I Miss the Music

I miss the music. Not the hymns, the contemporary Christmas music that could overpower you and lift your soul to the heavens. The music that could surround you, wrap you in its arms, and give you an almost transcendent experience. I think understanding how I came to this music is important in understanding how it fed my soul, and in understanding why I miss it.

Growing up, my parents never forbade us from listening to contemporary Christmas music. They never limited us to hymns or told us that any music with a rock beat was of the devil. The thing is, you really don’t have to forbid something explicitly for children to pick up on what is seen as more righteous and what is looked on askance. I some how picked up on the reality that if I only listened to hymns, and condemned contemporary Christmas music, I was seen as more devout, more godly, more praiseworthy.


The thing is, I never actually liked hymns. I just said I did, and tried my best to convince myself that I did, because I felt that I was supposed to like them. I’m realizing as time goes on that I did this with A LOT of things, actually. I mean, I convinced myself that I liked kids even when they really just annoyed me. I convinced myself that I wanted a huge family even though, looking back, I don’t think I actually did. I convinced myself that all I wanted to be was a homemaker, and on and on, all because I felt I was supposed to.

Sorting through all of this is annoying. When you feel like you’re supposed to like something, when liking it gets you praised and set up as a model for all to see, when you fully convince yourself you like it, it’s hard to figure out in retrospect if you really like it or not. Do I actually like sewing and needlework? I thought I did but I’m honestly no longer sure. Do I really like cooking and baking? The jury is still out on that one too, though I’m leaning toward yes. It’s annoying to realize that every like and dislike I formed growing up was so incredibly shaped by the patriarchal subculture in which I was raised that I have to reevaluate it to see whether it is real or merely induced. I mean, I realize that everyone’s likes and dislikes are shaped by their surroundings, but I feel like my situation was more extreme than normal.

But I’m getting off topic. The point is I was a strict hymns-only girl even though I was really only forcing myself to like them, and I didn’t really succeed even in that. Hymns were…monotonous. Boring. Etc.

College was a life changing experience for me. I left for college with a very fundamentalist mindset. I had long hair, didn’t wear makeup, and had a wardrobe of homemade dresses. Again, none of this was because I was required to strictly speaking – I could have worn pants and makeup and cut my hair if I had wanted to – but it all added to my image as devout and it garnered me praise and it set me apart as somehow more pure. Or at least, that’s how I perceived it. College, however, was very different from the subculture in which I had grown up.

The thing about college was that even though it was a secular college I was still surrounded by people who were very religious. I mean, the largest student group on campus by far was Campus Crusade for Christ. But, the whole Christian patriarchy sheltered homeschool thing? Not so much. I stuck out and I knew it. I came across as judgmental and a prude…because, well, I was. And I didn’t like that about me.

The girls around me had such strong faith, such devoted hearts, even as they wore pants and makeup and short hair and listened to contemporary Christian music. They weren’t worldly and empty or judgmental and prudish. And so, with their help, I started casting off my fundamentalist outlook bit by bit. I cut my hair, I threw out my dresses, and I tried a little makeup. I started being involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, throwing aside my hymn-only anti-contemporary-Christian-music position. Instead, I let go, I opened myself to new experiences, and I asked God to show me his fullness and smooth my rough edges.

There is something about standing in a campus auditorium with several hundred college students singing passionately and with feeling to the background of loud, moving, soulful music. I would close my eyes and just lose myself. Even as I started encountering problems with my parents, I always found solace there. It was in this music that I felt I could touch God, that I felt my soul leave my body and ascend to the heavens. It was there that I knew I was on the right path, and that everything would work out in the end. It was there, in song, that I could be vulnerable, tears running down my cheeks, without fear of rejection.

Today, I still recognize the power of music, a power that transcends cultures and is something of a human universal. Music is somehow releases something in the human psyche. And, the truth is, I miss it. I no longer listen to the contemporary Christian music that once gave me such powerful feeling because without the theology behind it it is empty except in memory. But, having spent most of my life avoiding even contemporary Christian music, I am ignorant of the secular music field and am therefore left with nothing. There is a music void in my life that I fill only by singing snippets of Christian songs forever etched in my memory to my daughter while replacing “Jesus,” “God,” and “Lord” with “Sally.”

Does anyone have any suggestions? It might be a good idea to build my music repertoire with music I can still find inspiring and moving.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.misterwoodles.com Neal

    Before I became an atheist, I really liked a Christian rock song called "Once in a Lifetime" by an artist named David Meece. The lyrics in the verses are implicitly religious, but the chorus simply says "No matter where you've been, no matter what you've done, today could be your once in a lifetime, for yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may not come. This moment is your once in a lifetime".Despite having lost my faith years ago, I still take comfort from this song… the lyrics to the chorus are universal, they have nothing to do with religion, they're simply inspirational for anyone.Also, depending on what your taste is, I might recommend the band Cowboy Mouth… but see them live if you get the chance. They're a secular band with only a couple of songs that have religious messages, but the overall theme of their concerts is "you guys kick ass… you are awesome". Just my thoughts as a lame music nerd with a variety of tastes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16999641310521588271 Taxidriver42

