The Disconnect

Ever since the new year began, I’ve caught myself looking back on previous years and our current state as a society. How did we get here? By and large, we are now living in a consumer-heavy culture. A people group obsessed with saturating our minds with information, always needing to be connected via social networks, news outlets and, in general, the world wide web. It’s so much different than things were even just 10 years ago! For a while now I’ve romanticized the “good old days” when things seemed simpler and more genuine, especially when it comes to music. Last year I really got into collecting CDs, cassettes and vinyl; any physical form of music I could get my hands on, really. Part of this was for the collectible aspect, sure, but the bigger reason was I felt an emotional connection to music again. I became passionate about something that, for the longest time, I sort of had let become “just a part of life.” Music had become something I took for granted.

It’s incredibly easy to take things for granted in a day and age where we now have a high expectation for convenience. Technology has brought us closer together and has made everything – viewing movies, shopping, catching the news, even the productivity of our jobs – faster and more instantaneous. The expectation now is that we can have something now. You want that new kitchen gadget? Amazon Prime lets you have it in what seems like less than a day. Want to watch your favorite TV show? You can binge the entire show on Netflix; no more having to wait to catch each episode once a week. Need to make yourself current with the world news? Just scroll through Facebook’s news feed to get biased snippets.

Every time I go to church or stop at a restaurant or really just any public setting, I see several people with a smart phone in hand, fiddling with whatever they feel needs their attention. It’s fascinating just how inseparable we’ve become to arguably the most important possession one can own. Most folks carry their banking information, credit cards, personal contacts, social media access, and more on a smartphone. It’s almost equivalent to having a digital social security card; phones have become the essence of our identity simply because it is the gateway to our lives online. Life is always on the move, so naturally you should have a smart device with you on the go so you can access anything instantly. Now, listen, I’m not excluding myself from this information-hungry culture; I’m probably as worse an offender you’ll ever meet. But especially once we crossed into 2017, I really started to become self-aware of what feels like a growing problem in the current era: Our constant connection to everyone has made us disconnected from one another.

Years ago I used to have a lot of difficulty making connections on a personal level with my peers, especially during my high school days. Part of this was how I was raised, another part was just my personality, and another was just simply not fully understanding the subtlety of human interaction. Nowadays interacting with others feels a bit more second-nature, but I’ve still felt something is missing. There’s a sense of genuine care that I feel is gone when I talk to certain (not all) people, as if they’re disinterested in what I’m saying or their mind is on other matters completely. Again, that isn’t to say I’m not guilty of this either; I think we all at times deal with distractions either from within our own mind or physical distractions in our environment. But smartphones in particular I’ve felt are contributing greatly to this idea of being distracted in the real world. I’ve realized even in myself that I will pull my phone out at work and check Facebook, close the app, open Twitter, close the app, and *immediately* open Facebook again! I’m specifically looking for a distraction to keep my mind occupied, and there’s nothing more engaging than a giant slab of glass that lights up and crams information in my eyes. It’s become habitual to the point that even when I’m right in the middle of an environment where I should give my fullest attention – church, for example – I will pull out my phone not because I necessarily want to, but out of force of habit. It’s indicative of a world that is obsessed with experiencing new information, reading more facts to hurl at one another, seeing another meme or reaction video, or checking to see if our Like-counter has gone up in the last 5 minutes.

I recently listened to an interview with frontman for the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, where he talked about how smartphones are impacting the world we live in. Much like myself, he’s an old soul, and that’s something I can always respect. He said something he’s noticed is that 10 years ago when he was performing at a concert, people would reach out and try and touch him. Nowadays, people reach out with their phones instead to take a picture or a video. I’m guilty of this too; I’ve actually caught myself at a concert taking a video and watching the concert through the screen of my phone instead of what’s actually in front of my face! What a perfect visual analogy for how we’re experiencing life: through the filter of information and technology instead of seeing one another face to face.

