I have been trying to write this post for about a month now. I started it sometime before Christmas and got stuck about two paragraphs in. It is one of those things where I know what I want to say but I couldn’t figure out how to say it. In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog is because I wanted to hone my ability to put my thoughts in print in a concise and cohesive manner. And for whatever reason most of my grander thoughts are about music so my blog has transformed into a medium to post my blurry ideas about music and art, whilst trying my best to make a semblance of sense to someone who hasn’t listened to the music that I enjoy.
One of the best things about great music is that it doesn’t often meet our expectations. By that I mean that the best albums usually have parts that we didn’t expect to hear. I love hearing a new album that I know almost nothing about and having it turn out to be completely different from my expectations. A good album will be something that you weren’t wanting it to be at first but will end up being more than what you ever could have envisioned later on.
One thing that I generally do not expect to find when I take a first listen to a new album is God. The music that I listen to doesn’t generally have any stated intention of trying to show God to me which is why I am always very pleasantly surprised when I find God there.
One of my favorite albums from last year was Girls album Father, Son, Holy Ghost. I suppose by the title I should have expected to find some glimpses of the divine, but I wasn’t really looking for them at when I pushed play the first time. The first few songs are great guitar songs that bring to mind a time when the guitar was part of the emotional core of a song rather than a device for the vocals to ride upon. Then, unexpectedly, on the sixth track ‘Vomit’ (which takes its title from Proverbs 26:11, “As a dog returns to its vomit…”), a track that on its surface is about, well, girls, or a girl, a beautiful line rings out, “Come into my heart.” This line is repeated and a backing gospel choir is added. This line lifts this song into the spiritual realm for me. I can’t help but think about man’s longing for God when I listen to this song and I wonder if the singer somehow feels this longing, because he expresses it so wonderfully here.
The ninth track on the Girls record is called ‘Forgiveness’ and this song is about God, or at least Godly things, and this track is aware of that. I think there is a lesson for everyone to learn when the singer sings “You’ll have to forgive me, I’ll have to forgive you if we ever want to move on.” The music on both of these tracks start soft and pensive and then soars up above everything proceeding it by the end and I think this adds to the experience for me.
There are plenty of other bands that I enjoy that struggle with God and reach for Him in ways that you would not expect. Deerhunter (and Bradford Cox’s solo outlet Atlas Sound) talk about being saved and being a praying man, but Bradford Cox claims he is a Christian so I will have to take him at his word which makes his spiritual longings a little less surprising. Belle and Sebastian are another band that have wonderful themes of God, grace, and redemption in their songs.
I firmly believe that God can be found in almost everything but it is when God shows up when I am not expecting it that I usually most pleasantly surprised, and God shows up a lot in music, intentionally and unintentionally. I think I resonate with the Girls album because I found a connection with the music that I didn’t expect when I first came to it. But the thing that I most love about this album is that it proves to me the idea that God can be found everywhere.