The numbers don't lie. Six of the top eight most played songs in my iTunes library are from Ian McIntosh's Awakened, and for a time he claimed the entire top ten. Unlike the musicians on the list so far, you may have never heard of him… so who is he, where did he come from, and what did he do to nab one of the ten places in my heart that represent this decade?
I was introduced to Ian McIntosh by my cousins and their mother (my first cousin once removed…?), who gave my family copies of his album and adamantly insisted that this was the most amazing worship music. To be honest, I expected it to be one of those intense, ambient charismatic CDs with rousing lyrics about more fire and God moving and all of that stuff that is nice and all but not exactly what I like to put on when I just want to worship God and thank and praise him. Well, I actually got something that is exactly what I like to put on when I just want to worship God and thank and praise him. In fact, Awakened perfectly solidified my current paradigms about worship and God (although I will talk more about the transition to that paradigm farther into the list).
When you think of worship leaders and songwriters in the Christian music scene today, you think of middle-aged men strumming on guitars, singing their slightly scruffy voices into radio-ready choruses. Ian McIntosh shatters that perception. He's a keyboardist in his young 20's who fiddles around with electronic loops and often sneaks into a falsetto that is clearly not intended for a sing-a-long with your local congregation. Yet his album is so full of genuine worship that even now if I play it while doing homework I have to stop for a bit and just praise God. His lyrics are simple, but because of everything that I have seen God do, they resonate in my soul as truth and fill me with such a joy that I cannot help but smile: "I was made to love… I am fully loved… you are always good, God… All I want is to be near you, all I need is to see you…" It is an emotion born not out of the song itself but out of the truths contained in the song.
The loops, layers, and piano melodies combine to beautifully accompany the lyrical expressions. My favorite track by far is the title track, "Awakened," which is constructed from the elements of an infectious piano riff and various rhythms and loops that build and come and go until it bursts into a climax, declaring Rain, rain down, rain down your love! with such jubilance that it makes me want to run outside in the rain (cool summer rain, by the way, not this week's November freeze) and just declare praises to God for the incredible love he has shown me… it's not something that can easily be explained, but if you know what I'm talking about, then I don't have to explain how joyous and refreshing and freeing and wonderful it is. Ian McIntosh's album perfectly captured that concept in music, and that's why, even though I discovered it later (summer 2008) than all of the other releases on this list, it's one of the ones I have listened to the most, and a solid representative of my most important musical releases of the decade.