Highlands – Hillsong United (Video)

 

I’ve been a Hillsong United fan pretty much since the beginning. Their faith-based, positive lyrics, masterful musicianship and ridiculously catchy hooks have been a staple through good times and bad.

I must admit, though, I always haven’t felt like listening to them, unable to relate to their sense of reckless abandon in the face of the realities of daily life. It sometimes felt a bit much – how can one really be that full of praise ALL the time?

Their new album People is refreshing in that it seems more honest than their previous work. There’s room for doubt, for questioning. That seems to stem from band lead Joel Houston, as explained in RELEVANT:

Houston had questions about his future, his band and even his faith. Where does the person a generation has turned to for worship go when he’s no longer feeling inspired? Who does a leader ask when he has questions about faith? Houston needed help.

That’s what led him to that rundown farmhouse in the Scottish countryside.

He’d taken the invitation of a friend to go to Scotland, get away from things and spend some time talking through his struggles. Arriving at the farmhouse was a moment of revelation.

“I saw something inspiring for the first time given the season that I was in, in that moment,” he says. “I felt like I got a picture of my life.”

On the outside, the house was rundown, worn by weather and time. It was a shell of what it had once been. But if you looked hard enough, you could see that with a little work and care, it could be restored.

It could, for all Houston knew, be even more stunning than the place it’d been before.

“Sometimes, if you’re going to create something beautiful, you’ve got to get through the process of reconstruction,” Houston says. “And that involves deconstruction and all the rest of it.”

All of the above plays out in a beautiful new song that I posted above called “Highlands.” It makes me think of when Lauren and I lived in Scotland, everything we’ve been through since, and the fact we know everything is going to be OK in the end.

I can’t stop listening to this song, and I hope it’s an encouragement to others as well.

One Hand Up

 

I’ve been a fan of The Strumbellas ever since I first heard ‘Sailing’ during a Hockey Night in Canada Remembrance Day montage made by Tim Thompson.

I immediately downloaded all their available music, and have become an even bigger fan with each subsequent release and live show (seen them twice, hope to again soon).

They just dropped a new album last week, and I can stop listening to it. Paste Magazine recently lauded the band for creating songs of hope in a dark time, and that’s a perfect way to describe their vibe.

In this time of division and rancor, songs of community and hope are needed more than ever. But such songs are useful only if they can persuade us to trust their message. And that’s one of the hardest tricks to pull off in pop music. In fact, any hint of sappy sentiment or formulaic bromides is likely to create mistrust and produce more pessimism than optimism.

That’s why the Strumbellas are the right band at the right time. The Ontario sextet’s new album Rattlesnake boasts the kind of anthemic choruses that can rouse an audience from its seats to dance in place and sing along. The stimulus is not so much the positive lyrics—which are easy to write—but rather the magnetic melodies, which are so difficult to come up with.

The song posted above stands out as an early favourite off Rattlesnake. I love the lyrics, love the tune, and have it on repeat. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

[Verse 1]
We can burn bright if we want to
Like stars in the night when they’re shining through
We can explode just like dynamite
To where, we don’t know

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me, yeah

[Verse 2]
We can be the love and we’ll teach ’em how
We’re pounding on the drum when they say “Quite down”
We can go wild if we want to
We can run for miles

[Pre-Chorus]
There’s no turning back, so raise it high

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up for the gold
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

[Bridge]
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh my
It’ll change you life, it’ll change your life, oh

[Chorus]
We can hold one hand up for tomorrow
We can hold one hand up to the stars
We can be the change that we wanna see
Just don’t give up on me
We can hold one hand up when we get there
We can hold one hand up when we win
We can be the change that we wanna see
There’s no give-up in me, yeah

The most beautiful song I’ve ever heard

The musical duo soon to be formerly known as Gungor is currently in process of saying farewell, touring down in the States for the final time using that brand name.

As Michael wrote not too long ago, “Gungor feels to us like it’s done what it needed to do. Said what it needed to say.  And now it’s time for something new.”

Gungor’s music has become extremely important to me in recent years. I jumped on the bandwagon through I Am Mountain, developed an appreciation for their older beautiful songs, and was helped through times of struggle and doubt by the truly amazing One Wild Life album series as our family weathered through various health issues.

I wrote a bit about all of that when I reviewed Lisa’s book here.

I have their songs tucked in a De/Reconstruction playlist on my computer, alongside Derek Webb, David Bazan, The Brilliance, John Mark McMillan and Audrey Assad, all of whom I adore. But there’s one Gungor song that fills me with … something I can’t even describe when it comes on, and it’s truly the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.

Please enjoy ‘Vapor’ and I hope it speaks to you today.

 

 

I’ll miss you, Gungor. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Also, please read Butt Prints In The Sand if you haven’t already. It was inspired by another one of Gungor’s projects.

Confessions of an unapologetic Switchfoot fan

I originally wrote this in 2016 and thought I’d update and re-post in light of a new album dropping on Jan. 18.

In 2015, I wrote a post on this blog entitled Confessions of an unapologetic Lifehouse fan, wherein I admitted to being fully on board with a band that might not land me many cool points.

Here I am once again fessing up, openly expressing my appreciation for a band that has helped provide the soundtrack to the past 15 years of my life.

Drawn to their alternative rock sound, catchy pop hooks and positive lyrics, I became a Switchfoot fan during my college years (early 2000s).

I picked up a copy of The Beautiful Letdown and made the journey downtown with Tyndale friends to see them perform at El Mocambo, then quickly went out and grabbed everything they had recorded up to that point.

Yes, that included their contributions to the ‘Walk To Remember’ soundtrack, and Lauren and I even had ‘Only Hope’ sung during our wedding ceremony.

I’ve picked up every album since, and while some of have been better than others, the band’s constant challenge to make the most of life and impact the world for good has always left me feeling hopeful.