    Sigh :) Another one of your posts where I feel like you're simply speaking for me. I've been exploring secular music for several years now, it doesn't make me feel the same way the religious music made me feel. I remember a particularly disheartening occasion where I had my iPod on shuffle, totally jamming away, and was caught completely off guard by Daisy by Switchfoot. The old emotions of cozy unconditional godly love came back, but then again the feelings of inherent worthlessness, sinfulness and desperation did too. Can't get the good without the bad, eh?As for replacements, there are secular artists out there who have very soul-searching, earnest music. Everybody's tastes are different, but here are a few suggestions that fit mine:Death Cab for Cutie – Not the most joyful music out there, but its value to me lies in the honest pictures of human emotion, doleful, quirky and uplifting. Favorite song: I Will Follow You into the Dark, yes, it's about an "afterlife" but one which rejects structured religion's bounds on it and on love.Hoobastank – Lots of emotion here, some of it more angry than not. Favorite song: Same Direction, again a bit of an agnostic's view on life presented here.Jónsi's Go – Definitely NOT something for sing-alongs, but the first time I heard this album I thought it was the pure audial representation of happiness. The Killers – More singalong friendly :) Best album? Day & Age. It's soulful, human, and inspiring, but not without reminding you of the phrase "the shadow proves the sunshine" ( can you tell I still have a thing for Switchfoot? ;-P )Alright, I will stop myself there, only cause I know I could talk about this for waaaay longer than anyone would want to read. Hope one of them at least leads you to something you'll enjoy.

  • Jude

    I detest Christian rock, especially when they Christianize a perfectly good rock song, but I love most hymns. When we sang out of a hymnal back when I was a church-attending atheist, I'd sing each verse on a different part–first the lead part, then the alto part, then the tenor part, then back to the lead, just to add variety. A lot of hymns are based on classical music–at least, a lot of the best hymns are. The local Baptist church puts on a Christian rock festival every summer across the street–yuck. I used to attend church only for the music; when they stopped singing traditional hymns in favor of Christian rock, I no longer had any reason to attend.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02851254020566558895 E. A. H.

    Patty Griffin, Patty Griffin, Patty Griffin! Her albums "Living With Ghosts" and "Flaming Red" are my favorites, but she's got a lot of great stuff. (Her most recent album is a gospel album which I didn't care for as much, so don't start there.)Mumford and Sons' album "Sigh No More." This album blows my mind. FYI, there's an f-bomb on the song "Little Lion Man" if that bothers you (it is a terrific song!), but that album is musically and lyrically very powerful. I echo TaxiDriver42– Jónsi's "Go" is like musical crack. I love it. And finally, I highly recommend The Civil Wars if you're in the mood for something folksy and mellow.Hope that helps!

  • Anonymous

    You could always try opera for soaring emotions. Sarah Brightman (Andrew Lloyd Weber), and the soundtrack for more dramatic musicals (Rent has some excellent songs, and so does Fiddler on the Roof). I also like Sarah MacLaughlan, Evanescence (they do have religious overtones at times), Blue October, U2, Bon Jovi, Toni Braxton.I have a preference for sad songs, so that might not be what you are looking for. Although usually the happiest songs that would have that sort of feeling are love songs.I would also recommend trying an online music service, such as Pandora (free if you don't mind ads), which can introduce you to artists similar to ones that you like already.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02851254020566558895 E. A. H.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention Coldplay as well. They are a very popular band worldwide, and many of my Christian friends like them… not to say that's your criteria, but if you're transitioning out of CCM fare, you may (?) find their music appealing. I know I enjoy them.Pandora and Spotify are great ways to find music you like!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08345844882894801472 Alex Topfer

    No idea about Christian rock, i never listened to it, but i agree with hymns being dull. I never got the people who enjoyed church for the music.My suggestions for moving music:Something White and Sigmund; and Radio; both by Love Outside Andromeda.Intervention by Arcade Fire.Idiot Prayer, or Bring it On, by Nick Cave. Murder Ballads is also a good, depressing album by him.

  • http://www.quickmare.com/blog/ Brian Hrebec

    I assume that by the way you describe "Christian Contemporary" music, you're referring to the style of "worship music" popularized by the Gaithers, Maranatha Singers, Steve Green, etc.?If that's the case, I think I'd recommend you start with Sarah McLachlan; her music is incredibly much inspiring and uplifting – as well as just plain fun by turns – and much of it is singable as well if you're inclined that way. I recommend the albums "Surfacing" and "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" as a good starting point. (Disclaimer: she is fairly spiritual, but not overtly Christian). After that, hmmm… you might actually expand out to other Lilith Fair artists (a concert series McLachlan did, you can find a list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith_Fair). I'd especially recommend the Indigo Girls, Tracey Chapman, and Dar Williams, for starters. And if you want to try something that's popular right this instant, try Adele. Other music should just start presenting itself after that.If you're at all interested in music that deconstructs and critiques the Christian experience, you should check out Tori Amos, especially her album "Boys for Pele". Very heady stuff, although it's not for casual listening; I wouldn't describe it as "inspiring" or "moving" in quite the same way – she's very, very weird, for starters.Oh! I also should mention the two greatest songwriters of the last 60 years: Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco – the former is required listening for his cultural influence if nothing else, and the latter is the feminist singer-songwriter to end all feminist singer-songwriters.Now, if by "Christian Contemporary", you meant Christian rock or rap, let me know – I have a completely different list of suggestions. :)(This is my first time commenting, by the way, love the blog; so inspiring – I followed a similar path myself. Actually, listening to wonderful secular music was a major factor in helping me realize truths about everything.)

