Bring Me A Higher Love
September 18, 2019 9:25 PM   Subscribe

In a little over a week I am starting a spiritual challenge which requires me, among many other things, to only listen to music that "lifts my soul to God." Problem is I don't like listening to religious music very much. Help me find eclectic, brilliant, and interesting music from diverse secular sources that will make up my "Lift my soul to God" playlist.

My challenge is based on the ascetic disciplines of the Desert Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Since this a Christian-based challenge and I want to keep the spirit of its disciplines, the subject matter of the music, if there are lyrics, needs to fit into the Christian moral framework.

I am fine with religious music in the context of worship. I just don't like listening to it that much. I have diverse tastes in music and I don't want to spend the next 90 days listening only to the Christian sub-genres.

Some ideas I've thought of already:
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
Chance The Rapper, Blessings
Work It Out, Jurassic 5
Sing, Pink Martini
What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong (or the Ramones' cover)

You get the idea. I would like some soul raising music to listen to that fits the challenge, as I am temporarily giving up many of my technological distractions. Help me find a higher love in diverse musical expression.
posted by cross_impact to Media & Arts (84 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
The World Turned Upside Down
posted by pompomtom at 9:36 PM on September 18, 2019

Give this a whirl!
posted by vrakatar at 9:36 PM on September 18, 2019

I feel like In My Life by the Beatles could work.

For something explicitly Christian (as it is a mass), I love Francis Poulenc's Gloria.
posted by that girl at 9:46 PM on September 18, 2019

God Is Real - Krishna Das is maybe a bit more explicitly religious than you’re looking for, but it’s certainly no Hillsong.
posted by third word on a random page at 9:57 PM on September 18, 2019

The Seeger Sessions' version of This Little Light of Mine is just excellent.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 10:15 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Handel's Messiah.
Cat Stevens, Morning has Broken
Bette Midler, From a Distance
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:30 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Laser Guided Melodies by Spiritualized

A Storm In Heaven By The Verve

The Perfect Prescription by Spacemen 3
posted by nikaspark at 10:35 PM on September 18, 2019

The Art of Fugue

On repeat, if it were me.
posted by clew at 10:44 PM on September 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

Maybe see if anything in the shape note/Sacred Harp tradition interests you? A lot of it's overtly spiritual but certainly not all. I first encountered it in this Mefi post, which has a bunch of good links in the comments too.
posted by jameaterblues at 10:58 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Prayer Cycle is a deeply moving piece that may fit your bill.

Youtube playlist
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:13 PM on September 18, 2019

By no means explicitly religious, but I would say anything by Clifford Brown (Wikipedia tells me that he was clean-living and a church-goer, and man, if that trumpet does not lift your soul I don't know what will).
Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms."
Brahms' German Requiem.
posted by huimangm at 11:59 PM on September 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

A fair bit of Bob Marley would work, e.g., Put It On.

Also, as your title alludes to, a lot of Whitney Houston's songs.
posted by slidell at 12:05 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble — Officium.

Four male voices and a saxophone. Transcendent!
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:08 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nick Cave’s There is a Kingdom
The entire album “Mercyland: Hymns for the rest of us”
posted by slightlybewildered at 12:17 AM on September 19, 2019

King's X!

power trio, superheavy grooves glazed with gorgeous three-part Beatles harmonies. basically invented grunge, per Pearl Jam.

Fall on Me

we were born to be loved

You can go on their spiritual journey with them; pre-Dogman albums are all uplifting and celebratory; Dogman and later are all "oh christ I am a broken fucking unit." (linked songs are from the former era)
posted by Sauce Trough at 1:06 AM on September 19, 2019

I immediately thought of "Great Day" by Eddie From Ohio.
posted by Merinda at 1:08 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

You have it right there in the title, which makes me wonder if it’s already on your list, but the recently released cover of Higher Love by Whitney Houston is sublime.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:24 AM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

