In the Silence of the Mind: November 20, 2013
Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise (Part 2)
Philippians 4:8 speaks of qualities that we are called to “dwell” on in life. As I began arguing in the last post, I believe this carries special weight in the music we listen to. Music has a unique power to not only effect our moods, but our very spirit within. So, last week I began examining some songs/artists that I feel we all need to dwell on, especially in those times when life is kicking you in the teeth. I call this playlist “Positivity, Passion, Power, and Praise,” because the songs in it have a unique ability to inspire new, uplifting states of mind/spirit.
So open up iTunes, Google Play, and get your cassette tape recorder out as you get ready to dive into the second set of songs I feel belong on any uplifting mixtape/playlist. Be sure to check out part one for the rules I set in place for this feature series, and be sure to check back next week (if I’m not dosing off all of the Turkey) as I finish out this series.
Since there is no such thing as “Thanksgiving” music, why not put these songs on until Black Friday (when it is officially OK to start listening to Christmas music) and get back into a spirit of thanking God for life in spirit and truth.
*Note, this week’s feature is running two days earlier due to the fact that I’ll be driving to the arctic tundra of Wyoming in the morning. Next week’s feature will also drop a day early due to the holiday. You’ve been warned. *
The Artist: Audio Adrenaline
The Songs: “Walk on Water” (from Bloom) and “Good Life” (from Underdog)
Why They Matter: Audio Adrenaline is another one of those bands where I could spend the bulk of this article discussing all the many amazingly uplifting songs they have. But, as I’ve limited myself to two per artist, I will only hit on the two I feel are the most powerful.
When it comes to needing a faith pick-me-up, there are few songs that can so quickly bring wind to my sails as “Walk on Water.” Looking at Peter’s faith journey across the sea, Audio A reminds the listener that “if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on water.” The instrumentation is engaging, but it is Mark’s passionate singing that makes this song feel so intimate, personal, and immediately applicable.
“Good Life” on the other hand, is perfect for times when things just don’t go right. The lyrics powerfully point to those hard times in life and proclaim, “this is the good life, I’ve lost everything I could ever want, ever dream of… this is the good life, I’ve found everything here in Your arms.” In terms of whole albums that are a shot of pick-me-up, Underdog is certainly a must have, and “Good Life” is just one of several positively empowering gems.
Other Notable Tracks: “Get Down,” “Underdog,” “Good Life,” “Let My Love Open the Door,” “It is Well with my Soul,” (from Underdog), “Bag Lady” (from Bloom), “Can’t Take God Away,” “Big House,” (from Don’t Censor Me), “Ocean Floor,” “Rejoice,” “This is Everything,” “Lift,” (from Lift), “New Body,” “Some Kind of Zombie” (from Some Kind of Zombie), “Strong,” “Leaving Ninety-nine” (from Until My Heart Caves In). * I told you, there are a TON of amazing Audio A songs that perfectly fit this category!
The Artist: Various (Danny Glover, K-Ci and Jo Jo)
The Song: “Through Heaven’s Eyes” (from The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack, The Prince of Egypt Inspirational Soundtrack)
Why It Matters: I know picking a song from a Steven Spielberg movie is likely a surprising choice, but there are few songs that speak such powerful truths as “Through Heaven’s Eyes.” Sung by Danny Glover (!!!… or possibly Brian Stokes Mitchell as the singing voice) in the movie version (which is the best of the versions) and redone by K-Ci and Jo Jo for the “other” version of the soundtrack, this is a song that speaks life from start to finish. “A single thread in a tapestry, though its color brightly shines, can never see its purpose, in the patter of the grand design… you can only see your purpose, when you look through heaven’s eyes.”
Other Notable Tracks: “When You Believe” (also from The Prince of Egypt Inspirational Soundtrack)
The Artist: Skillet
The Songs: “Collide” (from Collide), “Fire and Fury” (from Rise)
Why They Matter: Skillet is known for their passion for God and that passion often comes across with a spiritually empowering overtone. From masterpieces like “The Thirst is Taking Over” (watch for that song on a future feature) to much of their newest hit album Rise, the band brings an infectious, positive, and faith-filled energy that not many other bands match. When it comes to the most fitting songs for this list, it was a hard choice narrowing their discography down. However, no one can ignore “Collide” which brings deep truth that just sinks into your spirit, and “Fire and Fury” because it is such a powerful message of what it looks like to love God with abandon and leave the cares of this world behind. Really, much of Rise belongs on this list, and for good reason. Any person wishing to dwell on positively passionate and empowering music need look no further than Skillet.