  • Brawne Lamia

    So, for the record, I was raised fairly secularly with a nice mainline protestant backing (we went to church, not every sunday, we typically went because of the community and because we liked the ritual). I grew up with this crazy mix of music, but what stands out is my dad's affection for psychedelic stuff and harder classic rock, so yeah, might influence my music suggestions a bit. George Harrison- All Things Must Pass. It actually has strong religious undertones that could be interpreted towards any religion, at least if you ignore the Hari Krishna bits in one song (Harrison was Hindu). It feels like a great combining of secular music, as he wrote a lot of it for the Beatles and it never got put on any albums, and a sense of religion. Also, the reason why George is my favorite Beatle (see also While My Guitar Gently Weeps).The Flaming Lips always seem to do that embracing thing you were talking about for me. It's just incredibly joyful music so much of the time, like the music itself. Depending on the album, there's this element of "hell yeah!" or "hmmm everything's so pretty now". Nina Simmone- She's classified typically as a jazz singer, and is strongly influenced by blues, gospel, folk, and pretty much any American music genre. Her voice is so soulful, and she has so many amazing songs. Pink Floyd- So, Pink Floyd's most famous album is Dark Side of The Moon. It's a fine album, but I'm going to pull music snob here, and say that it doesn't even come close to Wish You Were Here. It's kind of a sad album, but it's simultaneously simple and complex and for some reason leaves me with this intense sense of calm. If you want to go into the crazy run of Pink Floyd emotion though, and have time, listen to Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here, in that order, in a row. It seriously runs the gambit of emotions, sounds, and I sound like such a classic rock geek…Mastadon's Crack the Skye album. It might be a bit, um, heavy, for your taste, but always worth a shot. Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album, great voice, great songs, made more poignant when you consider how she died (lots of references to drugs and alcohol)Adele-am obsessed, like seriously obsessed. So, umm… this could get longer, but I'll stop. For everyone's sake. I listen to a lot of music…

  • Brawne Lamia

    Also,Since we're all throwing around music suggestions, I recommend Grooveshark.com. It's a free site where you can search music and make playlists. Not all bands will be on there (Adele for one), but you can find a lot of these songs and albums and give them a shot.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Well, I see a couple I was going to suggest have already been suggested, so instead I'll suggest The New Pornographers. I really like this one:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2pH0w-viDs

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07941425280564280124 bitwise

    I'm going to second The Killers as a good band to try, particularly 'Bling' from their album 'Sam's Town' and 'All These Things That I've Done' from their album 'Hot Fuss'. A band that's basically great all around is Muse. Their music is touching, intense, interesting, and endlessly listenable. I'm not too keen on their most recent album, or some of their very early work, but the rest is great. Listen to 'Knights of Cydonia', 'Butterflies and Hurricanes', 'Thoughts of a Dying Atheist', 'Starlight', 'Bliss', 'Newborn'…eh, just listen to all of it, actually.While I can't say that they've had a great emotional impact on me, They Might Be Giants is a great band to put a smile on your face. My favourite album of theirs is 'Flood'. If you only listen to two tracks, make it 'Birdhouse in Your Soul' and 'Particle Man'….And once you've got through all that, try REM. Oh, and Styx. I always forget about Styx, but I really shouldn't. Listen to 'The Grand Illusion'.And during your grand journey into the expansive world of lovely secular music, don't forget to make time for Beethoven. (Is 'Ode to Joy' technically secular? Oh, close enough.)

  • Meggie

    Libby Anne …. youtube! Listen to everything you can find. There is lots of music out there as uplifting as contemporary Christian but it is a really personal thing. I am a musican + music teacher and I have always been strictly classical/romantic period: Beethoven, Strauss Grieg. My son doesn't get my music but he has discovered punk rock (Green Day, Good Charlotte) and it gives him the same high that I get from classical music. My daughter likes my music but prefers older music such as Bach, Vivaldi and Handel.Good luck – you will find 'your' music if you keep looking.Oh, and give Kasey Chambers a try. My daughter and I have great fun singing along to her music in the car. I don't really get the high from it that I get from playing Beethoven but it's fun to sing. 'Nothing at All' is our favourite.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    We are probably getting you cvrazy wit so many different sugestions and I'm not a very musical person but here are my two pennies on the subject.When I want to cheer, get energize I tend to listen to Bon Jovi's "It's my Life" (and sometimes "Ain't no mountain high enough" and "Shoudou" (Impulse) by japanese group B'z). Also, I simply use youtube since I don't listen to muc music :PIf you want a more or less nice group with pretty curious musical videos I recommend OK Go (in "This too shall pass" for example they did a domino effect and in "White Knuckles" they did a coreography with dogs to find them homes for example).

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    PS: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    This is a difficult question. If it is mere musical literacy you're after–knowing the artists that "everyone knows" or that represent their eras of music well–that is one thing. I'd say some great examples to start with would be (moving in rough chronological order from the 60s onward) would be Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Bonnie Raitt, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, (and I have to add Soundgarden), Green Day, Sarah McLachlan, and…well, honestly, I get kind of lost after the late 90s myself because I started listening to more obscure stuff. :-) These are major artists of the the past half-century of popular music and they also (I think) all happen to be really good. And knowing them will certainly give you more to talk about with people.But when it comes to moving beyond musical literacy and finding music that really moves you? That's a tough one. I could just rattle off a bunch of artists that I love (a few are in the previous list) but I don't know how much that would help since there is so much music out there, taste is so individual, and I have no idea what yours really is.But here is one thing I can suggest. Have you heard of pandora.com? It's a website where you can create "stations" by typing in an artist that you like and it will find and play you other artists that are stylistically similar. And it's free. If you create stations around contemporary Christian artists that you like, maybe you will find other music that you like. At the very least, you will hear a lot of different music for free and you're bound to like something.The only problem is, when you type in the name of Christian band (I tried it as an experiment) it seems to only play you other Christian rock bands. So do you know any bands that do both Christian and secular music? Or have you come across any secular artists that you like that you could just use as a starting point? If you have or if you do, Pandora could be a great resource for you.

  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    I love hymns and have always loved them, they were almost a guilty pleasure in my atheist days… I do not like Christian contemporary music, maybe a Christian singer-songer but not Christian rock. I listen to people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, some country. I like songs were texts and music are both important and hate when you cannot hear what they are singing.

