Listen to "D.Day" from weirdo-country artist JaHool's Bandana's newest album

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In a secluded corner of Bandcamp, an artist named Ross Tuttle is speedily cultivating one of the site’s most unique and idiosyncratic oeuvres. A South Carolina native currently studying theology in Vancouver, Tuttle has put out a string of four ultra-lo-fi releases over the last several months under the moniker JaHool's Bandana, with the project acting as “an outlet for all these indulgent songs i've been writing which keep coming out as an awkward mix between silly country songs, spiritual angst, and young love <3.”

JaHool’s Bandana's latest release is entitled ( i will )L-I-V-E-E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y, and it's low-stakes stuff (as you can maybe tell from the cover art), but the tossed-off, reactionary aesthetic is a big part of its charm. The album's five brief tracks are intriguing and odd, with Tuttle's swooping twang recalling Joanna Newsom, of all people. His sly humor is on display on "D.Day", where he reads deep significance into everyday experiences like seeing a shaft of light or brushing the hand of a classmate ("I accidentally touched your hand/Passing papers, ooh, can be pretty sensuous, man"), all the while asking Dorothy Day to intercede for his soul. Listen below.

Hear Wilder Adkins's tribute to the Civil Rights Movement "Side by Side"

Last year's Hope & Sorrow by Wilder Adkins was a record aglow with a Wendell Berrian affection for nature, as well as for the unique charms of the Southern lifestyle. His newest single, however, released on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, reflects on Southern history, specifically that of his home city of Birmingham, Alabama. "Side by Side" is a tribute to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and a somber nod the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. According to Adkins, it's "an anthem for peace and a call to keep hoping and never give up fighting darkness with the power of light." (Side note: the Greek words at the top of the icon-like art mean "hope" and "sorrow")

Listen to "Side by Side" below.

Listen to the stirring "Be'elohim" by Tel Aviv's Miqedem

For all you hear about the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western civilization, it's easy to forget the obvious fact that the roots of the faith are in the East. Miqedem, the self-titled debut by the Tel Aviv five-piece (their name means "from the east") is the perfect corrective. The record pulls entirely from the Hebrew Tanakh, blending theatrical folk rock dynamics with a range of Middle Eastern instrumentation. The album's fantastic first track, "Be'elohim", repeats just a single verse from Psalm 44 (verse 8 in the Hebrew, 9 in the English). Read the lyrics and translation below, and listen to "Bel'elohim" below that:

 Be’elohim hilalnu kol hayom

Veshimcha le’olam node

Sela

In God have we gloried all the day

And we will give thanks unto Your name for ever.

Selah

The Welcome Wagon records unreleased Sufjan song "The Greatest Gift"

Apparently, Sufjan Stevens is the man to tap if you want some moving and germane live music for your special occasion. If you'll remember, he wrote a gorgeous tune for Reverend Vito Aiuto's ordination that eventually appeared on his 2003 Michigan album, and now Aiuto, the husband half of the husband-wife duo The Welcome Wagon, is telling the story of a wedding he officiated where Stevens performed a song called "The Greatest Gift" for the gathered guests. Aiuto's eloquent recollection-cum-homily was posted on the Kickstarter for The Welcome Wagon's third record Light Up the Stairs, along with a rough cut of their version of the song, which will appear on the album:

"I never again heard the song Sufjan sang that day until about a year ago. He had made a recording of it, and when he sent it to me, he told me he wasn’t going to release it and that we could have it. Another gift from him to us, and once again, as his gifts often are, so timely, because I thought of the record we were in the midst of making, Light Up The Stairs, songs about how terribly difficult and necessary it is to both give and receive love: with God, with each other, and with ourselves."

Read the rest at the Light Up the Stairs Kickstarter, and listen to "The Greatest Gift" below.

Hear Wendell Kimbrough's ode to confession, "Then At Last (Psalm 32)"

It's a weird irony that in the age of tell-all books, talk show confessionals, and soul-baring social media posts, the contemporary Christian church, which (thanks to God's inexhaustible love and mercy) should be the premium confessional venue, often neglects the confession of sin as a necessary part of the spiritual life. Alabama worship leader and songwriter Wendell Kimbrough is dropping a new album called Psalms We Sing Together later this month, and the opening track, "Then At Last (Psalm 32)", is a unique and potent ode to the simple confession and to the supernatural healing that comes to us through "the love of God and the family of grace".

Kimbrough says that he penned the song just a week before recording the album, and only wound up including it because producer Isaac Wardell (the genius mastermind behind Bifrost Arts) pushed him to do so. But the song, a brass-backed folk-rock jam à la The Band, ended up provoking the most significant response of almost any of the record's other compositions - after sharing it with his congregation for the first time, several members approached Kimbrough to tell him how powerfully it had spoken to them, including one man with tears in his eyes.

Kimbrough explains the specific inspiration for the song:

In Psalm 32, David is telling what I think is a very human and familiar story.  He was hiding the broken parts of his life.  He was traveling through life trying to keep people (and God) from seeing the parts of himself that were wrong, broken, inadequate.  We all do this.  On one level it's necessary to survival, but it ultimately sabotages our lives.  In my life, I know I've spent enormous amounts of energy trying to hide the broken parts of me from myself, from God, and especially from my community.  The voice of shame tells us, "If you show your brokenness and weakness, you will be rejected."  But the irony David highlights in this psalm is that, when he kept silent and hidden, his life deteriorated.  It's the very act of hiding that isolates us from intimacy, fellowship, and love.  
The turning point of the psalm is when David finally says, "I will confess!"  And he speaks out--he tells his friends and his God what is wrong with him.  He tells his story of brokenness.  And instead of the shame he anticipated, the psalm says he was surrounded with "shouts of deliverance," and a celebration breaks out. David receives grace.  
I think Psalm 32 contains one of the keys to life.  It's the very act of telling our shameful stories that allows us to be free from shame.  Only as I speak about what is broken in me can I really experience grace, love, intimacy, and connection--connection to God, and connection to my brothers and sisters in the human family. 

