Idol Chatter

elephants.jpgI stopped writing about Christian music full-time several years ago, mainly because I became tired of using words like “fresh,” “innovative,” or “inspired” for music that often wasn’t. In fact, it is a rare occurrence these days when I feel the desire to sing an artist’s praises loudly because I am afraid other’s will miss out on discovering something special. But recently I spent most of a night listening to a CD that I think will likely be the best CD I listen to all year.
Aaron Strumpel, the recent winner of Calvin College’s Bandspotting contest, has released his first self-produced effort “Elephants” and it is fresh, innovative, inspiring, electric, mesmerizing, and a list of other adjectives I am still putting together in my head

Prior to this recording, Strumpel had been featured on worship recordings such as “Enter the Worship Circle” but I was still completely in the dark as to what to expect from this solo effort. “Elephants” is an acoustic smorgasbord of spiritual musings with prophetic and operatic overtones that insist on being listened to again and again to be fully understood and appreciated. There is weeping and wailing– literally–amidst shouts and cries of joy. The variety of instruments and their intricate arrangements on each and every song washes over the listener with dissonance that lingers hauntingly. In fact, some of the best tracks are the ones with no words like “Melee” and “Procession” where trumpets, piano, and guitar are juxtaposed against each other. Prime examples of the distinctive flavor of the album are found in Strumpel’s interpretations of Psalm 23 and Psalm 51. Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a need to reinvent the Psalms with music one more time, but Strumpel brings something to those words of David that is worthy of having a place next to other original songs like “Family” and “In Babylon.” Each song paints its own picture of a faithful God who never forgets his followers.
Listening to “Elephants” is water for those who are feeling dry and weary. It is also a celebration for those who are filled with joy and hope. It is the one new CD I wouldn’t want anyone to miss.

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