4 Sentence Book Review & New Damien Rice Tunes

“One ought, every day, to hear a song, read a fine poem, and, if possible,
to speak a few reasonable words.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There were a few things I wanted to write for today, but I think I’ll save them until next week, when I have the chance to give them some more thought. Instead, I really wanted to share 2 things: My thoughts about Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom, which I just finished yesterday, as well as share 2 brand new Damien Rice songs that I found yesterday. Clearly, yesterday was a big day for me.

The Book: Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom follows the Berglund family from inception to demise in what feels like a too-real episode of a reality tv show. The characters lie, cheat, steal, and try to sleep with (most are successful) almost every other character in the book — family excluded. No matter how badly I wanted there to be, there’s not a single character in this story that, when faced with a choice between right and wrong, chooses the right thing to do. Though that may be the point.

The Music: Those of you who know me, even if you just read this frequently, will know I’m somewhat of a music hoarder. If there was a show on TLC about hoarding music, I may be their cover boy. Anyways, I was realizing yesterday that I hadn’t heard a lot of new Damien Rice music lately. So I went to YouTube/iTunes/Filestube to see what I could find and found some pretty good stuff.

Turns out he just helped Melanie Laurent (the French actress from Inglorious Basterds) record her first cd and stepped into the studio on a couple tracks. So here they are, in all their splendor.
“Everything You’re Not Supposed to Be”


Bonus: Damien Rice busking with Glen Hansard singing “Blower’s Daughter” and going into Radiohead’s “Creep” in Dublin last Christmas Eve.



[photo taken from http://www.pitchfork.com]

Jars of Clay & A New Language for Church

This past Friday night, my wife and I went to a Jars of Clay concert at a church in Mesa. We got the “VIP” package which included participating in a Q&A session beforehand with the band. I was really excited for this because I think a lot of Christian music artists focus more on the Christian and less on the music. But not Jars of Clay. They have substance. They talk about suffering and brokenness with an honesty that’s pretty unparalleled in the Christian music scene.

When we got to the Q&A session most of the people were asking questions like “What’s *insert song that’s meant to be ambiguous* about?” It was pretty frustrating. But one of the things that stuck out to me was that even though the questions were awfully shallow, some of the responses and stories had some incredible depth.

One of the things that stuck out was when Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine got the microphone and talked about how the language of our church has become so toxic. The language of our church has become one of exclusion. That’s not good. The language of our church ought to be language of recovery. That really resonated with me. So often the majority of Christians take this accusatory look toward culture — holding everyone to some sort of unspoken moral standard, just waiting to tear down. That doesn’t help anybody.

But the language of recovery comes from a place humility. It acknowledges that we are all displaced from where we ought to be. It starts with acknowledging the brokenness of all, which is where so many people come up short. It takes that attitude that ‘I’m more than happy to point out your brokenness, but don’t you dare point out mine!’ It’s so unhealthy.

There’s one song that really embodies this idea of recovery and what recovery looks like. It’s the Jars of Clay song called “Oh My God”. In an interview they described this song as all of their laments to God — all the things that make them say “Oh my God”. Check it out! (It’s about 6 minutes long, but the verses and the build at the end are WELL worth the wait.)


What are your impressions of the song? Is there any language of recovery in your church? What do you think that would look like?


Music Monday Special Edition: Top 10 Albums of 2011

Alright, here it is. After a few solid days of listening to all kinds of albums and trying to narrow down which deserves to go where… I have it. These are, in my opinion, the 10 best albums. Here they are!

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One song from each of these has been loaded onto the What I’m Listening To page at the top of the website. Be sure to check those out as well.

10. Ashes & Fire – Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams came back this year doing what he does best — writing great melodies and some pretty haunting lyrics. For anyone who enjoyed his “Heartbreaker” or “Gold” discs, be sure to check this out.

Song to Check Out: “Lucky Now”

9. James Blake – James Blake

I was a little bit late on the James Blake train. But once I started his self-titled disc, it became hard to press stop. It’s a great mix of soul, dubstep, some great bass, and at times a church-ish sounding synthesized organ. Great, great album. Highly recommended. If you enjoyed The Streets, but wanted a little more production behind it, this would be a good album for you.

Song to Check Out: “I Never Learnt to Share”

8. Kiss Each Other Clean – Iron & Wine

I’m always a sucker for Iron & Wine. This year they kicked it up a notch with a more electric sound. Some great melodies and wonderfully smooth vocals translate to another good progression forward for Iron & Wine. If you like Sam Beam’s earlier stuff and have a bit of an open mind, I would highly recommend it.

Song to Check Out: “Tree By the River”

7. Nothing is Wrong – Dawes

I was out at Old Chicago in Uptown with my friend Petter earlier this summer and he told me to check out Dawes, particularly their new album. From then on, it has been a staple in my CD rotation in my car. There’s a Tom Petty/Jackson Browne-ness to some of the songs on this disc. It’s a great recall to the 70’s singer-songwriter pop/folk/rock era.

