Ten Songs of Worship & Praise for Our Tumultuous Times

St. Lenox

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Ten Songs of Worship & Praise for Our Tumultuous Times Review

by Timothy Monger

Andrew Choi's first three St. Lenox albums arrived almost like an epic serial novel; every few years a new loosely themed volume would appear under the descriptive Ten Songs header, expanding on his personal experiences and place in the universe. His canon so far is made up of fascinating narratives about family legacy, cultural identity, queer identity, growing up in the Midwest, and his professional life in New York. There's a certain amount of humor and a deep, glowing warmth to his strange brand of indie pop which ranges from rich Newman/Zevon-esque piano voicings to brash, digital folk-soul. On his fourth St. Lenox album, Ten Songs of Worship & Praise for Our Tumultuous Times, Choi turns his attention to spiritual explorations and questions of faith gained, lost, and sought. It is not per se a strictly religious album, but it does ask some big questions about philosophy and finding one's way in an increasingly complex world. It is also one of his best, on par with 2016's excellent Ten Songs from My American Gothic. Whether considering the afterlife on the lovely "Arthur Is at a Shiva" or searching for the meaning of life on "Superkamiokande," Choi's songs are at once profound and casually approachable. It's a neat dichotomy and a big part of his appeal as an artist, the way his wordy, almost conversational style interacts with big concepts and even bigger melodies. And of course, there is his voice, a great booming thing barely contained in its white collar and aching to expound, which he does over ornate church organs, chiming guitars, and burbling synths. Placed like a centerpiece among the album's cornucopia of highlights is "What Is It Like to Have Children?," a glowing missive whose easy mention of wanting to raise a family with "a good husband at my side" effectively places the once-controversial idea of same sex parenthood into the wholesome American Dream where it belongs. A unique talent deserving of a greater stage, Choi's poetic candor feels like an open conduit into parts of the human experience that are instantly familiar, but underrepresented in popular music.

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