Harrison Lemke’s new album More Postcards from Purgatory isn’t easy to pin down. Lemke’s music isn’t “Christian music” as we know it, but the metaphysical is always tangible here. It’s easy to listen to, but it’s not easy to listen to, with beautifully ambient sounds mix with comfortingly intense feedback and noise. At times the lyrics drift into the melody and at other times they transport you.

More Postcards from Purgatory starts with buzzing Jay Bennett/My Bloody Valentine-eqsue feedback that almost dares the listener to stop––to take the album seriously or take a hike. From there the opening track, “Heat Spell”, opens up into an accessible (if not a bit gritty) and bluesy riff, as if you’ve passed through a thin shell of perception and presentation into Lemke’s intimate self.

“It’s a dry dry season/ and our friends are all gone” sings Lemke,  “it’s a dead and empty city/ and our friends have all moved on”

The intensity of the album lets up for a few songs, opening up into a few straightforward, quiet, electric guitar driven songs reminiscent of Noah & the Whale or early Bright Eyes. “Moving Blues” in particular reminds me of Bright Eyes’ (in my opinion, perfect) album Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. Not just in vocals, but in the space that the album occupies. On “Moving Blues” Lemke feels lonely––he seems to be small and his sound hollow, in a good way.

What most impressed me about More Postcards is Lemke’s emotional and stylistic range. It isn’t easy to make an album that walks a tightrope between tender and intense, allowing different sounds to freely and experimentally interact with each other. Like human emotion, the tone of the album shifts suddenly, and sometimes the listener is barely even aware of the shift.

The songwriting is personal, spiritual, and weighty. Like a good conversation between intimate friends, sometimes it feels like Lemke is talking about nothing at all and sometimes it seems he is untangling the mess of the universe. When he’s doing the latter, it’s hard not to be moved:

“And the fear of death came down to me/ beat against the ceiling/ spread it’s layer wings under the whining light/ and I prayer and prayer for the feeling to go away”

On tracks like “Can These Bones Live?” and “Fiery Sword” Lemke strolls comfortably into the metaphysical and theological without compromising his honesty and form. “Down in the Floodlight” gives a nod to “James Alley Blues”, bringing me back to the relational distress of Richard “Rabbit” Brown’s 1927 performance, which I subconsciously (and probably somewhat consciously) interpose onto Lemke as he sings,

“It’s sugar for sugar / and salt for salt / if I go down in the floodlight tonight/ it’s gonna be my own fault”

More Postcards from Purgatory is a fitting name for this album. It captures the emotional life of someone living in between heaven and hell, and sends back some pretty accurate data. It’s an album that understands pain, like Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 or Jason Molina’s Autumn Bird Songs, but doesn’t succumb to the pain. Every time I listen to the album, I find another layer.

This is a great example of what good art made by Christians can look like. There doesn’t have to be a stylistic or theological box for honest and beautiful expression. But don’t take my word for it––More Postcards From Purgatory is currently available for free for Christ and Pop Culture members. Check it out.