Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cliche but not-so-average Christmas playlist!

ALSO, this is a music blog.
Seeing as it is December 24th, Christmas Eve, here are 24 songs to get you in the festive spirit. I am somewhat of a Christmas song collector, so it was daunting narrowing nearly 250 Christmas songs down to 24. I tried to choose ones that particularly touch me and/or eclectic versions I figured most people wouldn't have.

Some are straight ahead carols, some are artist's renditions of classics, some are classics, and some are just goofy! Enjoy and have a great Christmas.

1.) The Chipmunk Song - Alvin and the Chipmunks
2.) Come and Worship - Bebo Norman
3.) Blue Christmas - Bright Eyes
4.) Little Drummer Boy - The Dandy Warhols
5.) Christmas Song - Dave Matthews Band
6.) Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) - Death Cab for Cutie
7.) You Gotta Get Up - Five Iron Frenzy
8.) Holly Jolly Christmas - The Format
9.) Christmas Baby - G. Love
10.) Carol of the Meows - Guster
11.) Feliz Navidad - Home Grown
12.) Someday at Christmas - Jack Johnson
13.) Love Came Down at Christmas - Jars of Clay
14.) Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Mason Jennings
15.) O Come, O Come Emmanuel - The Normals
16.) I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - Pedro the Lion
17.) Winter Wonderland - Phantom Planet
18.) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Relient K
19.) Christmas Wrap - Run DMC
20.) What Child Is This? - Sojourn
21.) Oh Come All Ye Faithful - Twisted Sister
22.) O Holy Night - Valvalis
23.) Christmastime is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
24.) O Little Town of Bethlehem - The Young Fresh Fellows


DOWNLOAD NOW!

(Be on the lookout for a 2009 wrap-up, including but not limited to music, movies, and occurrences that made 2008 rather wonderful!)

And heaven and nature SING!

The muse of Christmas has been escaping me this year. I’ve wanted to write during these past few weeks about the holiday season and what it means to me, but I found myself so terribly wrapped up in the dread of finals week at school that nothing creative was going on inside or outside of my head. Since I’ve been home, family and friends have been possessing my attention, which is fitting and how it should be. However, that still means I have had little time to write. So, here I am, the morning of Christmas Eve, setting aside an hour or so (whatever I can get) while the house is still quiet to put some thoughts down.


Initially, I wanted to do an essay or rant-style post about the ever-frustrating plague of consumerism and materialism during Christmastime. I fall into the category of wanting to make gifts, spend time with the people I love, and worship God for all He is and everything He has done, the things we celebrate at Christmas. (Christmas can be a simple and beautiful holiday if we choose.) I might almost be a little too extreme in this camp of minimalist consumerism, but it is mostly to impress upon other folks the ridiculous attitude of shopping and buying when the holiday actually centers around the love of God coming down to us in the form of a baby. The two do not seem very congruous to me. Also, I’ve never been very good at receiving gifts.

At the same time, I see the merit of honest gift-giving with love and gift-getting with grace and thanks. The wise men came with precious items of great value to give the promised king. Thus, I find it hard to rage against the machine.

However, there are two more valid truths that are impressed upon me this time of year through hearing the Christmas story, ones that don’t leave me feeling chastising and hypocritical.


The first is that the first visitors of Jesus came and worshipped a baby (Matthew 1:11, Luke 2:20). I feel like this is so overlooked. Worship comes first. It is a beautiful and necessary reminder that Christmas would not exist without Christ. Because of this, all praise and honor be unto a baby who came to die, to be a sacrifice such that I can be forgiven and acceptable in God’s eyes. Therefore, I strive to worship, in everything I say and do. Acknowledgement of God’s awesome love and mercy this time of year is paramount.


The second is that God calls the lowly, the downtrodden, the rejected, and the underappreciated to be key players in His love story. The “least of these” shine in God’s orchestration. I love the story of the shepherds written in Luke 2, how they were probably dozing off on a clear, dark night, minding their own business, when they were chosen to receive the message of Jesus’ birth first! The angels came and filled the sky (they, too, were worshipping and praising, by the way!) and told good news of great joy for all people. What does God want to do with stinky shepherds? EVERYTHING! (Refer back to the part where the good news of great joy is for ALL PEOPLE.) This trend is seen time and time again throughout the gospels, and is emphasized in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

God can be whatever He wants to be, but I have a suspicion that He is a poet. What story of all-encompassing love and compassion could be written any better?

God be praised.


I encourage you, no matter who you are or where you are at in terms of God and faith-type things, to think about these things and what they mean in your life, and how God really makes this season so important and memorable for all of humanity.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Slice writing


I've been doing 'slice writing' for a couple months. I call it that because whenever I am, whatever I'm doing, I write anything and everything that I can describe around me, all the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and everything that I am experiencing in that one moment. I try and bring God into every slice, where I can see Him, feel Him, know Him. It is refreshing and inspiring to enjoy each moment, each slice, as a passing landmark in my life that will never be repeated.

A slice from retreat:

Sunday morning. I’m only half awake, but I am awake. Light dawns on a weary world. The morning shadows are shortening, and everything points to a beautiful day. I’m here in the outside, and you are here also. The sun is rising to the right. It forces me to squint my eyes, just enough to give everything a beautiful haze. Low clouds of fog are rolling quickly across the hills in front of us. The dew lifts in one misty layer, a lowered cloud, just enough to tickle my face.