What is so important about our lives that we have to have things instantaneously?  What happened to our level of patience where waiting 2 weeks for a package was perfectly acceptable? Or watching the 60-minute news reel was normal and brought you up to speed on things maybe you weren’t even concerned with? Do we get together with a friend to share a selfie and show that yes indeed we really were with that person, all the while wondering how many likes we’re going to collect? Do we really need to watch that next Jimmy Fallon clip while we do our grocery shopping? I’m not so sure I want it anymore. This year my focus is going to continue on making real connections with the people around. I’ve decided that on my personal journey, I am going to detox my addiction to always needing to be connected by kicking my smartphone to the curb in favor of a more simplified routine. I’m very curious how much time and attention to the world around me I will gain by making this minor change to my daily life. Of course, I’ll still have my Macbook at home and music in my car and I’ll still answer texts. But I think it’s about time I disconnect.

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My 2016 Music Awards – Part 2!

Last week I had my 2016 Music Awards for all my favorite releases of the year. This week I’m going to be showcasing all the music I experienced that was released in previous years! There’s a few extra categories this time around just to make sure I cover all my ground.

BEST “OLDIE”

 

Africa – Toto

Earlier this year, I noted “Africa” as my guilty pleasure jam. I later retracted that statement because I actually don’t feel any guilt at all; this song is pure joy. When my sister and I watched Stranger Things this summer and we heard it come on in one of the episodes, we immediately broke out in song in the most obnoxious way. There’s just something infectious about the tune! And while I certainly wasn’t just introduced to “Africa” this year, it is when I realized just how awesome the song is.

 

Jump – Van Halen

Big hair, leopard prints, ripped jeans… All necessary ingredients for glam rock. I’ll confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of 80’s rock and metal. But Van Halen is the exception, and it’s because of songs like “Jump.” After my brother and I saw Eddie the Eagle this year and this anthem song sounded off at the end, I realized, man, what a great song! It’s got that classic synth style that has somehow remained relevant to this day, and the lyrics – while perhaps not the most encouraging – are as catchy as anything you’ll hear on the radio today.

 

Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

You’ve been Rick-Roll’d, baby!

While this song has earned its fame as one of the oldest jokes on the internet, there’s no denying how great it is. If I had to label any song as my actual guilty pleasure, simply because of the stigma surrounding it, it’d be this one. Again, not that I even just heard it this year. But I paid real money to have it on my phone and play it any time I wanted.

 

WINNER:

Africa – Toto

 

BEST ARTIST

 

Tycho

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As I mentioned in the last blog post, Tycho is brilliant. Scott Hansen has been making music since about the turn of the century and it keeps evolving into more and more creative ambient electronic mixes. This was one of the best musical discoveries I’ve ever made because it expanded my horizon past anything I’ve ever listened to previously.

 

The Black Keys

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Oh, The Black Keys… It’s as if they’re a modern day equivalent of your uncle who exclusively listens to music “back from the good ol’ days.” Anything I read about these guys tells me they’re cranky, stubborn, and hate the modern music scene (and I don’t blame them). For the first 5 or 6 years, The Black Keys were pretty much left to their own devices as an independent act, and with that came some of their most original and true-to-self music: scuzzy, lo-fi garage band-style blues rock that has since only been tried to be imitated. The’ve stuck to their guns since their early days on what type of music they’re all about and they will not budge. And that’s why I love ‘em.

 

Ratatat

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This was one of the few artists this year that was not recommended to me, but rather, I went and took a chance on without knowing much about. I’m glad I did. Another rock duo with earlier roots, I absolutely love the blend of rock and electronic they throw together. But more importantly, their music is just one thing: music. It’s all instrumental; no vocals means they can focus that much more of their attention on the sound, and they really nailed it.

 

WINNER:

The Black Keys

 

BEST AGED ALBUM (10+years)

 

MuteMath – MuteMath (self-titled)

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As a die-hard fan, I’m proud to say I’ve been their fan since the beginning in 2006. This album introduced a very different style I had never heard at my age, and if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t like it at first. I took a little bit to warm up, but thanks to my brother who was also a fan at the time, my ears evolved to understand the brilliance of MuteMath. They just repressed this vinyl version of the album this month for the first time since it was released to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and it immediately sold out. That is a testament to just how timeless this album has become. I can throw it on the turntable any day and it will never get old.