P. O. D.?
posted by humboldt32 at 1:53 AM on September 19, 2019

So wrong but my first thought? Spirit in the Sky.
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:06 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Rachmaninoff Vespers
Paul Simon - Graceland
Chance the Rapper - Sunday Candy
posted by bunderful at 2:16 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Paul Winter - Sun Singer, Heaven Within, Canyon Chaconne, ...
posted by gregoreo at 2:48 AM on September 19, 2019

U2 can be good for this. Beautiful Day is my go-to, and Yahweh is another I like.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:05 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is churchy, but gorgeous. Miserare Mei, Deus. If that soprano doesn't lift your soul up to God, I don't know what will.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:18 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

"I Can't Wait to Meetchu" - Macy Gray:

"Shackles (Praise You)" - Mary Mary:
posted by alchemist at 3:34 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

This could be too overtly religious for you but Elvis Presley American Trilogy never fails to uplift me.

I think Peter Gabriel Solsbury Hill has a spiritual element about it.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:55 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Aretha Franklin’s live gospel album, Amazing Grace
posted by sallybrown at 4:05 AM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

In the 90s and early 2000s there was a lot of hip hop and neo-soul that was religious in attitude and imagery but wasn't specifically Christian, and in fact was often critical of Christian institutions. (Many of these artists had musical and lyrical roots in gospel, but converted to Islam or Rastafarianism over disagreements with the church.)

Lauryn Hill's first and only solo album, Erykah Badu, and Meshell Ndegeocello (start with her album Bitter, maybe?) are explicitly-spiritual favorites of mine from that era, but there's a lot out there and you could spend a lot of time digging deeper into it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:09 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mendelssohn's second symphony, Lobgesang, does the trick for me.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:18 AM on September 19, 2019

your love keeps lifting me
keeps on lifting me
higher and higher
posted by rd45 at 4:36 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Mahler's Symphony #1 and Symphony #2 do this for me. Symphony #2 (the "Resurrection" symphony) is explicitly Christian and about being reunited with God after death — you can read the text of the choral part here. I'm not a believer myself, but damn if that music doesn't put some holy awe in me.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:40 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Leonard Cohen
Lauryn Hill
The Carter Family (on the doleful end of the scale)
Pete Seeger
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:01 AM on September 19, 2019

Lift him up by Washington Philips seems appropriate for this occassion.
posted by ouke at 5:27 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidananda (goes well with A Love Supreme)
Rotary Connection, Amen and Turn Me On
Build An Ark, This Prayer: for the whole world and Sunflowers in My Garden
Kamasi Washington, The Rhythm Changes
Screamadelica, Movin' on Up
Blur, Tender
Gillian Welch, Red Clay Robe and Orphan Girl
Johnny Nash, I can see clearly now
Jimmy Cliff, You Can Get It If You Really Want
Melodians, By the Rivers of Babylon
The Millenium, Just About The Same
Love, Alone Again
The Beatles, Here Comes the Sun

If you like classical music, J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion. OK it is actually Christian liturgical music but what an amazing work.
posted by riddley at 5:31 AM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

A little Van Morrison never hurt anyone: Dweller on the Threshold, Whenever God Shines his Light on You, Be Thou my Vision, Hymns to the Silence
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 5:35 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

George Baker Selection - Una Paloma Blanca
Boney M - Rivers of Babylon
You'll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, and myriad covers
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:37 AM on September 19, 2019

Relient K - Be My Escape
posted by holborne at 5:47 AM on September 19, 2019

I suggest:
The Mountain Goats The Life of the World to Come
War Why Can't We Be Friends?
posted by bdc34 at 6:07 AM on September 19, 2019

U2 can be good for this. Beautiful Day is my go-to, and Yahweh is another I like.

And "40" is a literal adaptation of the 40th Psalm and Gloria has text from the Latin mass right in it. (and if you aren't uplifted by that final chorus of "Gloooooooooooooooriaaaaaaaaaaaa, in te Doooooooomineeeeeeeeeeee" I don't know what to tell you.)

