Aryn Michelle’s Superb New Album “Depth”
Christian Music Review
Aryn’s path to this moment in her career has had an interesting mix of twists and turns, which I’ll share in a moment with her bio below. It’s encouraging to see an artist persevere and finally develop their voice — no easy feat, let me tell you. The music industry is brutal in many respects.
But before you learn more about her story, I’d like to jump right into the music. Her new album “Depth” is, to sum it up in one word, irresistible. All throughout the album, Aryn’s powerful, affecting voice floats effortlessly between that glorious thrump of a stand-up bass below and the high Americana cathedral of a tasteful reverb guitar above — production that is, in some places, worthy of a world-class T-Bone Burnett album. (And if you don’t know who T-Bone Burnett is, then please remember me as the guy who introduced you to him. That would be my honor.)
It’s not that every song or album in the world has to have a stand-up bass or high reverb clean guitar. That’s not my point. My point is that the songs know how to use these elements, and Aryn’s voice and melodies fit into the picture in a way that gels with every timbre that they’ve chosen to use. It’s good arrangement. Good production. Beautiful sense of tone color. Good songwriting, and good performance. This is what professional music should be. It’s about composing a picture in which everything works together to create a beautiful whole.
My favorite track is “Belong to You.” The tremolo picking (on mandolin or some other acoustic instrument) and accordion gives it this emotive Mediterranean lightness mixed with her distinctive pop-friendly-but-hard-to-pin-down-one-genre vocals (and that’s a good thing) with her occasional hints of Americana/bluegrass mixed with pop ballad excellence. It’s exquisite. Delicate. Affecting. I love how they double her vocals when it slips into the chorus (and she has that gorgeous doubling in other songs too — love that vocal mixing technique.) In fact, just writing about it makes me want to go listen to it again. The song is also a meditation on the greatest miracle in history: God becoming fully man in the person of Jesus Christ and thus experiencing the hardship of this world first-hand.
Songs like “Pressing On” and “Road to Heaven” present airtight harmonies that seem to spring along with kinetic inertia above the bass. Like many of the songs on the album, they have that perfectly sparse, beautifully framed production mentioned above — beautifully framed in the artisan woodworking sense, like like a hand-crafted door with hand-carved wood. It just has this organic, tasteful country/bluegrass/Americana/singer-songwriter joy blended and built into everything.
And the final ballad “The Sky is Falling” is truly epic and drew some unexpected comparisons to mind to famous pop ballads. (This might sound weird, but I was actually, for a split second, thinking of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” or perhaps Christina Perri’s songs. But that’s probably just my weird memory association at work.)
Check out her music at her official page: http://www.arynmichelle.com
And as I mentioned in the beginning, I love the story of her biography — how she came to this point in her career. Like so many artists, she’s taken a winding path with many tough twists and turns, but through it all her earnest desire to follow Christ shines bright. Here’s the bio from her press release:
Since childhood, singer/songwriter Aryn Michelle believed she had to record Christian music for two reasons: she had an unmistakable, powerful voice and she believed in Jesus. Isn’t that what a gifted Christian artist is supposed to do? Plus, as a pastor’s daughter she knew she wanted to stay in the family business.
After a disappointing experience at a music competition in her early twenties, she spent the following years questioning her calling and began to experiment with other genres and styles, searching for sure footing both as an artist and as a child of God.
She released her first two secular albums after graduating from the acclaimed Berklee College of Music. This search eventually led her back to her first love: writing insightful, challenging, thoughtful songs for the church, from a distinctly Christian viewpoint. During her journey to understand her calling, she had long conversations with her pastor father who challenged her with questions like: “Who’s actually being touched by your music?” and “Why do you think God gave you such a unique history when it comes to your education, musical training and theological upbringing?” His incisive insights fanned a dim flame Aryn assumed had disappeared at that all-too-brief singing competition.
Aryn began recording distinctly Christian music in 2014 “not because I had to, but because I wanted to.” Having finally found her voice, her decision was quickly rewarded by being named Female Artist and Writer of the Year at the 2014 Gospel Music Association’s Immerse Competition.
In 2015, Aryn will release Depth , an album made up of theologically heavy questions and challenges to coax listeners to reconsider their own faith in light of biblical truth. Depth is a fitting title for an album that offers more questions than answers, more substance than veneer and more honesty than inspiration. She considers it Christian music for thinking Christians.
That’s not to say her songwriting doesn’t overflow with hope. Like the many biblical stories that influenced these songs, the grit of life meets the hope of glory. Listeners are taken to depths so that the heights might be that much more enjoyable—and maybe perhaps more understandable.
With duets from Derek Webb and fellow Immerse alumni Sean Carter, and backing from immensely talented session players, Aryn is eager for Depth to loudly proclaim the truths she’s been telling.
Essentially, Aryn desires to do something that’s seldom blatant in today’s Christian music: to engage the mind as well as the heart so that the truth of scripture—and not just a catchy hook—is what resonates with the listener.