Music Monday: The Labyrinth by Aly Aleigha
Release Date: September 18, 2016
In being a music lover, I sometimes come across an album that stops me dead in my tracks; causing me to simply listen and think. More and more today, this seems to be a rare occurrence. While the accessibility of making a record is at an all-time high, the number of true and authentic works seems to be at a low. We can sometimes lack depth and creativity and often this is readily apparent in the circles of Christian music.
You can imagine my joy in crossing paths with Aly Aleigha and discovering her album The Labyrinth; an album that has literally been on repeat for weeks now. Theologically-deep and allegorically-rich would be two phrases I would use to describe this record; a record you really have to experience as much as just listen to. And to hear that Aly now resides in my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota…well that makes me want to listen all the more!
The Labyrinth starts out soothing and laid-back, as opening track "Awestruck" begins to paint the picture that is the journey the listener embarks on. Throughout the whole album, there are times when the listener is talking to and about God. At other times, it is God’s voice speaking to us. But for Awestruck, which clocks in at just over 5 minutes, a tone is set of Who God is (and who we are in light of Him):
You're taking my breath away with every glance
Your surpassing beauty offers me a chance
To share in it myself, but I am unworthy
Oh, I'm so unworthy
And I'm awestruck by this radiant light
The shadows that once enveloped me flee with all their might
In this glorious springtime
Your dawn, my delight
Slightly changing gears, "Valley of Tears" begins pulling back the curtain, exposing the hopelessness and lostness of who we are due to the effects of the Fall. And in that state, the lyrics “Run run baby, it’s over now, take one last breath and let it out” take on profound meaning. Without a Savior intervening, taking our sin-stain and weight from us, we simply run and have no place to go. (Fair warning: the whoa-oh’s of this song will get stuck in your head for days.)
"Desert Soil" is full of contrast: the dry desert of the soul dead and apart from God and the light that can penetrate as it “whispers words so tenderly.” To slow down and actually contemplate the lyrics, the listener understands the case Aly is making: we are wholly degenerate and lost without Christ. At the bridge the plea is for God to “make the desert bud and nourish, till like Eden bloom and flourish.”
Moving forward, various topics are addressed: the longing for redemption found in Christ, the choosing of faith over fear, and the strengthening of our faith as we allow Christ to help us persevere through trials. A soothing banjo accompaniment along with Aly’s soft lilt fills out "Without You"; a moving ballad which to me is pure worship (I’ve never loved One so truly as You). "Torn" begins with a finger-picked acoustic guitar building stronger throughout; ending with the tagline “You’re making me feel brave and at the same time, I’ve never been so afraid.” Title track "The Labyrinth" sits smack dab in the middle of the album and really ties everything together as it portrays an all-loving Creator encouraging His beloved:
A little spark is all it takes to start a roaring flame
The wood of your heart maybe too wet from your tears now
But soon the kindling will come alive again
Don’t despair when the ghosts that dwell within this hollow pit seek you out
All they can really do
When they invade is just pass through and make you stronger
Throughout the bottom half of the album the spiritual journey continues. Even as each song stands alone, the collective whole is that much more powerful and a moving piece of worship. "Psalm 127" features a beautiful duet between Aleigha and Justin Kostecka and proclaims “Unless you let Me build the house, our labor is in vain.” "Ransom Blood" is soft and contemplative till about halfway through. Then almost suddenly it changes course and ramps up with a Mumford and Sons-esque foot-stomp proclaiming “You believed in me when everybody else wavered. Now the least that I can do is return the favor.” "Wrestling Flames" has a jangly vibe with whistles and “Heys!” reminiscent of Of Monsters And Men while "Little Bird" lyrically works on the idea of being bold when we know who we are in Christ (I’m fearless in Your gaze, I could soar to the broken night). Closing track "Race Along" keeps things upbeat and finishes out the thought of the entire project nicely: It’s lyrics are influenced by the Apostle Paul (Philippians 3):
I will run
I will run towards the goal,
I’ll press on
I will claim my holy prize
The Labyrinth is not overbearing in its message yet clearly tells the story of Creation, the Fall, and redemption found through having a personal relationship with Christ. At the same time, melodies are beautifully woven across a landscape of banjos, acoustic guitars, and violins. A neo-folk sound is probably the closest label, but the unique style and lyrical content of The Labyrinth defies putting it into a neat little box.
I’m confident that great things are ahead for Aly Aleigha and her band. This is truly one of those “under the radar” releases that I think will lay a strong foundation as she continues her career in music and songwriting. Beyond the talent however, it is Aly’s desire to use her songs and her concerts to put God’s glory on display. The Labyrinth does just that and it shares the truth we all need to hear again and again throughout our lives.
Until the next #musicmonday, God bless!
Derek Charles Johnson is a Christ-follower, worship leader, and songwriter residing in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org