Should I go out and buy Garage Hymnal's new CD?

Catchy title for a CD review?
The answer is... probably. For an in depth review of the CD click here. I bought it this week but haven't listened to it heaps yet.
But I thought it would be helpful to encourage you with something that I'm fairly passionate about. Garage Hymnal write great tunes. Their lyrics are theologically rich and yet easily accessible for youth. I have heard lots of people say that the great thing about Garage Hymnal is that now we have young people writing cool songs that our youth can sing if we don't sing Hillsong (for whatever reason).
The reason this annoys me is that it sees the world in two columns. Many people rely heavily on EMU music (the label GH are signed with) for the songs they do in church, in much the same way as others rely heavily on Hillsong tunes.
So you can end up being a 'Hillsong' church or a 'EMU' church. This can be really unhelpful for a few reasons but one main one is that you stop thinking creatively. In fact you will stop thinking at all. You will end up teaching whatever new hit comes out of your favorite source and you will stop thinking about what is the best song for the congregation you minister to or what the lyrics you are singing are going to be teaching your congregation.
At our church and Youth group we don't sing much EMU or Hillsong. Lots of people would love us to sing more of one or the other but I have opted to look overseas to get songs, or create them ourselves.
Going overseas for songs makes it harder for you to find good music, but it pays off in our context. When people from either camp come to our church they don't feel as if we have chosen a side, rather we are different altogether. That is helpful for first impressions.
All of this being said, I thoroughly support what EMU are trying to do in making songs for churches that are theologically rich and contemporary but I think they have a way to go yet. I also love the music that Hillsong put out, while I have strong reservations about the teaching at Hillsong church itself.
My passion is to see churches writing their own songs out of their own context and to stop just regurgitating everything they are fed.
Meanwhile buy the Garage Hymnal CD. It's pretty cool and it may be an encouragement to you and a creative boost to help you write some of your own tunes.

Posted byDan at 7:05 AM  


David said... 9:10 AM  

good stuff dan.

i love the overseas gear we're doing... some gold from sovereign grace, tomlin, redman and the like... good stuff...

but really love the gear that you and others have written at church. full of super-awesomeness!

i used to be a big fan of emu... 10 years ago... but i think much of their music is pretty lame.

i used to be a big anti-fan of hillsong... 10 years ago... but now i think their music is awesome!

as far as teaching from hillsong... i think their music is more theologically rich than their pulpit!

Jackson said... 10:18 AM  

I love the stuff we produce within the church, in fact i like pretty much everything we sing in church.

However, is there a danger of simply creating a third option so that "Emu vs Hillsong" becomes "Emu vs Hillsong vs Soveriegn Grace"?

Keep creating new stuff so that at least it will be "Emu vs Hillsong vs Soveriegn Grace vs SingJesusPraise"

Dan said... 12:11 PM  

ha ha. Yeah I agree Jackson. My problem is with that kind of thinking totally. In Australia our context is quite different to the states in that we don't have the wide range of Christian music available (or if we do it sucks) so we tend to label things and trust labels.
I would have loved Garage Hymnal to have stayed independent for just this reason. The answer is bring on the plethora so you don't trust labels, rather you choose songs based on their content.

Andy M said... 3:49 PM  

Some good points here Dan. Especially re not trusting labels per se.

Can't say I've heard anything from Hillsong for a long time but I have no desire to quite frankly. I can't see the point in even looking to them as a source when there is a growing number of good songs from evangelical sources. (Sorry Dan, I've probably just missed the whole point of your post!!)

That said, I won't just automatically choose a song because I think it's from a trustworthy source. I want to judge the song on its own merits (musically, lyrically, theologically). But at least a trusted source can be a good start.

Funny Dave that you've taken that view of Emu over 10 years. I'm the opposite - I think their stuff from 10 years ago is pretty lame, but their new stuff is getting better and better. Re Hillsong - I assume you mean their music is awesome but not their lyrics??

Dan, would be interested on what your thoughts are re Emu having a way to go. I reckon Garage Hymnal might be the right direction - their stuff is right on the cutting edge I would say.

Also interesting putting Sovereign Grace into a different camp, because it is actually Emu that have been distributing their music in Australia, and good on them for doing so I say. Sovereign Grace stuff is really good.

I'm finding that there's enough good stuff at the moment to choose from that there's not even any need to have to try to look further afield.

Andy M said... 3:56 PM  

Interesting point also Dan about wanting churches to write their own songs out of their own contexts. I would be all for encouraging people to be writing good songs. However, you need to remember not all churches are musically resourced like yours are! In fact, most are far from it. I think it's a bit unfair to characterise it as churches just regurgitating what they are fed! Don't you think it's a good thing that there are people out there writing and then distributing/selling good Christian songs for the benefit of all churches? The other benefit of course is that you can walk into another church on a given Sunday and there's a good chance you'll know the songs. I think it's good that we sing similar songs across different churches. I'm not sure what would be the different context from which churches would be writing songs from to warrant there being different songs in each church.

Anyway just some thoughts. By all means write new songs, but the vast, vast majority of churches are not in a position to do so and greatly appreciate that there are others out there doing it.

Jackson said... 4:44 PM  

I think your right in some respects Andy. There are alot of churches that don't have the resources to develop their own music.

But i also think there are alot of churches that just think they dont have the resources and so revert to playing whataver is given to them by their "trusted label".

From what ive seen with Dan, to a large extent, its really just takes one or two people with some music writing talent, some passion and a minister who approves to produce some new songs. I realise thats a bit simplistic and dan may contradict me completely.

