In the Silence of the Mind: November 16, 2013
Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise
Since I began writing “In the Silence of the Mind” articles for IVM, one verse has worked it’s way through the very fabric of almost every post. That verse, Philippians 4:8, follows Paul’s repeated exhortation to the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always” and hammers this command down practically by telling them what they should “dwell” on in their thinking. To recap, Paul implies that what you dwell on in your mind (what you think about constantly) will shape your ability to rejoice in the Lord. As such, he commands us to dwell on those things that are pure, excellent, right, true, praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, and noble.
I’ll be the first to admit, I struggle with this. My mind likes to dwell on the fruit of our fallen nature and often falls into unhealthy tirades that sour and blacken my soul. I’m not afraid to admit (though I am ashamed) that much of this past week has been in that category. I learned a long time ago that the music I listen to helps to shape these paths in my mind one way or the other. Now, I’m not talking about the fabled “Houseplant test” where (as Audio Adrenaline tells it) both Petra and Megadeath tunes are deadly to foliage. Though science and I may have to wrestle it out (and I was trained as a pro-wrestler in my 20’s), I don’t think it is primarily the back-beat of a song that depresses or enrages a listener. Still, there is something about the way a song is put together musically and with just the right lyrics that can inspire a man to action and help to reverse a case of the stinks mentally.
Several years ago I created a playlist on my click-wheel black and blue screened iPod (remember those… in the days before iPhones) of songs that were intended to return my spirit to rejoicing in the Lord with fire. I called this playlist “Positivity, Passion, and Power.” Being a preacher, I later sanctified the list by adding a fourth “P” for “Praise” to make it more Jesus-like. The purpose of the playlist was simply for me to have immediate access to songs that remind me powerfully (and passionately) of the power that Jesus offers and help me to get back into a positive mind-set.
Just as I examined tracks that speak of overcoming death (linked above; all of those tracks fit nicely with this list, as well) earlier this week, I wanted to share with you some gems that you need in your life when life seems unbearable. Unlike some overly cheesy (even if intentional and awesome) songs like Hoi Polloi’s “I’m so happy, feeling snappy,” each song reaches deep into the soul and brings back the fire of Christ from within.
A note: Fittingly, when a band does one song like this, they often do several. In order to fight utter chaos, I’ve limited myself to examining just two tracks per artist at maximum. I have, however, listed other tracks alongside. So, open iTunes, Google Play, Rhapsody, Napster, Spotify, your Rolodex or whatever and get your playlist creation tools ready, because you NEED these songs in your arsenal for a rainy day.
The Artist: GS Megaphone
The Songs: “Alive” (from Out of My Mind) and “Beautiful World” (from Beautiful World)
Why They Matter: I’ve started with the very best of the best. “Alive” needs to be in your life. Right now. Just listen to the power it speaks: “Gonna live my life like I was seventy yesterday and God let me go back and relive all my younger days… I’m just so glad to be alive… Jesus when I’m with You, every next day is the greatest day I’ve ever known… with God, I am alive.”
“Beautiful World” is not as raucous as “Alive,” but paints a beautiful picture of a man going outside and seeing the world God has created and simply marveling at what he sees, thanking God for it all along the way.
As with every truly great band in this list, GS Megaphone’s positive message spreads through so many of their songs, but these two are essentials. If you haven’t listened to GS Megaphone, seriously stop everything and track down their albums. Beautiful World is one of my top ten albums of all time!
Other Notable Tracks: “Venom” and “Personal Renaissance” (from Beautiful World), “Cradle of Peace” and “Electric” (from Out of My Mind).
The Artist: Spoken
The Songs: “Promise” (from A Moment of Imperfect Clarity) and “Tonight” (from Illusion)
Why They Matter: In one of the hardest seasons of my life, Spoken’s “Promise” reminded me that “things will get better, this I promise you,” and I know that this song is still waiting around to bless many more lives the way it blessed mine. “Promise” is simply a must have track in this playlist. It embraces the broken moments of life with honesty, but points to greater moments just over the horizon. We may not be able to see them right now, but Spoken assures you they are there in such a passionate way that you really believe them.