Song to Check Out: “A Little Bit of Everything”

6. Circuital – My Morning Jacket

In the past, I have been so slow to catch up to the My Morning Jacket train. But on this album, there’s a little bit of everything. Jim James mixes it up from a psychedelic ode to death metal to a couple sweet love songs and always heavy on the jams. Great disc to put in on a country road in the summer — or in a dirt road in Arizona in the winter, as the case may be.

Song to Check Out: “Circuital”

5. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart

I forget who it was that told me about The Head and the Heart. But whoever it was, I’m grateful. I’ll always think of the summer of 2011 when I listen to this disc because I wore this CD out. A great blend of harmonies and bluegrassy folk. I’d highly recommend getting this disc if you enjoy good music — particularly in the Avett Brothers/The National/Blind Pilot arena.

Song to Check Out: “Lost In My Mind”

4. Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars

This whole disc also got a lot of play between my CD player and the many copies I’ve burned for my wife, which have been played and played (and played and played). It’s a wonderful album through and through. The way that John Paul White and Joy Williams play off of each other adds so much depth to their songs. Wonderful album and a great live act too. We saw them at the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis last April. Find them if you can.

Song to Check Out: “Poison & Wine”

3. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83

I just recently got in to M83. On Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, we’re taken as listeners to a kind of supersonic place. It’s MGMT-meets-Muse-meets-Cut Copy. It’s an epic trip into what sound and melody can do. If James Blake’s album was the minimalist album of the year, this is the maximalist. There’s things going on everywhere in every song. But it works. And it’s what makes it great.

Song to Check Out: “Midnight City”

2. Watch the Throne – Jay-Z & Kanye West

Admittedly, this was the album I was waiting most of the year for. On the heels of Kanye West’s best album yet, he was going to follow it up by partnering with Jay-Z for an entire album. I wasn’t quite sure what to think on the first few listens. Certain songs stuck out — “No Church in the Wild”,”Ni**as in Paris”, “Otis”, “Who Gon’ Stop Me”, “Made In America”, and “H.A.M.” to name a few. But the disc as a whole didn’t strike me. Then I kept listening. And listened some more. And after a few listens I wasn’t even noticing when the songs changed. And you know that’s a good album when you don’t even think about skipping the next track.

Song to Check Out: “Otis”

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

This might not come to anyone’s surprise if you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time. I talk about this album — particularly the song “Holocene” — often. It’s the soundtrack for any writing I do. It’s the music I keep in the background any time I can. It’s just an incredible album. I would highly, highly, highly recommend it. There was one night where I listened to “Perth”, “Holocene”, and “Calgary” on repeat for hours until I’m sure Megan was about to scream. But it’s just that good. I could’ve kept listening for hours after that. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

Song to Check Out: “Holocene”

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
King of Limbs – Radiohead
Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
House of Balloons – The Weeknd
Zonoscope – Cut Copy
Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Black Up – Shabazz Palaces
Ceremonials – Florence & The Machine
Take Care – Drake
21 – Adele

So those are my favorite albums of 2011. What are yours? What album could you not stop listening to this year? I’d love to hear them.

Again, be sure to swing by the What I’m Listening To tab on the top of the page to listen to all of the songs that I recommended off each of these albums. And enjoy!


Music Monday: Avett Brothers Edition

Last Friday, my wife, Megan and I go to see The Avett Brothers live down here in Mesa. And they killed it. I mean absolutely killed it. They have so much energy and are so great live. I’d highly recommend seeing them if you get the chance. To whet your appetite, I decided they needed to be the focus of Music Monday.

Here are some of my favorites of theirs. I put a couple of their better known ones on here so you had a frame of reference.

  • “I and Love and You” is the first single of their latest disc. No matter how many times I listen to this song, it still hits hard.
  • “The Ballad of Love and Hate” was actually the first song I ever heard from them. Such great imagery. I almost used this song in my sermon on love this past weekend.
  • “January Wedding” is Megan’s favorite song. I think partly because of the line “True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down”… But that’s just me. It’s very sweet and showcases some of their incredible harmonies. Enjoy.
  • “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” is a phenomenal song. You almost can’t help but sway with the rhythm of the beat. It also has the awesome, awesome line “Decide what to be, then go be it”.
  • When I was going around youtube looking for some different live versions I came across this sweet little version of Scott doing “Just a Closer Walk”. His daughter kind of steals it, but it’s still a very sweet video.
  • BONUS: I figured since I saw them, I should post a video from the concert. Here’s them at the Mesa Amphitheater doing a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Slip Slidin’ Away”. Actually has pretty good sound quality too.
Which one struck you as your favorite? If you are familiar with them, what are some of your favorites that I didn’t post here? They’re a great band and, like I said earlier, I would definitely recommend getting their music & finding a show close by because they are wonderful live.
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