It is October. It isn’t cold, but certainly not warm, except where the sun is hitting us directly. The barns are in the valley, white and standing tall and firm. The grass is drenched with dew and the rainfall from the past few days. It appears as if each blade is being baptized. Then, a breeze makes the open field look as if every single sprig is shaking, dancing to a silent song of divine orchestration. They seem to be wiggling with joy and delight. They are excited to see Sunday morning come. They know of its importance. It is a celebration, and all of creation is screaming it out. If you take the time to listen, it can be quite overwhelming. It can hurt your ears.

Everything looks and feels so alive. The earth feels like she is breathing. I hear a bird’s melody, then again, over and over. There are many birds. They are crying out in praise you created. The birds have known these songs since their inception. A dog barks in the distance. The fall leaves scatter on the ground, and the forest covering the hills are a painted mosaic of green, orange, red, yellow, and brown dots. The birds now take to flight. They are about their business. The earth is awake. You woke her up. She smiles, seeing another day. You are about your business, too.




Thursday, October 23, 2008

Uninspired.


Personally, I've been horrifically uninspired recently, mostly because I simply haven't had the time to read and write as I would like. I've been holed up day and night at my apartment cramming textbooks into my head. I've been wading through midterm after midterm, paper after paper all this week. All my free time has been at my desk, muddling through Powerpoint slides about the many Mercator map projections in ArcGIS and the difference between Cnidaria and Ctenophores... LOLZ!

Music has been insurmountably inspiring, though. All this studying has allowed me to become reacquainted best friends with iTunes. Hooray. Where would I be without thee?

I might admit that I have an unnecessary amount of music. (But I won't admit it...) But through all the random downloads, test albums, artists/songs being referred or sent to me by friends, and so forth, I have a large backlog of music I just haven't listened to. To combat this, I have made an "unlistened" playlist, consisting of those song whose "Play Counts" are ZERO. It started at about 8 days worth of unlistened music (seriously). More or less through this week alone, I have knocked it down to under 6 days. (Currently sitting at 5 days, 22 hours.) It is a fun challenge. And it is also letting me check out new music and dust off some old favorites I just haven't listened to on my laptop yet. Good times.

I'm going away this weekend. I hope a few days in the woods will spur me into some sort of creativity. This drought is driving me a little more insane.

COMING ATTRACTIONS
- post about some of my favorite movies
- post about those albums that are solid start to finish
- post with recent album reviews
- hopefully more fun little playlist downloads
- other jams, just for kicks

For now, a completely non-cohesive teaser five songs that have been making me happy.
1.) A Change is Gonna Come - Ben Sollee
2.) Bells - Anathallo
3.) Dirty Orchestra - Black Violin
4.) Let's Embrace - Joseph Arthur
5.) Shiver - Xavier Rudd

There's a folk cellist, a minimalist band, a hip-hop violin duo, a singer/songwriter, and a didgeridoo rocking Aussie. Ya dig?

Download.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fall is vulnerable.

Fall is vulnerable. You can’t be verbose about fall because it is a season of whispers and secrets. To talk about it too much would be taboo. There are chills. There are hints of winter. But no one says a word. We all want to hold on to the last traces of summer.

Fall is poetic. The air is fresh in fall. It is crisp. You can feel it expand in your lungs as you breathe. The hairs on your arms get rigid. Skin gets an extra covering of clothes as trees shed theirs in elaborate and envious ways. You pull your collar closer to your neck and breathe hot air into your hands. A shiver.

Fall is nostalgic. The sun shines bright yet appears somehow dimmer, realizing its own warmth will soon take a bow and let cold steal the limelight. We see our frosty breath for the first time on an evening of fallen leaves and cotton hats. We grow anxious. But we still don’t talk about it. Not a word.


Songs for watching leaves change.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The mix.

Every had one of those days where you just can't seem to get your stuff right?

Today was odd. I suppose that is a proper and fitting word. I can't think of one to describe it differently or better. That is to say, it was not a good day. That is to say, it was not a bad day.

I think I left my iPod in the Armory on campus last night when I left practice with the worship team. That was unfortunate. I did not discover it was missing until I woke up this morning.
(If I have the time in the morning, I usually pop in the ear buds to let a song wake me up in a calmer fashion than my alarm clock. It's weird, I know... wake up just to lounge in bed to wake up differently. But that's what I do. Music does that to me, and it has become habit.)
So when I went to look for 'Steve,' he was missing. And thus, my day began. As soon as I finished my bowl of Rice Krispies, I mounted my bike and pounded the pavement to campus. En route, I only had my mind on getting there as fast as I could and retrieve my music, whereas it should have been focused on paying attention to the road. Without going into too much embarrassing detail, I nearly rammed right into a guy hobbling across the road on a broken foot. I braked just in time and one of my flip flops (which is always a poor choice while biking) flew off into the road. I turned to extreme apologetic measures, gathered my wayward shoe, and, red faced, pedaled off to the Armory.

(Even amidst unfortunate situations, there is always hope.)

I finally got there around 11am. A class was in the room we were practicing in last night so I waited around for a good time to interrupt.