George Harrison's My Sweet Lord actually got used as a hymn for a while in my church growing up (they switched all the Hare Krishna chants from the background singers into "Hallelujiah", but still).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on September 19, 2019

Bruce Cockburn has a lot of songs that hit that sweet spot for me - "Mystery" and "After the Rain" and "Isn't That What Friends Are For?". "Northern Lights" a little more on the explicitly religious side of the spectrum.
posted by Jeanne at 6:21 AM on September 19, 2019


You need the Missa Luba. This is an adaptation of the Latin Mass as performed by a choir from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and set to music in the style of traditional Congolese music.

My mother had this when she was in college, and then when I was in high school and was mainlining Graceland and Peter Gabriel's Us, Mom dug that out of the basement and that joined heavy rotation in our living room with those other two albums. Two of my favorite tracks are the Kyrie and the Sanctus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:35 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

dolly "light of a clear blue

vangelis "chariots of fire"

kris kristofferson "why me lord"
posted by domino at 6:38 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nessum Dorma, specifically the Aretha Franklin
(YT) version. Pretty secular subject matter but man oh man.
posted by nkknkk at 6:44 AM on September 19, 2019

Peter Gabriel - Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack
posted by Bron at 6:46 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

This may be a stretch, but there was a Broadway play called "The Gospel at Colonus" from 1986 that set Sophocles's famous plays to Gospel music. While the songs contain the play's lines, and refers to betrayal and war and whatnot, there are also numbers that might fit in -- and they're damn fun! The whole thing is on YouTube, last time I checked.

(I listen to this album often: I love it.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:47 AM on September 19, 2019

What about the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou"? That has "Down to the River to Pray" and a ton of other overtly religious -- and also wonderful -- tunes.

And dig up some Allison Krauss while you're at it.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:51 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Ol' 55-Tom Waits
posted by Bacon Bit at 6:54 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's actually a lot of spiritual themes in Peter Gabriel's work, so I'd definitely encourage you to check him out. You might also be interested in checking out U2 (specifically "40" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" but much of their early catalog has a Christian vibe), Sufjan Stevens (Seven Swans era), Belle & Sebastian's catalog, The Call and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
posted by juniperesque at 6:54 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Live Like a Warrior by Matisyahu.
I Sing to Know That I'm Alive - Nina Simone
Message of Love by The Pretenders
posted by brookeb at 7:12 AM on September 19, 2019

Also for a bit more diversity, Tonedeff-Optimist. I can't link because I'm at work. It's not overtly about religion/God nor does it mention either, but I find it to be a spiritual song for me at least.
posted by Bacon Bit at 7:13 AM on September 19, 2019

A lot of the Indigo Girls' Rites of Passage album may work for you, especially Galileo
posted by Mchelly at 7:42 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Zoe Keating’s cello music has no lyrics but I find it soothingly uplifting and I can imagine someone feeling their soul lifted to God while listening to it.
posted by Edna Million at 8:07 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sonically, it's a bit "Pentacostal hymn in the style of mournful circus music" so I'm not sure if the tempo itself is all that uplifting, but I really like the song Blood of the Lamb by Billy Bragg and Wilco and the lyrics would definitely fit the bill (thanks, Woody Guthrie!)

I also REALLY liked the Iron & Wine cover of Stephen Foster's Hard Times Come Again No More, but I cannot find it anywhere on Spotify or YouTube. There are MANY other versions of the song, including one by James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma, but the Iron & Wine version was my favorite.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:07 AM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

We Didn't Start the Fire?
posted by Melismata at 8:12 AM on September 19, 2019

Julian of Norwich, by Bok, Trickett, and Muir
Old Crow Medicine Show, Take 'Em Away or maybe Firewater or I Hear Them All

Seconding The Life of the World to Come by the Mountain Goats, mentioned up-thread.
posted by Orlop at 8:14 AM on September 19, 2019

The Mountain Goats did a whole album called The Life of the World to Come that is secular in approach but uses Biblical texts as the basis for the song narratives (sometimes with a bit of cheeky musical nod to adult contemporary Christian or whatever they call it, but that's not the dominant style). I think it's one of their strongest.
posted by praemunire at 8:16 AM on September 19, 2019

...whoops, double-mention.

