Very few artists who produce music from a Christian perspective can provide the lyrical honesty with that found from Over the Ocean. This five piece band is comprised of the three ‘J’s, Jesse Hill: vocals and guitar, Joshua Bogart: guitar, Joshua Whittle: drums. Nate Crawford is the third member of the Over the Ocean guitar trio and Ben Crumrine follows on bass. The band hails from the musical hotbed of indie music, Norfolk, Virginia. Whether Over the Ocean is truly post-rock or not will have to be determined by the masses. Musically they follow a traditional post rock path, but Hill adds his superb and subdued vocals to expand Over The Ocean’s sound.
Over the Ocean was a four piece when they recorded their attention grabbing debut release, Paper House, in 2011. Two years later it was time for their sophomore release. The difficulty for any band with their second recording is to guide their fans on a musical progression without alienating them. Be Given To The Soil, reaches down into a depth of feeling unheard on Paper House. At times this album drives the listener from a simple melancholy state to the edge of despair and back again. This is where the honesty aspect of Hill’s lyrics comes to the forefront.
Let’s look at just a few of the musical gems found on Be Given To The Soil.
BGTTS begins on a sombre note on the opening track, “Herons”:
you can see the herons
fly across the lake
you can hear those lonesome
wretched sounds they make
I have seen my own soul
reflected on the water
I have seen the sky turn black
and a storm is coming, a storm is coming on
and I say to myself
I have always been a good man
never hurt anyone
but I can be cruel, I can be cruel
just push me now and see what I can do
there’s a distance my legs will never cross
between the sacred and the obscene
Artists with a Christian faith regularly offer lyrical content that describes life on the “mountaintop” where the world and life experiences are wonderful. Mature Christians realize that they live world where troubles and trials remain a reality. Over the Ocean has this maturity and offer it on the morbid lyrics of “Riverbed” as lyricist, Jesse Hill, describes the accidental death of a close friend:
my friend died
in a car crash
spun out on the ice
rolled into a riverbed
it’s a hard thing to understand
A recent topic in a number of churches has centred on whether our view of Christ and God is accurate or whether our views are simply a result of tradition teaching. This is a topic that can be both revealing of ourselves and challenging to our faith. Hill explores this theme in “God In My Image”, where the song begins with a post hardcore vibe (think of Thrice), then drops back in post rock.
I don’t want to worship a god
I made in my own image
and what’s the use of a savior
who depends on my righteousness
maybe I’ve been seeing things wrong
maybe I don’t know you at all
maybe I’ve been seeing things wrong
maybe you’re not so much like me
oh holy ghost
please unravel my illusions
How often, as Christians, have we put a wall between ourselves and those with a differing view when it comes to a matter of faith. Jess Hill shares his thoughts on “Arguing Philosophies”.
I come here
to find you
to let you speak
whatever is on your mind
I will not interrupt
I will not twist your words
I will not plug my ears
and tell you that I can’t hear
The album also offers the worshipful “Kiss The Ground”
you are my home
I kiss the ground
you’ve walked across
I throw my body down
across your muddy path
you have shown to me
the way of life
I have no love outside of you
there is no love
outside of you
Decades ago a new album meant sitting in a comfortable chair and spinning an LP at 33 1/3 as you listened to the entirety of the record. Those days are returning. Be Given To The Soil, is an album that deserves to be listened to in a single sitting without a break. Appropriately, Over the Ocean has elected to have Be Given To The Soil, initially released exclusively as a gatefold double vinyl. Look for the album April 2nd, 2013 on Seattle’s Spartan Records. The album will be available later this year as a digital release.
Without doubt the songs formed by Over the Ocean are both superb and thought provoking. Be Given To The Soil, will challenge the listener to look at ourselves and our relationships with God and others with a challenging perspective.