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Trying To Fit the Ocean In A Cup

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Review of Trying to Fit the Ocean In A Cup

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The Advocate

Trying to Fit the Ocean In A Cup
by Josh Wilson

Reviewed by Heather West

"...although he never manages to fit God into a “3 Minute Song,” Wilson certainly managed to fit his piano, guitar, and lyrical talents, as well as his personal reflections, struggles, and experiences, into a well-made debut album."

In January of 2004, Texas-born musician Josh Wilson stepped into a world already full of Christian artists, people who wanted to be Christian artists, and people who, unfortunately, would never quite make it as Christian artists. Wilson's awareness of the "been there, done that" undercurrent in contemporary music shows in his anomalous debut, Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup. His musical style is a cross between mainstream Christian contemporary fare and something a little more experimental, blending the two into generally lighthearted pop rock.

Beyond the music, however, are several reasons to take Wilson seriously as an artist. His thought-provoking lyrics in songs like "Something's Got To Change" show that he's not just another Christian guy-with-a-guitar, or at least, he doesn't want to be. I tried a thousand times to fit God between the lines, but I’m finding out that doesn’t really work Wilson sings, and the same statement applies to his own music. Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup shouldn’t be squeezed onto a shelf between Trying to Be the Next Big Thing and Trying to Come Up With an Attention-Grabbing Title. Instead, Josh Wilson’s debut deserves a fighting chance.

I say “deserves a fighting chance” meaning “deserves a second chance,” because Wilson’s first track is not really representative of the rest of the album. “The Saints,” while attempting to be a welcoming, “come on in” opening track, ends up sounding repetitive and clichéd. Chock full of “you are not alone” reassurances, it fails to do justice to Wilson’s writing abilities.

A better opening act would have been “Tell Me,” an upbeat song that shines with childlike earnestness (“tell me again, tell me again, tell me, tell me again our salvation story”) but deals with the complexities of sin, forgiveness, and redemption. Musically, the song reflects Wilson’s guitar-driven style, which also appears in tracks like “Let Me Love You.” He characteristically builds from a simple, acoustic introduction to a full-blown chorus, and the standard procedure is to use the chorus’ last sentence or phrase as the title of the song. The music follows this lyrical crescendo, and the choruses are usually the most melodic and memorable part of the song. “Oak Avenue,” which tells the story of a friend’s death, is one of the standout tracks in this style.

However, Wilson also has the ability to depart from his own norms, which he displays in the aptly named “Something’s Got To Change.” Ambient piano and echoing, dual-octave vocals begin the track, a solemn meditation on hunger and thirst for God. It’s hard not to relate to Wilson’s poignant and personal lyrics: “Everybody says we’re all so different, but everybody knows we’re all the same. We’re all trying to find a pill to numb the pain.” While low drums eventually drive the song into a mid-tempo string ballad, Wilson returns to its original simplicity with an acoustic guitar solo at the end. Like the theme of his album, “Something’s Got To Change” dances between loud and soft, impressive and subtle. The phrase “trying to fit the ocean in a cup” only appears in one track, but Wilson carries his theme throughout. And although he never manages to fit God into a “3 Minute Song,” Wilson certainly managed to fit his piano, guitar, and lyrical talents, as well as his personal reflections, struggles, and experiences, into a well-made debut album.

Heather West is a sophomore English and Communications major, who firmly believes in the concept of the Renaissance man (or woman, in her case). In that vein, her interests include everything from piano, Broadway, and gospel choir to snowboarding, missionary work, and filmmaking. Her writing is inspired by her reading; her favorite authors are Brian Jacques, Bill Myers, Timothy Zahn, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Kenneth Grahame, Chaim Potok, Isaac Asimov, and Lloyd Alexander. While she aspires to be a novelist and screenwriter, Heather equally enjoys journalism, particularly in the areas of film and music. Her dream job is creating clean, thought-provoking media that will point people back to God. She has written for Infuze Magazine, more recently for SoulAudio.com, and is thrilled to start writing for TitleTrakk!