Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
This time around, I’m going to do something different and highlight some exceptional, perhaps even necessary, albums that are currently on sale via Amazon’s MP3 store for $5 or less. (All of these albums were on sale as of the week of July 15, 2012.)
Depeche Mode – Violator (Buy Now)
Depeche Mode has released a number of solid albums over the last three decades, including Some Great Reward (1984), Black Celebration (1986), and Playing The Angel (2005). However, I think it can be said with great certitude that their finest album is 1990’s Violator: nothing they’ve done before or since, good though it may be, comes close to touching this album. Here, the group’s fusion of synth-pop, dance music, and rock and roll reached its dark and brooding zenith, particularly on such songs as “World In My Eyes”, “Personal Jesus”, and “Policy Of Truth”. Lyrically, Violator, like much of Depeche Mode’s catalog, frequently deals with sex and sensuality, but the album’s grim tone often reveals a sense of desperation and brokenness underneath it all, making the album more than just a mere celebration of carnal pleasures. Even though it’s an album that conjures up an immediate time and place — it could only have been released in the late 80s/early 90s — there’s a timeless quality about it that makes it feel just as fresh and, dare I say, cutting edge now as it did when I first heard “Policy of Truth” back in high school.
Arcade Fire – Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs (Buy Now)
What can I say about Arcade Fire that we haven’t discussed already? If there was ever a house band for CaPC, then you could make a pretty good case that it would be this Montreal-based collective who, over the course of three albums, have released one fiery indie rock anthem after another. Decrying materialism, consumerism, and spiritual decay while singing (and oftentimes shouting and screaming) the virtues of community, sacrifice, and spiritual renewal, Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, and the rest of their motley crew might not be making “Christian” music in the usual sense, but they are making music that Christians can certainly rally around and celebrate. All three of their albums are essential listening, but if you have to buy just one… stop spending money until you’ve saved enough to buy all three.
M83 – Saturdays = Youth (Buy Now)
M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was CaPC’s favorite album of 2011. But prior to that, Anthony Gonzalez released Saturdays = Youth, which saw him blend his shoegazer/electronica aesthetic with a decided ’80s tone and sound. Imagine a soundtrack for a vintage John Hughes movie transported back in time from the year 2250, and you get the general idea: lots of catchy melodies, heavy synthesizers, and even a melodramatic spoken word section or two (see “Graveyard Girl”). Much of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming‘s sound can find its foundation in anthems like “Kim & Jessie” and “Graveyard Girl”, as well as spacier and dreamier tracks like “Skin of the Night.” That, by no means, diminishes Gonzalez’s accomplishments with this album; Saturdays = Youth is very much a sterling album in its right, capable of stirring up some serious nostalgia — even if you’re too young to remember the ’80s.