Listening Closer: I Have a Dream of Election-Season Peace

Election season is on us again. Can music help us keep the peace?

Listening Closer: Bettye LaVette Steals a Great Song Back From Madonna

Sometimes a cover version of a song reveals that different artists discover new possibilities, new interpretations, new insights in borrowed material. And sometimes it makes you wonder if the performer ever really listened to the words that they were singing.

Listening Closer: St. Vincent, Sufjan, and the Mothers That Made Them

Through the music of St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens, we might also come to appreciate our own parents—their successes, their failures, their sacrifices, their scars.

Listening Closer: How to Be Uncool, Songs We Dare to Love

It’s important to highly prioritize critical discernment and humility when we talk about music, movies, books, and other aesthetic experiences. God calls us to excellence, but that doesn’t stop him from using anything available to break open hearts so they are better able to receive him.

Listening Closer: When Bands Sing At (Not To) Their Audiences

“A Singer Addresses His Audience” sounds to me like an artist declaring no allegiance to listeners who are focused only on surface details, patiently reminding them that the real call is to be true to a vision, to climb a mountain toward something timeless rather than trendy.

Listening Closer: Giddens, Tharpe, and a Musical Communion

Community is what draws me to artists who focus on something besides themselves, who seek to respect the greatness that has inspired them and to give new, lasting life to occasions of beauty, vision, and excellence. That’s what draws me to Rhiannon Giddens. To Sam Phillips. To Sister Rosetta.

Listening Closer: Prayer Songs, Our MP3 Liturgies

Through the practice of those songs, I absorbed them. They would come to me in hard times and times of celebration, and I would pray them aloud. What’s more, when I sang I felt an exhilarating surrender of my immediate burdens and concerns, and a sense of connection to something larger than myself.

Listening Closer: Breaking Up is Hard to Sing, Our Favorite Breakup Songs

In a sequence of thirteen songs, Sam Phillips was telling us the story of a marriage. And it took me to pieces, song by song.

Listening Closer: The Mysterious Flight of Joe Henry’s “Sparrow”

“Sparrow” gives us much to consider: Music. Lyrics. Vocals. Musicianship. Recording dynamics. But for our purposes, a quick “sentence diagram” of the lyrics will help us pry it open and discover its still beating heart.

Listening Closer: Finding Solitary Togetherness in “JM”

Music can lead us to those paths, into spiritual communion with total strangers. It can lead us to discoveries and resources from which the music was born. Within it, we can trace a genealogy of ideas, a network of inspiration, a history of generosity.