Bill Gaither has always been something of a benevolent, if intermittent presence in my life. I don’t recall having ever met him, though I’ve twice had dinner in (different) houses he owned, and played one or two songs in his recording studio, among other things. I always assumed we’d encounter each other again, though I never expected it to be in my capacity as an indie music reviewer, much less in the context of a post-Christian nihilist pop opera.

No, I don’t know what a “post-Christian nihilist pop opera” is exactly, but that’s what they tell me Matt Marks‘ new piece/album The Little Death: Vol 1 (New Amsterdam) is and music like this doesn’t come along every day—or ever—so I am more than willing to accept the moniker they’ve chosen. In my mind, it’s what Eric Whitacre’s Paradise Lost could have been were it more concise and beat-centric. Because there are some killer beats on this album, beginning with the “Penetration Overture”, into the climax of “OMG I’m Shot” (one of the many incarnations of the petit mort motif), and pretty much everywhere else.

Through extensive sampling, dubstep, breakbeats, and evocation of 1970s gospel, The Little Death tells the story of Boy (sung by Marks) and Girl (Mellissa Hughes), two teenagers exploring their relationship in the context of American Evangelicalism. As such, it is an album that connects on multiple levels. At turns dramatic, ridiculous, beautiful, and just plain fun, there is plenty to please the casual listener (I have been singing “OMG I’m Shot” to myself all day). And yet, being the good Wheaton grad that I am, I cannot ignore the theological implications of The Little Death. In a sense, listening to it is like being locked in a room with myself circa 2001. Enter Bill Gaither.

The thing I find most striking about The Little Death is the way in which the insertion of classic southern gospel into the story of two lovesick teenagers sheds new light on an aspect of Evangelical culture that is often ignored. In this context, “He Touched Me” takes on a whole new meaning. Never have I heard a sexier performance of my grandmother’s favorite hymn. And it makes me uncomfortable, which is precisely why I love it so much.

The album features noteworthy performances from both Marks and Hughes, though Mellissa earns bonus points in my book for her rendition of “He Touched Me” (and also for her admitted appreciation for Christine Schäfer). That alone ought to be enough to convince anyone to pick up a copy of The Little Death: Vol 1, but if you require further convincing, then I would say this is a perfect record Daniel Bedingfield’s first album or the first two Garbage albums. Alternately, you could download this mp3 of “I Don’t Have Any Fun” and listen for yourself.

Did I mention we’re giving away a copy of The Little Death: Vol 1?

No? Well, we are. So, here’s the deal. This is a boy meets girl story, yeah? All you have to do to win a copy of The Little Death: Vol 1 is send us your best music themed chat up lines (that’s “pickup lines” for our American readers). Be witty. Be dirty. Be pathetic. I don’t care. Send them our way (you may enter as many times as you like) and Kristin and I will pick our favorite. Email them (the.indie.handbook@gmail.com), tweet @theindiehandbk, comment on this post, or post them on our Facebook page. You have until 5:00 A.M GMT Tuesday, June 1. Good luck!

Matt Marks’ The Little Death: Vol 1 is released on New Amsterdam Records Tuesday, May 25

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