Other Notable Tracks: “Gasoline,” (from Skillet), “Invincible,” “The Fire Breathes,” (from Invincible), “Your Love Keeps Me Alive” (From Hey You, I Love Your Soul), “Rebirthing” (from Comatose), “Awake and Alive,” “Forgiven,” (from Awake), “You are My Hope” (from Alien Youth), “Rise,” “Sick of It,” “Good to Be Alive,” “Not Gonna Die,” “Battle Cry” (from Rise).
The Artist: Blindside
The Songs: “When I Remember” (from The Great Depression) and “Silence” (from Silence)
Why They Matter: Blindside is simply one of the greatest bands to every pick up their instruments. I’ve already mentioned the simply awe-inspiring work that is “Where the Sun Never Dies” in my Anthems to Overcome the Grave list, and these tracks are continuations of what made that song fit so well… they are both lyrical and spiritual landmarks.
“When I Remember” truly has the power to bring tears to my eyes (like the song itself says). Not many songs will ever be able to make that claim. “Silence,” continues as a somber journey. It is an admission that “in silence our hearts speak the same words.” While most songs on this list have something of an emboldening or raucous nature to them, “Silence” and “When I Remember” prove that somber tones can bring our hearts to a place that we simply can’t find with our fist in the air… but adrift in a sea of healing silence.
Other Notable Tracks: “Nerve” (from Blindside), “Coming Back to Life” (from Silence), “Eye of the Storm,” “Across Waters Again,” “About a Burning Fire” (from About a Burning Fire), “We’re All Gonna Die,” “My Alibi” (from The Great Depression), “There Must Be Something in the Water,” “There Must Be Something in the Wind” (from With Shivering Hearts We Wait).
The Artist: Project 86
The Songs: “Sincerely, Ichabod” (from … and the rest will follow), “The Butcher” (from Picket Fence Cartel)
Why They Matter: Back when Truthless Heroes came out, I remember Project 86 frontman Andrew Schwab stating that he never wanted his band to be remembered as a “positive” band in the attached video material. Truly, Andrew was in a dark place when that album came out and that comment was certainly a reflection of that fact. However, fast forward to …and the rest will follow, (“We once drew some lines in black, right now it’s about time we took them back”) and Schwab and company began an irreversible trend of blaring truth through fracture screams that have inspired many in very positive ways.
“Sincerely, Ichabod” and “The Butcher” both speak in graphic terms of the fact that we have already overcome the enemy of our souls through the blood of Christ. When Andrew shouts “off with your head” in a chilling downbeat, your soul starts to light up. “The Butcher” builds on this not-so-quiet confidence and security in Christ’s final victory as he screams “strike me down if you think you’re the man, but I know that you don’t understand… there is no weapon… there is no plague… you wonder why I’m not afraid.” For Having not wanted to be remembered as a “positive” band, a playlist consisting of these and the following (other notable) songs would certainly bring back to life even the most cold heart. “Return, return, return!”
Other Notable Songs: “Stein’s Theme,” “Open Hand” (from Drawing Black Lines), “The Spy Hunter,” “A Shadow On Me” (from Songs to Burn Your Bridges By), “All of Me,” “Subject to Change” (from …and the rest will follow), “Illuminate” (from Rival Factions), “Destroyer,” “To Sand We Return” (from Picket Fence Cartel), “Fall, Goliath, Fall,” “SOTS,” “Ghosts of Easter Rising,” “Take the Hill” (from With for the Siren).
The Artist: Eternal Decision
The Songs: “Overflow” and “Fearless” (from Eternal Decision)
Why They Matter: Let’s get this out of the way, first; Eternal Decision is the best Metallica-alike out there, but they were clearly more than a little inspired by Metallica in their music. In fact, during the hey-day of the illegal version of Napster, E.D. was confused for the Anti-napster boys themselves and some of their songs were “traded” as new Metallica tracks. Now that that is out of the way, E. D. was simply a great band, whether they were outright aping Metallica or not, and many of their songs spoke powerfully of being “risen with Christ” in such a way that the listener could not help but feel the fire of the Spirit beginning to flow.
“Fearless” tackles the same message, with the same focus and nearly the same intensity, of the later song of the same name by For Today. However, it is “Overflow,” complete with a sample of the intro to Scooby-Doo that really nails home the overwhelming power of God that brings focus and perspective and a renewed mind.
E.D. had two of the greatest albums of the late 90’s/early 00’s (and a not so great final album). If you haven’t heard them before, be sure to track a copy of their self-titled album and follow up Ghost in the Machine down. You need them in your life. Especially the track “Alien,” oh my you need that song in your life.
Other Notable Songs: “Risen,” “Power,” “Alive,” “Hunger” (from Eternal Decision), “Strength,” “Thru this Pain,” “Alien” (from Ghost in the Machine).
The Artist: Switchfoot
The Songs: “Only Hope” (from Learning to Breathe) and “Meant to Live” (from The Beautiful Letdown).