  • Anonymous

    (ohai there, long time lurker, first time commenter here)Loreena Mckennitt has hauntingly beautiful music(both christian and secular), you might like her.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCYSITWpKIk)Doro is awesome too. Nothing overtly religious about her music,tough. I might just be projecting christianity onto her.Tom Waits is just brilliant.Also, Jon Gomm! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY7GnAq6ZnwI hope you find these artists to be to your liking.

  • http://madam-eglentyne.tumblr.com/ Clytia

    I've only briefly glanced through the other comments so far.I completely understand the search for a replacement of christian music. I grew up on a variety of it, as we moved from one church to another, from sunday school songs, to hymns, to contemporary christian music. When I left religion behind I have about 90% of my CDs to my little sister and I was left with a bit of void of music.I had previously started listening to some non-christian music (some of which, in fact, played a part in my journey out of religion). That certainly helped to get me started.I have a very varied taste in music, shaped by many things, and now (about 5 years on from leaving religion) have quite a collection.I'll echo the recommendation of Sarah McLachlan, the New Pornographers, R.E.M, Muse and opera (though I would add musical soundtracks too). Green Day is the band that played a part in my leaving religion (and going to see them live has so far been the most "religious" experience I've had since then). However, I find it really depends what genre of music you're into.I had gotten into some christian metal, and with my liking for classical and opera music, I've fallen in love with Nightwish. For something quieter, I like Carla Bruni, Emmy the Great, James Blunt, Jane Birkin, Metronomy, Milow, K.D. Lang and Simon and Garfunkel. For something a bit more dancey (in ver different ways) I like Caro Emerald, Adam Lambert and Basshunter. For something catchy I love Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lily Allen and Panic! at the Disco. For something older I like America, Queen, Elton John, the Beatles, Don McLean and the Beach Boys. I also love Alanis Morissette, Kaiser Chiefs, Mika, Cults, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Living End.I fill my life with music. It's rare that I don't have my playlist on my computer, a CD in the car on my ipod going. And even so, especially recently, when I'm without music, I often find snippets of christian songs stuck in my head. Perhaps the constant music isn't only because I love it, but also to drown that out.

  • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com/ nonprophetmessage

    -Florence & the Machine is wonderful. They also just released a new album.-Scars on 45 is a new alt-rock British band I like.-Seconding the Coldplay recommendation.-Finally, U2 (esp. their 90s albums) is the musical love of my life. I discovered their album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" in college and the songs all seemed to be written as letters to me. Especially "Walk On."

  • Autumn

    Seconding Florence and the Machine! Their latest album, "Ceremonials" is epic and bombastic and melodic and overall wonderful.Also, two words: Sufjan. Stevens. "Chicago" will make you fly. "Casimir Pulaski Day" will make you cry. "Seven Swans" will drive you mad. "I Want to Be Well" (warning for multiple F-bombs) will scrub your soul and leave you empty and clean. Check him out!

  • dj pomegranate

    I haven't read all the comments yet, but I am a huge fan of sing-along-power-ballads-use-the-hairpbrush-as-a-mic. Here are my favorites. I promise you won't be able to NOT sing along! :)1. POWER BALLADS! Belting out an 80s-tastic drama-saturated ballad is one of life's simple pleasures. I recommend Journey ("Don't Stop Believin'" "Open Arms" and "Separate Ways") and Bon Jovi's "Livin on a Prayer." Seriously you cannot go wrong with these. Also Google "80s Power Ballad for a more complete list. 2. Cat Stephens is always fun to sing along to. A little softer than the power ballads, but some are really full of emotion, imo. I often sing these while I'm cleaning!3.MADONNA. Cone bras 'n all. "Like a Prayer" is great!4. Simon and Garfunkel are also just great, a little softer but good to sing to.5. This is veering into "personal taste" territory, but I am a huge fan of Josh Ritter, who has incredibly clever lyrics and gives an awesome show if you ever have the chance to see him live.6. Marvin Gaye – classic, easy to sing along to, heartfelt. 7. U2 is also really great for sing along and for heartfelt, meaningful lyrics.8. Franz Ferdinand is just fun, check out "40 Feet" and "This Fire."9. Regina Spektor! Clever lyrics, awesome musicality, and totally original, as well as fun to sing along to!10. I really enjoy Rufus Wainwright, too. He does a great cover of "Hallelujah" which I may have been singing at top volume in the shower yesterday. "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" is also fun.11. THE DECEMBERISTS! Again with the clever, clever lyrics and the unique sound and omg their Rock Opera, The Hazards of Love, may be one of the reasons I fell in love with my boyfriend. Also great to sing along to!12. Finally, Emmylou Harris. I love this woman. Her songs are singable and also just so soulful and beautiful. I am now going to turn on my iPod and get back to work. Yay music!

  • Exrelayman

    Overloaded yet? Here are some materials I like, maybe you won't, that are unmentioned above:John Prinethe song In the court of the Crimson Kingthe song Waiting for the right time by John Mayallthe album Peter, Paul, and MommyMozart clarinet quintetKabelevsky the comedians (the entire suite)Louis Armstrong and the hot 5Jelly Roll MortonSteppenwolf albums The Second, Your Birthday PartyFlambeau, the song Swanee River Boogie (you tube)

  • Anonymous

    You've mentioned so many good songs and singers that I don't know what to recommend.Probably completely inapropiate for the post but I love When you're evil by Voltaire.Killing me softly by Roberta Flack and some Aretha Franklin songs are amazing.

