,” is one of my favorite lines from the album, sung in the end of the song Emma.

 

Well that about does it for now. If you’re feeling adventurous, pick up some of these CD’s. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Responses

  1. […] unknown had some great ideas on this topic.You can read a snippet of the post here.There is encouragement all over these albums. There’s rarely a time when these albums don’t appear on my ipod’s “recently played” play list. Shane & Shane: Pages. Shane & Shane have this kind of half-worship music thing going on. … […]

  2. I cry almost every time I listen to Seven Swans. Its not only great album from Christian artist but a great album.

  3. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptInstrumentally speaking, the music does not particularly stand out from their contemporaries, although it’s good, what really sets them apart is the power of their voices and the depth of their lyrics. The harmonies are beautiful and … […]

  4. Music is my life, I totally love it and couldn’t live with out it because it helps me express myself.

  5. Thanks for the music tips. I have enjoy Sufjan Stevens since you introduced me to some of his music this past year. Now I have many more to check out!

    On a “oh yeah, btw” marginally related note, it may interest you to know I am taking singing lessons (pick your jaw up). Turns out I “have a beautiful voice” ?!? Who knew?

  6. hey, i thought i posted a comment here… is it stuck in moderation? did you delete me? i can’t believe you would delete my words… tell me it aint so.

  7. Oh relax Boothy, it got caught as spam somehow. Turns out I got way more comments than I thought. Their spam monitoring isn’t all that great. I will say, I’m not too sure what ‘free porn xxx’ has to do with anything that I’ve written… hmm.

  8. Oh well, that explains everything. I was just hangin out with the ‘free porn xxx’ comments. An’ here I was stressin’. Thanks Willy. (now this HAS to end up in the spam bucket)

  9. ha, ironically enough… here it is.


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