About eleven months ago, I started my very first series of blog posts called “Erin Unplugged,” an eight-part series where each post included eight songs that are really important to me in one way or another. It was a really rewarding challenge for me as a blogger, and I wanted to continue putting my favorite songs out there on my blog, since music is such a big part of who I am. But–there were a couple of issues. First of all, putting out eight songs every two or three days was exhausting, and I wanted something more low-maintenance. Next, I couldn’t think of a specific way I wanted to group or categorize the songs (I had eight very specific categories last time). Finally, I wanted to create a blog series with more long-term sustainability and flexibility than Erin Unplugged, which was very rigid in terms of its format, so I couldn’t just add a random song that I liked on there on a whim.
That brings us to the first episode of “On Repeat,” a new series that will hopefully continue for as long as I am a blogger. Essentially, the songs I will share in each installment of “On Repeat” are the songs that have been stuck in my head lately–the ones that I’m playing over and over again. These episodes will be posted once a week, and there probably won’t be eight songs in each one (except this one–I’m a creature of habit, I suppose). There won’t be specific categories or genre quotas to fill. Not all of them will be songs that shape me profoundly as a human being.
But–here’s the cool part.
In an effort to a) find more great music, b) connect with you guys, and c) make “On Repeat” more interactive for everyone who reads it, many of the songs I am posting will be coming from YOU! If there’s a song you just can’t get out of your head, or an artist you’re dying for me to hear, let me know. Anyone who has a song or album for me to listen to may send me a suggestion by commenting on this post, on Facebook, or via text. If I like what I hear, I’ll include it in an upcoming post (with commentary as to why I chose it) and give you a shout-out. I’ll also be creating a Spotify playlist with all the songs, so check that out, too.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions to make this series even better–“On Repeat” is your project too! I think it’s going to be really fun, guys. Happy listening!
1. “Death With Dignity”–Sufjan Stevens
This song is from Sufjan’s newest album, Carrie and Lowell, which hasn’t actually been released yet (a few more days! And then I get to go see him live!). It’s spare, haunting, and achingly heartfelt, like the rest of the album, which he created in response to his mother’s death. The most interesting thing about this song to me was how he complicates the idea of beginnings and endings. It’s the first song on the album, but lyrically and emotionally, it seems to be the end of his grief process (“I forgive you, mother, and I can hear you”). But at the same time that he’s having difficulty starting a new life, one without his mother (“And I don’t know where to begin”), there’s also this awareness that his life will end as hers did (“But every road leads to an end”). Beginning at the ending, ending at the beginning…it feels like the gospel to me.
2. “River Rise”–India.Arie
This R&B song is about surrendering to God and letting Him carry you through hard times. I have a soft spot in my heart for alto voices, and India.Arie’s voice is so warm and low and soulful that I just want to wrap myself up in it like a blanket. All her little auto-tuned runs on this track remind me of the way a river moves–and also of Bon Iver. The rest of the album, Testimony Pt. 2: Love & Politics, is also totally worth a listen–catchy and soulful songs with lots of world influences.
3. “Timelapse”–Sleeping at Last
For me, Sleeping at Last’s greatest strength is their lyrics, and this song especially grabbed at me. They just use such incredible, stunning imagery. “And every constellation/is a fraction of God’s DNA/that we were made to notice and navigate/As the moon commands the tide/to balance the weight of change,/we must learn to follow all the same/When the northern lights were born,/the color poured into our eyes,/like tipping a glass with the ocean inside/Into the darkness,/we will send our symphonies–/a shorthand of existence,/a slowly turning key,/the voyager will leave us/with this modest memory of home.” Mmm. And those strings. Gorgeous.
4. “Letting Go”–Steffany Gretzinger
I found her album all by myself, and it’s become my newest obsession in terms of worship music. I play it nearly every day. This song has been a favorite of mine since the first time I heard it because it was very relevant to where I was spiritually and emotionally. I love the delicate little harmony on the chorus, and her soft humming in the beginning of the song is so soothing. My favorite lyrics: “You remind me of things forgotten/You unwind me until I’m totally undone/And with Your arms around me/Fear was no match for Your love/And now You’ve won me.” My other favorite song of hers on the album, The Undoing, is called “Morning Song.”
6. “Fairly Local”–twenty one pilots
Their newest single! So pumped for their album to come out in May. I gotta say, besides that their songs always have awesome beats, one of my favorite things about twenty one pilots is that even though they’re not writing “Christian music,” if you take one look at their lyrics, it’s totally obvious that their faith pervades their music. They always find some way to slip parts of the gospel or things about God or truths about human nature in their songs, and “Fairly Local” is no exception. To me, the lyrical contrasts between the two nearly-identical verses is meant to illustrate the change in a person’s identity once they put faith in Christ. Pretty cool.
5. “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”–ft. Lauren Daigle
And my very first shout-out goes to Jane Kim! Jane is a dear friend of mine from college who graduated last year. We used to sing in the worship band together at my church and we were also in a small group together for a couple years. She messaged me the other day because she thought this song might encourage me. It did, very much. I love the idea of God’s mere breath bringing what was once dead to life! It’s a balm for the weary. And Lauren Daigle’s voice is beautiful, no doubt…but the only way this song could possibly get better were if Jane would come back around to Evanston to sing it herself (please please please?!). Imma pray about it.
7. “Pleiades”–Beta Radio
Beta Radio is a really cool, folksy-Americana duo from North Carolina–another example of Christian artists who market their music to more than just Christians. I found these guys on Pandora and I really love their stuff. The lyrics of this particular song really intrigued me–at first, it just looks like they’re talking about constellations in the sky, but then when you look closer, you start to see some biblical allusions and then you realize that the whole song is a giant extended metaphor about Christ and his defeat of Satan. And the English major in me rejoices. Yay allusions and extended metaphors! Also, the band favorited one of my tweets once so we’re basically best friends.
8. “Parking Lot”–The Accidentals
Speaking of friendship, when my sister was in middle school, she was pretty good friends with this kid named Michael Dause. Michael’s family lived in the next neighborhood over. He was also in choir with me and also a couple of theatre productions in high school over the years. We were actually in the same prom group together. Why is this relevant, you may ask? Well. It’s relevant because MICHAEL IS NOW THE DRUMMER IN THIS AWESOME BAND. No, seriously, I saw them play for the first time at the HopCat in Detroit last month, and they’re actually incredibly talented and multi-instrumental and really nice people. They have a ton of refreshing variety in their songs and style. They just finished playing SXSW in the midst of their country-wide tour, and Billboard (as in the famous magazine) called The Accidentals one of seven up-and-coming artists (!!!!!!!) …Man. Can’t believe I danced with that guy at prom.
REMINDER: COMMENT BELOW WITH YOUR SONG, ALBUM, OR ARTIST SUGGESTIONS! THANKS :)