  • Anonymous

    Pandora is a wonderful way to find new music. I always end up liking what they call "alternative" and find it interesting that what I liked when I was growing up in the '80s (INXS, Squeeze, Roxy Music, etc.) is considered "80s alternative." Always been an alt girl I guess. This points out something though that I gleaned from your post–you still respond to the music you grew up with. It just happens to be Christian but I think many people get the same emotional resonance when they hear the songs from their youth. I know I do. Even silly songs like "Our House" or "Take on Me" get me all fluttery :) And new music that sounds similar elicits a response–so, for example, music that sounds like what I loved in the '80s makes me happy now. I would add a couple more bands to these very good lists. I also like Franz Ferdinand, New Pornographers, Coldplay, and The Killers but I didn't see Keane on here and he is WONDERFUL. Try "Under the Iron Sea." Very uplifting. The Shins, Phoenix, Peter, Bjorn and John, Spoon, and Foster the People are excellent too. Scissor Sisters are great but many songs are rated R so they aren't for everyone. Their first album is a revelation though. And the BEATLES!

  • Caravelle

    I'll second Anonymous's recommendation of Loreena McKennitt, although my favorite song of hers is All Soul's Night :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qQHlWkSM_oSome other songs for the "make me feel funny inside for sheer power/prettiness" category :Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3Fkuq5Lf0Q(that's the version I grew up listening to, there are many many others)Metallica's Nothing Else Matters (also love Mama Said):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcbAibPA2yY(oh and Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, The Police's Every Breath You Take, and I noticed Scorpion's Wind of Change in that sidebar… But I wanted to keep this short and sweet…)Peter, Paul & Mary's Light One Candle(another childhood favorite so I'm probably biased on it)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLOtdLDr41Y(In bad news, I wasn't able to find the exact version I have on tape; in good news I finally know what that song is about. Thanks, internet !)Gah, now that I've gone on childhood favorites I can't help but add Silly Wizard's The Queen of Argyll, which I was completely CRAZY about and it still never fails to make me happy, but we're moving away from transcendence a bit :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIseNLGKaY4And if we're moving away from transcendence I feel obligated to add something by Tim Minchin, who I've only recently discovered but I'm completely CRAZY about now :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KynIKjRwqDI

  • AzuraRose

    Well, I'm sorta not mainstream at all with my music. I'm gonna limit myself from mentioning any Black Metal, since I doubt that's what you're looking for. The only songs in that genre I can honestly recommend to a newbie are Stay and The Death of Love (about Gilles De Rais and Joan of Arc) by Cradle of Filth. Most of the music deals with more gore and Satanic stuff than I think you'd be comfortable with, but those two are fairly clean.My suggestion for really uplifting stuff that is close to what I imagine Christian stuff would make you feel is Evanescence or Within Temptation. Some of Ev's stuff can get depressing, but Good Enough, What You Want, and Call Me When You're Sober might be good. Field of Innocence might be appealing to you too, since the lyrics are about growing up and wishing you could go back to being a kid.The Truth Beneath The Rose by Within Temptation is sort of about searching ones feelings about what has been done in the name of the Christian church over the years. Destroyed is sort of similar to what you've told us about your feelings about the church. Mother Earth is more paganesque, as is Neverending Story and In Perfect Harmony. World of Make Believe is sort of a fable about a girl with her own world that eventually just wants to go home, which I thought would be fun to share with Sally if you like it. Deceiver of Fools reminds me of you, and sorta your critique of the Pearls. Running Up That Hill is another empowering song. See Who I Am, Somewhere, and All I Need might be good too. Gothic Christmas might be good for a laugh :PInnocence or Army of Me by Bjork are good, and pretty empowering. The main theme from the show Firefly is too, and might lead you to watch my favourite show :P. Him by Lily Allen is about God and might interest you since it's from a more secular or curious viewpoint. Where Is My Mind from the Sucker Punch soundtrack is really pretty. Wolfmother might interest you as well, and Jesus was a Zombie by Zombie Girl is pretty funny if you're up for Jesus-based humour. In any case, I always find I like music that's pretty or exciting with lyrics that mean something to me. Most of my suggestions have been limited by what I think would mean something to you, whether being empowering or more based on what you've told us of your past. Some of it might be hard if it is triggering, but music can be good, cheap therapy sometimes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10353346026765317698 College At Thirty

    Oh good, someone's already mentioned going to You Tube to find artists. It's a great resource for that. If you really want to know who I like, here goes: My favorite is Joni Mitchell. I know Both Sides Now is her seminal work, but A Case of you and River are also pretty magical, and River is totally my fave. I second the Mumford and Sons and The Killers recommendations. I love classic rock, so I generally tend to have my radio station on the classic rock dial. They play lots of Clapton, Springsteen, Wings, Beatles, Meatloaf, Styx, Elton John (I know, right?), Zepplin, David Bowie and Queen (of course), a little Bon Jovi, and they even surprise us sometimes with Johnny Cash, but usually just Ring of Fire or Folsom Prison Blues, which are indeed great songs, though I like his recent covers better than a lot of his classic songs. I was raised with Mr. Cash, so I'm sort of partial to him. (I can't think of much music that I don't like a lot, except maybe Hip-Hop, and even that is okay sometimes.)If you do a lot of driving, maybe try turning the dial a bit until you land on a station you like. There's a station in my area that will seriously play Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" followed by Twisted Sister's "Fight for Your Right to Party." Good times.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10353346026765317698 College At Thirty

    Oh darn, and now I have to double post because someone recommended Peter, Paul and Mary, and I can't say enough about them. They do a version of "I have a song to sing-o" from a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, it's on You Tube, and I love it. I need to figure out how to get it on my ipod, but I do love them and everything they sing. RIP, Mary Travers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08518636652243948501 Jenna

    So interesting that you bring that up. I am actually the exact opposite. Because I grew up in contemporary, worship music sorts of churches and went to an evangelical college, this kind of music causes negative feelings in me. Older hymn kind of music, like "A Mighty Fortress" "Come thou fount" are the only kind of christian music that I still can stomach.

