I haven’t been to church in a few Sundays for various reasons, feeling like death among them, but I’ve stayed spiritually attuned (ha) with the help of my earphones. A year and a half after writing my post about non-churchy songs for the soul, I still haven’t eased back into the worship music scene. I approach it like an outsider now, mystified and sometimes uncomfortable listening in on an outpouring of theological convictions I don’t necessarily share. However, my need to connect to God with my senses hasn’t shut down just because the Christian standard doesn’t work for me anymore. I still sing when no one’s around (you’re quite welcome) and unwind in the mesmerizing dance of words and music, so without further ado, here are eight more unconventional songs for the soul:
1. O Holy Night by Seven Day Jesus: In honor of the approaching holiday, here is my favorite rendition of my favorite Christmas song. Yes, it falls awfully close to hymn territory, but it speaks of yearning, of social justice, and of the love that continually draws me to God in spite of my chronic non-churchiness.
“Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name, all oppression shall cease…”
2. I Will Be Light by Matisyahu: Matisyahu’s “Light” is my running album, but I always find myself slowing when I get to track six. It’s like a double shot of perspective that both satisfies my daily craving for purpose and energizes my drive for compassion. I hear God’s reggae roots in it, and I’m always running again by the end of the song.
“You’ve got one tiny moment in time
For life to shine, to burn away the darkness…”
3. Let Go by Frou Frou: This song ends one of my favorite movies with an unexpected rush of joy. The beauty of breaking down, of jumping from a carefully orchestrated tragedy into a deep unknown, is one I know well, and the freedom I’ve found since is well worth playing on repeat.
“So let go, just get in,
Oh, it’s so amazing here,
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown…”
4. Light and Day by Polyphonic Spree: The band is undeniably nutty and almost a little too happy (here is the alternate music video which is basically a three minute LSD trip), but I love this song’s positivity. It’s easy to get caught up in moody introspection, and a cheery reminder to seek the light is always welcome. (Though really, guys… fairies?)
“Just follow the day,
Follow the day and reach for the sun!”
5. You’ve Got the Love by Florence + The Machine: I’m there far more often than I wish, wading knee-deep in the mess of my own life wondering what’s the use. It’s the human condition this side of eternity, I think. However, the amount of love spilling over onto this side is more than enough for the road.
“Sometimes I feel like saying ‘Lord I just don’t care,’
But you’ve got the love I need to see me through…”
6. Get Me Right by Dashboard Confessional: Chris Carrabba was my introduction to emo music years ago, and he has a gift for wrenching personal struggles out of the shadows into the stage lights. This song is particularly candid and makes no attempt to dilute his ache for redemption. I especially like his terminology of God as the one who makes things right; it’s a belief I grasp with all my heart.
“I don’t mind the rain if I meet my maker,
I’ll meet my maker clean…”
7. Let the Rain by Sara Bareilles: This is a recent discovery, a poignant reflection that echoes my own wishes for change—release from oppression, from stifling tradition, from fear and cowardice and incapability and status quo—a cleansing deluge of newness.
“And I always felt it before
That the world was filled with so much more
Than the drowning soul I’ve learned to be,
I just need the rain to remind me…”
8. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons: I had a tough time choosing just one song of theirs. The entire album so perfectly captures the experience of waking up to life and identity, wholehearted awareness, grace… and this song, well, I dare you not to get swept away on its rollicking current. It’s one church service I wouldn’t mind attending in the least.
“And so I’ll be found with my stake stuck in this ground,
Marking its territory of this newly impassioned soul…”
Any that you’d like to add?