Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Coming out April, 2012!
Who is coming to see it opening day with me???

This book changed my life. It has changed the lives of many others. Come support this little film that could, almost completely crowd-sponsored! Let's make some more waves.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Becoming a Mirror's Top 10 of 2011: Part Two

5.) The Head and The Heart - The Head and The Heart

Technically, this album was released in 2010, but late that year, THATH got picked up by Sub Pop Records, they went back in the studio to rerecord some of the songs, add some new ones, and remaster it for a 2011 re-release. And it is spectacular for a debut release from this Seattle sextet! They've been making their rounds across the nation, touring extensively and tirelessly promoting their blend of indie, folk, and pop. The album is full of backyard roots ditties that showcase their songwriting chops. I think THATH shine the best when they are grooving with driving percussion, syncopated saloon style piano, background "oohs" and "ahhs," and harmonies that drip with folk sensibility. I love the lazy vocal delivery from lead singer Josiah Johnson, "oh all the things people do for the ones that they love." This record will keep your toes tapping all the whole way home, and make you wonder why you left in the first place.

4.) David Bazan - Strange Negotiations

David Bazan comes off the high that came from 2009's critically lauded "Curse Your Branches" to write a new page in his confessional songwriting journal. This time, he comes with questions and criticisms of the current state of discourse in the media, the government, economy, and the flaws and repetitive nature of man. As only Bazan can, he writes with intensity, full disclosure, and an intimacy of his inner thoughts. His stories are heartbreaking, and while he doesn't fully rely on his dissatisfaction with religion this time around, he rails against falseness, inability to change, and still the beast of belief. He brings the full force of a backing rock band, giving each song its own unique pulse, from the fast paced openers "Wolves at the Door" and "Level With Yourself" to the quiet moments of introspection and longing in "Virginia" and "Won't Let Go." Bazan's ebb and flow in duality is ever evident, and makes him provocative and beautiful, one of the best songwriters today.

3.) John Mark McMillan - Economy 

2011 was the year of John Mark McMillan for me. His new record dropped, he toured prolifically with the David Crowder Band, Gungor, and Christ August, and I got to see him live twice! McMillan earned every single one of his new fans while on tour. He is the Boss, of Christian culture, pulling similar musical styles into his music as Springsteen. "Economy" is a robust release and a unifying experience to sing along with. McMillan has a way in his writing that rallies worship, his words ringing true for people across the board. He often sings in the collective "we" instead of the exclusive "I," as the audience joins in his praise, belting that "we live on the edge of a darkness, but daylight is coming on!" With such beautiful imagery contrasting darkness and light, one can only get lost in the solid hooks and sweeping guitar fills, as John Mark leads the anthems of ragtag believers just looking to praise "God's murdered son." Tune into JMM, turn it up, and shout at the top of your lungs. You won't regret a minute of it!

2.) Gungor - Ghosts Upon the Earth

Like a piece by Monet or van Gogh, "Ghosts Upon the Earth" is auditory artwork at its finest. The meticulous details that Michael Gungor, his wife Lisa, and the rest of the band infused throughout the record can be discovered by poring over the notes, lyrics, instrumentation choices, the quiet and intimate or the raucous and extravagant. "Let There Be" starts with a completely unstructured opening, mimicking the nothingness before creation, then morphs to an eruption of noise to showcase God's creativity. Just when songs seem to want to explode with distortion laden rock, Gungor pulls back to tie the audience into their tale. And in a loose conceptual way, the record accounts the story of grace, from creation, man celebrating nature and God's goodness, "The Fall" from grace and leaving the close bond with the Lord, God pursuing His unfaithful bride, the recognition of salvation from a kind Savior, and the triumphant celebration that greets us with Christ. "Ghosts" takes the listener on a profoundly heartbreaking yet hopeful adventure. I wish I had to the time to go song by song with my thoughts and emotions, but I'll end with the simply complex lyric, "when death dies, all things LIVE!" (Edit- If you pick up the record (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), read along with this, from the band themselves.)

1.) Bon Iver – Bon Iver

If there is one word to describe Justin Vernon's second release under his Bon Iver moniker, it would be grandiose! The self-titled record is full of life, pulsing with its own aura of authenticity and beauty. I remember the day this record came out. I was driving to work, and the sky was gray with a little rain. And then "Perth" slowly crept its way through my speakers with its reverb guitar trills, military snares, and faint echoes. It built upon itself with Vernon's strained falsetto harmonizing with itself until the boisterous midway point with syncopated percussion and blaring horns. I knew this album would stick with me and reveal something new about itself and about me with each listen. Bon Iver has come a long way from "For Emma, Forever Ago" which was basically Vernon alone, building songs from his scratchy acoustic guitar. While that album was lovely and personal in its own right, "Bon Iver" kicks down the doors of a possible sophomore slump with authority, a full band of players backing him up in the process. There are layers of saxophones, brass, flutes, strings, and woodwinds that all weave in and out of the almost soundscape-esque compositions. With folk inspiration, indie execution, and a jazz background, "Bon Iver" is a pastoral place to be, where "I can see for mile, miles, miles."