As penance, I've always liked Sam Phillips's One Day Late (I think she's ex-ACC).

Mos Def (at the time), Fear Not Of Man

Staples Singers, I'll Take You There

The Five Stairsteps, Ooh Child

Johnny Cash's Mercy Seat is electrifying but also terrifying.
posted by praemunire at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Anything sung by Mahalia Jackson.
posted by james33 at 8:32 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

The soundtrack to The Mission - Ennio Morricone just went right over the top on this. Classically flavoured, but lots of South American influence and the choral bits are really wow. A++ for oboe fans.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:40 AM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by prize bull octorok at 9:02 AM on September 19, 2019

OMG, the Flower Duet from Lakmé by Delibes.

Especially from about 1:00 onwards... SRSLY.
posted by ZipRibbons at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2019

My choir's been singing Tarik O'Regan's Triptych recently, and it's just fantastic.
posted by ilana at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2019

I’m not at all religious, and I never listen to gospel generally, but Oh Happy Day by Edwin Hawkins and the Northern California State Youth Choir is one of my all-time favourite tunes. Gets better and better.
posted by fabius at 11:27 AM on September 19, 2019

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer do this for me, especially The Mountain and When I Go.
posted by lydhre at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2019

The ragtime gospel blues of the Rev. Gary Davis.
posted by bertran at 2:58 PM on September 19, 2019

Oh Happy Day by Edwin Hawkins Singers
posted by madstop1 at 3:28 PM on September 19, 2019

also People Get Ready by, well, take your pick.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:34 PM on September 19, 2019

I was listening just today to a playlist I created that sounds tailor-made for this, pop music that has deeper symbologies toward spirit. When I want holy music that has no fetishistic sheen. Also, you should wander through the Hiss Golden Messenger catalog. A band largely of spiritual longing. Nyabinghi (Rasta) music is also worth tracking down - look for artists like Wingless Angels. +1 to Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack, U2 ("The First Time") and "Gabriel" by Roy Davis, Jr.

A couple of selections from the playlist:
Find the River - R.E.M.
Fisherman - The Congos
Umi Says - Mos Def (Yasiin Bey)
pray - Duendita
Grace - Jeff Buckley
You - Radiohead
I Want You - Erykah Badu
Spinning Away - Brian Eno with John Cale
Go Where I Send Thee - Golden Gate Quartet
Jesus Shot Me in the Head or "Balthazar's Song" - Hiss Golden Messenger
Spelunking - Laura Veirs
What They'll Say - Oddisee
Dust - Charles Lloyd with Lucinda Williams
posted by SoundInhabitant at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

On edit: huge oversight not to explicitly call out August Greene's recent cover of Sounds of Blackness' "Optimistic."
posted by SoundInhabitant at 3:56 PM on September 19, 2019

"Church" by Samm Henshaw always gets me wanting to make a joyful noise (and I don't even go to church).
posted by Lexica at 4:49 PM on September 19, 2019

I'm not Christian, but I have a thing for uplifting '90s and '00s Christian rock songs.

Jars of Clay, "Flood"
Jars of Clay, "Crazy Times"
Jars of Clay, Much Afraid album
dc Talk, "Jesus Freak"
dc Talk, "Between You and Me"
Switchfoot, "Life and Love and Why"
Switchfoot, "Redemption"
Switchfoot, "The Loser"
Relient K, "Be My Escape"
Relient K, "More Than Useless"
Caedmon's Call, "The Only One"
Caedmon's Call, "Prove Me Wrong"

And then there are the quasi-religious uplifting songs. Some are about love; some are about a higher power; some are about surrender; some, I associate with the period in my life when I was listening to a lot of Christian rock as well.