Meanwhile, as I was sitting on a very uncomfortable bench reading the school paper, I noticed a lady using the vending machine. She inserted her money and pushed the buttons. Nothing. She gave a "humph," and put more money in. Again, nothing. A disgruntled and frustrated sigh, purposefully loud.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her looking my direction. I asked her if she needed help. I walked up and tried giving the machine a shake. Nothing. I offered her a dollar, and she accepted. She put it in, hit the same miscalculated buttons. Nothing. Three prepackaged danishes were backed up by that tight little black coil.
All the machine shaking and general ruckus was causing quite a stir in the hallway, and another guy stepped up. We shook the machine together... in unison... back and forth... forcefully. Nothing. When it looked like all hope was lost, a very large guy came up, shook it with one hand, and four snacks fell down to the slot. He looked up and said, "Looks like football is finally paying off." The lady, being very grateful for all the assistance, gave each one of us one of the treats.

(Even amidst unfortunate situations, there is always hope.)

I finally got up the nerve to knock and enter the classroom where I left my iPod. The class and professor looked up at me as I awkwardly asked, "May I interrupt for a second?"
"I think you just did," came the professor's response. Cold.
As I explained my situation, the professor and class grew more courteous and understanding. I think I put on my best puppy dog eyes to gain sympathy points. The bad news was that no one had seen Steve. The good news was that they were the first and only class in there up to that point today, meaning only they or the facilities crew were in there at all.
They directed me to the lost and found. That did not produce any results either. But I got a number to call for the building and facilities management, who takes care of the rooms being clean and orderly. I left a nice-sounding lady a message of despair. I hope they get back to me promptly tomorrow morning.

All in all, I can hope for either of two outcomes.
1.) I get Steve back safe and sound.

2.) Someone discovers a loving Savior in Jesus through much of the music on there.

I finally got to work, just in time (read: ridiculously close to being late to opening up the shop). My boss understood what I was up to, and all was well. A guy and gal came in to return 5 four-person tents. We went to the back room to set them all up so I could check to make sure they were clean, undamaged, and complete.
Usually, with such a large rental, the customer is very annoyed by this process of setting up tents that they are returning to us, wasting their valuable time. It can feel rather tedious and unnecessary. However, these two customers were the most courteous people, very helpful throughout the whole process. It was such a blessing. Also, midway through the setup, a really good friend of mine popped in the store to surprise me with a mix CD, which I am listening to right now. Something so simple meant a lot on what felt like such an upside-down day to me.

So as you can see, I do not know where this day falls on the spectrum.
Why not just let it be what it is and praise God.

(Even amidst unfortunate situations, there is always hope.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Don't let your eyes get used to darkness.

Howdy there, people with computers.
I am going to keep this fairly short and sweet.
God is good, forever and ever. Amen.

Can you even imagine what the world would be like if God chose to not be good? Some people think that about God, and I suppose God can choose whatever He wants. But I can't imagine it. I have had too many times where I stood at the precipice of a dark cliff, considering whether or not to jump, just to have something or someone hold my hand and make me feel more important that I ever thought about myself.

(JJ Heller currently has her new CD "Painted Red" available for free download from her site! DO IT!)

Sorry about not posting in a long while. A new semester has begun, and like the dorky college kid I am, I have been remarkably busy by actually going to class, keeping up with reading and studying, having meetings and workshops, worship practice and hanging out with friends. It has been quite crazy, and I often feel like I am a chicken with its head cut off. But insanity has subsided for a more normalized and routine schedule. In the between times, I've been having some sweet biking adventures, both solo and with friends. On to some music news... I am really excited about some
albums coming out in the coming months... and I mean REALLY EXCITED, because they are by some of my favorite bands.

1.) Anti-Meridian (Brave Saint Saturn)
I am going to assume you don't know Brave Saint Saturn (from here on out, BS2). But I bet you know most of the guys involved, the lead guitarist and singer being the one and only Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy fame. While FIF was plugging along, Roper wrote songs of a more introspective and deep nature. He did not think that the FIF set-up would be the proper stage for them, so he started a new moniker, Brave Saint Saturn. What I like about this band, other than the obvious beautifully-written songs about faith, hope, love, loss, and loneliness, is that each album is one installment in the Saturn 5 Trilogy, concept albums of epic and lush proportions logging the travels of a group of astronauts as they drift through space. It sounds kinda dorky, but trust me on this one. "Anti-Meridian" will the third and final (tear) album for the trilogy (hopefully not of the band). It is due out September 15th. Luckily, mine is preordered and hopefully being processed as I type!!!

2.) Canopy Glow (Anathallo)
You might know them from their song "Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!" in the background of a Vick's commercial, but Anathallo is far from selling out. The members of Anathallo, in my opinion, are some of the most innovative and dedicated musicians, honing their instrumental skills individually and with each other to build massive songs of swelling dynamics and odd fluctuating time signatures. I've seen them live twice now, and despite all the changing song structures, never has a member missed a note or beat. It ends of being sonic poetry. Following up their 2006 release "Floating World," "Canopy Glow" has a lot to live up to, but I am 100% confident that Anathallo can maintain their energy, beauty, and appeal. Still not sold yet? Go to their myspace and listen to the new jam "Noni's Field" which will be included on the new record. It will hit indie record stores November 18th.

