Hope and the agnostic—new music making an impact

It's the business fourth quarter, the time leading up to Christmas when record labels release what they hope will be some of the most popular albums of the year. As a tidal wave of new music comes crashing down upon us, be sure to make Jordan Klassen's latest release a priority.

The Vancouver-based singer-songwriter is releasing his second full-length album, Repentance, later this month on Nevado Records.

Klassen welcomes listeners to the 12-song album with "Sweet Chariot," a ballad featuring a gently-strummed ukulele, an angelic choir and lush string arrangements. It's a fitting way to start the album, which oscillates from ballads like "Strengthen Me With Raisins" and the instrumental "May Is Blood Month," to upbeat, exuberant anthems like, "Piano Brother," "Balcony" and first single "Go To Me," which first appeared on last year's Kindness EP.

On his Bandcamp page, Klassen uses the words "folk pop," "baroque," "moody" and "orchestral" to describe his sound. Interesting that he also includes the word "awkward," because Repentance is anything but—it's a confident, fully-realized collection of songs. If you're a fan of thoughtful, acoustic-based folk music with a pop sensibility, this album is for you.

This is not a Contemporary Christian Music worship album, but the attention to arrangement and the emotions the songs evoke lead me to believe that they wouldn't sound out of place during a Sunday morning service.

Earlier this year, Klassen told ChristianWeek that he titled the album Repentance because he found the concept inspiring.

"Historically, repentance in religion has been about turning away from something ugly and turning toward something beautiful," he said. "That's what the record is about."

He recently told Examiner.com that he'd like listeners to take away a sense of hope after listening to the album.

"I like the idea of bringing peace and reflection to people and I hope with this record they take away honesty, somebody struggling with faith and with self-identity, but with hope," Klassen said.

"I think it's really trendy to not have hope right now, but I hope that I can be a voice for a silver lining."

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If you're a fan of singer-songwriter David Bazan, and you live in Winnipeg, you're in luck. He'll perform at St. Margaret's Anglican Church on Tuesday, September 10 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the church's Slater Maguire Conversations series.

Originally from Seattle, Bazan first made a name for himself in Christian music circles as part of the acclaimed indie rock band Pedro the Lion. In the years following the band's amicable split in 2006, Bazan wrestled with his faith, ultimately declaring himself an agnostic—something he deals with on his first solo album, 2009's Curse Your Branches.

Kurt Armstrong, staff member at St. Margaret's, arranged Bazan's upcoming appearance at the church. A long-time fan, Armstrong says that for him, the appeal of Bazan's music is the combination of pointed social critique and deeply personal songwriting.

"He combines them both in a way that I think is really quite unique," Armstrong says, adding that while Bazan may have distanced himself from his Christian beliefs, he is still an insightful critic of the Church. "He's kind of like an angry prophet, I think."

Armstrong says he has two goals for the concert: invite "a strong and thoughtful critic into our midst and take his critique seriously" and get people into St. Margaret's who might not otherwise step foot into a church.

"We don't want to sucker people into church, but we want to bring them in and surprise them that we're not anxious about having a very vocal critic come in and give us his best."

Advance tickets for the concert are available through the church for $10, or at Into the Music and Music Trader.

Later this month, Bazan is scheduled to perform in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria. All of those concerts, save for the show in Victoria, are sold out.

Visit www.davidbazan.com.

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About the author

Special to ChristianWeek

Aaron Epp is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, Musical Routes columnist, and former Senior Correspondent for ChristianWeek.