Why They Matter: Switchfoot may have exploded onto the scene with The Beautiful Letdown, but they were rocking powerfully thought-provoking tunes long before that. Some may question my choice of two of their more “commercial” songs (“Only Hope” was turned into a Mandy Moore ballad in A Walk to Remember after all), but these two tracks speak volumes about our faith and hope in God. “Only Hope,” far from Mandy Moore singing to a boy, was originally a passionate embrace with the Creator. “Meant to Live,” on the other hand, gets your heart pumping and your passion for life in Christ stirring again. Both are amazingly positive, passionate, and powerful… and the certainly lead to a heart of praise.
Other Notable Tracks: “Evergreen” (from Happy Christmas and Happy Christmas Vol. 4, as well as X Christmas), “This is Your Life,” “More than Fine,” “Dare You to Move,” “The Beautiful Letdown,” “On Fire,” (from The Beautiful Letdown), “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine,” “We are One Tonight” (from Nothing is Sound). Pretty much all of The Beautiful Letdown belongs on this list and is one of those albums that really inspires all the way around.
The Artist: For Today
The Songs: “Fearless” (from Immortal) and “Devastator” (from Breaker).
Why They Matter: When you hear the word “Spirit filled” thrown in with “heavy metal” there is a pretty good chance you’re talking about For Today. And when you talk about For Today, you cannot escape the fact that Mattie Montgomery and company are not afraid of the devil and they are certainly not afraid to scream that directly at him. For Today inspires and brings a positive passion as they remind their listener that “the gates of hell will not prevail…”
“Fearless” and “Devestator” both loudly and proudly proclaim that “the victory has already been won” and “I will stand behind my Savior as He burns your kingdom down” and the result is a welling up in our own spirit. If you need a battle song, look no further than the discography of For Today. They embody passion, positivity, power, and certainly praise.
Other Notable Tracks: “Agape,” “Words of Hope” (from Ekklesia), “Seraphim,” (from Breaker), “Flesh and Blood” (from Prevailer EP).
The Artist: L. A. Symphony
The Songs: “Gonna Be Alright” and “Gonna Be Alright (Remix feat. Paul Wright) (from The End is Now)
Why They Matter: Really, this is just one song, however Paul Wright does add a nice dose of his own flavor in the remix, so I decided to list it together with the original. Both versions of the song have the same message, repeated over and over until our thick heads get it; “everything’s gonna be alright, gonna be alright, hey. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
Paul Wright, at the time, was on fire, and his addition was a nice touch for the remix version. Both have a place in reminding you that even in the darkest of moments, “everything’s gonna be alright.”
The Artist: Paul Wright
The Songs: “Brighter” and “You’re Beautiful” (from Fly Away)
Why They Matter: Just try to sing “ooh ooohooo things are getting brighter and brighter and brighter… my burden’s getting lighter and lighter and lighter” with Paul’s jazzy, almost reggae meets hip-hop flow and try to stay upset. I say it cannot happen.
Paul’s albums were always overly positive, but it was the style in which they were executed that really set things apart. From amazing worship in “Your Love Never Changes” and “Wonderful Creator,” to the hope of heaven in “Heaven,” Paul (and sometimes guest tobyMac) uplifted his listeners with every verse.
Other Notable Tracks: “Your Love Never Fails,” “Life After Death,” “Crashing Down,” “Fly Away,” “You’re Beautiful” (from Fly Away), “Heaven,” “Take This Life,” “Walking on Water” (from Sunrise to Sunset).
The Artist: Chris Rice
The Songs: “Everything’s Ok” and “Nonny Nonny” (from Run The Earth and Watch the Sky)
Why It Matters: For more of a folky light-rock sound, there are few who truly match Chris Rice’s Run the Earth and Watch the Sky. “Everything’s Ok” follows the mold of several of the tracks above in simply reminding the listener that things may not be as bad as they seem… and even if they are, there is still hope. “Nonny Nonny” on the other hand takes the setting of The Chronicles of Narnia and brings a child-like wonder to life. Much in the same way Lewis was able to capture the wonderment of childhood and make it relatable to anyone, Chris Rice has found much the same pattern. While you’re checking out this album, by the way, be sure to give “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” a listen. You won’t regret it.
So that’s it for this week. Check back next Wednesday as I bring this playlist to its conclusion and make some off-the-wall suggestions (Furthermore, anyone?) along the way. In case you missed the challenge above, why not take the next week and listen to only songs from (or like) this playlist? Since there is no “Thanksgiving” music (maybe the pilgrims wrote some?) and it is too early to listen to Christmas music… why not digest some truth-filled songs that will certainly bring you heart to a place of real Thanksgiving. Just a though… for now.
Did I miss some songs by the artists above (or in week one)? Want to suggest some artists/songs for the conclusion of this series? Just want to chat? Post your thoughts in the comments section, below.