 

Classics – Ratatat

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Now, I’m cheating a little bit here since I only just discovered Ratatat, but this album may as well have just been released this year; it’s great. And what’s more, it’s great from start to finish. So many albums can have a few good songs and the rest just serve as filler, but not a single track here was wasted. Certainly, Classics is a befitting title for a decade-old album that hasn’t aged a bit.

 

Demon Days – Gorillaz

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While I wasn’t a huge fan of their first outing, Demon Days has certainly earned its place as one of the best albums ever made. I think it gets better every year. Damon Albarn, the mastermind behind this virtual band, really created the most unique experience I’ve had yet not just in this past year, but several years. As years go by, Demon Days especially will be the album I remember most. Blending collaborations between other artists like De La Soul and Shaun Ryder and covering multiple genres like techno, rap and alt-rock, it’s the most eclectic album I think I’ve ever listened to.

 

WINNER:

MuteMath – MuteMath

 

BEST ALBUM

(I created two categories for albums just because there were so many)

 

Cast Away – Strange Talk

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Boy, if there were a category for “You should have bought this when you first heard it,” Cast Away would win for sure. I remember listening to the song “Eskimo Boy” not long after this album was released, and I even liked it enough to write it down so I could listen to it later! Alas, I wouldn’t check that note on my iPhone until over a year later. Cast Away is straight-up pop, and it’s done very well. Again, there doesn’t seem to be a single wasted track on here. I can listen to the entire album from start to finish and not have to skip any “meh” songs.

 

Gossamer – Passion Pit

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Another electronic pop album, this was purchased on a whim. And again, it’s awesome through and through. Sometimes, the albums no one tells you to buy end up being your favorites. I discovered this one on my own yet again, and it turned out to be another fantastic edition from a band I had never given to shakes at.

 

Brothers – The Black Keys

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Fans of The Black Keys are going to endlessly debate over which of their many albums is the absolute best. But in my books, the answer is simple: Brothers. I wish I had decided to give these guys a fair shot sooner, but that was my own fault I suppose. My brother had had this album for years before I finally discovered it. In a word? It’s perfection. A consistent through-line from start to finish, yet each song is well-distinguished from the last. I went so far as to find a limited edition out-of-print vinyl copy of this album; it’s one of the crowned jewels of my current collection.

 

WINNER:

Brothers – The Black Keys

 

BEST SONG (One-hit wonder)

(I’ve expanded my nominations for this category because, again, there were quite a few to pick from.)

 

“Undercover Martyn” – Two Door Cinema Club

I think I actually heard this song like 5 years ago by accident, stumbling across it on YouTube’s front page perhaps? I’m not entirely sure. It wasn’t until this year that I made the realiztion of how great it is! However, nothing else from TDCC has really captured my attention. Perhaps I’ll give them another shot in 2017?

 

“Walking On A Dream” – Empire Of The Sun

Wow. Just, wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist with a more flamboyant style. I read in an interview with vocalist Luke Steele that he believes that performing music is 50% sound, 50% visuals. Guess I can’t argue with that. I don’t think I’ve jammed out to any other song this year as much as this one.

 

“Midnight City” – M83

As with a lot of these songs, I discovered them through Pandora. It’s a great way to find great songs, but not necessarily great albums. Like with Two Door Cinema Club, I just haven’t found myself getting invested in the rest of M83’s material. That might change, but for now, I will enjoy the anthem that is “Midnight City.”

 

“Cool Blue” – The Japanese House

This little-known artist from the UK was discovered on that same mixtape where I found Nico Yaryan’s “Just Tell Me.” This song holds a very special place in my heart because of what was going on at the time I was listening to it. But as it stands, it’s a beautiful, spacey, dream-like lullaby.

 

“Luna” – Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club was an artist that I invested a little too much in this year. I went off a recommendation and ended up buying almost everything they had released. That’s not to say their music is bad, but it pales in comparison with songs like “Luna.” And songs of theirs like “Luna” are, unfortunately, far and few between. Still, what a gorgeous song.

 

WINNER:

“Walking On A Dream” – Empire Of The Sun

 

And that’s a wrap on my music awards! I hope you discovered something new today 🙂 If you have any recommendations, please feel free to share!

My 2016 Music Awards!