Listen to "Then At Last (Psalm 32)" below, and look out for Psalms We Sing Together on September 23.

Listen to the truly haunting found-sound track "Joy, Easily and Effortlessly" by art rockers Sun Body

The self-titled debut from Sun Body, a quartet hailing from Midland Park, New Jersey, is a diverse set of six mostly-instrumental tracks that rewards patient listeners with textured, experimental rock and a capacious sense of scale. The album's fourth track, "Joy, Easily and Effortlessly" features audio of a young woman that at first seems to be an amusing parody of the most acquisitive of name-it-and-claim-it prosperity prayers:       "Thank you God for the beautiful and perfect home you have in store for us. Thank you God for providing us with all the wonderful furniture and decorations at a price we can easily afford. Brian and I accept expected and unexpected resources, now and forever... Brian and my cash flow is always overflowing, now and forever... Money is drawn to Brian and I now and forever..."

But when asked about the audio's source - did the band write and record it? - bandleader Zack Borzone's answer is jaw-dropping:

"my friend and i were walking through my town, and there was a crashed car parked in front of the high school as a warning for prom weekend and drinking and driving. we were messing around with it and he broke the windshield, so we climbed in and looked around. He found some tapes inside the gloves box labelled "affirmations" and "stuff". We listened through them and they sounded like homemade affirmations tapes, but it was sort of para-gospel. she was mentioning god and "the spirit" a lot, but it all sounded somewhat unsure and very clearly unrealistic. like the part in the song where you hear her say "my husband and i make over 6 million... a month". my friends and i were all silent after listening through the tapes because it was just really clear that we had been deep inside someone's life. There were some parts of the tape that I decided not to include in the track just out of respect for her."

Listen to "Joy, Easily and Effortlessly" below.

Cindertalk contributes soundtrack to the Bono/Eugene Peterson short film

Multi-instrumentalist Jonny Rodgers, who splits his time between Eugene, Oregeon on the west coast and Brooklyn and New Haven on the east, has made music for a long time with an array of collaborators that includes Son Lux and My Brightest Diamond. His current solo project, Cindertalk, incorporates tuned wineglasses to achieve a tactile, organic tone that blends perfectly with his electronic and acoustic compositions, and director Nathan Clarke tapped him to provide the music for the much-acclaimed new short film The Psalms. The film, which you can view in its entirety on YouTube, documents a wonderful conversation between U2's Bono and theologian/author Eugene Peterson that ranges in focus from the place of the Psalter in the life of the church to art's integral role in relating to our Creator. At 20 minutes, the film is quite brief, and you can hear most of Cindertalk's soundtrack as you watch the film, but Rodgers' work makes for a good focus listen as well, with ambient swells reminiscent of Brian Eno and The Album Leaf and minimalist percussion provided by New Haven's The Soldier Story. Hear the the title song below, and if your curiosity is piqued then be sure to check out Makers & Mystics interview with Rodgers about the the creative process behind the soundtrack, as well.

David Wimbish laments Orlando and other recent shootings with "2:4"

North Carolina's The Collection have a new album in the offing that's due this fall, but following the horrific massacre in Orlando, Florida, bandleader David Wimbish has recorded and shared a new song in response to the tragedy. "2:4" takes its title from Isaiah ("...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks...") and in Wimbish's words, "wrestle[s] through my frustration, sadness, and ally-ship with minorities, victims of gun violence, and hurting people around our country and the world." The song is a powerful lament full of anguish for the murdered, but there's real anger in Wimbish's voice when he indicts the circumstances that lead to such frequent shootings - "Did you forget to melt arms into machinery?" - and a downtrodden hope verging on despair when he sings, "Maybe there's a sun behind the clouds/Maybe there's a face behind the funeral shroud/But when will the rain let up?/We're soaked to the bone".

Listen to "2:4" below.

Hear a track from Turn Into a Mountain by the Deeper Well Collective's Cory Dauber

Over the last several years, Portland's Deeper Well Gospel Collective has emerged as one of the most reliable sources of Christ-centered music, with singer-songwriters like Josh White and Evan Way putting out rock-solid devotional records - not to mention soul/R&B singer Liz Vice sharing her fantastic debut There's a Light, which went on to be snapped up for a wider release by Ramseur Records last year. The newest addition to the roster is Cory Dauber, another Portland musician, whose new record Turn Into a Mountain combines thoughtful, reverent worship songs with a sound that oscillates from lush Americana to spare acoustic ballad and back again. Listen to "Branch on the Vine" below, and if you're so inclined get the whole album free on Noisetrade..

Geology shares new album, Healers - listen to "Among The Tall Grass"

mewithoutYou's beloved bassist Greg Jehanian recently announced an amicable departure from the band after 11 long years, but that bitter news was made sweeter by the surprise release of new music under his "Geology" solo moniker, which has been the outlet for several small but quality lo-fi efforts Jehanian has put together over the last seven years or so. There's no official word yet on his post-mewithoutYou plans, but hopefully Jehanian will have more time to focus on Geology, because this new album, Healers, features some tantalizingly solid tunes. Jehanian is apparently embracing the "Ima fix wolves" school of record release, noting that the currently-five-track album is a "work in progress", with more material to be added next month. You can get the whole thing on Bandcamp (for free, if you wish), and listen to "Among The Tall Grass" below.