Made of Love: A Review of Cloud Cult's "Love"
At my age, I am not auditioning new best friends. I have the friends I have, and I don't need any more. On the other hand, if a really fantastic human being walked into my life, I would be a fool to lose the chance of being transformed.
Likewise, while I have always loved discovering new music, I'm not out there actively looking. I have almost a month's worth of music from the past eight decades stored on my iTunes, and I can't listen to even a fraction of what I have now.
On the other hand, if a really fantastic band walks into your living room, only an idiot would refuse to listen to them.
And like virtually everyone who was listening—like anyone, I'm sure, who has ever heard him speak of it—I was transfixed and shattered by the band's back story. A decade back, Craig and his wife Connie unexpectedly lost their two-year-old son Kaidin, and Craig has sought to grapple with that grief and loss through his music ever since.
Like many of those on the NPR's story page who heard the story and wrote in to comment after being strongly affected, I have been broken by loss, and sometimes I haven't known how to go on. But, as with many of those listeners, in those hard times, it was often music and story, shared by artists with compassion and with the courage to tell the truth, that helped me take one step, and then another.
I downloaded Cloud Cult's new album Love, and I listened to it for four days around the clock as I was finishing the new novel I've been writing with spiritual writer Brennan Manning, The Prodigal. As the title suggests, our book is about fathers and sons, about loss and grief and unexpected grace, and I could not have chosen a better musical companion for the hard final stretch than Cloud Cult.
Some of you have been Cloud Cult fans for a while; they've been around since the '90s. If you've never heard their music, they are a big band in every musical sense of that description: a lot of members, a lot of different instruments, a panoply of musical styles, and the willingness to write songs about big emotions and big ideas. At one moment they might remind you of Arcade Fire or Polyphonic Spree; at another you might hear echoes of The Edge. But in all of their songs, Minowa is writing about navigating this difficult journey we call life, and offering light in the darkness that comes from his own hard-earned wisdom.
Reviewers have cited songs from previous Cloud Cult albums that dealt directly with the loss of Kaidin—and encouraged you maybe not to listen to the album in public if you have half a heart. You may end up weeping on this album, too. But you'll also clap your hands and laugh out loud and give thanks. Over and over again, Minowa tells us that despite it all, it's going to be okay, gives us words of affirmation, and encourages us to lean forward into life trusting each other.
Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.