“Tonight” comes from my pick for “Album of the Year” of 2013, and is a much more upbeat song from the get go. It doesn’t focus as much on the problems of life, but boldly states “tonight I feel so alive.” Everything about the lyrics, the production, the beat/instrumentation, just uplifts you and reminds you how great it truly is to be alive.
Other Notable Tracks: “Stand Alone,” “Through it All” (from Illusion), “David,” “In the Silence” (from Echoes of the Spirit Still Dwell), “Trading in This Troubled Heart, “When Hope is All You Have” (from Spoken).
The Artist: Demon Hunter
The Songs: “Not Ready to Die” (from Summer of Darkness) and “Undying” (from The Triptych)
Why They Matter: “Not Ready to Die” is an anthem like none other. Raising your fist to your problems and screaming “I’m not ready to die!” has power to it. Similarly, “Undying” takes a look at the pains of this world, but proclaims “one final heartbreak, blinding light will guide our way, free us our blind state, they will call us by our name UNDYING… we are the one who will still remain when all is laid to waste, we are the one who when angels cry will see them face to face…”
With hard rocking passion, Demon Hunter provides more than a few anthems you need speaking life over you.
Other Notable Tracks: “Fire to My Soul” (from The Triptych), “Storm the Gates of Hell,” “Lead Us Home,” “Thorns” (from Storm the Gates of Hell).
The Artist: P.O.D.
The Songs: “Strength of My Life” (from Testify) and “Alive” (from Satellite)
Why They Matter: First of all, “Alive” was the anthem of a generation. It defined positive rock for an era. However, as popular as “Alive” was, it is “Strength of My Life (feat. Matisyahu)” that truly preaches and speaks life. “Strength of my life, whom shall I fear?” echoes scripture in reminding us that if God is for us, who can be against us (see The O.C. Supertones, below). Sonny and Matisyahu sing with such power and confidence that is infectious and inspiring. Knowing that God is for us means that nothing else can stand in the way. Even if pain is temporary, God’s strength heals forever. I must note that the choice to only highlight two songs per artist hits hardest with P.O.D. The boys are inspiring and challenging in so many songs, and it is hard not to mention “It Can’t Rain Everyday” or others in more than an afterthought.
Other Notable Tracks: “It Can’t Rain Everyday” (from When Angels and Serpents Dance), “Draw the Line” (from The Warriors EP), “Youth of the Nation,” “Boom,” “Ghetto” (from Satellite), “Wildfire,” “Change the World,” “Freedom Fighters” (from Payable on Death), “Preach” (from Live), “Outkast,” “Rock the Party,” “Tribal” (from The Fundamental Elements of Southtown), “Selah” (from Brown).
The Artist: Five Iron Frenzy
The Songs: “Every New Day” (from Our Newest Album Ever) and “Dandelions” (from Quantity is Job 1)
Why They Matter: Five Iron comes from a genre of music that was known as “that happy snappy music.” Still, though they were often insanely silly, they managed more often than not to bring the listener to the verge of tears (of hope) through their powerful word-pictures. “Every New Day” is simply one of the greatest songs… ever! There is a reason that FIF chose to end their once-final album with a sample from it… it is powerful beyond measure.
“Dandelions” brings a simple power through the eyes of a child and keeps a similar tone to “Every New Day.” Both are essential to your life, though “Every New Day” trumps almost all else.
Other Notable Songs: “All That is Good,” “One Girl Army” (from Quantity is Job 1) “A New Hope,” “World Without An End” (from All the Hype That Money Can Buy).
The Artist: .rod laver
The Songs: “Fifty-Five” (from Trying Not To Try) and “Cry” (from Essence of the Game)
Why They Matter: At Creationfest in Washington one year, a friend of mine by the name of John Eastlund and I met .rod laver and asked them if they were going to play “fifty-five” on stage. When they said that they were not, we simply replied, “just wait and see.” During their fringe-stage set John, myself, and some other random guy started chanting “throw your hands way up high” as loud as we could. Thankfully, others joined in. As .rod laver was walking off the band manager appeared on the side of the stage and flashed five fingers twice at the band, indicating that they were to cave to our loudly spouted wishes. Rudy, the frontman, returned to the mic and simply said, “You guys are jerks.”