Sure, there are further resources to produce that music onto cd's and distribute them etc. But we sing some songs at church that have simply been written by dan (or others sometimes) and then introduced to the congregation- 2 weeks later we are all singing it as though its been around for years! Its often these songs which are most enriching to our churches culture and most thought provoking.

I often find myself dissecting and reflecting on Dan's songs more than others simply because it's come from within.

Jackson said... 5:52 PM  

"You will end up teaching whatever new hit comes out of your favorite source and you will stop thinking about what is the best song for the congregation you minister to or what the lyrics you are singing are going to be teaching your congregation."

What exactly do you mean by this. I think i agree but what is this idea of singing to your churches "context"? Does this mean the musical style, or has it more to do with the lyrics sung??

If it's based on lyrics, isn't the context simply "christian". Aren't songs expounding on biblical truths? Expounding Jesus? I can see then how context changes between churches with different theological beleifs, but what about between two evangelical churches? Would contextual differences arise then? Isn't the context Jesus?

By the way, im havin issues using the bold an italics functions. someone teach me please, it keeps telling me my tag is not closed. How rude! My tag is very much closed thank you very much!!!

Dan said... 7:50 AM  

Woah. Heaps of stuff to say. Firstly Andy, I think it would do you good to buy a Hillsong CD and have a listen. You might find yourself surprised with the lyrics and you may understand a little more of what I mean when I say EMU have a way to go. I agree about GH being the right direction but their latest CD sounds more like a Hillsong album than anything else EMU have put out.
In regards to context I mean a bunch of things. Firstly every church has a populational context. It has people within that church that relate to different styles of music. Different churches are often aiming to reach different groups of people. This being said I think the more different styles a church uses the better because God doesn't have a favorite musical style.
Your church also has a teaching context. What book of the Bible are you looking at at the moment? What passage do the congregation keep coming back to? The song you write will be written for your congregation as they work through a book. It will also be the case that when you move onto another book, that singing the song written in a previous series evokes all the memories of that series and why that book meant so much to the congregation.
The third is cultural. But not necessarily in the way you think. On the central coast there are not the evangelical Anglican churches on every corner. Sydney Evangelicalism is a foreign culture. So are their songs. While for you, you may be able to walk into another church nearby and hear your favorite EMU songs cranked out, we are in a very different context.
This is one of the important reasons for doing our own thing and for looking overseas (not just at sovereign grace, I don't know how that got implied!).
If someone walks into our church from another church on the coast, they won't know our EMU songs. That's why we will write songs that match our context and we can even say that we have written them and visitors will feel more comfortable, rather than thinking they have just walked into a whole new world where nobody sings Hillsong (cos everyone sings Hillsong on the Coast).
There is much more to say on context but maybe I'll turn it all into a post.

Jackson said... 3:55 PM  

Ok, I understand the context thing then now. So, why do Emu "have a way to go"? Aren't they simply writing to their context which is in theory different?

Andy M said... 10:27 AM  

Hi Dan.

Sorry, has taken a week or so to get back to this discussion and it's a bit old news now. But I did want to touch on a couple of things just to clarify my points.

Re Hillsong. Happy to check it out. My knowledge of Hillsong is probably so 1990s! I'm not familiar with their recent stuff at all. I'm not one of these people who thinks there should be a black ban on Hillsong and we should never sing a Hillsong song just out of principle. I'd be happy to give one a go if there was a good one to sing. I guess I just don't think to go to Hillsong as a resource when I can find stuff I like from sources
that I'm more theologically in tune with. ('scuse the pun!) So I've never bothered to check them out, in the same way I haven't bothered to check out any recent Catholic hymn books for sources, but would be happy to sing a Catholic song if it was doctrinally sound.

Re walking into other churches. I didn't actually mean I have some desire to walk into another church and hear my "favourite Emu song cranked out"!! All I was suggesting was that it's good to have songs that are familiar across different churches and not just locally written. I don't care if it's Emu or not! That's one of the great things about some of the old hymns - they resonate across different cities and countries, as well as across the centuries.

Finally, I'm all for people writing their own stuff. Don't get me wrong. What I was getting at was a reaction to your suggestion that churches that don't write their own stuff are just "reguritating" other people's music. I'm not sure you realise what a privileged church you are in. The vast, vast majority of churches do not have the resources to create their own music. Some churches are just struggling to put together a half decent sounding band. I would rather they be singing well written (both lyrically and musically) songs penned by others than trying to sing their own locally produced mediocre songs. It's great that there are people out there writing good songs for other churches to use, and lifting the burden off churches doing that themselves, especially when their resources are already stretched.

So keep writing away and keep encouraging others to write away. It's great. I'd like to give it a go myself and have started making some half hearted attempts. But just don't look down on churches that are simply "reguritating" music written by others!

Anyway, speaking of the new Garage Hymnal CD, I introduced one of their new songs on our weekend away that we've just come back from. It went down really well. There's some really creative stuff on that album.

Andy M said... 10:29 AM  

P.S. Speaking of Hillsong and using their stuff, I have been checking out online some of their arrangements for Christmas carols as I'm bit sick of the old tired arrangements and am looking for something fresh.

By the way, if you can point me to any good, contemporary Christmas carol arrangements (for all the old traditional ones e.g. Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful etc etc), then I'd be grateful for any suggestions. I've found a few online and might write some myself.

Dan said... 2:57 PM  

I agree about the GH album. I think it's awesome. What song did you teach?

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