Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Panoramania Part Deux!

Same drill as last time... uploading my panorama photography here on my blog to get good quality uploads to share! Enjoy. Taken and compiled from lots of adventures and travels. Click each image for the larger version.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Drumroll... 5-1 Top Albums of 2010!!!

Thus ends this ridiculous charade. Bring it on, 2011. I like many of your jams already.

5.) Jukebox the Ghost- Everything Under the Sun

A fine sophomore follow-up release by the DC locals in Jukebox the Ghost, “Everything Under the Sun” presents how sensational pop albums could be. With catchy hooks and even catchier lyrics, Jukebox crafts ditties that should flow out of radios everywhere and will keep your head bobbing and toe tapping for months to come. They hit a frenetic high early with two fast jams about the dual lives in “Schizophrenia” and then about going “Half Crazy.” The keyboards and drums keep the beats coming with classy guitar work to round out their sound. “My heart is my keep, and you are threatening me!” sings Ben Thornewill on the single “Empire” over off-time syncopated rhythms. Some of their songs sound like they take a page out of Queen’s playbook, with the high vocals, bipolar time signature, and overall bipolar musicianship. Let Jukebox the Ghost give you many earworms! (Look it up. It isn’t as gross as it sounds!) 

4.) Gungor- Beautiful Things

I love it when a band comes along and shows me something completely new about worshiping God. Gungor hit me like a ton of bricks in 2010. I found out about them from John Mark McMillan’s blog. I checked them out and couldn’t believe the stark contrast between the scope and complexities of their style of praise and, say, the same four-chorded songs of Chris Tomlin. Don’t get me wrong. Tomlin and others like him have their place in their simplicity, but when I want something more dense and varied, I find the current scene of modern worship to be lacking. Enter Gungor. The opening track “Dry Bones” had me in tears at the first listen, as Michael Gungor shouts how God “will make ALL THINGS NEW!” There is passion in beauty, ugliness in confession, and exquisite musicianship to top it off. Gungor harnesses sound dynamics to build songs from quiet whispers into epic prayers. Praise never sounded so good. Please listen to this album, and let its loveliness sweep over you, as hope for this dark old world. 

3.) Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz

What can be said about Sufjan Stevens that has not already been said in every magazine, newspaper, blog, and coffee shop this past year? Everyone had an opinion to toss in the ring about his resurgence and stylistic change. Well here are my two cents. Whoever Sufjan wants to be, I will let him be it. 2010 was a HUGE year for him. The end. After several years of silence (more or less), he comes out with a double slam dunk with the “All Delighted People EP” and “The Age of Adz.” Long from his days of banjo-laden folk rock and whisper voice sensibility, Adz presents a whole new look at Sufjan with electronic noises and synth interference, yet the same backbone of lyrical craftsmanship and multi-instrumentation that I love about him. There are so many layers in his dense orchestration, and whenever I came back to this album, I found something new to enjoy (plus there is a 25 minute opus to close the disc). Yes, it is different, quirky, and grandiose. But, did you expect anything less from Sufjan?

2.) Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Say what you want about Kanye's character and general egotism, the man can craft some amazing beats and rhymes. Now, I don't have the know-how to adequately critique a rap album, but I know what I like, what makes me groove, what is catchy and complete in the care put into making it. And "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is just as the title implies, full of smart and crude poetry, inspired and ingenious samples, and guest vocalists by the tons. I imagine the production credits in the CD booklet to be GIGANTIC. Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, and even Bon Iver make an appearance on this collaborative ensemble disc. And I think that's what makes it shine. The extravagance of it all makes it something magnificent and powerful. There are classic rap songs (“Power”), there are clever puns and wordplay (“Monster”), and there are ballads with Kayne belting his heart out (“Runaway”). Only complaint: Chris Rock’s unnecessary appearance in “Blame Game.”

1.) Listener- Wooden Heart

In 2010, I found a like-minded soul in Dan Smith, lead singer/shouter/poet/lyricist of Listener. I love when I can connect with words and music perfectly and brilliantly, knowing the emotions behind them so well and wishing that I had written the same words in the same fashion. Luckily, Smith did it for me. All Aaron Weiss comparisons aside, Smith brings his own heart and soul to the table and cuts them wide open with words, displaying truth rarely seen in music nowadays. Occasionally he shouts, oftentimes he talks, sometimes he sings, but it is all raw and personal. Listener’s songs are stories and dreams strung together with profound similes and metaphors. With light touches of acoustic and electric guitar, horn, and drums, the instruments delicately hold these songs together to give them added vigor, strength, and substance to turn the commanding poetry into music. Themes of hope despite failure, uncertainty, and pain dance their way throughout “Wooden Heart,” making the album a surprisingly uplifting listen to me.
I don’t know how many time I returned to these lyrics for peace and encouragement, “So come on, let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief, and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach. Come on and sew us together. We’re just some tattered rags stained forever. We only have what we remember.”

And that's all she wrote.