3.) Gossip in the Grain (Ray LaMontagne)
Beautiful sultry folk with a flair for soul-singing and soul-searching. I don't have many expectations for this album except that I know LaMontagne's capability to write high-quality lyrics that take you with him whereever he would have you go. I expect nothing less. To be released October 14th.

4.) Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind EP/ Mean Everything to Nothing (Manchester Orchestra)
A dual hope for MO as they release a new EP on October 14th and keep chugging away at recording their followup to "Like A Virgin Losing A Child," which now has an official title, "Mean Everything to Nothing." The new full-length isn't due out until 2009, so it's all speculation as to how MO will approach a new cd. Will they maintain their catchy hooks, easy accesibility and spiritual themed lyrics or go a different route, ending up more experimental or heavy? We will have to see. What I do know is that the EP is a CD/DVD package with 2 new songs and 3 live versions of MO favorites or Andy Hull originals. The DVD has some good stuff on it too, including the much-anticipated MO documentary "What's Left Behind."
On a similar note, Andy Hull will be releasing his second disc under the name Right Away, Great Captain! called "The Eventually Home," due out November 11th. Go to his myspace (linked above) to download some cover songs he recorded to tide anxious fans over. Those guys are really really busy these days.

5.) Hope for the Hopeless (Brett Dennen)
I don't know much about this record yet except that it follows the amazing Dennen debut "So Much More" which I found particularly moving and definitely one of my favorite records of the past year. Inspirational and fun, Dennen writes with conviction, love, and hope for humanity. Also, Femi Kuti AND Missy Higgins will be making appearances on the new disc as far as I can tell, which is very exciting!!! One track is available on iTunes already. The whole cd will be out October 21st.

Extra Tidbits
mewithoutYou is currently in the studio cooking up something spectacular to be sure. If you have the time, check out three new songs that they sang on tour this summer. Youtube links below, tentative song titles.
(David and the Angel of Death) (God, God, God) (Beetle King)

Also, Jesse Lacey has been solo on the road for awhile now but has been debuted at least one song (maybe more) that is supposedly going to be recorded under Brand New. Youtube links below,
tentative song title.
(Bride- solo) (Bride- Brand New)

Well that's it for this edition. Sorry it's all news and info and no songs to download. But I hope I enlightened you to some new music you hadn't heard of before or directed you to where you can download some sweet tunes. I hope you can navigate your way to supporting these artists as their cds come out.

Pax.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Come together.

I feel like my cred is diminishing for not posting anything substantial in a long while.
But oh well. For anyone who reads this, sorry. I've been busy working at my jobs and trying to hold down a decent social life.
I've also been working on writing new music (which I haven't done in about 7 months) and trying to finish up these two short stories that I started this summer. So far, I'm proud of them. One is almost done. The other I will have to rework on account of its terribleness. They are different, for sure, but the stories are interesting for me to investigate, adding more and more detail to weave the characters' folklore and doom. Cackle.

The opening ceremonies for the Olympics was tonight, as everyone on the planet knows, and let me tell you, I was completely floored by the spectacle put together by the Chinese film director who organized the ceremony. From one of the world's largest LED screens scrolling beautiful scenes and mesmerizing colors, to thousands of men coordinated in an epic tai chi demonstration, to boxes lifting up and down, flowing as if made of water, to spectacular fireworks around every turn, everything kept my eyes riveted to the television screen.
Not only the visuals and history put on display, but the overall theme and message therein of harmony, unity, and togetherness in humanity was beautifully illustrated.

And it makes me feel good to see the world come together, celebrate beauty, art, culture, and athleticism. I wish the world was like the Olympics all the time. More about this later.

Cheers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Five: They call me the Enforcer.

Yesterday I...
...saved one little boy from drowning (twice).
...got two free Slurpees from 711's Free Slurpee Day.
...made three children cry.
...taught four kids how to dive.
...survived a five day work week.

In honor of these five things and just for fun, DOWNLOAD five sweet cover songs.

1.) Nature Boy (eden ahbez, popularized by Nat King Cole and David Bowie) - Beat Soup
2.) I Melt With You (Modern English) - Mest
3.) Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper) - Quietdrive
4.) Such Great Heights (The Postal Service) - Ben Folds
5.) Wild World (Cat Stevens) - The Format (R.I.P.)


A big new post highlighting a GREAT band is in the works. Check back often.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My hands are tied.

Make Everything Glorious And New.
Move Cautiously; Fumbling Erratically Everywhere Loosens Even You.
Then He Is Serious. I'm Serious. You Open Up Ridges.
Fallacy And Unbiased Legislative Terms.

Did you catch that?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stormytime storytime

I'm sitting here on my bed recounting how summer is flying by so fast. Outside, a beautifully epic summer storm is raging. I have only the dim light glow of my laptop screen to illuminate my room such that most of my room is dark. Every so often, the lightning will cast eerie shadows by permeating my window and blinds with its pale green flash. There it was! Now wait. It is coming, I promise. It always comes. One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. Clap! The thunder rattled the loose panes in this rickety old house. Gone forever. Damien Rice's "O" is keeping me company.

