Josh Garrels: Love & War & The Sea In Between

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Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this all by and by

A few tears streamed down my face the first time I sat, mesmerized, watching a video performance of Josh Garrels playing this song from his latest album, Love & War & The Sea In Between. It’d been a while since I’d checked in on Josh’s music, and I found a couple new tracks from a forthcoming album. “Farther Along” was the first listen and it reached me at a specific place that I didn’t even realize needed words of hope.

I felt something beyond me saying things were going to be okay, yet it’s not that I was surfing the web looking for music videos to fill a void in that moment. That’s the beauty of Josh’s music–a musical gift that beautifully yet forcefully expresses the intersection where divinity meets humanity. And he’s been doing this for years.

Yet Love & War & The Sea In Between is Garrels’ magnum opus. It’s a collection of 18 tracks that fully encapsulate the tension we feel between two warring kingdoms. Sometimes they’re siren songs birthed in a garden we’ve only read about (“Ulysses”); others are a call to arms, a musical summons to engage the world on behalf of a greater cause of love and truth and beauty (“The Resistance”). Taken as a whole, they remind us of the true nature of our calling and the far country of which we’re a greater part.

Garrels’ comes by his folk-hop fusion honestly. His parents sold their possessions and joined a Christian commune of sorts where Josh was born. His family left after several years, and Josh found himself immersed in the worlds of hip-hop and skate culture through his teenage years. I’ve known him for nearly a decade, even venturing through Israel and Palestine together for a couple of weeks a few years ago, and he’s always obeyed the internal impulse of the spirit’s voice. Whether hopping trains or pastoring a church, I’ve never known Josh to care much about the expectations of others, and his music remains untainted because of it.

For those who have yet to plunge into Josh’s music, the good news is that it’s free for the next year. Even though Love & War is the most expensive album he’s recorded, I’ll never forget the conversation where he told me that he and his wife both knew they were called to give away this music–both in digital and physical form for one full calendar year. While he relayed an initial apprehensiveness about the approach, any longtime listener to Josh Garrels realizes he’ll be fine as long as he’s following his heart.

You can download Love & War & The Sea In Between for free at Josh’s website (JoshGarrels.com).

Three of Josh’s other albums (Lost Animals (2009), Jacaranda (2008), and Over Oceans (2006)) are available in the Rabbit Room store.

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Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.


24 Comments

  1. Jen

    This record was my first introduction to Josh’s music, and wow… so great. The first time I listened to it, “Farther Along,” “A Far-Off Place,” and “The Resistance” completely hooked me. Now I’m a fan.

    I’ve been trying for several weeks to write a review for another website, but I can’t seem to get my words around it. Maybe “It’s magical. Just download it.” would suffice? 🙂

  2. Carl

    Just cranked it up again on my headphones, “flurry of truth” is what comes to mind when I hear “The Resistance”, hits me deep every time.

  3. PaulH

    Josh’s music has been in my life for 7yrs(?) – it’s sometime way back there I know that. Stone Tree, UnderQueit & Over Oceans were regular go to albums as I obtained them.
    I watched as the San Diego surfing community latch on to this “inland dude’s” music and showcased a lot of Josh’s songs on various movies for Walking On Water and Steelroots.
    When Jacaranda came out I love the casual turn to something new like electronica, world-style drums and visions from a different view, as he still was holding on to the old sound at the same time adding something else. The old fans applauded; new fans loved their new discovery.
    Then a collection of loose ends from some years came out in “Lost Animals” including singles, and rare stuff not meant to be together, found their way to the surface and I am glad to have them.
    Then – this.
    LWTSB just blows my mind with creativity. I have tried to express a description of how I feel about grand milestone of Josh Garrels, but I am very happy for Josh and I am sure in his humble way is grateful to God for this experience and privilege.

  4. Kirsten

    I love his music so much! Performed his “Fire by Night” in my senior recital a few years ago (“Attempted,” I should say). Gorgeous words and music… Thanks so much for sharing this!

  5. Julie

    There are no adequate words in me to describe how I feel about Josh Garrels’s music, and this new album. He touches something deep…his lyrics seem to plumb the depths and soar the heights, and the result is a yearning ache, a new heart chord strummed that seems to sound to something or Someone eternal. It’s like coming awake after a long sleep. My respect for him and his family grew when I found out he was giving this new album away. I pray for them to be blessed, and I hope millions of people listen to his music.

  6. Ugly Biscuit

    Josh’s music has been in my life for about 5 weeks. I think he is wonderful. His voice, his words, his life, from which he gleans his wonderful tales of struggles, disappointments and triumphs…all so inexplicably delightful!