  • http://www.thedrantherlair.com quietpanther

    I love(d) hymns for the theology and classical musical complexity. I enjoy(ed) SOME CCM, if the music showed talent and the lyrics were profound or meaningful. I was raised on '70s-'90s Christian music (Twila Paris, Glad, Keith Green, Judy Rogers, Wayne Watson, Carmen, etc.) and still have major gaps in my musical education (I think I've heard three Beatles songs in my life). Part of the problem is just the fact that I'm not hugely into music in general, but a lot of it is because my parents really didn't listen to much of anything else. They didn't have anything against "worldly" music (once they got over the idea that rock music mutates brain cells, á la the infamous mouse experiment), but homeschool isolation prevented me from actually being around much of it.Once I did start exploring music on my own, I quickly discovered what I like best: symphonic/operatic metal … the best paradox invented in the history of the world (at least the world of music).Nightwish (transcendant female-fronted Finnish band with themes of loss, redemption, longing, brokenness, and hope)Kamelot.Epica.Within Temptation (AzuraRose has some excellent suggestions above.)Dragonland (fantasy epics that span an album or more with a single storyline)I'll also throw in a shameless plug for my all-time favorite music group, the Crüxshadows. I'm not sure exactly what to call their music style (it contains elements of darkwave, synthpop, techno, and a little folk/classical), but the lyrics … God. Some of the most profound and beautiful observations on life and our place in it that I have ever heard, wrapped up in the gleaming imagery of ancient mythology. Start with Sophia, Ariadne, and Quicksilver. And then listen to every single other fucking song they've produced. I even bootlegged their out-of-circulation debut album. They're that goddamn good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16269788309026417719 Kristen Stone

    loving your blog so hard! i wasn't raised particularly religious, but i did go to a parochial school for several years, and some of the music we sang in chapel was totally amazing, and other was…silly, to say the least. around the holidays i get a yearning for the procession of carols, which was a carol-sing that we did at school. o come thou long expected jesus and i look from afar and the priest and the incense. as far as music goes that might gives me a– big feeling inside, for lack of a better word– iron and wine, the mountain goats, dar williams, cat power, sufjan stevens, ani difranco.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    I have several recommendations, some of which have already been mentioned.Florence + the Machine: If you want music that's pretty, this is a great choice. Be sure to watch the videos too–they're beautiful, and very feminine in a way that is not overly traditional or degrading. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry: Both of these artists are women with conservative Christianity in their history (Lady Gaga went to Catholic school, Katy Perry was raised outright fundamentalist and actually made her first album in the CCM industry under the name Katy Hudson) whose music glories in their freedom to explore their sexuality and themselves. Their stuff is also really catchy and fun. Keep in mind that some of Lady Gaga's stuff is NSFW (for sex, profanity, and exploring Christian imagery in a way that some people would probably consider blasphemous), so you might need to be careful who's around when you play it.U2: My experience with them has been very similar to nonprophetmessage's–All That You Can't Leave Behind was the main thing that got me through a serious bout of depression in first year university without hurting myself. Not a ton of people know this, but three of the four members of U2 are spiritual abuse survivors, from a coercive "shepherding" group called Shalom in the early 80s that tried to get them to choose between Christianity and making music. Their '90s stuff will probably be of particular value to you because it asks some really, really tough questions about Christianity and doesn't come up with easy answers. Their '00s music is full of hope, but a knowledge of their history and their prior work demonstrates that that hope is not naive. You should see U2 live if you can–they make a real effort to keep some of the tickets to their shows affordable ($40 or so each), and the experience is a lot like a church service without the bullshit. The Killers: Great rock music. They don't engage with religion as overtly as U2, but they stir up a lot of emotion. Sam's Town is my favourite of their albums. Red Hot Chili Peppers: They were a huge, huge help to me as I was shedding the baggage of evangelical sexual ethics. Their music is extremely frank about sex (don't play any RHCP around people with delicate sensibilities, and some of their earlier stuff especially is outright X-rated), in a way that demonstrates clear joy in it. Blood Sugar Sex Magik is their standout album–be warned, there is a LOT of swearing and a LOT of sex in this album, including one song where the protagonist has sex with a Biblical figure. That song is called Sir Psycho Sexy. It's shocking, but I love it for how it basically tramples over all the boundaries for what you're supposed to say and do in conservative evangelicalism, and does so with complete and utter glee.I hope you find some music that makes you happy.

  • http://thebrunettesblog.wordpress.com Ginny

    I recommend Cloud Cult, a little-known band that gives me that soaring, transcendent feeling and whose lyrics have a spiritual intensity but are skeptic-friendly (I don't really know how else to describe it.)All the other artists I was going to recommend have been named already: Patty Griffin, Indigo Girls, Josh Ritter (all three in the acoustic-y songwriter vein, but with a lot of passion and intensity in the music and lyrics.)Oh! Did anyone say Counting Crows? August and Everything After was kind of a definitive album in my life, and many of the songs still make my spirit soar.Mumford and Sons and Collective Soul are two other bands with ambiguously-spiritual lyrics, and great music (in two rather different genres). A lot of people interpret them as non-explicitly Christian, but I find it possible to interpret all their lyrics in humanist, non-religious ways.

