Album of the Year (So Far)

A brief wandering away from writing about theology:

Is it The National?  I like to think of myself as a bit of a music snob. And for about six years, since they released Trouble Will Find Me in May 2013, my favorite favorite band has been The National.

So when their new album, I Am Easy to Find, came out about ten days ago, my anticipation was fierce.  I listened to it almost non-stop for three days, four days.  Then I stopped.  I haven’t listened to it all the way through in a week.  It’s just not hitting me where I live.

Why?  Well, my fascination with The National has always been Matt Berninger’s vocals (one of the great rock baritones, his voice sounds like a trombone filtered through really good whiskey) and lyrics (many cowritten with former New Yorker editor Carin Besser, Berninger’s wife).  No one captures the insecurities, regrets, hopes, and fears of a forty- or fifty-something American white guy the way Berninger & Besser do.  And his voice fits the contents perfectly.

To be honest and blunt, I Am Easy to Find is daring and innovative, but it doesn’t focus on things that I love about The National.  “I Am Not in Kansas” notwithstanding, it’s not the album that I want them to make, it’s not what I want to hear from them.  So …

It’s NOT The National.  So my album of the year (so far) is clearly, far and away, the new Hillsongs United album, People.  I didn’t really take HU seriously until two years ago, with “So Will I”, one of the best songs theologically that I’ve ever heard.  Now a worship album (this one) is the best selling album in the world.

This is the best worship album I have heard in ages.  The parts of it that kill me REALLY kill me.  I especially love “As You Find Me”, which has solid theological heft.  And Taya Smith Gaukroger’s “Clean”.  And “Starts and Ends”, and “Highlands”.

That’s the middle sequence of the album, and it might be the best sequence of songs I’ve ever heard.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  It knocks me out.

(The only other sequence I can think of that I love this much is from Magical Mystery Tour: “Walrus”, “Hello Goodbye”, “Strawberry Fields”, “Penny Lane”. From there, it’s a press of the skip button to “All You Need Is Love,” and my Lennon fix is complete.)

People is a great, GREAT album, and a great worship experience.  Listening to it on my Airpods, I randomly drop whatever I’m working on to pray, worship, reflect.  I’ve missed my tram stop once or twice while listening, so caught up in it.

It keeps pointing me Godward, and with excellent arena rock as the platform.  The lyrics are always in focus, in the front.

I bet you’ll like it, too.

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