Great music meets us right where we’re at and speaks to our souls. It resonates with our strongest emotions, taking us from our deepest fears and most intense moments of pain to the equally dizzying ascents of ecstasy and bliss and the deeply seeded hopes that give us the strength to live when it doesn’t seem worth it. Brian “Braille” Winchester does this brilliantly.
A seasoned veteran with 16 years to his credit, Braille’s 7th studio album, Native Lungs (click the picture for the FREE download), gives more of the passionate, heartfelt lyricism and hard-hitting boom bap that his fans adore. This album is sort of a more hopeful sequel to his last album, the moody and dark Weapon Aid (also available for free on the Humble Beast site), and like each of his others, serves as sort of a lyrical portrait of the season of life he’s in. With all that being said, this won’t be an album review.
The release of Weapon Aid came just months before I fell into what became the darkest time of my life and so, I related strongly to it, and this album has again coincided with what God has been teaching me and doing in my life, so I’m going to draw from several of these songs and all at once try to convince you to download this album (again, it’s free on the site and a regular $9.99 on iTunes) and update you on some of the things I’ve been learning lately. The album thoughts will be in black, my thoughts will be in red. Ready?
Most of us are no strangers to the adage saying that, “You’ve got to remember where you came from,” and the first track on the album does just that. Sharing the album title, the song explores his roots in Portland, OR as both an artist and a man and how it has molded him. He walks through some of the good and bad things he picked up as he grew and uses it to expand straight into the rest of the album. God has been showing me how a lot about how my past has done the same for me: I came from a broken home in a broken city in a broken world, and so did you. My parents have graciously handed down many of their bad habits, things such as tardiness, speaking sharply, being strong-willed, private, and critical. The civic and government systems in place around me have harvested both arrogant and intelligent in me. Privileged and ignorant, independent and foolish. There are so many small practices in my life that I’ve never seriously evaluated that hurt me and stifled my potential to grow, stuff as simple as the harsh way I speak to myself when I do something poorly or make a mistake that have been ingrained in me since childhood. You have them too, what are they? What are you doing about them?
The second song, “Feel It” has a lot of quotable moments, but I’m just going to expound on a single one.
I’m staying close to my shadow/ keep your enemies close.
I have come to the haunting realization that I am my own worst enemy. That the person who has caused me the most harm over the span of my entire lifetime is me. Day after day, I make decisions that set me back several steps in my walk with God, in my healing and maturing process, in relationships with my friends, in everything. My laziness, my lack of discipline, the way I come down so hard on myself, the way I ignore my own feelings and needs, and the way I give myself to all manner of things that simply aren’t worth my time. All of those things are downright destructive, and to think of them as any less is deadly. I’m learning how to set up mental safeguards as well as outside accountability and slowly managing my flaws.
I think “Death In Me” is the dopest track on the album. The beat is reminiscent of a psychological thriller and Theory Hazit and Odd Thomas both add fiery verses to it! (Theory Hazit somehow manages to slip the names of at least 11 well-known metal bands into his! Edit: I asked him on twitter and he said 21!) Topically, the song dives a deeper into the reality of sin, and seeks to hammer home the point that our biggest problem as humans isn’t that we make bad decisions or mistakes, but that at the very core of our being something is broken, twisted, and depraved. One of the most profound things about the fact that my worst enemy is me is that it isn’t a matter of trying to overcome some bad habits. Sometimes it seriously distresses me because I’m learning it’s a disease. My ugliest moments aren’t just simple slip-ups, they are 100% me. I have to look at myself in each of those moments and realize that THIS IS MY CHARACTER. That is a difficult thing to and a heavy burden to live with. I’m so thankful for Christ.
During the album’s online listening party (which can be viewed on youtube here) Braille says “We Will Remember” is about the fact that we can’t make ourselves forget all the things that have hurt us in the past, so our goal should instead be remembering God’s grace and the promise of the Gospel.
“It’s not so much about what you forget, because you don’t forget. It’s about what you remember.”
Do I even need to expound on what this has meant in my life recently? If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve been seeing it in every post. Profound, no?
“The Hard Way” is exactly what it sounds like. It seems Braille is a lot like me and makes things more difficult on himself than necessary. Instead of talking about how it relates to me, let me just quote the song a couple of times.
Sick at the thought of all the battles that I’ve fought/ Tangled up intestines and my stomach’s in a knot/When will I learn my lesson? Wrestling with flesh and blood/ Falling so far behind, it’s like I’m never catching up//
Ambition in my belly/ Taking a bigger bite than I can chew/ and now it’s too late to spit out my food//
Every scar in my repertoire/ is another weakness/ leading me back to Jesus/ Oh, how need His mercy and grace always/ We all fall short and I learned that the hard way//
I feel the scars from all of the hard lessons from my sin/ Put it in laymen’s/I thought that my game plan/ was better than the One who’s image I was made in/ Made my own choices instead of heeding His voice kid/ I went and mixed a cup of that poison//
And now, the last track I want to introduce you to is my other favorite on the album. “Nightmare Walking” was taken straight from the pages of Proverbs 5 and 7 and serves as an illustration of and a warning against giving yourself to an adulterous, seductive, immoral woman. Personally, I think that this track has some of the best images on the album, in fact, you just have to hear it:
I’ve learned that there’s a number of things that I’ve been attracted to in past girlfriends that have been absolutely unhealthy for me. Not only that, but I’ve been allowing myself to be attracted to women just because they have qualities that I value. It probably deserves its own post, but it needs to be said that every Godly girl I meet IS NOT an opportunity! Just because I meet a girl who loves Jesus, and is intelligent, passionate, hard-working, honest, or whatever, it doesn’t give me the right to look at them as if they might be my wife, or even a future girlfriend, statistically, most of them WILL NOT. They are my sisters in Christ, that’s all, and until God tells me to pursue one, I have no business trying to worry about getting with them. That is tons of trouble waiting to happen! Please, if you’re saved, just wait. Appreciate and admire them for exactly who they are and let them be. God will let you know when your wife has been prepared for you, He already planned it; you can’t miss her, I promise.
Anyway, that was only half the album and I’m only stopping here because this post has become too long. I hope you’ll go download it (if you haven’t already!) and I hope you grew from reading this blog post. Much love to you all!