When I created this blog, I never planned on offering the latest up-to-date album reviews or news releases. I just wanted to get the word out on some of the music I like, emphasizing artists I listen to who have a Christian faith but wouldn’t necessarily fall into the CCM category.
Today, I offer another not-so-timely review of an album I got about a month ago, though it feels like I’ve been waiting on doing a review for a few months. Why have I waited so long? Plain and simple laziness mixed with a little feeling of being overwhelmed with the blog.
So today, I introduce to you Amy Courts and her new album These Cold and Rusted Lungs, set to be released in July. It’s not a perfect album but it’s definitely worth your listening.
Amy Courts is gearing up to release her new album on July 29th, but you can get some preview MP3s below. I haven’t been told that I can’t release these, so I’m assuming it’s OK. If not, the links might be dead by the time you read this.
Besides that, here are my thoughts on the album. The short version: I enjoyed it. Small disclaimer first: I don’t normally go looking for music by Amy Courts-ish artists. I usually like guy musicians more than the ladies (Does that make me a homomusicist? Sick. I hope not. (Sorry for the mental image.) Wow. That’s the first time I’ve had nested parantheses on The Blah Blah.)… Anyway, I don’t usually choose to listen to female artists, so they’ve gotta try really hard to win my attention. And Amy has a little of that “CCM sound,” so normally I’d just dismiss her without a second thought. End of disclaimer.
So despite my anti-female-vocalist thing and anti-hint-of-CCM thing, Amy Courts is really pretty good. I almost said she was awesome, but I can’t quite give her an awesome rating. I need a word that’s somewhere in between “really pretty good” and “awesome.” Whatever word that is, it’s her.
Aww, heck, she is awesome. Amy Courts is awesome! And her new album is awesome too! I feel better now that I’ve said it. Don’t you?
These Cold and Rusted Lungs is pretty heavy and a little dark at times, but the message turns around to hope in the end. She touches on topics like love, heartache, and a holy but personal God (I stole that line from her promotional materials – you didn’t think I could write like that, did you?). The idea behind the “cold and rusted lungs” is that even cold, rusted, weary lungs can be made to breathe again. Even “a heart made plastic by past rejection and love lost can always be made real.”
Since releasing her first EP, Amy got married, became a step-mother, quit her job, started a full-time music career, and launched into work with Mocha Club, an organization that challenges people to give up 2 mochas a month to help transform Africa. About the transition, she says, “The past two years have been a bit of a whirlwind. As my life has expanded into marriage, step-motherhood, and lending my voice and passion to the incredible needs in Uganda, I’m constantly aware of the need todeliberately die to myself. Whether by giving my family an hour of time I might rather spend writing or resting, forgiving someone who hasn’t asked for it, being deliberate about spiritual quietness, or acting on my human and Christian responsibility to care for hte fatherless and the widow simply because I am able, I’m continually challenged and inspired to reach beyond my own issues into a wider sphere and higher calling.”
Amy seems to approach the songs on her album as a form of “inner healing” for people struggling in life, like by listening to stories of other confused, hurt, or rejected people, you might find comfort. The lyrics can seem a little dark on the one hand, but they’re more an honest look at the real feelings of doubt, frustration, and weariness that come with living in a broken world among broken people. You can hear people crying and praying and searching for God in her songs, and you feel better knowing you’re not the only one who’s felt that way. And in the midst of it all you know there’s light coming, because no matter how much you doubt, you still know God is good.
That’s the feeling I have when I listen to her album. It’s very emotionally complex.
So lyrically I think the album is great. Complex issues and emotions are dealt with poetically and sensitively. Musically, the album is solid. I like the subdued, somewhat dark feel of the music. It adds to the emotional complexity and makes it feel like the songs are all just in my head, being sung by my own thoughts. The songs are not all that amazingly new or overly interesting from a musical standpoint, but I think it works well with the lyrics.
The one thing I don’t like from a musical standpoint is she does this thing with her voice that I find annoying. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s where instead of singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know” you sing “Jesus loves me, this I know-oh-oh-woah-woooah.” She does too many of those extended words where she shifts the tone and sings different notes. What the heck’s the name for that? Anyway, I can deal with a little of it, but I think she throws it in too often. It’s really popular among female vocalists (and some guys too) currently, but I wish it would just go away.
If I ignore that shifty-pitchy thing, she’s got a really amazing voice that carries a ton of emotion with it. Just listen to her singing on “Breathe.” Wow. She’s good. Close your eyes and just listen to that voice. Almost haunting. Powerful.
All in all, be sure to get her new album when it comes out. You probably will find the music side of things just OK. You might get annoyed with some of the shifty-pitchy things she throws in. But the emotion-packed poetry of her lyrics is incredible. And when she’s not doing that weird thing with her voice, her vocals are phenomenal.
Hope you like these two songs off These Cold and Rusted Lungs:
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week