It started back when I learned to diagram sentences. Elementary school weirdo that I was, I loved it.

I loved taking a complicated sentence and chalking its various parts on the blackboard until it looked like a tree branch stripped by winter. But unlike the dissected frogs in my science class, diagrammed sentences seemed even more alive when we were finished with them.

In a way, I’m still pursuing that strange exercise, for there are profound mysteries living within great songs, just begging for investigation.

Take, for instance, the first song of Joe Henry’s album Invisible Hour (my favorite album of 2014).

It’s the subject of the second installment in my new series called “Listening Closer,” published on Mondays at Christ and Pop Culture.

And when you’re done reading that column, put on your headphones because there’s some high-priority listening up at NPR First Listen for a limited time…

The Lone Bellow‘s new album Then Came the Morning is streaming there.

And so is an intriguing new record by Jessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again. She’s new to me, but she has certainly won my attention.