It’s right there in the band name.

According to (frontman) Jon Foreman, the name “Switchfoot” comes from a surfing term. “We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.

(Wikipedia)

Switchfoot releases its 11th studio album Friday, and NATIVE TONGUE proves the band is as tight as ever.

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The first song that stands out to me is All I Need, making me think about where I’m at as a husband and father in his late-30s.

Sometimes I feel so small
Like a picture on your wall
Like I’m hanging on just to fall
No matter how I try
So love sing to me gentle
That I’m more than just accidental
More than just inconsequential
Burning out tonight
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
There’s a place down by the ocean
Where I take my mixed emotions
When my soul’s rocked by explosions
Of these tired times
Where love sings to me slowly
Even when I feel low and lonely
Even when the road feels like
The only friend of mine
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
One light
One goal
One feeling in my soul
One fight
One hope
One twisting rope
I’m ready to run where the ocean meets the sky
All I need is the air I breathe
The time we share
And the ground beneath my feet
All I need is the love that I believe in
Tell me love, do you believe in me
Tell me love, ’cause you’re all I need

It brought me back to that first album I bought, and the question ‘this is your life, are you who you want to be?’

That’s what makes me love this band; they challenge me to be a better person as a result of listening to their music. Some may consider it cheesy, but as I get older, I see great value in embracing that side of life.

Again, in the words of Dave Grohl,  “there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; if you like it you like it and that’s ok.”

I like you, Switchfoot. I like you a lot.

p.s. Lauren and I went to see a Switchfoot + Lifehouse show during the summer of 2017 and it ruled.

3 versions of the same story (w/ sountrack from David Bazan)

From Matthew

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about [d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, [e] because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

From Luke

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

From John

In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God,  and the Word was God.

He existed in the beginning with God.

God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,  and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.

The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.

He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Merry Christmas from the McLaren family!

Favourite Christmas songs, part 2

I was pleasantly surprised when David Bazan releases a Christmas album last year. He brings a unique twist to the genre like only he can, and this version of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen gets me every damn time.

 

Lyrics

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy

After Thanksgiving our folks
Unpacked the manger scene
With Joseph, Mary, shepherds
And three kings on bended knee
But left the manger empty
Till we slept on Christmas Eve

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy

And now my wife and children dream
Of gifts beneath the tree
While I place in the manger
Baby Jesus figurine
Sipping Christmas whiskey
Wondering if I still believe

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy

Favourite Christmas songs, Part 1

Over the next 10 days, I’ll share some of my favourite Christmas songs. Here’s one of the very best to start.

It’s no secret that Sufjan Stevens is one of my favourite musical artists, and his 100(!) Christmas songs are on heavy rotation this time of year. This one in particular really moves me. Enjoy!

 

Star of Wonder – Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I call you
From the comet’s cradle
I found you
Trembling by yourself
When the night falls
Lightly on your right-wing shoulder
Wonderful know-it-all
Slightly where the night gets colder

[Verse 2]
Oh, conscience
Where will you carry me?
I found you
Star of terrifying effigies
When the night falls
I carry myself to the fortress
Of your glorious cost
Oh, I may seek your fortress

[Chorus]
When the night falls
We see the star of wonder
Wonderful night falls
We see you
We see you

[Bridge] x10
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to my heart

[Outro]
I see the stars coming down there
Coming down there to the yard
These days, days, days run away
Like horses over the hills

My Favourite Albums of 2018

Disclaimer: I’m not a music major nor a critic, so I can’t exactly describe why these albums are good or why I like them. Obviously I have a ‘type’, and this is the new stuff I’ve listened to a lot in 2018 (in no particular order).

Ghost Alive – The Boxer Rebellion

Vide Noir – Lord Huron

Delta – Mumford and Sons

Wildness – Snow Patrol

Come Tomorrow – Dave Matthews Band

Thank You For Today – Death Cab For Cutie

Adult Contemporary – Milo Greene

TPC – Tokyo Police Club

Beside Myself – Basement

boygenius – boygenius

Between Two Shores – Glen Hansard

Crooked Shadows – Dashboard Confessional

Somethingness – Our Lady Peace

Voices in the Silence (EP) – MUTEMATH

The Restless (EP) – The Lone Bellow

 

Bonus uplifting albums for the religious types:

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Evergreen – Audrey Assad

Whole Heart (Live) – Passion

There Is More – Hillsong Worship

There Will Be a Song – Jenny & Tyler

Breakthrough – Chris McClarney

Hallelujah Here Below – Elevation

Living with a Fire – Jesus Culture

Hymns, vol. 1 – Shane & Shane

The Elements – tobyMac

Suite No. 1 – Oh Dreamer – The Brilliance

Burn The Ships – for KING & COUNTRY

I Know A Ghost – Crowder

Favorite albums of 2018 (so far): Part 2

Disclaimer: I’m not a music major nor a music critic, so I can’t exactly describe why these albums are good or why I like them. Obviously I have a ‘type’, and this is what I’ve been listening to a lot since I posted Part 1.

Bands I love with new albums that did not disappoint:

Thank You For Today – Death Cab For Cutie

Adult ContemporaryMilo Greene

TPC – Tokyo Police Club

New favorite bands:

Beside Myself – Basement

Rally Cry – The Arkells

For religious types:

There Will Be a SongJenny & Tyler

Breakthrough – Chris McClarney

Hallelujah Here Below – Elevation

Living with a Fire – Jesus Culture

Guilty Pleasure / Blast from the Past:

The Elements – TobyMac

A special shout out to Basement, a band I’ve really taken to over the past couple of weeks after downloading their new album and everything else they’ve put out. Very much my kind of music.

Hit me with your recommendations in the comments or on social media.