Music for the Quarantine

I don’t often make music recommendations; there are too many differing tastes and preferences in music.  Too many wars have been started in Churches over simply the style of the music, regardless of its content or quality – and having stated that fact probably offended someone.

Still, as we are in the midst of our 6th week of Quarantine due to the Covid-19 virus, I thought I’d share some of the music that I’ve been listening to. I’ve found these to be albums/artists who’s music conveys beauty and goodness, bringing encouragement in troubling times, and even conveying greater Biblical truth.  Not all of the albums or artists listed here meet all of those categories, but I have found their music to be soothing  in these long weeks.

I’ve tried to include Spotify links were available so that you can check out their music as well.

Andrew Peterson – Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2

Peterson music has a folk, bluegrass, country feel to it, but what really drives his music is the wonderful writing. Deeply Biblical pictures come through his lyrics, expressing a sense of something greater that gives us purpose and meaning in life.  If you can find a way to listen to all of Peterson’s music, do so, but the Resurrection Letters albums are particularly good.

Josh Garrels – Home

I don’t know how best to describe Josh Garrels’ music, but it certainly resonates with me. There’s a mix of west coast hip hop, folk, bluegrass, and Christian that makes his music rise above any particular genre. Combined with lyrics that are layered, moving, and story-telling, his music is always a journey.  The Home album is a type of concept album that tells the story of salvation and liturgy in worship. Garrels himself wrote about this album, “While writing these songs I was searching for joy, and this pursuit instinctively brought my attention back to the people and places closest to me. Because of this, these songs have less of an outward, expansive scope, and rather turn the attention inward, to the intimacy of family, forgiveness, and homecoming.”

John Williams – American Journey

Whether or not you are a fan of the Symphony, you are certainly familiar with John Williams’ music. He has written the soundtrack for just about every blockbuster movie since the 80’s (Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Home Alone, Harry Potter, just to name a few). The American Journey was committed by President Clinton for a multimedia presentation called “The Unfinished Journey” released on New Year’s Eve 1999. When you listen you can almost see the history of America unfold in your imagination.  The music is wholesome, inspiring, and beautiful.

Cardiphonia Music – Hollow Square Hymnal

This is a collection of artists who have come together for an album of Shape Note Hymns.  There’s not enough space here to try to convey what shape note signing is, but the original shape note singing feels like old Appalachian Gospel singing.  This album has a mostly modern setting, and will introduce some hymns that have been long forgotten.

Alan Golgoll – Grizzly Caterpillar

Sometimes you just need some soft music playing in the background, and this is my go to.  From his website – Alan Gogoll is an Australian acoustic guitarist and composer most known for the invention of his two-handed simultaneous artificial harmonics technique he has called ‘Bell Harmonics’, which is featured in many of his original songs such as Mulberry Mouse, Pepperleaf Pipes and Bell’s Harmonic. Intrigued?  Give it a listen and you’ll be hooked.

Music to Read Books By

Last week I wrote about the books I’ve been reading, so naturally (to me, anyway) I thought this week I’d write about the music I like to listen to while reading those books.  I recognize that everyone has their own preference where music is concerned, but as with introducing you to new books I’m reading, I hope that maybe you’ll come across some new artist in this reading and be better for it.

I have varying tastes in music depending on what I’m doing at the moment.  My running playlist has a lot of U2, Beatles, Rich Mullens, and Billy Joel – just to give you a sampling.  While working around the house on the weekends, I like to turn on Spotify and listen to 70’s and 80’s playlists.  But while writing and reading, I like to listen to music that is fitting for the moment.

I have, for a while now, enjoyed listening to Indelible Grace Music and the music of Stuart Townend and Keith and Krystin Getty.  I think it was while listing to a radio station on Spotify based on their music that I found many of the following artists.  If you’ve never heard their music, they are all on Spotify or Youtube, and I would encourage you to listen to a couple samples (I’ll provide the links where possible).

So here’s a list of some of the artists I like to listen to while writing and reading:

Josh Garrels
I like to think that I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, and Josh Garrels is a pretty eclectic musician.  His description on wikipedia says, “Josh Garrels is a singer-songwriter, hip-hop, pop producer, and orchestral folk composer from South Bend, Indiana. His music combines traditional folk music with other musical elements and the nontraditional exploration of Christian themes.”  I don’t really know how to classify his music, but I can say that it speaks to me.  He doesn’t give a candy-coated, top 40 Christian message in his music; but the imagery of the struggle and hope in this life is real and richly Biblical.  With songs like Don’t Wait for Me and Beyond the Blue, Garrels articulates a longing for completion that is only met in Christ, but that it is met completely in Him.  My favorites would have to be The Resistance and All Creatures, two hip-hop influenced songs that have great messages.

Audrey Assad
As I was listening to Audrey Assad just this morning, I realized what it is I like about her music. She sings like Amy Grant did when Amy Grant was just starting out.  Innocent, beautiful, heartfelt expressions of faith in the midst of real life.  Her song The House You’re Building is especially Amy Grant-esque. She has a wonderful cover of His Eye is On the Sparrow in Sparrow, and her song Good to Me is an excellent reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Their name is a reference to Page 116 in their copy of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Magicians nephew, the passage where Aslan begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void.  Starting as worship leaders in church, Page CXVI’s self-stated purpose as a band is to make hymns accessible again.  All of their songs are re-writes of familiar hymns, accentuating different themes that the hymns, with their traditional tunes, might not convey.  Some of my favorites include O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Wash Me Clean, and Be Still My Soul.

Sons of Korah
Sons of Korah is an Australian based band that sings the Psalms – and that’s all. On their website they explain, “The Psalms have been the primary source for the worship traditions of both Judaism and Christianity going right back to ancient times. With their unique acoustic, multi-ethnic sound Sons of Korah have given this biblical songbook a dynamic and emotive new musical expression. They endeavour to lead their listeners into an impacting encounter with this book that is often described as the ‘heart’ of the bible.”  Often times I will turn on Sons of Korah and read the Psalms as they sing, word for word.  Their on my running playlist, and I’ve found that by singing the Psalms, I’m learning them by heart too.  A few of my favorites are Psalm 148, Psalm 73, Psalm 51, and Psalm 1.

Ludovico Einaudi
“One of these things is not like the other…” There are times when I am looking for quiet background music, instrumental or piano music, while reading or writing.  through Spotify I cam across Ludovico Einaudi.  Not under the Christian Music label at all, Einaudi is an Italian pianist and composer who uses a wide variety of styles and genres including pop, rock, world music, and folk music. I don’t know how to describe his music other than stunningly beautiful.  A couple that really stand out to me are I Giorni and Nuvole Bianche.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these artists and their music.  If you have any recommendations, please make sure to give them in the comments below.