Gungor’s Boundary-Breaking “I Am Mountain”

I will say right off that bat that I can’t really attempt to describe most of what’s on this album musically. It is so diverse and complex that it’s hard to put any type of label on it. The best way I can put it is that it’s “pop-meets-western-meets-electronic-meets-classical-guitar.” Now, for a track by track:

I Am Mountain

The album’s title track begins with a lilting glockenspiel/piano melody. After a verse of singing, a syncopated guitar riff joins in the mix. But, my favorite parts of this song are, first off, the anthemic (now a word) “woahs”. But, the best part of this song is definitely the bridge. “Momentary carbon stories from the ashes filled with Holy Ghost. Life is here now, breathe it all in, let it all go, You are earth and mist.” This is, to me, a testimony to the glimpses of God that we get on a daily basis.

Beat of Her Heart

This song is based on the Greek myth of Eurydice, written from the perspective of Orpheus. The thing I love about this song is that the music makes you feel like you’re there. It’s very medieval-folk-sy. It’s a sad story and Gungor makes it even sadder.

Long Way Off

Ok, this song should be on the radio. Seriously, the melody is infectious. One listen will have you humming it all day. I love that Michael uses his falsetto (which is beautiful and makes me jealous because mine sucks) extensively on this album. The songs message is great, too, and points to Michael’s apophatic mysticism. We’re a long way off of understanding anything, folks.

Wandering

Best use of auto-tune. Ever. (Except maybe Finn’s auto-tune on Adventure Time.) This song sort of establishes a theme on the album for me. The idea that we’re searching for something. The sparsity of instruments on this song is perfect. It creates a feeling of emptiness, kind of like the song itself does.

Let It Go

This reminds me of Miles Davis’ Tutu album. Synth-laden and some of the funkiest bass you’ll ever hear. This is another one the most infectious melodies of the album. Michael seems to explore his range here quite a bit.

Wayward and Torn

Ha. This is my jam. It’s so different from the rest of the album and I love it. Makes me feel like I’m on a porch in the 20’s with Son House and company. There’s some slide work on here. You’d never know that he just recently started using a slide.

God and Country

The lyrics of this song gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it. It tells the story of a nation more concerned with war and guns and violence than anything else. Who knows which one he’s talking about? 😉 The highlight for me is the ending. “Those who live by the gun, die by the gun.” It’s also one of the funnest songs on the album musically. Makes me wanted to dance around.

Hither and Yon

This is an instrumental, and you’re just gonna have to hear it for yourself, because it is awesome.

Yesternite

You would think Michael Gungor took a classical piece and put lyrics over it. But, I believe it’s original because I remember him stating he had just written “the most difficult guitar part [he’d] ever written” and this one is definitely a beast.

The Best Part

I can hardly talk about this one because it just evokes so much emotion in me. Good job, Gungor team, you’ve made the first song in a while that jerks some tears from me.

Finally

This one is all about freedom and being able to just be. Kind of what this album is for Gungor themselves. They’re finally able to just be themselves. Even the music reflects that. It starts somewhat restrained, all synth-y and stuff, but eventually releases into an upbeat banjo riff.

Upside Down

This is another one you just have to hear.

Sorry for my brevity, but this album is just pretty beyond words. It is the most inspired and inspiring of their albums. And, ironically, I think God blessed this album more than any of the others because of how genuine they are through it. There is too much in the music to describe in a post on the internet. Every time I listen, I find something new, and it’s awesome. And, as always with Gungor, it’s all very intentional. My suggestion to you if you want to understand this album, stop reading reviews online and just freaking get it, because words can’t contain this!

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A Legit Review of “The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse” and “A Creation Liturgy.”

The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse

First off, this book does use some “profanity.” I say “profanity” in quotes because it’s not so much profane as words society deems profane. So, if you have a problem with a “worship guy” saying: pissed, ass, damn, bastard, or douche-y, I’d suggest this is not a book for you.

Now, for the book. The first thing I noticed was his writing style. It’s very conversational. Like, he goes on some slight asides and tangents as if he were actually talking to you. Which reminded me of my own writing style. But, the best part of the book is the interweaving of theology, personal stories, and, the theme of the book, ways to become a better creator.

A point Michael really wants to drive home is that EVERYTHING is creation. We should not consider any sort of artwork a lesser form of artwork than our own. Whether it be business management or painting, all creation is creation. Another big point is that a lot of creation is disingenuous (he tells a humorous story about a lass named “Becky,” which I’ll talk about later.) and that we should earn to be honest with ourselves and make music to feed our muse, as opposed to the crowd or the critic (Hey! That’s the name of the book!).

My favorite part is how Michael tells a story about his life and very ingeniously connects it to a point he wants to make. The one that comes to mind immediately is the “Two Inches” story, which I’m not giving away, so you’ll just have to get the book and read it yourself. Anyway, Becky…

“Becky” is the name that the CCM industry gives to their demographic. A middle-aged soccer mom in a mini-van that wants some wholesome music for her kids to listen to on their way to practices/games. Michael also tells a story about his frustration of an artist he worked with shooting down his ideas because he didn’t think “Becky” would like them. Again, get the book and read it.

This book was a book I couldn’t put down. It was absolutely fantastic. It really makes you open your mind in a witty, humorous way. He relates theses HUGE, yet simple, ideas to the reader on a very human level that gives you insights into not only his psyche, but his philosophies. I give it 10 stars out of 5.

A Creation Liturgy

Another great piece from the Gungors. It features a song from “All I Need is Here,” The Michael Gungor Band’s first CD. It also features two hymns, and spoken word poet, Amena Brown.

While none of these songs are new,  they sound fresh and new to your ears because they’re such a raw live mix. No dubbing or anything. It starts with “You Are the Beauty” and very bluegrass-ish tune that’s most likely inspired by Michael’s admitted man-crush, Chris Thile. The song starts as a very upbeat, foot stompin’ hoedown song, but evolves into an insanely virtuosic instrumental. Now, at this point, you’re wondering how the CD can get better… Well, it does.

Following the amazingness of “You Are the Beauty” is a huge jam version of “Heaven” featuring fantastic guitar solos and an organ solo from John Arndt. The song is an awesome display of the talent in that band. I’ll skip straight to some of the surprise songs on the CD.

“This is My Father’s World” is an old hymn. On the CD, it’s performed beautifully by Lisa Gungor. It starts off soft with just her and a guitar, but eventually builds into the full band, before once again backing off. I’ve never heard the hymn before, but I’d say Gungor did a great job of upholding the integrity of the song, while still adding some Gungorosity (that’s a word now) to it.

The next treat is “Spotless” from the aforementioned MGB album. This song is absolutely gorgeous. You would never know that it’s from a 5 year old album. It tells the story of Jesus the Christ’s giving of His perfect and “spotless” life for us. You really have to hear it to understand it. Words can’t do it justice.

The final surprise is “Doxology.” If you’re a Gungor fan like me, you’re thinking “I love that piece. He really jams on that.” But, no. It’s the hymn! Not the instrumental. Don’t be put off by that, though. It’s a great way to end a great album. The whole crowd singing along, and Michael’s parting words: “Grace and peace be with you” is a perfect way to leave us. I also give this a 10 stars out of five.

All-in-all, I highly recommend both items. Both fantastically artistic and contemplative. Thanks for reading my review!

Grace and peace be with you…