Isla Vista Worship is a dynamic group of worshippers with the mission to passionately spread God’s love through creative expression. The group is based in the heart of Isla Vista and serves alongside Isla Vista Church and Jesus Burgers. They have released several albums that have stylistically challenged conventional worship music and have continually broken barriers with sounds that embrace and emulate the culture of the small, yet lively town of Isla Vista. Each of their albums is distinct, as the group has grown and experimented with new styles, genres, and visions.
Isla Vista Worship’s latest record “Carried” with John Jin Han has a surprisingly distinct, subdued, and reflective tone compared to the funky, soulful, energetic nature of their most popular record “Soul Hymns” with Mark Barlow. The tracks in “Carried” have a uniquely dreamy, introspective quality about them that is complemented by vulnerable, thoughtful lyrics that ruminate not only on how difficult it is to go through difficult seasons in life, but also that there is always a reminder of God’s unfailing, unchanging, unconditional love that carries us through every season.
The first track on the album, “Close to Me,” reflects on this kind of incomprehensible love that is manifested through the ultimate sacrifice of the cross. The second track, “Even Before,” continues with a sense of relief and comfort in the idea of God’s eternal love for individuals even before they were created. The track ultimately revels in how unfathomable it is that God’s love isn’t reliant on achievement or failure, but his love precedes existence itself.
The third track, “Catch You,” feels the most heartfelt of all the tracks, as it deals with doubt and fear about God’s presence. The lyrics of the bridge cry, “My fear told me You were/ asking me to catch up,/ but you’ve been really saying, ‘Son, let Me catch you.’/ There’s nothing I can do/ to make myself heal faster,” which powerfully flips the narrative of restlessness and makes a turn toward rest and healing with the faith of God’s nearness.
The fourth track, “Call Me Your Own,” reflects further on God’s love that unashamedly claims even those who feel like they are abandoned and unworthy. The fifth track, “Through Every Season,” rejoices in God’s kindness and faithfulness, which can become the foundation of trust through every season of life.
The sixth track, “You Carry Me,” is a soft echo of the whole album, finally declaring, “You carry me through every season.” The album ends with an acoustic version of “Close to Me” featuring Sarah Juers.
Even though “Carried” doesn’t quite match the same eclectic or exhilarating sound that ran through the veins of “Soul Hymns,” it sets itself apart from other records with its sweet simplicity and gentle honesty toward the same core truth of God’s goodness and love that penetrates brokenness. Isla Vista Worship’s music has a special sense of freedom and inspiration to it that feels infectious, accessible, and refreshing in the worship genre, and there is only hope for more to come