It is times like this where I always kind of wish the power would go out (despite me currently typing this entry on a depleted battery). If the power goes out, the family huddles. We find the quick fix flashlights to use only for a few minutes, enough to fumble some lit matches to light to some candle wicks. The candles are spread out around the main rooms of the house: the kitchen, the bathroom (for aiming purposes mostly), and the living room. We all usually gather in the living room and sit around waiting. It is a patient waiting, not in any sort of rush for the electricity to return. The point is that all the modern entertainments to which we normally flock use this juice that is not currently supplied. Televisions and computers are just black reflective glass plates. Around this time is when all the good stories come out. We sit around and recount the heavy hitters (the stories that we all know well, have heard many times, and could probably retell in our sleep) but also dig up old memories, lesser known stories of interactions with people and events that brushed us across our souls quickly and simply but have left some lasting impression that we can recall. It gets into your psyche and messes with you, makes you think about how you and your parents got to be the people you are, how you are influenced by the small occurrences and what makes your unique stories define you.

But since the power IS on, everyone is milling about, doing their own thing around the house. Thus, I will share two recent anecdotes from my life with you. Enjoy.

I was at the mall recently. It is an outdoor mall with nearby woods and ponds, full of deer, squirrels, birds, and other typical wildlife. I had just finished running my errands, and I was carrying some bags back to the car. I was also halfway trying to type a quick text message to a friend, stopping at a busy intersection between stores and parking lots. A kind older man walked up behind me, patted me on the back, smiled and said "You better watch out, huh?" I didn't know exactly what he was talking about so I looked up from my cell phone to see where he was pointing. On the sidewalk right in front of me was a family of ducks, one mama duck and a small consortium of baby ducklings scurrying to follow closely behind her. As if that wasn't already cute enough, they were all peeping at the top of their lungs, while shoppers stopped to smile and enjoy the tenderness of the moment. The mama hopped off the curb into the road to cross the busy street, and like any good ducklings, all the little babies followed her. Needless to say, this stopped traffic. No one was moving, as the ducks paraded slowly into the lane. By this point, the mama duck must have thought it was dangerous to continue this way into the path of cars, so she turned around and hopped right back up onto the curb in front of me. Well, the anxious fuzzy ducklings turned to copy her lead and attempted to hop up onto the sidewalk as well. They could not do it. The curb was just too high for their little legs. The peeping grew louder, and the mama duck turned around to get their attention. The interaction between them was beautiful. She was watching them so intently, guiding them and making them feel safe. Once she had their attention, she slowly walked down the edge of the curb parallel to them as they walked along the road. She checked back frequently, making sure they all followed until they reached the dip in the sidewalk, the ramp area meant for handicap accessibility, where the curb lowers. The ducklings waddled and scuttled up the concrete ramp and huddled as close to their mother as they could get. Some shoppers clapped at the reunion. Traffic restarted. And the mama duck merely walked away into the nearest brush, leading her babies in tow.

Last week, my church transformed into a Jerusalem marketplace for this year's vacation bible school theme. There were tents set up in and outside the building, decked out in canvas, woven baskets, antique-style throw rugs, and other decorations to resemble a worn biblical era thoroughfare. Outside, a sizable well was "constructed" as a hub of conversation and activity. There was a makeshift synagogue and carpentry, musical instruments, herbs and spices, weaving, and jewelry shops with busy merchants (members of the church). The theme was set up as a character immersion technique where each vendor stayed in character throughout the night as they interacted with the children and other characters. I ran the instrument shop and wore biblical garb all week, talking to the kids about the whereabouts of Christ and helping them building little rubber band harps. One of the most enjoyable kids to hang out with was this little girl named Kellie. Kellie is 5 years old, small and skinny with a beaming toothy smile that never quits and a heart of gold. She got very wrapped up in the week and was definitely having a fun time learning, doing the activities and crafts, and being in the experience.
The week was structured loosely on Holy Week, Monday being Jesus entrance to Jerusalem on the donkey, Tuesday his teachings, Wednesday his praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Thursday his arrest and crucifixion, and finally Friday as the finale and culmination where Jesus is ressurected. Everyday leading up to Friday, we merchants in the marketplace talked
about Jesus but the kids never saw a Jesus character. But then Friday came, Easter day, and word was being spread around VBS that Jesus had been risen and was coming to see everyone. This piqued our interest (and was a little offputting with people walking around saying "Jesus is coming..." You get the idea). Anyway, at the closing ceromony/celebration, we did our usual, singing songs and making some announcements when, from out of the side door of the church, Jesus comes out in a white robe and purple sash (played wonderfully by one of my church's pastors-in-training). He took everyone by surprise and begins walking among all the children, shaking hands, giving hugs, and blessing them and telling them that he loves them so much. Truly a poignant and poetic scene. But then, I saw Jesus come up to Kellie. Now this pastor is a tall guy, so the constrast between him and 5 year old Kellie is immense. She just looked up at him straight in the eye in wide-eyed wonder, then wrapped her arms as far as they could go around his legs, burying her head in his robe around his knees. She seemed a bit upset so he leaned down to her and asked her what was wrong. She just looked back at him with slight tears welling up in her eyes and said (and I quote), "We missed you so much."

