civilized creature

A burst of electronic pulses and dance floor jams give way to pop vocals, quiet ambient synth and wild noises. Swooping in and out come instrumental sounds, Radiohead-like breakdowns, 80s-style synth piano, sacred promises, mystery, fire, grace. “You are not alone”, sings Civilized Creature’s Ryan Lane on his recent release, Steadfast. “It’s gonna be alright. You’re gonna be okay”. Dance music. Gospel music. Call it what you want to call it. It’s a bass-thumping, breakdance-inducing joyful noise.

You can listen to, purchase or download the album here, or explore Ryan and Civilized Creature’s work with the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal here.

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The apex of Heritage Hill’s debut EP, Out of the Sea, comes about halfway into the album, when the four Vancouver ladies channel Father Abraham himself, to vent what feels like every frustration, every discouragement, and every praise that’s ever come down the pike.  Harmonizing over gentle bluegrass and Americana melodies, the band switches from slow lament to foot stomping worship throughout the song. It’s a haunting tune, sitting within a beautiful debut—one that captures the many brutal sides of faith, and the glory that emerges somewhere over the rise.

You can purchase the album on itunes and Google Play, or stream it on Spotify.  You can also find more information about the band and their ministry here.

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I have a difficult time pinning down the music of Portland’s Jonah Sissoyev. I started listening to his songs back in 2012. It was the first time that I truly lived alone, outside of a college dorm room—a quiet, light-filled apartment all to myself, on the top floor of an old house. I didn’t know what Sissoyev was singing about, whether it was God or girls, but I knew that it hit me—that it spoke to something far down, in that part of you that knows only a profound, Biblical groaning. Sissoyev is now releasing his third EP, Shadow of the Sun, and his sound has expanded somewhat over the years. There are more players. There is a greater scope to the recordings. But the songs are still rooted in those far down places. They still feel like an artist’s abstract search for love or peace or salvation of some kind. At the heart of it, Sissoyev’s songs remain strange, enigmatic and utterly beautiful.

You can stream and purchase his music here. Beginning March 1, you’ll be able to hear and buy the new EP, Shadow of the Sun.

Hello dear readers. I’m taking a few short paragraphs out of my regularly scheduled music reviews and write-ups to point you toward a few of my own music projects. I recently released two very different albums that you can listen to or purchase at the links below.

The first is a 70s-style rock and roll project we call “Killbuck”. The album was mostly recorded live onto a Goodwill-purchased tape recorder, at the end of a gravel back road, in a cabin in Killbuck, Ohio.   Matt Kurtz, John Finley, John King, Joe Farr and I collaborated over a love of dark sunglasses, Tom Petty and 3-chord rock songs. The result is our self-titled debut: 11 “heartland-soaked tunes full of Americana angst and Rust Belt blues”.

The second project is a new volume of hymns my friends and I recorded over the past year. Each of us took a different hymn to reinterpret and explore through our individual styles. All profits from the Harp Family Hymnbook: Vol. II will go to Mennonite Central Committee.

You can find Killbuck here , and the Harp Family Hymnbook Vol. II here.

 

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I realized a few days ago, after listening to Lenny Smith’s new record amid the hurricane of a new election season, that the last time Lenny Smith released an album was during an election as well—and a tumultuous one at that. Harsh words were thrown back and forth. Brother turned on brother. And the world was all set to end.

Yet here we are, 4 years later, and the world’s still spinning. The rhetoric feels particularly brutal this time around, but maybe that’s because time really does heal all wounds—even political ones—and we fail to see history repeating itself as time spills out before us. All of this to say that Lenny Smith’s record, “You Are My Hiding Place”, has arrived from Great Comfort Records. It is full of life and love and celebration, and it serves as a nice antidote to the hate and fear that abounds. Once again, Lenny dives deep into scripture, looking to the poetry of the psalmists, of Ruth, of Jesus himself, to gives words to his worship. His family and friends sing and clap and shout along. Really, I think the world could use a little Lenny Smith right now.

You can listen to and purchase the recording at Lenny’s bandcamp page here, or explore more at Great Comfort Records.