The world is darker now than Melanie Penn could have ever predicted.
When Melanie decided to once again partner with producer Ben Shive to put together another set of pop songs, there was no sheltering-in-place or such social upheaval. Sure, decency was draining and tribes were fracturing, but the bottoming-out of 2020 had yet to arrive. So while Melanie undoubtedly held out hopes that her unabashedly optimistic new album would wrap an arm around the listener, she’d no idea just how many of us would appreciate the sentiments within.
More Alive, Vol. 1 stays true to its name as a buoyant release in every way. Musically, these are radio-ready, synth-lite pop songs that conjure comparisons to Katie Herzig‘s lighter work or even Ellie Holcomb. Thematically, Melanie has pulled back the curtains to allow in as much sunlight as possible. These are heartening songs intended to meet the listener grappling with death and despair in any form in order to comfort and strengthen.
“You’re Not Absent” reaches out to the desolate listener longing for a meaningful connection. “Avenue of the Americas” pays tribute to the electricity of a city like New York, but it’s also a lifeline for the weary listener whose grip is slipping on a long-held dream. The album’s title track speaks life to the aging listener who has lost a vision for the days ahead. “One Word” clears some room for the confused listener to hear anew the promises of God’s faithfulness.
If those encouragements fail to land, “He Will Redeem It All” provides an inclusive banner for all situations in which we find ourselves. “Every sigh of sorrow will be turned into a song … Every tear will disappear in the light of that dawn,” Melanie sings. In short, there’s no corner where the darkness will ultimately remain. It’s all fleeting. It all disappears.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Though we find ourselves immersed in the former, especially so in a year like this, Melanie Penn’s More Alive, Vol. 1 is a reassuring companion of these true words even in the face of circumstances that say otherwise.
Matt Conner is a former pastor and church planter turned writer and editor. He’s the founder of Analogue Media and lives in Indianapolis.