  • Caravelle

    @College at thirty: Friend ! :)I really love Peter, Paul & Mary, and for some reason they're one of few bands whose music I never get tired of. I loved them when I was a kid and put a tape of their songs all the time to go to sleep. I loved them as a teenager when I got an MP3 CD player and earbuds and realized with the crisp sound quality that there were whole dimensions to those songs I'd never appreciated before. And I love them now whenever I look them up on Youtube and find awesome songs they did that I hadn't heard before. And I still enjoy listening to them just as much if not more than I did when I was seven.Something else that just occurred to me: a few years ago I listened to a number songs on "Rolling Stone's 500 best songs of all time" list (I think), and I was amazed at how varied yet consistently great they were. And being a musical ignoramus I had never heard most of them before.I'd say if you don't hate rock, if you want to discover lots of new music and build up your musical culture and you don't want to wade through dreck to do so, looking up that list might be a good idea.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15809248960102035040 Ashton

    I completely relate to the feeling of being told what you think instead of being able to choose for yourself. Things like that left me so confused. I got a lot of "You're Adventist – you believe x!" It took me quite a while to realize that I didn't actually believe or like what I was told that I did. As for music, I don't have a lot of suggestions really. I never really got the feeling that you did from music. Ar doesn't do it for me either. Math is about the only thing that can evoke an emotional response like that in me. I didn't listen to much Christian contemporary music even thought my mom would buy it for me in an effort to get me listening to something religious on the Sabbath. Part of the problem was the music that she bought. There was way better stuff out there than what she chose, but in general I think that the majority of christian contemporary music just isn't quite as quality as many other things out there.The music suggestions that I have for adults are Coldplay, Blue October, someone else mentioned Nightwish and I like them a lot too. For singing to your daughter I would just go for some nursery rhyme kind of songs. My nephew loves Bah Bah Black Sheep.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    My MK/PK husband is downloading the Billboard Top 100 songs for every year he missed, planning on working all the way back to when he was thirteen. He downloads them onto a memory stick that he then plays (loudly) in his car. He looks for lots of lists like that online, Rolling Stones Top 100 Rock Songs of All Time,etc.

  • Wendy

    Don't overlook the unique experience of singing with other people, which I find transcendent. Unfortunately, most singing groups for grown ups feature sacred music. Nonetheless, you might enjoy finding an opportunity once or twice a year to join a community sing-a-long (Independents Day, holiday caroling, etc.).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09921433991972562829 Joy

    I find Leonard Cohen inspirational–although he does use religious imagery in his own way. Then again, I am one of those people who like hymns more than CCM. Tastes vary and all that.

  • Sheena

    If you have a taste for Celtic-based rock music, I'll recommend Runrig (their music videos can be found on youtube; the videos are undeniably cheesy, but I don't really watch them). Some very happy songs, some very sad songs, some that could be religious/spiritual/philosophical, most are somewhere between. My current favorite is "Road Trip" (and the youtube video is very cheesy).Otherwise, music in my itunes library that evokes emotion includes Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, the Doves, Josh Groban, the most recent (as in, not on a religious label) Jennifer Knapp album, Mark Knopfler, and (when I need to "rock out" a bit) Rush.

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ dream-wind

    I'd like to recommend Karl Jenkins, a Welsh contemporary composer. He's written a number of symphonies and masses, one of my favourites being The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, which was written for the turn of the millenium. He's also the composer behind Adiemus (pronounced ah-DAY-a-mus), an ensemble of musicians and vocalists that sing a language Jenkins made up – he has the feeling that lyrics sometimes get in the way of the music, so he "created" a language where you can simply concentrate on the beauty of the sounds rather than trying to work out the meaning. Often Adiemus gets classified as "New Age" because their music defies classification.Secret Garden also gets classified as New Age, and they are also quite uplifting. If you've ever heard any versions of "You Raise Me Up" they did the original and it's definitely the best.If you're prepared to go hunting, look for The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I say you'll have to hunt because the CDs aren't readily available anymore but they are easily downloadable. The composer, Simon Jeffes, took inspiration from all musical traditions and liked to combine sounds and instruments you'd never think of putting together, but it just works wonderfully.

  • Anonymous

    My own favorite Christmas song is by Tim Minchin:White Wine in the Sun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01044703850654289825 Cilla

    I rejected any type of religious music at an early age. I listen to music all the time. Radio, stereo, iPod etc. A friend of mine has just introduced me to Hey Rosetta! Their new album is stunning. It's a good start. There are thousands of bands out there and it's going to be a brilliant aural journey for you! I am listening again to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins at the moment which lifts my spirits.

  • Anonymous

    There are a lot of great suggestions on here (Aimee Mann (imho best 2 albums- Lost in Space and the Magnolia soundtrack) and U2 (All That You Can't Leave Behind and Joshua Tree – the second being their most noted work and one of the most memorable albums of the 1980's) are long-term favorites of mine and my husband, although I can't think of any of these bands that I don't like!) I didn't see Michael Frante and Jason Mraz on here yet. They both have fun, happy music that is singable. Jason Mraz has a duet with Colbie Caillat called Lucky that is great.Also Fiona Apple's first album, Tidal, is very singable. If you like that, check out the blues singers, like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. In fact, if you ever just want to feel absolutely happy, listen to Louis Armstrong's Greatest Hits.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Thanks everybody! I've registered for a Pandora account and started listening to some of your suggestions – though it'll take me a while! It's nice to have a list of possibilities, though. I really appreciate it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Oh, friend of mine showed me this song not long ago, and I thought you might like it too. Sara Bareilles, King of Anything:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR7-AUmiNcA