This past year I’ve opened up my ears to a lot of new music, enough in fact that I introduced myself to at lease one new artist every month. Sometimes it was hit or miss, but for the most part I’ve really found value in trying out new music all the time. Now, keep in mind, when I say “trying out” new music, I don’t mean I’m checking these artists out on Spotify. I prefer the old school method of actually purchasing my music (gasp!). I may use Pandora as a testing grounds but for the most part, my selections have come from word-of-mouth recommendations and simply taking a gamble on that artist I heard about. Anyway, just remember this as I continue, because every selection I talk about was purchased by yours truly this year.

Anyway, because I experienced so much, I decided for this retrospective that I’m going to have to break down my favorites by category, much like an awards show! In fact, you can think of this as my very own personal 2016 Music Awards Show. I’ll give a brief overview of each “nominee” before then deciding my personal winner.

There was a lot of great stuff I experienced that came out in 2016, but I discovered even more music that I only just found out about now, and it may actually be as old as 10 years! So while I’m going for diversity in my selections, I’ll break down my blogs into “Best Music of 2016” as well as “Best new-to-me Music.” Watch for that blog to drop next week 😉

 

2016 BEST ARTIST

 

The 1975

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Starting out with one of my first new music exposures of the year, I was introduced to The 1975 about a month before their sophomore album was released. A friend of mine posted their hit song “The Sound” on his Facebook page, claiming it was the catchiest pop song he had heard in a long time. And boy, he wasn’t kidding. But it wasn’t just The Sound that had caught my attention, it was nearly everything. A few months later I went back and bought The 1975’s eponymous album and loved it just the same. These gents from the UK are doing something really special with their musical style, and it’s something I haven’t quite seen (or heard) before. Cheers to them and many more albums to come.

 

Paper Route

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It’s amazing that this veteran band has been around since circa 2006 and still making incredible music. Paper Route is one of those few bands that never compromised their artistic merit and unique sound for corporate record label interests; they’ve been shuffled around from label to label but they’re very keen on protecting their own vision first and foremost. And while they’ve garnered only a small fanbase, their true-to-self style has rewarded them with a fiercely loyal following. And after their release of their third LP, Real Emotion, this past Autumn, they continue to be real artists.

 

Pavo Pavo

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Fresh on the scene dropping their debut album Young Narrator in the Breakers, Pavo Pavo is completely new and doing something very different from what I have previously been accustomed to hearing. Harkening back to the 1970s, this new band has woven an airy pop style with snappy synthesizers, all combined with some beautiful harmonizing voices. I look forward to hearing more from this band, as their first effort was impressive to say the least.

 

WINNER – THE 1975

 

2016 BEST ALBUM

 

Changes – MuteMath

changes

After their incredible Vitals release in 2015, I was excited to see what MuteMath had in store for us next. I heard rumors that they would be releasing a B-sides album, but then along came Changes, an even more synth-heavy take on their already synth-heavy forebear. It’s catchy and fun to listen to, but not quite as punchy as the original album that inspired it. Still, that being said, it’s a great remix album, and I highly recommend both Changes and Vitals for your listening pleasure.

Stand-outs: Changes, Light Up (yachtclub. Remix), Vitals (Alt Mix feat. Flint Eastwood), Joy Rides (Alt Mix)

 

Real Emotion – Paper Route

realemotion

I only just discovered Paper Route earlier in the year, but I’ll darned if I don’t already feel like I’ve been their fan for years. Real Emotion is the culmination of all the heart and soul they put into their first two albums, but this time giving it a slightly more raw tone. Going as far as to actually mix down some of the instrument tracks of each song through VHS tapes to give the music a different sound, these guys seem to know all the tricks of the trade. Real Emotion is an incredible experience from start to finish, and that’s exactly what Paper Route set out to create with this album. Not one song is filler or meant to be forgotten; you really have to listen to this album all the way through in order to get the most out of it. And that is exactly what distinguishes great albums from the good ones.

