For my 7-hour solo drive to North Carolina on Friday, I wanted some new music to listen to. So, I headed over to NoiseTrade (if you haven't been to the site, you're missing one of the best ways ever to check out indie bands and artists), and downloaded a few CDs that looked interesting. I expected to find some decent music, I didn't expect to find one of the best CDs I've heard in years.
The album is by Rick Hopkins, a part time musician from Michigan. Entitled Where We Are and Where We Long to Be, the whole album is a meditation around one theme - the "already/not yet" tension of the Christian life. The songs explore our current foretaste of salvation, our struggle to live in a broken world and our craving for the hope yet to come. Each song explores a different aspect of this theme, from the hope of the resurrection ("Sleeper") to the doubt and depression that hide God's face ("Psalm 42") to the craving to see and know ever more of God ("Beautiful That Voice") to explorations of these themes in Biblical narrative ("Lift Up Your Eyes," "Gate Called Beautiful"). The album brings it all together in thunderous doxology with the final track, a great version of the familiar "Lord Most High." There is not one throwaway song on the album, but as good as they are individually they are exponentially more powerful when heard as a thematic whole. Do yourself a favor, and the first time you listen to the album, block out an hour and listen to it in one sitting.
Musically, it's every bit as good as it is lyrically. Hopkins takes a genre (contemporary rock) that is all-too-often stale and predictable and injects it with originality and beauty. Just when you think you know what's coming, he changes things up, whether it be through rhythm, chord progression, or the way that the instrumentation is richly layered. There's a depth to his sound that is lacking in most music in this genre. The way his voice is sampled over itself gives the vocals great power and a memorable sound.
I really can't say enough good things about this record. It brought me to tears multiple times during my Friday drive. Oh, and did I mention that thanks to NoiseTrade, you can get it for free? You've got no excuses. Download the album, block out a distraction-free hour with your iPod or CD player, and prepare your heart to be riveted with a beautiful artistic exploration of our craving for the fulfillment of redemption.
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