A few years later, my friend John died of a horrible and aggressive cancer and went to be with the Lord. That song still makes me cry because of that, knowing that John knew where he was going… “throw your hands way up high, wave ’em side to side… and if you know where you’re going when you die say everything’s alright.” “Cry” on the other hand, simply speaks from rapcore lips the greatness of God and how when we look above, it makes us want to cry for joy. .rod laver is a band that broke up just as they were making waves. I only wish they had had a proper follow up to their T&N debut In A Perfect World (Rudolf Wayne Vs The Man was more of a solo project).
Other Notable Songs: “The Kind That Could,” “436” (from In a Perfect World), “Breathe,” “Time and Again” (from No Toque El Toro).
The Artist: The O.C. Supertones
The Songs: “Unite” (from Supertones Strike Back) and “Who Can Be Against Me” (from The Adventures of the O.C. Supertones).
Why They Matter: The band themselves proclaimed “we play ska and it makes you feel better. While “Unite” is more of an anthem than it is generally “uplifting,” the one-two-punch of “Unite” and “Who Can Be Against Me” are sure to do the trick. The Supertones blend ska with rock and throw in a healthy dose of theology and positivity along the way. As with P.O.D., above, there are simply so many songs that fit the bill here.
Other Notable Songs: “Never Wanna Fall,” “Heaven,” “He Will Always Be There” (from The Adventures of the OC Supertones), “Grace Flood, “Perseverance of the Saints,” “Like No One Else” (from Supertones Strike Back), “Away From You,” “Old Friend” (from Chase the Sun), “Fire, “Hold On To Jesus” (from Hi-Fi Revival), “Jury Duty,” “Lift Me Up,” (from Loud and Clear), “Where I Find You,” “The Kingdom” (from Revenge of the OC Supertones).
The Artist: Damon Golden
The Songs: “This is the Night” and “Just Choose Joy” (From Just Choose Joy)
Why They Matter: One of the great tragedies of my time as an “intern” with IVM was that I was never able to find time in the midst of required reviews to properly review Damon Golden’s Just Choose Joy. I met Damon at a youth convention last year and found him to be magnetic. His music is the same. “This is the Night” is, without question, the greatest song released in 2012. It is simply passionate and inspiring and deserved to headline promos for any “talent” show. “Just Choose Joy” as the title suggests, helps remind us that joy is a choice we make more than it is the circumstances we face.
Other Notable Songs: “Good Morning” (see below)
The Artist: Grits
The Songs: “Beautiful Morning” (from Reiterate) and “Ooh Ahh” (from The Art of Translation feat tobyMac).
Why They Matter: As with a few above, Grits has many tracks that speak life boldly over the listener. Perhaps none is greater, however, than “Beautiful Morning.” If you’re in a bad mood, simply play that song. From Pigeon John’s great appearance to the simple bouncy beat that track just inspires a new attitude and frame of mind.
“Ooh Ahh” is a less obvious choice considering their discography, but how can you ignore the infectiousness of “my life be like oooooohhh aaahhhh ooooohhh.” If you’re down in the spirit, Grits has some answers for you.
Other Notable Songs: “High” (from Dichotomy A), “Get It,” “Make Room” (from The Art of Translation), “They All Fall Down,” “Supreme Being” (from Grammatical Revolution), “Open Bar” (from Redemption), “Sky May Fall,” “Living Dreams” (from Reiterate).
There are so many tracks that speak life intentionally over you that this list must continue on next week. Same Bat-time, same bat-channel, as it were. In fact, we’ve still got some of the best songs/artists yet to cover. Where’s Audio Adrenaline? Paul Wright? For Today? Blindside?
Check back next week as we continue to examine songs and artists you need to be listening to so they can speak life over you. Its all about adhering to Philippians 4:8 and filling our head with positivity, passion, power, and praise and “dwelling” on “these things.” None of those things, in themselves, bring life… but submitted to Christ, dwelling on these songs can help you “rejoice in the Lord, always.”