Stand-outs: Pretend, Chariots, Second Place, Balconies

 

Awakened to the Sound – Future of Forestry

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Another veteran artist that I’ve followed for over 5 years, Eric Owyoung’s latest outing is the most culturally diverse album yet. From the very start, Awakened to the Sound makes you feel like you’re traveling the world. From India to France to Italy to China, this really is a special album. And Owyoung knew what he was doing; when the album was released he also included an option to download a completely uncompressed, high-fidelity version of the album. The mixing of Awakened to the Sound is without measure, and I still don’t think I’ve been able to hear it exactly how Owyoung envisioned it. Still, his latest work is classic Future of Forestry through and through; an evolutionary progression of music that is becoming more and more complex with each outing. His inclusion of the unique instruments that personify each “region” I specified earlier make this his most ambitious album yet. He continues to be my favorite Christian artist simply because he pushes the boundaries for what is “allowed” in Christian music.

Stand-outs: On Giant’s Shoulders, Homeward, Horses, Life Begins Today

 

WINNER: REAL EMOTION – PAPER ROUTE

 

2016 BEST SONG

 

“Just Tell Me” – Nico Yaryan

Although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the rest Nico’s debut album, What a Tease, this single was the exception. I actually heard this song well before the rest of the album was released thanks to a mix tape Urban Outfitters was giving away for free back in January. And being that this was the first song on said cassette, “Just Tell Me” was probably the first new music I heard in 2016. I wish the rest of his album was as good as this song because it is oozing with style. Mellow blues, classic parlor-style rock and raw vocals have made this one of the few songs I’ve gone back to over and over this year. I sincerely hope Nico Yaryan isn’t destined to become a one-hit wonder, but “Just Tell Me” is certainly a hit in my books.

 

“The Sound” – The 1975

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am going for diversity with my selections this year, The 1975 would almost certainly win every category. “The Sound” is a tour de force. It is by far the shining gem of their latest album, which is a shame because the rest of the album is pretty good too. There’s something intangible I can’t quite explain about what this song does to me when I listen. It can instantly make me want to dance no matter what mood I’m in. It’s infectious, catchy, and tons of fun. I wish more music was like this.

 

“Division” – Tycho

“Division” was my solo introduction to Tycho back in July this year, and I immediately bought every other album they had released at the time. I read someone say, “If you just want good music, you will enjoy Tycho.” And I couldn’t agree more. The off-kilter beat and dramatic tonal shifts throughout “Division” set up the perfect introduction for what I was to expect with the rest of their music. It is all so good, but this song stood out to me as the one that left the deepest impression.

 

WINNER: “JUST TELL ME” – NICO YARYAN

 

And that concludes my “best of” selections for 2016! Tune in next week where I dive into the backlog of all the music I’ve been missing out on these past years.

Lost Year

I think we as Christians try all too often to predict God’s plan for us. For me, personally, my journey this past year has taken unexpected turns. Earlier in 2016 I thought, as long as I’m obedient to God, I’d be able to see all He had laid out in front of me. But in retrospect, just the opposite has happened as a result of my strengthened relationship with the Lord! Being self-aware of our situation and position is not always God’s intention for us. Sometimes He’s going to lead us as if we are blindfolded because He wants us to trust where we’re being taken.

Quite a few of these blogs here have focused on relationships past, present, and future. This stems from the fact that I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic and can’t help but long for being with my life partner. I hadn’t found her, but I was hopeful God would lead me to her! I wrote how He’d reveal her to me when I was least expecting it. Unfortunately, all the while I still had my eyes wide open, still searching for myself. I saw myself face to face with a few gals that turned up some as friendships, some as “dead-ends.” I finally realized that I hadn’t been taking my own advice, and so I stopped. I was really just ready to ignore any and all feelings for another person and just focus on my personal ministry at church and relationship with God. I must have really meant it that time, because not too long after, God revealed her to me. When I had truly surrendered my desires to God and turned this whole relationship ordeal over to Him, He pointed me to the woman that I am so happy to say I am currently in a wonderful relationship with. And how! We’ve been dating for 2 months, and I only see a brighter future ahead for us. We forged the foundation of the relationship on Christ first and foremost, and our growing affection followed suit. Which is what set her apart from anyone before! This wasn’t just a mere feeling, this was as if God was commanding our spirits to embrace Him with each other, like a group hug of sorts! I wish I could fully explain my heart; alas, words can only carry so much weight.

