What I’m Listening to #intimeslikethese

I swear if I see one more commercial that starts with some somber woman intoning the words “In difficult times like these…” I think I might pop. This is a time in which we are all seeking comfort, but I don’t look for or need it from a Subaru advertisement. God help me if I ever do.

Where I actually find a lot of solace is in things like prayer and family. And music. Music is big for me. I have no actual talent in the creation or performance of music whatsoever, so the listening of it is something I do purely for pleasure, not for examination or study.

I recently came to the conclusion that the song No Hard Feelings by The Avett Brothers (see below to listen) is perhaps the most beautiful song released in the last couple decades or so. (Argue with me if you want, but that just means you haven’t heard it.)  It’s a song that didn’t strike me immediately on first listen, but my appreciation of it has grown and grown over the years. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the lyrical content, which (to me) is about the relief waiting for us in the next life when old hurts and regrets are wiped away and we are reunited with our loved ones and our Savior, with whom we will “shake hands laughing.” It’s just gorgeous.

My cousin Carly added the song to her “Being Held” playlist, the idea of which I quite like. There is a need to reach beyond this virus and all the turmoil it’s causing in our hearts and in our streets and in our hospitals. I think we’d all like to “be held” right now. And, as a person of faith, I’d like God to do the holding. Metaphorically speaking, I believe He is, and a playlist that reminds me He is there and always present is a good thing.

So, here’s my “Being Held” playlist. All of these songs are either about God or make me think of Him. They may not have been intended as such, but that’s what they are to me. And, when it comes to music, I think what it means to me is the most important thing.

Maybe you’ll find a few gems in here that will help you, too.

(Note: If you build this for yourself, I recommend not hitting shuffle. I sequenced this sucker!)

  1. Slow Your Breath Down – Future of Forestry. A good reminder, especially #intimeslikethese.

2. No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers. Chills every time it reaches the climax.

3. This Road – Jars of Clay. You’re gonna see a lot of Jars of Clay on this list. This song is like a warm blanket.

4. Before You Were Young – Travis. Not hard to imagine who is singing this song.

5. Open Arms – Elbow. Makes me tear up. This is what I want God to say when I return home.

6. Hymn – Jars of Clay. “So melt my pride that I may in your house but live…”

7. Division – Moby. No lyrics, just a vibe.

8. Help Me – Johnny Cash. This is speaking to God from a desperate place. A prayer given by a man at the end of his life who has said a lot of them.

9. I Don’t Mind – Phantom Planet. Whatever the Lord needs to inflict upon me, I’ll take it because I know it’s worth it. I don’t mind.

10. Oh My God – Jars of Clay. Now, in almost every instance I view exclaiming “Oh my God” as using the Lord’s name in vain. This is Jars of Clay crafting an entire song around the idea that there actually is a circumstance in which using that phrase is appropriate. What they come up with is absolutely devastating. This lays me flat every time, and it’s in my personal Top 3 favorite songs.

11. I’ve Been High – R.E.M. This always, always lifts me up.

12. Let Your Heart Hold Fast – Fort Atlantic. “For this soon shall pass like the high tide takes the sand…”

13. Morning Light – The Hunts. This song, sadly, is not available on YouTube, and is even difficult to find commercially. It’s worth tracking down though, believe me. A sweet song about turning the “darkest night into the morning light.” (A huge theme in a lot of my writing.)

14. Worlds Apart (Live) – Jars of Clay. A plea to God to “take my world apart,” which is a good thing to do when your world is bad. (Find the live version off their “Furthermore” album, if you can.)

15. Outro – M83. I think it’s a synth, but I wish the organs in our churches sound like this.

16. Bathed in Sunlight – Fort Atlantic. Wouldn’t we all like to be? Even I, who prefers dark rooms to the outdoors, want that sunlight.

17. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Jars of Clay. Probably my favorite hymn, and this is the best rendition of it.

18. Til Kingdom Come – Coldplay. Coldplay actually did a straight up, no-holds-barred Christian song, and I feel like people forgot about it. More overt than anything U2 ever put out.

