Review: Levi the Poet – Cataracts

I’ve written and rewritten this piece a couple of times now. I’m not entirely sure how to verbalize how I feel about Cataracts, the new album by Levi Macallister’s (known professionally as Levi the Poet). It’s an important album. It’s full of harsh realities. It was painstakingly created and beautifully produced.

In emailing back and forth with Levi, I asked about the reason he decided to create Cataracts. He said, “…it was an album that [I] needed to write.” He talked about his personal life and the influence his friends’ experiences had on him. If we keep that aspect in mind, the album becomes even more than just a treatise on religion in today’s society. It becomes a piece of someone’s life, and, as you’ll see in my case, how the things one person experiences aren’t solely theirs. There are people everywhere who experience these same things.

You can buy Cataracts on Bandcamp.

Levi the Poet is my favorite spoken word artist. His exposés on life are always thought provoking. I’ve changed my mind about a subject several times in the course of listening to one track because of how he portrays different facets of the same thing. When he announced that he was releasing a new album, I was excited. It’s not often that the music world gives us something worth dwelling on, but I can always count on receiving that from Levi.

Cataracts, in short, is about Christianity. Macallister references many deep-cuts of the faith, from the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s to “Christian” cults of the 60s and 70s. What I really wish to hone in on, however, is the message of forgiveness that is scattered throughout the album.

Many of Levi’s past pieces also draw on this theme, but it’s mentioned in all but one of the tracks on Cataracts, in the form of the line “Keep forgiving.” The line is like mile markers on the interstate, all leading to the destination: the final track itself is titled “Keep Forgiving”.

The songs highlight different forms of anger. We all know that we can be angry and hold grudges against other people, political and religious institutions, and even God. Levi takes each of those ideas and spins it all the way around, giving us a full view of the subject. He speaks of dictatorial church leaders, disease and lost faith.

Most poignant to me is one of the singles, “The Dark Night of the Soul”. The reason this track hit me so hard was because it’s the story of a father losing a child to illness. Even though I’ve never lost a child, I have lost people close to me. I’ve prayed and prayed that God wouldn’t take them from me but He still did. This song is about the same topic and I found it extremely relatable. Every track on this album has at some point brought me to tears.

Growing up in the church, you learn to see past the things that make it look perfect and start to see the flaws and the cracks. I believe that we’re only human and can’t be perfect, so it’s no surprise that our churches aren’t perfect either. The problem comes when Christians try to keep up the façade and refuse to admit that they can be wrong about things, because I don’t believe God can be wrong. I do believe, though, that He can be misinterpreted.

Among all of these problematic beliefs and ideas that modern Christianity has, we still cling to the idea of forgiveness. That’s what Levi seems to cling to as well. The final lines of Cataracts are these: “You may never get your apology / And on the day you do / It may not mean a thing / Keep forgiving”.

We must cling to the concept of forgiveness and let go of the things that weigh down our souls. Only then will we see real change in society. Whether you consider yourself religious or not, there’s a lot to think about concerning the message of Cataracts. Despite our failings, we’re all here trying to fight negativity together. If we take a look at our own selves (as scary and uncomfortable as that can be), we’ll find that there are things we can fix in order to cause even a small change in our sphere of influence. They may not seem to be big or important, but a little goes a long way. Levi the Poet’s album has caused that catalyst to begin in me. Maybe it can do the same for you.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

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