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Becoming a Mirror's Top 10 of 2011

10.) Josh Garrels - Love and War and The Sea In Between
Garrels sings freedom songs, songs that often sound old, with elements of folk, soul, and the occasional spoken word akin to Ray LaMontagne or Citizen Cope. Yet the instrumentation and a grooving band keeps it fresh and intimate. He sings with a gruff folk drawl on this ambitious 18 track record, full of introspection, yet plenty of prophetic and spiritual tones. His acoustic guitar work is flawless, as the band layers smooth rhythms on top of infectious melodies with horns, strings, organ/piano, and even accordions. Every song is crafted with precision and beauty. The backup vocals ease in and out of his lyrical thoughts with haunting harmonies. Garnered with themes of forgiveness and peace, this album fulls up my whole being with unhindered hope. Give the first three songs a spin, and I guarantee you will get swept away in Garrels's sea. Did I mention that he released this amazing album for free? Download the whole thing here.

9.) Switchfoot - Vice Verses
I have to admit that I've never been much of a Switchfoot fan. I understand their appeal, especially among Christians who want to like a Christian rock band who aren't all-up-in-yo-face about it (and who they can shamelessly share with their non-believer friends). I know this happens...I've seen it. But I digress. The point is, their new record exudes coolness, catchy hooks, memorable singalong choruses, and a lot of fun. "Vice Verses" rocks, point blank. Switchfoot chose to rely heavily on drum and bass this time around, crafting each song selectively to be rhythmically driven. And it shows, especially in the loud album opener "Afterlife" and the wonderfully disjointed "Selling the News." With their Christian roots, their lyrics rest on seeing the blessings among curses, and the dichotomy and trying to live an upright life. There is excitement about embracing this life to the fullest, and yearnings for grace and peace, all balanced over dirty guitar work and hard hitting chords. If you ever wrote off Switchfoot before, as I did, reconsider to check out "Vice Verses."

8.) The Milk Carton Kids - Prologue
The Milk Carton Kids came out of nowhere and completely blindsided me in December. I love when an album so unequivocally encapsulates a season of life. "Prologue" is always going to define Winter 2011 for me, as a beautiful backdrop to the short lonely days of November and December. When I listen, "Prologue" is longing incarnate, vocal harmonies that fill up all the dark places in my heart with calm. With just dual guitats at their helm, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale play songs that resonate with Americana style, echoes of Simon and Garfunkel. Their finger-picking is playful and intricate, overlaid with lyrics about leaving home or a love, finding oneself, and overcoming pain. I could easily see this record become an anthem for a long roadtrip, a soundtrack of self-discovery and personal enlightenment, or just a cloudy walk in falling snow. Here's to a long future for the Milk Carton Kids. Also, "Prologue" is also completely available for FREE on their website. Download it now!

7.) Kanye West and Jay-Z - Watch the Throne
As decadent and over the top as a record can be, "Watch the Throne" uses samples, guest vocals, producers, and musical styles galore! Even a little Justin Vernon Otis Redding coming through these speakers. But did you expect anything less than the two biggest moguls in the rap game today? Jay and Ye can barely stop to breathe while throwing down verses about all of their different watches, rocks, cars (Maybachs on Bachs on Bachs), money, celebrity connects, and the ladies. Their opulence and fame translates into extremely potent music for getting the people going (as Will Ferrell would suggest). "New Day" adds some new depth, where West expresses his pains and regrets for his son to be a better man than himself, while Jay-Z writes to his about the burdens of success and how he will not repeat the mistakes of his own father. Ultimately the two wordsmiths are, in fact, The Throne, made in America and living the dream big life. And with this collaboration, they most certainly want all eyes on them.

6.) Daniel Martin Moore - In the Cool of the Day
Daniel Martin Moore has been on my radar for a few years now, ever since he showed up in collaboration with folk cellist Ben Sollee for 2010 "Dear Companion." Well, 2011 brings us Moore's full length solo release "In the Cool of the Day," and it is absolutely delightful. Moore was inspired by a classic piano to pursue this project, reinventing traditional gospel and hymns. Wonderfully genre-defying, one can hear plenty of gospel, folk, jazz, and singer songwriter throughout the tracks. By keeping the heart and soul of the songs intact, Moore makes them all his own with personalized and updated lyrics. "In the Garden" reminisces of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, while "Closer Walk With Thee" could be spot on for Sondre Lerche. His straightforward vocals are unhindered in production, and the oft heart-wrenching piano, down home acoustic guitars, and splashy drums keep my ears transfixed. My only complaint is that I wish it were a longer record, clocking it at around a half hour.