  • Anonymous

    I second Leonard Cohen. He uses a lot of religious imagery, and is a somewhat faithful Jew, according to what he's said in interviews, but religion is more metaphorical in most of his music. When I'm feeling melancholy, I can listen to his music for hours. "The Sisters of Mercy" is great. "Famous Blue Raincoat" too.k.d. lang covered his "Hallelujah" and "Bird on a Wire" on "Hymns of the 49th Parallel", which is one of my absolute favourite albums. Her version of Hallelujah is reportedly Cohen's favourite, and she sang it at the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony. She sings with such emotion that you can't help but be swept up in it. At least I can't. Sexuality, Miss Chatelaine, and Constant Craving are also great, and her duet of "Crying" with Roy Orbison is incredible.Sorry, k.d. may be my favourite singer in the world. I gush. :)Neil Young's songs move me…The Crosby Stills Nash and Young song "Ohio" can break my heart. "Sugar Mountain" is sweet and mournful. I think "Teach your Children Well" was done without Young, but it was played at a friend of mine's funeral, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Heart of Gold, After the Gold Rush, Helpless, Long May You Run…he's got a specific sound to his voice that you may or may not like, but the songs are something else.And I have to put in a word for Gordon Lightfoot – just about anything by him. Rainy Day People, Beautiful, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Early Morning Rain, Canadian Railroad Trilogy, and If You Could Read My Mind, they're all things that can move me. And someone mentioned Joni Mitchell. She has a song, "Little Green" about the daughter she gave up for adoption, that's just…just listen to it.Recently, I listened to "Ben Folds with the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra", and found it strangely moving. "Brick" made me cry. And weirdly, I find Queen's music incredibly moving, and often uplifting. "No One But You" is the remaining members song, after Freddy Mercury died, and kind of a eulogy to him. Mercury had the most incredible voice, and for some reason "I want to break free" has always resonated with me. David Bowie. Nobody is him, and nobody should ever try. Personally, I discover more music by YouTube binges than anything else. That, and I go out to random free and cheap concerts whenever I can manage it.OK, I've started to play a lot of this. Time for a bit of a crying jag that leaves me feeling better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01428093080664074715 Carolyn

    Oops, didn't log in. You don't know me, but I might as well give you a name :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06049357117023462480 K.

    SO much good stuff listed. I have to add "Over the Rhine".They helped me to reclaim music.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12309044516086750611 Lesa McMahon

    I suggest checking out The Indigo Girls

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05201280885617089616 Cynthia

    going to have to subscribe to these comments as your readers are recommending stuff I would recommend as well as some new stuff for me to listen to. I love finding new music!I don't listen to Christian music of any kind now. I used to miss the "concert" like experience in a church until I became aware of how emotionally manipulating it was. The highs and lows, the repetitive lyrics … I know, I sound like all those rock-is-bad … but I have been to lots of concerts and have never dealt with the emotions that would burst forth in a church service. I believe that it was a way of toying with the spiritual experience.We attend a Unitarian Universalist church now and the thing I love most is that we sing from a hymn book. I am not familiar with most of the songs so I just contemplate the words as poetry and it's a beautiful, inspiring experience.That being said …Just saw The Civil Wars in concert … best concert ever!

  • Vivi

    Several people have been recomending Coldplay, and though I do like some of their songs, I don't really think they're the right kind of music for Christmas… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPAt5uj94zk ;PWhen all the saccharine round-the-clock Christmas music in the shops starts making me sick, I pull out the The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's versions as an antidote. Examples:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=902wZ9XHsIohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptP0OR-e7rIFor added fun, put them on and see how long it takes your loved ones to notice…My favorite real Christmas songs at the moment are "Better Days" by the Goo Goo Dolls for that uplifting, I'm-going-to-cry-any-second-now feeling. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOp4NAq6EHI(The lyrics sound like it may have been meant as a Christian song, but it's easy enough to ignore for my purposes and the Internet tells me they're not a Christian band – it's probably just that cultural roots are pretty inescapable)And the aptly named "The Atheist Christmas Carol" by Vienna Teng for quiet contemplation.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E20PpEsU3oEFor instrumental Christmas music with some "oomph" I like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG3Fvi1pJh4If this kind of combination of classic and rock instruments meets your tastes, you could look into symphonic power metal for sheer epicness of sound and guaranteed atheist lyrics (most bands make up their own mythology). Rhapsody (of Fire) are awesome for that sing-along-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-while- hoovering-your-carpet factor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOtLioRZTOg (That song sounds better in the studio version when there's no audience singing half of it.)Nightwish is more a case of getting green with envy as you *try* to sing along… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7WrKfw6n0Blind Guardian is a good example for the atmosphere and sense of community among metal fans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zklqr1xj32QAre the lyrics silly? Oh yeah, but we don't care! ^_^

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04980408280435868479 Angelia Sparrow

    Hi. Found you by way of Slacktivist. My taste is very eclectic but I'll throw some out.Country:I like Steve Earle, Waylon Jennings, Gillian Welsh, Kris Kristofferson, the Road Hammers, Mudcrutch (Southern Rock), Johnny Cash, Marty RobbinsRock:Jefferson Airplane/Starship, David Bowie, The Beatles, U2, The Police, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lita Ford, Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, Slade, Nick Cave, The Hooters (some religious imagery in All You Zombies), Duran DuranOther:Heather Alexander/Alexander James Adams (the artist underwent Gender Reassignment, but there are some songs that were better performed as an alto) , Voltaire (I suggest Hate Lives in a Small Town), Tom Smith, Leslie Fish, Mercedes Lackey, Julia Ecklar, S J TuckerMy general play list at Youtube (almost 200 songs) is here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL30E8A8747C52F0CD&feature;=view_all

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11223871777179184663 Jenny Clark

    Josh Groban. Absolutely breathtaking. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfxqW9QwOSI

  • Riza

    Owl City is a Christian artist that I really like.

  • Sarah Morehouse

    For the no-longer-Christian people who miss hymns:
    A lot of hymns are actually to the music of traditional English and French folk music. Those were the kinds that I loved. There are quite a few contemporary bands that sing that sort of music -
    Loreena McKennit
    Heather Dale
    Medieaval Babes
    Blackmore’s Night
    In Gowan Ring
    etc. etc. etc.

    If you like chant, try Adiemus and Lesiem.

    If what you liked was A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and Our God Is An Awesome God, I can’t help ya. ;)

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