We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a period of 40 days traditionally set aside by the Church throughout history for contemplation and preparation leading up to Holy Week and Easter. It is a time to grapple with sin and mortality, the consequences of the fall, and to look forward to the overcoming of the Curse through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
For me, the observation of liturgical seasons is aided by many helpful practices and tools, one of which is listening to music. Here’s some of the music that I have/am listening to during Lent and through Easter.
Brother by The Brilliance
Brother is probably one of the most unique “worship” albums I’ve ever heard. If I had to label it I’d use the phrase, “liturgically artful contemporary worship.” The Brilliance takes ancient prayers and liturgies and recontextualizes them with a modern sound. As the title suggests, the album focuses a lot on reconciliation and unity within the body of Christ, but there is also a strong Lenten theme in songs like “Now And At The Hour,” “Does Your Heart Break,” and “Dust We Are And Shall Return.”
A Collision by David Crowder Band
The ever creative David Crowder Band introduced something unique to the world of Christian music when they released their album A Collision. The album is more a musical experience, rather than just 21 loosely connected tracks, and the arc of the narrative moves from mortality and suffering in “Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of the World” and “O God Where are You Now” to resurrection in “Come Awake” and “Rescue Is Coming.”
Give Us Rest
It didn’t seem possible to top the sprawling masterpiece of A Collision, but David Crowder Band did that with their double album grand finale as a band, Give Us Rest. The album provides another majestic musical journey, based on the structure of a Catholic requiem mass. Instead of combining modern worship elements with bluegrass and gospel as they did on A Collision, the band brings in liturgical elements to trace the soul’s journey through suffering, death, heavenly rest, and resurrection.
Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn by Jon Foreman
I previously wrote for The Rabbit Room about Shadows, the second EP in Jon Foreman’s four-part musical journey The Wonderlands. That album delves into temptation and dying to sin. Darkness continues the descent into meditating on human brokenness and suffering in songs like “Come Home,” “Beautiful Pt. II,” and “She Said.” In Dawn, Foreman gets the most explicitly religious in songs like “Inseparable” and the folksy-gospel sounding tune “Mercy’s War.”
Ghosts Upon The Earth by Gungor
Gungor also takes the artful worship album approach on this record, tracing the cycle of Creation-Fall-Redemption through songs like “Crags and Clay,” “The Fall,” “When Death Dies,” and “This Is Not The End.”
Dear Wormwood by The Oh Hellos
As described on their website, “Dear Wormwood is a collection of songs inspired in part by C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters and Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, mythology and folklore, and apocalyptic literature. The album tells the story of a protagonist trapped in an abusive relationship, by way of letters written to the antagonist.” As I listen to this album I hear about the painful journey of dying to the old man and awaiting resurrection.
The Medicine by John Mark McMillan
John Mark McMillan conveys the hope of resurrection with a gritty Americana / Springsteen vibe through songs like “Skeleton Bones,” “Death In His Grave,” and “Out of the Ground.”
McMillan continues to develop the sound he crafted on The Medicine with songs that celebrate the forgiveness found through Jesus, “God’s murdered son.”
The Rising by Bruce Springsteen
Speaking of Springsteen, I can’t think of Easter without thinking of Springsteen’s post-9/11 anthem of hope.
And oh yeah, this guy named Andrew Peterson put out a pretty good album called Resurrection Letters Vol. II.
What are some of your personal favorite Lent/Easter albums and songs?
Chris is an Associate Professor of English at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, and is also the author of several books of poetry. In 2018 he helped co-found The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, visiting coffee shops, and poking through used bookstores with his wife Jen.
I love all of these suggestions, Chris, and would add Page CXVI’s excellent Lent to Maundy Thursday album as well as their Good Friday to Easter album.
Thanks for this list, Chris! I’ve started listening already.
My church has been putting out a song each week for the four weeks leading up to Easter and the weeks following: http://www.churchatcharlotte.org/out-of-the-depths/
That’s been my primary playlist in the past few weeks; it’s short, but so good.
Matt Maher’s “Alive Again” has fantastic songs for each season in the Lenten journey, including You Were on the Cross for the bleakness of Friday night and Christ is Risen for the celebration of Sunday.
Jenny & Tyler’s rendition of “See the Conquerer” of course…
The Gray Havens’ song “Train”…
Audrey Assad’s EP, “Death Not Be Proud” with beautiful original pieces as well as classics like Death in Its Grave.
And the Narnia-inspired Remembering You from Steven Curtis Chapman, as well as his new single “Hallelujah, You Are Good” as a cornerstone for those dark Friday seasons of hopelessness and “Spring is Coming” as a reminder of the light.
Easter is my favorite holiday for music. 🙂
I can’t wait to listen to these!
One of my favorites is “Behold Our God” by Sovereign Grace Music. It tracks the greatness of God through the history of redemption using Isaiah 40 as its Biblical base.
“It Was Finished” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt is also excellent. It builds triumphantly, echoing the triumph of the resurrection.
“Man of Sorrows” by Hillsong is also a triumphant anthem that shouts the resurrection with joy and passion.
I am so grateful for the wedding of music and words to create song that celebrate this most wondrous of occasions!
Here’s an oldie: “Still Rolls the Stone” by Bob Bennett
Songs for Lent. By a group of folks in NYC.
Wonderful! Thanks so much for these suggestions…don’t have anything to add myself except “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” is one of my favourites for this season, especially Good Friday.
If I’m down to one CD during this season, it is Caroline Cobb: the Water + the Blood.
Um, it’s actually called “The Blood + the Breath”. Sorry, Caroline. We should all apologize by buying it from bandcamp today.
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