The image I have featured at the top of this blog was a photo I took myself earlier this month at Chinook Pass near Mount Rainier (if you haven’t guessed yet, I really enjoy hiking and taking photos). I take a trip to this small lake around this time every year as a dedicated “Me-and-God vacation” sort of thing. The last 2 trips were secondarily out of desperation to get away from the noise of other people in my life and the varying types of stress that relationships had been putting on me at the time. This year was different, though. I took the trip simply to be with God. Not because I needed to hear His voice, but because I wanted to hear Him speak. What I got was a confirmation of everything that had culminated in the last few months. God rewards those who listen to Him and trust in His perfect timing. And so long as we trust that what He wants for our life good and pure, there is no need to worry about our future. There is no need to regret our past, and there is no need to be anxious about this present moment. I pray fervently that the woman I am with now will be the one I ask her hand for in marriage. But in the mean time, I can finally choose not to worry! Our lives are in His hands.

“We forged the foundation of the relationship on Christ first and foremost, and our growing affection followed suit.”

I tend to look back on my past for self-given advice because our experience tells us which actions to take differently and which ones we should repeat. We learn from our mistakes, and we learn from our successes. Looking back on my previous writings about romance and relationships and Christ, I see a beautiful mess. I see myself as a man who desperately needed direction and our God patiently doled it out to him, month after month, until it finally clicked in his dumb head. I see the mistakes I made and I see which actions were obedient unto God. But it’s all part of the process of growing with the Lord! How utterly lost would I be if I kept going back to the same mistakes I had been making, relying on mere feelings to guide me instead of Jesus. I’d be doomed to misery and disappointment every single time I got my hopes up. Thank God He never gives up on us.

If you’ve read the entire paper trail of blogs I’ve chosen to write, you’ll have gotten a glimpse at the fact that this has been a long road for me. One marred with hiccups and discontent and an inability to hand over my worries to God. It’s taken up a lot of my thinking time, as I’m sure you’ve clearly gathered at this point. But if I had to sum it up in a final thought, I’d say for the last 12 months I’ve been lost, but I wouldn’t lose those 12 months for the world. It’s been important in being transformed into my newfound self, and it’s even more important that I remember the journey God has taken me on. Now that I’m moving forward with Him fully in control of this part of my life, it’s time to move on towards the next facet that He shall consume. Lord, I am ready to be completely Yours!

…to the sky.

So I had already explained what went into the URL name for my blog, persequi logicam dei, in my introductory post. But the other part of my blog’s name (and this was just for the sake of having the title be different but still bear some meaning) has not been explained yet.

Look On Up is the name of a song by one of my old-time favorite bands Relient K. I spent a good portion of my childhood listening to them, and I have my oldest brother to thank for that since they were “cool” teen punk music. I still listen to them now, even though their newer stuff never really struck a chord with me. But their earlier music will always be near and dear to my heart.

In 2014 my brother and I saw Relient K live in Portland; they were on a 10th Anniversary tour for arguably their most popular album, Mmhmm. We both had a great time and it was a pure nostalgia-fest! Near the end of their set, however, frontman Matt Thiessen played a song I had never heard, nor had they ever released before, called “Look On Up.” The song was beautiful! And while their other new music had failed to speak to me, this song did. I can’t really explain why, but it was just obvious to me that it meant something deeper.

So for ages I remembered hearing this song at that concert, thinking it’d end up being one of those ethereal music experiences I’ll never hear again. I used the title of that song here on this blog to serve as a reminder as to why I should be looking up. I’ve always loved looking up at the night sky and gazing in awe at the universe. Who’s the one who spoke that universe into motion! Yeah, you get the idea. The song alludes to this, but Thiessen I think is more focused on our device-centric world and wanting to remove those distractions to focus on the things that inspired him to write music in the first place. Knowing the roots of Relient K, I think they left a little bit open for us to fill in the blanks spiritually speaking; no doubt God was one of those inspirations for him.

So anyway, the reason I’m explaining all this is because surprise! The band just released a studio-recorded single for that song today, on Valentine’s Day no less! I didn’t hesitate to buy it on iTunes, but you can listen for free on YouTube. It’s almost exactly how I remember hearing it live, too. Thank you, Relient K!