Take from these what you will, but these small little interactions have made somewhat of a deep impact on me the last week. I cannot shake the simple displays of innocence and love, and I hope I told them in such a way that you can relate. Love can be found all around. Look for it. It may surprise you when it is revealed. It whispers quietly in the world.

Anyway, this post has gotten away from me, and the clock is nearly 2AM without my knowledge. I will end with a small sampling of the album that has gotten me through writing this. Afterall, this is a music blog, not a duck and VBS story extravaganza. Sheesh.

Download fo sho.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Judicature duty?

Summer has officially kicked off.
Finals are done (triumphantly), books are sold back (at less than half of what I paid), everything is moved home (successfully), and nothing can stop me now (well.....)

Jury duty thoroughly and utterly ruined my Monday. From 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM (NINE HOURS MIND YOU), I sat on an unpadded and uncomfortably small chair in a room full of people of every color, religion, race, and so forth murmuring about politics, celebrities, and other nonsense. I made small talk with some folks. We all mostly just discussed our poor predicament and commented on what else we could be doing with our time. I eventually caught the attention of some attractive college-aged girls who were also there for the first time. They seemed to know each other, and we shot the breeze and found out we know a lot of the same people. Small world.

Other than my fancy dress wear (apparently you don't have to look nice for jury duty, but I didn't get the memo), I had on me my wallet, my keys, my cell phone, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau. So save for a couple text message conversations, I was quite bored and nonplussed about the whole situation. I didn't feel like reading the provided periodicals. With names like (and I am NOT making this up) Court Review, Trial Magazine, and (my favorite) Judicature, they did not seem very appealing. Instead, Walden kept me company, but I would have preferred my iPod to let the smooth sounds carry me away from that courthouse.

It would have been nice, but alas, they do not let such electronics into the building. It makes no sense to me. Surely, I would not listen to music during an actual trial. So do they think the lyrics of songs may sway a juror's opinion in a case? Ridiculous.

Save that monstrosity of a day, which when over felt like I had completed a marathon (of sitting), the break has been good to me. Today, I broke out my hammock for the inaugural first outdoor nap of the season. Mother Nature afforded me a sweet soft breeze, and my eyes shut without restraint. And out of this serenity, I made a playlist of all instrumental music that I would love to share with you. An hour and a half of lyric-free swells and crescendos. So, without further ado...


Let the Instruments Play
1.) Rudiments of a Spiritual Life - The American Dollar
2.) Yuki! Yuki! Yuki! - Anathallo
3.) The Confusion Before Dreams - Casey Driessen
4.) First Breath After Coma - Explosions in the Sky
5.) Backward Blues - The Fire Theft
6.) The End of Dying - Foxhole
7.) Road - George Winston
8.) Altogether Remarkable - House on Ponce de Leon
9.) Soft Sculpture - Incubus
10.) On the Nature of Daylight - Max Richter
11.) Do You Think There's a Heaven? - Mychael Danna
12.) Andy Wolff - Minus the Bear
13.) Smoothie Song - Nickel Creek
14.) I'll Be OK (Instrumental Reprise) - Sondre Lerche
15.) To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region... - Sufjan Stevens
16.) Mr. Tortoise - Technology
17.) Untitled - theHOPEsymphony
18.) Carnival Barker - Third Eye Blind
19.) Old Ironside - Unwed Sailor
20.)La Valse D'Amelie (Orchestra Version) - Yann Tiersen

21.) Nuclear Summer (Instrumental) - Youngblood Brass Orchestra
22.) Ravel's String Quartet In F Major (Second Movement) - Ysa├┐e Quartet


DOWNLOAD and enjoy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Alright, ladies and gents.

One final is done, and seeing how it is a Monday, here I am to inform the masses of a spectacular event occurring tomorrow.

Tomorrow, one of my favorite bands, Showbread, is releasing not one, but TWO albums simultaneously. Thus far in this blog, I've written about Counting Crows, The Snake the Cross the Crown, and OAR, but Showbread truly is something completely different (if I may be so bold as to quote the always hilarious Monty Python). Where previously mentioned bands are easy listening with lush melodies and beauty, Showbread is a burst of noise to your eardrum, complete with screeching vocals from Josh Dies, ripping guitar, pounding drums, and even a keytar for good measure. (And they sure do know how to utilize the keytar!)

I am going to take this opportunity to school some of you in the ways of Showbread. For those of you who think they were a new band who burst onto the scene with 2004's "No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical," you are sadly mistaken. There is a rich, rough history of Showbread that predates "No Sir..." by a long shot. (For those of you who still have no idea who I am talking about, please go to wikipedia.org, scroll down to the itty-bitty search bar, type in "Showbread," wait for your internet to load the page, click the link at the top that says "Showbread (band)," and read. As you can see, I've done this before.) If you do not care, don't do the aforementioned steps. If you do not have the internet, I would question how you're reading this blog. Alas, I digress.

Showbread's first CD is titled "The Dissonance of Discontent," but it is so far out of circulation that I have never heard it and know nothing about it really.

Showbread's second CD came out in 1999, titled "Goodbye is Forever."
This album I have listened to, and let me tell you, IT IS RAW. Lo-fi recording quality and all the signs of a band in their early stages trying to make too much noise.
Download it here.