  7. Jesse D

    When I first got this album off Noisetrade, I listened to it exclusively for about two weeks straight, and since then about once a week. It’s truly amazing. The standout songs (“Farther Along,” “The Resistance,” “Beyond the Blue,” “The Revelator”) deepen with every listen, and the “lesser” songs grow greater with each repeated listen as well. I’d never heard of Garrels before, but he’s made a lifetime follower out of me. This album is truly Great Art.

  8. Laura Peterson

    Listening to this on the way home from work today, “Ulysses” came on. It’s probably my 7th or 8th listen to that track, but it blows me away every time. SO beautiful.

    “I’m holding on to the hope that one day this could be made right
    I’ve been shipwrecked, and left for dead, and I have seen the darkest sights
    Everyone I’ve loved seems like a stranger in the night
    But oh my heart still burns, tells me to return, and search the fading light”

    And that’s before you even get to the chorus. Wow.

  9. Jud

    This is unequivocally the best album of 2011 so far. Based on the rumblings I’m hearing, it might have a challenger from Ben Shive, but the real winners are all of us who get to enjoy such amazing art.

  10. Kyle Keating

    Absolutely phenomenal album. Some of the best lyricism I’ve heard in a long time. Deep, penetrating, true, and beautiful.

    I also love that its an album, not simply a collection of tracks. The whole album carries metaphors and motifs, both musically and lyrically.

  11. Autumn

    I am blown away by both the depth of knowledge of scripture in Josh’s lyrics and the way he sets that scripture to music that bursts the boundaries of what is traditionally considered christian music. Excellent, innovative, musically pleasing, and convicting album. Thanks for the heads-up from the Rabbit Room!

  12. Derek

    So excited Josh is getting some well-deserved pub. Discovered him about 1 1/2 years ago and was hooked immediately. His unique style combined with his honest and deep lyrics, grabbed me from the beginning.

    Been spreading the word to my friends and family about his new (and FREE) album.

    No excuse to miss one of the best records of 2011!!!

  13. Scott

    I heard Josh this weekend at an event here in Portland sponsored by The Mentoring Project founded by Donald Milller (Blue Like Jazz). We were there to hear Tony Dungy and others talk about the need for mentors for so many fatherless boys. I don’t think anyone was expecting music–much less the best Christian music on the planet. But, as a prelude, a guy in street clothes and a knit cap quietly took the stage alone, sat on a stool, tuned his guitar and reached into what looked like a trumpet case to control some sort of synthesizer that started playing beautiful background music. Then this humble guy started to play and sing and rap and “Holy Spirit goosebumps” took over my being. He only did three songs, but we knew we had just heard something too anointed and amazing to walk away from. I have spent the last few days checking out his ASTOUNDING music on YouTube and listenting to the new album. Apparently this what it sounds like when a man with a heart like David’s gives it all to God and God lets His Spirit direct the music. I am still reeling. Praise God!

  14. Jay

    First of all, I don’t really even listen to much “Christian music.” This album was my first (focused) introduction to Josh Garrels. I had saved it to listen to as I traveled out of the country. As “Father Along” plunged it’s way through my headphones I could not stop the tears from flowing (not that I tried to stop them) at the truth behind the lines, “We’re all cast-aways in need of a rope”, “There’s so much more to live than we’ve been told”, and I could basically quote the rest of the song. “Ulysses” is just as, if not more, moving. The entire album is so good it’s as if the Holy Spirit is infused into Josh’s music. It’s like looking for life reading anything other than the Bible. Thank you, Josh and company, for creating one of the best albums I have ever heard.

  15. Sharon

    “Even though Love & War is the most expensive album he’s recorded, I’ll never forget the conversation where he told me that he and his wife both knew they were called to give away this music–both in digital and physical form for one full calendar year. ”

    I’ve downloaded the digital CD and am loving it. I’d like to get the physical CD, but I haven’t been able to find out where or how to get it.

  16. Kai Klein

    Josh is my favorite musical artist. He’s doing things with music that have never been done before. And if you knew his past, you know its all through the strength of God that he is able to produce such thoughtful and beautiful craftwork. “Beyond the Blue” is definitely my favorite track from this album.

    “Yellow and gold as the new day dawns,
    Like a virgin unveiled who waited so long
    To dance and rejoice and to sing her song,
    And to rest in the arms of a love so strong.”

  17. Eric Paul

    Since finding Josh Garrels thru a mutual friends Facebook page a year or so ago, I purchased the digital cd of Love & War, My wife and I cannot get enough of this cd. It’s one of those few cd’s that you can listen to forever and a day.

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