Ben Folds, "Not the Same"
Ben Folds, "Magic"
Oasis, "Wonderwall"
Oasis, "Don't Look Back in Anger"
K's Choice, "Now Is Mine"
Something Corporate, "Good News"
Vienna Teng, "Level Up"
A Great Big World, "Say Something (I'm Giving Up on You)"
Bettie Serveert, "Heaven"
Smashing Pumpkins, "Today"
Super 8, "King of the World"
Sugarland, "Tennessee"
Sugarland, "Just Might (Make Me Believe)"
Jamie O'Neal, "When I Think About Angels"
Sarah McLachlan, "Sweet Surrender"
Sarah McLachlan, "World on Fire"
Martina McBride, "How Far"
Martina McBride, "Love's the Only House"
Keith Urban, "Female"
Natalie Merchant, "Wonder"
Neko Case, "Hold On, Hold On"
Neko Case, "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu"
Rachael McShane et al., "Clock of the World"
Kathleen Edwards, "Change the Sheets"
Rilo Kiley, "Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You"
Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place"
Golden Smog, "Cure for This"
Benjamin Gibbard, "Bigger Than Love"
Juli, "Perfekte Welle"
The New Pornographers, "These Are the Fables"
La Oreja de Van Gogh, "Un Mundo Mejor"
Oh Wonder, "Livewire"
The Wallflowers, "How Good It Can Get"
The Wallflowers, "The Beautiful Side of Somewhere"
Grizfolk, "The Struggle"
Jules Larson + AG, "Bend Into the Break"
Foo Fighters, "Something From Nothing"
Stevie Wonder, "Higher Ground"
Dar Williams, "Your Fire Your Soul"
Dar Williams, "The One Who Knows"
Dar Williams, "I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything"
Dar Williams, "It's Alright"
Dar Williams, "Iowa (Traveling III)"
Dar Williams, "I'll Miss You Till I Meet You"
Dar Williams, "What Do You Hear in These Sounds"
Ani DiFranco, "Star Matter"
Crowded House, "Something So Strong"
Dinosaur Jr., "We're Not Alone"
posted by limeonaire at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know way more about this topic than is useful to post here, but if you want some music from a religious perspective that isn't about worship, send me a message. I know a ton of great bands that feature Christian songwriters, but aren't blatant Bible-thumping church bands.
posted by tacodave at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you familiar with the Taize community of monks in France? They have made famous a combination of music, large-group singing (that's closer to chant), and Catholic prayer. It's really peaceful and meditative, and I find it very centering.

Here's an example: Jesus, Remember Me They have a regular podcast (which is *ahem* pretty raw), as well as a whole pile of CDs -- and I only love about half of the tracks on each disc. But together, that makes a lot of good listening....much of which is on YouTube or their web site.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:57 PM on September 19, 2019

Listen to music from the group Map and Compass. I also like the group Rivers and Robots.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:40 PM on September 19, 2019

Not sure I see it here, but Christopher Tin’s Calling All Dawns fits the bill. It is religious texts sung in non-English lyrics by native singers. The opening song was famous as the theme from the Civilization 5 video game.
posted by lhauser at 7:40 PM on September 19, 2019

Giovanni Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (the mother stands grieving) is based on a 13th century hymn to Mary, about her suffering during the crucifixion. It was written by the 26-year-old composer just before he died of TB in a monastery. Sounds like a downer, but you'll be amazed. It makes me really want to live.

Stabat Mate with Marie-Luisa Hinrichs
posted by cartoonella at 12:43 AM on September 20, 2019

Seconding Chariots of Fire, and really anything by Vangelis.

Also (deep breath)

John Rutter Gloria
Karl Jenkins Songs of Sanctuary
Florence and the Machine Lungs and Ceremonials
Downhere (featuring Freddy Mercury vocal doppelganger Marc Martel) Ending is Beginning
Tracy Bonham Down Here
Randall Thompson Frostiana
posted by DrAstroZoom at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2019

Gideon by My Morning Jacket blows my mind every time and you can take it as spiritually/Christian as you like.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:17 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Harrod and Funck were an acoustic folk duo who met at Wheaton College in the '90s and formed a band whose imagery is deeply grounded in Christianity and colored by their faith-based experience of the world. Their self-titled album is my favorite.
posted by merriment at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2019

On The Wings of a Dove. This Nanci Griffith version really gives me the chills.
posted by vespabelle at 5:52 PM on September 23, 2019

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