Their third release came in 2000 as a five song EP entitled "Human Beings Are Too Shallow to Fall in Love." The recording quality has stepped up a bit here, but none of the raw thrash energy was lost. If anything, it has been refined and made more crisp. The band has found a more harmonious balance between screaming and singing, as well.
Download it here.

Next up is another five song EP, this time titled "Goodnight Sweetheart, The Stitches Are Coming Apart." This 2001 release is very much in the same vein as the previous EP, still not great quality of songwriting or recording but a small step up.
Download it here.

At this point, the band had garnered enough attention in the local Georgia scene and abroad through extensive touring to be signed to Steel Roots Records. They released their new full-length album "Life, Kisses, and Other Wasted Efforts" in 2002. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this album is supposedly still available every now and then at shows and on the web to purchase (albeit rare) so I am not going to upload it. So even though it showcases Showbread before their rise in the scene, it is still out there to be purchased. Go find it.

Then, "No Sir..." broke them through, allowing Showbread to reach a much broader audience and more popular success (if that is what you want to call it). They got signed to Tooth and Nail Records who, of course, got it distributed all over the place. Their glam rock appeal, shredding guitar riffs, pertinent and poetic lyrics, and powerfully killer live show chock-full-o-energy allowed their name to be spread.

Their most recent effort (until tomorrow's duel disc Anorexia Nervosa) was released in 2006 as "Age of Reptiles," showing Showbread's progress with a more mainstream rock sound with no energy lost. The hooks are catchier, drums are splashier, and the complete rock-out factor is through the roof! Both "No Sir.." and "AoR" are easily accessible through any music store with good taste or iTunes (therefore, no downloads).

In lieu of that, however, I will post a bundle of assorted Showbread knick knacks including demos of some "Life, Kisses...," "AoR," and "No Sir..." tracks as well as a Nine Inch Nails cover song.
Download it here.

And there you have it. You are now up to speed and ready to experience the new Showbread glory coming out tomorrow. Anorexia. Nervosa.

Monday, May 5, 2008

From under my pile of papers...



Hiatus until finals week (read "death week") is over.
I'll be back and better than ever with fresh new music, playlists, reviews, and downloads.
Don't you worry.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A long day.

I've been trying to update this every Monday.
It looks like that won't be the case this week.
I have a lot of work to take care of so I don't fail out of school.
I mean, technically, this is an update.
But, it isn't very good.
I think you would agree.
By the way, comments are your friend.
Request bands, songs, or albums, and I'll see what I can do.

In the meantime, here is a guy getting closelined by some Saran Wrap.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"May the jaws of life have cotton teeth."

This Monday morning met me with thunderstorms, heavy clouds, and a dreary wakeup. I stayed up late working on a paper for one of my seminars and had to get up early for class. That made for very minimal sleep, and when you wake up to drizzly conditions outside, you just want to hit the snooze button, roll back over, and let your dreams guide your way. But, I couldn't, so I stole off to a full day of learning.

Today, I was reminded of just how wonderful The Snake the Cross the Crown are as a band, and they simply fit my mood perfectly today. I discovered them when they opened a show in D.C. for mewithoutYou, one of my favorites artists. They were the first to go on, followed by Manchester Orchestra, and then mewithoutYou as the headliners. (At some point, I will write about those other two outfits because they are worth checking out, too. Trust me.)

But, getting back to the band at hand, which I'll shorthand as TSTCTC from now on, they commanded the stage at the show. Despite being an opener with the audience just starting to trickle through the doors of the club, they simply played their music. They performed song after song, note after note, with intensity and beauty, and after a few minutes, it struck me just how fluid they were and how much I felt they were enjoying what they were doing. I felt lucky for being able to catch them before all the local scenesters showed up and ruined the moment.

They released their second full-length disc titled "Cotton Teeth" on Equal Vision Records in May of 2007, and let me tell you, this album is a breath of fresh air among the bubble gum pop-rock or the cliche alternative crunch guitar nonsense heard on the airwaves these days. The album title came from a old southern toast that the band heard from fellow musician William Elliott Whitmore while on tour. He would raise his glass and say "May the jaws of life have cotton teeth."

And with that same mentality, TSTCTC comes at you with an album that captures a southern slice of Americana. They deviated from their first release, "Mander Salis" which is much more spacey indie rock. While promoting that album, the band decided to call the tour quits. They were tired and uninspired by the songs that they were playing every night and wanted to start at square one. After writing and recording for most of 2006, "Cotton Teeth" was produced and it finds these Alabama natives in full swing.

I guess I would describe their new sound as a fresh new take on folk-country rock with inspirations from Bob Dylan, The Band, and a more folk-infused version of Creedance Clearwater Revival. They do it all their own, pouring their heart and souls into the record, and it shows from beginning to end. If I put it on, hit play, and close my eyes, I am taken to a back porch of a house in the south, sitting in a rocking chair with my family close by, overlooking a field of swaying grass. I feel exhausted and gritty after a long day of work, and the sun is taking it's last bow beneath the trees in the distance, at the end of a summer day. It is a very small town feel, a throwback to a simpler and pleasant way of life. Through the lyrics and music, this records exudes maturity and a sense of timelessness.