 

I figured now was as good a time as any to explain where my blog title comes from. Honestly you won’t find a lot of originality with me; everything is derivative in a sense, anyway. But it’s also a source of inspiration.

 

~

Music To His Ears

I believe God wishes to challenge us each and every day when it comes to how we worship Him. Music is a wonderful way of expressing our love and respect for Christ. It’s just one of the many ways in which we do so, and it seems that it’s more powerful and expressive for us as human beings as opposed to deeply contemplating the mysteries of God and His Word.

Take a minute and think about what comes to mind when someone mentions “worship music.” Hillsong United? Phil Whickam? Maybe Sonicflood if you’re old school like me? These are great examples of musicians and groups of musicians who use their talents specifically to praise the Lord.

Though a trend I’ve noticed in the church as whole in recent memory is the utilization of music from these evangelical super-artists mentioned above. Their music is simple, easy to sing, easy to understand, and chock-full of passion. These are important elements to have in worship music if you want people to join in on Sunday mornings!

But what about the other musicians who have created beautiful worship music as well? Eric Owyoung, Reese Roper, Paul Meany… I’m sure only a few of you know who these guys are. These artists are sort of known for their ambiguity and ability to create incredibly deep lyrics while still maintaining a unique sound and focus on Christ.

Let’s take look at Paul Meany as the example, being that he’s the frontman for my favorite band, MuteMath. One of their most popular songs was actually one of the very first they produced, called “Control.” On the surface, it’s a pretty mellow alternative rock song. It’s got a good beat, great vocals, some nice guitar riffs. But take a moment here and just listen to the lyrics. Who and what is Paul referring to?


Pretty great stuff, right? It’s always been in my top 5 songs just for the lyrical aspect alone. Let’s dig in to some of those lyrics now:

“There is no better loss than to lose myself in You.”

“Surrender has somehow become so beautiful.”

Right off the bat, Paul talks about giving himself up for God. He refers to becoming so enveloped in God’s love that he is literally lost, and what could be greater than this? Later in the second verse he changes those first lyrics to “there is no better find than to find myself in you.”

“You can take my world, You can fill the air, take control…”

“There’s no reason I should breathe unless You’re in the air…”

There’s a great deal of emphasis here on air and atmosphere; the presence of this idea is strong throughout. And you can draw parallels of “atmosphere” to one’s own life, their environment, who they are inside, any number of things! That’s why I love this ambiguous style of lyric-writing; the answer is so obvious, yet there are multiple ways to interpret what the writer is saying.

So why am I using this song as an example? Well, why not? I’ve certainly never heard it on Sunday mornings, and yet it manages to pull on all the right spiritual strings in my heart. I believe the reason is that this song suffers from the same problem other similar music has: it’s not explicit enough! Not once is God mentioned by name, and the lyrical subject remains nebulous because, well, that was the artist’s choice and purpose for his music.

Since we’re talking about musical worship, let me touch real quick on another form of worship that God loves: reading his Holy book. When I read the Bible, I get far more out of it when I dig into each verse and look beyond the surface of what it says; piecing together references from other scripture, discovering the allegory behind a certain passage or other hidden meanings in parables and stories. Especially when we’re discussing scripture with our brothers and sisters, we all benefit from diving deep into the Bible, rather than just touching upon the surface and getting our feet wet.

One can think of musical worship in a similar way. Can we sing those gorgeous but simple songs on Sunday that praise God directly and leaves no question in the congregation? Absolutely! I love doing that every week. But can we also discover worship in other Christian music that requires a little thinking and putting two and two together? I think we should.

I don’t expect the church to start playing music that sounds “secular” to the untrained ear. But most of us are only at church one day out of the week; those other six days should be filled with just as much passion as if we were attending church! Expand your horizon and start thinking about the other stuff on your iPod that doesn’t make the cut for worship service. This challenge may be in the form of simply being more expressive in how we worship God, or it may come in the form of using our gray matter to really think about what we’re singing. You may just find that musical worship is on a broader spectrum than what you hear on Sunday mornings.

 

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