19. On the Nature of Daylight – Max Richter. No lyrics, but the feeling this song evokes is extraordinary. I find myself thinking in cycles, life and death, that sort of thing. I think about God.

That’s it, those are the songs I’m drawing the most comfort from right now. Anything you would add to it? What are you listening to that’s bringing you to a better place?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

My Top 10 Songs of 2011

What follows is my list of favorite songs of 2011. I consume a lot of music, but I don’t hear everything. I don’t even hear everything the year it comes out. So keep that in mind as you read this list. This is MY 2011. It may not bear complete resemblance to the actual 2011.

Song’s are in ascending order of preference, from 10 to 1. Click on the song titles to go to YouTube to hear the them. (Sorry, can’t embed on this blog.)

10. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes – I wasn’t entirely sold on their second album, but the Fleet Foxes built an evocative, perfect song in “Blues.” This is what I want the Foxes to sound like all the time.

9. Young Blood – The Naked and Famous – I thought about not even including this song just because it’s been used in every commercial and movie trailer that came out this year. But. But… I can’t deny it’s a great song and I discovered it long before the mainstream public did and fell in love with it based on its own strengths. So here it is at number 9.

8. Colours – Grouplove – This was tough. There are so many Grouplove songs I love, but this one with the stuttering lyrics and pounding rhythm was the first I heard. And it’s still the one that resonates most strongly with me (though Love Will Save Your Soul is a close second).

7. Headlong Into the Abyss – We Are Augustines – This one hits the sad/inspirational sweet spot that I’m always a sucker for. The dude’s voice is odd and I can barely understanding what he’s saying, but the emotion is so clear that this song means whatever I want it to and changes from moment to moment. I never want to read the actual lyrics.

6. Open Arms – Elbow – The only song to ever really make me cry. When I hear the chorus, I imagine my God speaking to me in the moment of my death, saying the words I long to hear. Maybe that’s a nutty thing to read into a pop song, but there it is. I feel this one down deep.

5. Video Games – Lana Del Rey – This is the newest song on this list. The lyrics paint such a beautiful, sad picture. If you’re aScott Pilgrim fan, imagine if it wasn’t a comedy and Knives Chau got to sing a ballad. This is exactly what she would sing. Exactly. Haunting and spectacular. And when her voice goes light and airy at end of the line “I heard that you like bad girls honey, is that true?”–man, that kills me.

4. We Are Young – Fun. – This band and Grouplove are the finds of the year for me. This is just a perfect singalong track that I can’t believe it’s not already a huge hit on the radio. It may be, I dunno. I don’t listen to the radio. Can’t wait for the full album in 2012. Just a stunning song. I dare you to resist it.

3. Numb – The Airborne Toxic Event – My current favorite band and the best song off their second album. Why this wasn’t a bigger hit, I’ll never know. Love the guitar on this. Such a great sound. Pop mechanics with an emotional undercurrent. That’s Airborne’s stock in trade. This is one of their very best.

2. Tigers – The Submarines – I played this song so much this year that one day my wife and daughter just started singing it together spontaneously. I had no idea they even knew it. The song is addicting. I dunno why, but as soon as it’s over I want to start it up again. Great duet about the challenges of being a couple. A married couple, from the sounds of it.

1. Faster and Louder – Peter Furler – I’m really surprised to find this one at the top. Peter was the leader/songwriter for the Christian band Newsboys for more than two decades. He left the group to do his own thing a couple years ago and then unexpectedly came out with a solo album. Dude is in his 40’s and you can’t tell by the album. Faster and Louder is his new credo. His rebellion against an artist’s tendency to slow it down as they get older. Mellow it is not. Peter’s pop sensibility is finely tuned and the clever lyrics he deploys here put this song on the top of every mix I made this year. The drops are insane. Can’t hear this one enough.

That’s it! You can listen to my Top 10 2011 playlist on Spotify right here. Which tracks stood out for you this year?