The vocals swell from snarling power to a whisper, and you hang on every word as if a story is being told to just you, and you don't want to miss the ending. The musicianship is epic and diverse, ranging from the jangly saloon piano sounds of "The Great American Smokeout" to the seven minute opus "Electronic Dream Plant" (which reminds me of the Beatles "Hey Jude" because of the "na's" at the end). TSTCTC know just when to crescendo and build the band into full volume versus when to keep it relaxed and simple with a twangy acoustic guitar.

But don't take my word for it. If you like what you hear, go see them live, and they will blow you away.

Download: "Gypsy Melodies" (Right click, Save-as)
Download: "Behold the River" (Right click, Save-as)

Monday, April 14, 2008

This dizzy life is just a hanging tree.

Well, I was out of town all weekend, kayaking with some friends and generally just hanging out someplace that wasn't here. It is always refreshing and inspiring. After a full Saturday, I spent the night at my friend's apartment and woke up to a big breakfast and good conversation, then hit the road to come back home. Often, you need to just get away from the general normalcy of your day-to-day to experience some other place, some other city, some other friends. It gives you a better perspective for when you come back and feel like you're falling back into the drudgery and monotony of life.

For me, that was waking up early this morning after a rough night of sleep to go all the way across campus to my biometrics lab. I wish I could still be floating along the slow current, rowing when it feels necessary, relaxing when it doesn't, and simply listening to the wind brush the trees against each other and the birds sing their songs in response. So it is fitting to come back from a good escape of a weekend with an album called "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings."

In March of this year, Counting Crows recorded and released their first new album since 2002, following a greatest hits collection in 2003 (which is a wonderful sampling of their hits up to this point for anyone just starting to listen to Adam Duritz and the gang) and a live album tossed in there too.


The new album "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" seems to be hitting the spot for me as of late. In a sense, it is two shorter records, aptly titled "Saturday Nights" and... drum roll please... "Sunday Mornings"! Each was recorded with a different producer and subsequently has a different feel, "Nights" covering the rock and pop palette, with songs for any longtime lover of the band, and "Mornings" allowing them to delve into a country folk side that is as stylish as it is enjoyable to listen to. I'm not much for country music (and "Mornings" is certainly not country as the radio defines it today!) but it does make the folk genre seem all the more accessible.

Without going into the details about each individual track, it is hard to discuss this album as a whole except to say that it is catchy where it needs to be ("Hanging Tree"), boisterously fun at points, clean polished and yet with that Counting Crows grit that I love. There is plenty of driving keys, classic rock guitar riffs, satisfying harmonica ("On Almost Any Sunday Morning"), all overlaid with beautiful introspective lyrics that draw you in with curiosity, wit, and occasionally some clever sarcasm (check the end of "Los Angeles"). It even takes several jabs at the current socio-questionable state of America as we try to define our age and generation ("Cowboys"). And what Counting Crows albums is complete without the stripped-down ballad with Duritz's quivering vocals crooning over an epic piano piece? (None.) "On A Tuesday In Amsterdam Long Ago" does just that.

The album swells with poetry and emotion, like a wave crashing far out but then carrying you safely back to shore.
Download "Insignificant"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Come in. Sit down.

Thus commences "Becoming a mirror," my personal music blog.
Where to begin?
I cannot pinpoint when I first got turned on to music. My father raised me on the best of the best (and also some of the most eclectic and strange of the strange). His generation had such revolutionary musical breakthroughs. To begin listing them would be a waste of time and energy, suffice it to say that these musicians helped defined the generation that was.
My dad tells me the story of when I was really young and helping him with some menial task around the house. He put on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and after a couple plays (it's a relatively short album, if you didn't know), I look up at him and tell him that I really his music and that Marvin Gaye is really good. I still do hold "What's Going On" as one of the best and most cohesive albums I've heard. But by no means are my musical likes limited to the R&B/soul field by any means.
I am a rock and roller, through and through. I definitely love a quality and talented jam band. I like progressive music, instrumental epics, post-alt, folk, and anyone who can put a thought, idea, or story into words that capture it and lay the lyrics on a backdrop of beauty and leads the listener on a journey.
I do not have any credentials to write this blog at all other than the fact that I love music.
And, it's a strange thing, too, that a particular pattern of notes and noises can influence emotion so much, how songs just latch into your psyche and do not let go, how your life can revolve around an anthem, some lyrics that you feel define you in some way. It is really just air vibrations and waves that make a thin layer of tissue in your ears buzz in a pattern ever so slightly different than any other noise.
And these seemingly simple vibrations have given us the vast array of audio that we have ever experienced, from the mundane (a dog barking), to the annoying (a finger rubbing on a balloon), to the moving and lush musicianship of the great classical composers such as Bach,
Vivaldi, and Beethoven up to the bands we enjoy today.
I suppose that is enough of an introduction for now. Each post, I will show you a slice of what I've been listening to, what has been getting me through my days in this life. Maybe a concert review after a show every now and then. We will see where this goes.
(By the way, today, I was enjoying "In Between Now and Then" by the local jam-rock outfit, O.A.R. Unless you've been living under a rock, you have heard of these Marylanders. I highly recommend this album, one of their best in my opinion. They will be playing a FREE acoustic set on April 20th on the National Mall for the Green Apple Festival. Check it out!)