Josh Garrels raised the bar exceptionally high with his album, Love and War and the Sea Inbetween. And now we have been given his latest offering, Home. So does it raise the bar higher, or does it rest in the shadow of its predecessor?
If there’s one thing that’s certain of Josh Garrels, it’s that he makes incredible music. Each album he’s released has been a gem, and Home is no exception. After the epic eighteen track Love and War, I’m sure some fans were a little disappointed with this album’s shorter length. Even I was one of those fans. But after cycling through this album multiple times, I came to realize the masterpiece this album really is. And that it’s purpose was never to top Love and War, but to be different.
After my first listen through, I found Home to be a pretty decent album, but nothing amazing. However, after the second and third listen, it started to unravel and reveal its true colors, and wow are they beautiful. To explain, I’ll look at each song separately.
The album begins with the first single, “Born Again.” Warm strings welcome the listener to the journey home, and that journey begins in the wild, where the album’s protagonist realizes where he sits and he cries, I’m my mother’s child, I’m my father’s son, it took me awhile, but my time has come, to be born again.
The next song, “Colors,” is where I really began to warm up to and fall in love with the album. It’s soul/folk vibe is just delicious. It’s all at once comforting and hopeful. It’s the song that lays out our mission after we find Christ. Open the heavenlies and shake the ground, and change the world. So let all the creatures sing praises over everything. We’re meant to sing our love and praise to, not only the Lord, but to those around us, including our enemies, and in doing so we, bring glory to the light.
The third song, “A Long Way,” was tricky to grasp at first, but in context with the song, “At the Table,” it becomes clear what Josh is getting at. It’s about or constant running back and forth from the home God made us and our sin. We came a long, long way back home, to see you one more time. We came a long, long way back home, to see you and say goodbye. It’s the darkest song on the record, and it accurately describes the Christian struggling with his flesh and spirit. How it sits in context with “At the Table,” will be seen soon.
One of the best aspects of Love and War was the instrumental breaks it had between songs, and on this record, “Leviathan,” and “Always Be,” carry that same feeling, though they’re far from instrumental. “Leviathan,” talks about the trials God takes us through. Coming just after the song “A Long Way,” it could possibly pose the idea that our fallen nature was God’s purpose all along. All my love, all I’ve done, falls apart, is undone, I built a tower, you tore it down…. Yahweh gives, and takes away. And that maybe it’s not our running for righteousness that brings us home, but in realizing that, I am weak, you are strong.
Track five, “The Arrow,” is all about realizing the state of our fallen nature and our identity in our brokenness. Lyrics like, I was betrayed by the man within…. my shield, my fight for righteousness could not protect me from myself (this could also point back to the track beforehand). It points to the problem, and the solution in that amazing chorus. There’s only one way out, please Lord forgive me I’m down on my bended knees, and I need your love. Josh’s voice in this song is just breathtaking. And that falsetto in the chorus….
“Heaven’s Knife,” track six, is one of my personal favourites. It’s a love song from Josh to his wife, and it never fails to bring a tear to my eye. In finding a wife and in her love for him, our protagonist also finds his home. All my life, I walked alone, to you, my heart, my home. Marriage is where our family begins, and in this song we realize home isn’t a building, but those you love. Your family.
“Morning Light,” is one of those songs that explodes with hope and joy. As the song’s title implies, it’s like that warm sunlight that shines through the windows in the morning. It wakes you and fills you with hope for the new day. And while it again points to our broken state, it tells us that. It’s gonna be alright, turn around and let back in the light, and joy will come like a bird in the morning sun, and all will be made well, once again.
“Always Be,” like “Leviathan,” carries that same feel the instrumentals did in Love and War. This song could be sung from God’s perspective, or from a mother or father’s, and it simply repeats the lines, And I will always be, and I will sing for thee, all my life, all my love, day and night, all the way home. And in reply we get the final quarter of the song. In these ninety seconds, such hope builds that it’s almost tangible. Each time it’s plays, my mind goes to scenes of driving home in dusk after a long, hard day.
And in track nine, we finally arrive to our place of rest. Our home. “Home At Last.” It’s a song so full of joy, and again Josh’s falsetto fits so well. If a song could be a hug, this is it. It’s the celebration of a child coming home. Light the fire, gather round, join together singing loud, raise the glass and joyful be, home at last, one family. We’re all orphans looking for an open door…. come on up to the house of the Lord, Father adopts us all.
Track ten, “At the Table,” is the stunning climax of the album. Now looking at our back and forth on the song, “A Long Way,” I lost a nameless things, my innocence flew away from me, we now hear God’s response. There will always be a place at my table for you. It takes my breath away every time. The truth that God loves us so much that He has made us a permanent home in His arms, and no matter how many times we run, Home is always there, waiting and welcoming us in.
The eleventh and final song, “Benediction,” is the lullaby that’s sung to our protagonist’s own children. He knows the journey they’re about to go on as he softly sings his encouragement. May all your days shine brightly and your nights blessed with peace, wherever you lay down to sleep. And all things are made good, for those who believe.
In the end, while some may disagree, Home is becoming-at least for me-Josh’s best work to date. Musically it’s flawless. Each song fits and has its place, from where we find God in “Born Again,” our newly realized mission in “Colors,” to us coming and leaving home in, “A Long Way,” our surrender in, “The Arrow,” our arrival home in, “Home At Last,” and God’s amazing grace to us in, “At The Table.” It’s an all around extremely solid album that I’m sure will only get better in time. It’s easily the greatest album of 2015 so far, and I don’t think much is going to change that. Thank you Josh for bringing us home once again.