Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Role of Redemption in the Creative Process



"I feel the darkness growing stronger, as you cram light down my throat. How does that work out for you in your quest to be above reproach?"


Here is a very interesting read. It's a transcript of a Calvin Festival of Faith & Music workshop led by the one and only David Bazan. I find myself returning to this article every once and awhile and it's always fresh and invigorating. Essential reading, particularly if you enjoy Bazan's work or if you are simply interested in reading about faith and redemption and their relation to the creative process in music, art, and just life in general.

As I've read this a number of times, I keep noticing things he says that just really resonate with me, really click with my own ideas and help me to clear up some things I've long believed somewhere in the backward recesses of my own mind (and heart?). It's a lengthy article, but well worth the read and I think it contains a lot of truths that many people don't realize or completely think through on their own.

Bazan does a solid job of revealing and explaining some misguided theologies that some Christians hold to - intentionally or not - and shows that they're just totally missing it...the point of what Jesus' sacrifice has done for us, the freedom we have because His success has replaced our failure(s). Another thing he said that really left an impression on me was the concept that everything we do is either worship or it's sin, but that even sometimes our worship can be sin - when it's a complete lie. When that is the case, God is seeing what we're doing and our failure in that aspect, However, it is being covered up by what Jesus has done for us and so He is pleased with us and can pour His love out over us, quenching that need that is inherently within everyone to feel loved, especially by the One whose impression is stamped on us because we were created in His image. Knowing this and being certain of it - that is what faith really is.

So, anyway, I'd really, really urge everyone that's checking in here on my blog to click over there when you have the time to read it and focus on what he's talking about, because it's really valuable wisdom that he's sharing. One thing that I've always admired and been drawn to so much in Bazan's work is his incredibly deep level of honesty. He's so real - no facades here - and very driven intellectually. He's done his thinking and research. Combine that with his experiences and background, and he has an enormous amount of wisdom. So seriously, read it when you have the chance.

Monday, December 20, 2004

10 albums i almost missed from 2003

as I've been busily preparing my list of my favorite music to come out of 2004, i've noticed that - like in previous years when i've done this - there have been a number of records that i missed out on last year, only to discover them at some point this year. all of these albums, for one reason or another, might be considered by some to be ineligible for 2004 lists. several have had my head spinning as i've been finalizing my best of 2004 list b/c i've wanted to include them. the only logical solution, at least for me, was to just compile this special 2003 list as a supplement to my upcoming best of 2004 list.
keep in mind that a few of these would be making a pretty darn serious run at my top 5 this year if they did indeed qualify. dead serious.
i'll try to have my 2004 list done real soon. until then, hunt down these records and then enjoy. okay, here we go:



my favorite: the happiest days of our lives (double agent records)
a total throwback to new-wave/goth, british synth-pop sound of the 80s, a la new order, the cure & the smiths, reinvented by this five-piece from nyc. gorgeous guy and girl vocals. extremely cohesive album. plenty of solid tunes. this album is just plain awesome. would've been great on the pretty in pink soundtrack. bonus points for a second disc full of remixes of a handful of the first disc's tracks. even though none of them top the original tracks, they're still worth repeated listens. i can honestly say this would be making a headstrong run at my #1 spot on the 2004 list if it had actually come out in 2004.
MP3: homeless club kids
MP3: the black cassette

Buy it at Insound!





rogue wave: out of the shadow (sub pop)
if you like the shins, you're gonna love rogue wave. it's as sure a bet as there could be. it's been said by just about everyone by now, but i'm sorry. it's just plain true. it's impossible to talk about this group w/o mentioning the shins. uncle. it's not as simple as a namedrop, though, b/c rogue wave are great in their own right. they have a certain element to them that is all their own, and i can almost guarantee you'll like them even if you've never heard of the shins. just take my word for it and get this album. you'll have these melodies stuck in your head after one listen. it's catchy as hell. out of the shadow also just so happens to contain some cleverly penned lyrics (i.e. - "in this postage st-stamp world / you'll get what you want / in this postage st-stamp world / you can all get in line / and lick my behind / 'cause i won't be living with you / this time").
MP3: every moment
MP3: postage stamp world

Buy it at Insound!





the radio dept.: lesser matters (labrador/shelflife)
i was first introduced to this band by my friend kaleb from slightly confusing to a stranger, after he had had a conversation with zack rogue about new music he'd been enjoying lately. since I was right in the middle of my infatuation with rogue wave's out of the shadow, i (of course) immediately hunted down this disc. and yet with all my expectations going in, i was not disappointed one bit. in fact, those expectations were actually exceeded.
following a slew of scandinavian buzz bands (the hives, kings of convenience, etc.), this swedish four-piece manage to cultivate some of the sweetest, most dreamy, understated lo-fi pop I've heard in quite some time. i can't even remember the last time i heard a band in this vein do something as good as this. maybe not since the jesus & mary chain? or the cure? i don't know. maybe I shouldn't dare say this, but what the hell: lesser matters may even be better. i can imagine a couple of songs off it would've been absolutely perfect in lost in translation, nestled somewhere between kevin shields' new material and the j & mc's "just like honey". delicate, sugary vocals combined with purposefully underproduced and lovable, fuzzy guitar riffs and casiotone rhythms = i want to curl up under a blanket and spend the afternoon with this record. i undoubtedly have failed to truly and adequately express the greatness of this record. but I had to try.
MP3: where damage isn't already done
MP3: against the tide

Buy it at Insound!





halloween, alaska: halloween, alaska (princess records)
you may have unknowingly heard a couple of halloween, alaska's tunes already and loved them. that's because their moody, contemplative tunes have already graced fox's popular show "the o.c." on no less than two occasions. in each instance, their tune(s) enhanced the moment immensely. on my way from detroit to nashville last week to visit my family for a few days, i realized this was the perfect soundtrack for driving through ohio. you could probably substitute "ohio" there with the state of your choice and that statement would still be true. it was strikingly fitting for ohio to me, though - right down to the tune "state trooper" (no, i didn't get stopped). at certain points during this album, it is upbeat and fun. other times it can be as dark and melancholy as you could get. but every time it's like warm honey.
MP3: you're it
MP3: state trooper

Buy it at Insound!





b. fleischmann: welcome tourist (morr music)
by far one of the best electronic records released over the past year (or two), at least in my opinion, of course. as the title of this 2-disc gem suggests, welcome tourist is great travelliing music. listening to these 12 songs actually feels like you're on a journey of sorts. bernhard fleischmann - armed with his groovebox, his classical training on piano and drums, and his collection of found sounds from some of his own travels - mixes and matches everything in his arsenal until - voila, he's got a masterpiece on his hands! i can't tell you how much i've enjoyed listening to this record whenever i've been in the mood for some good computer-aided beats and melodies. this is impressive stuff for any dj, let alone a guy who had only been working on electronic music for about four years at the time of this album's conception. did i mention that the second disc is one, single 45-minute track? and as impossible as it may seem, it doesn't ever lose my interest. morr music just continues to pump out the goods (see also lali puna, styrofoam, etc.).
MP3: pass by
MP3: a letter from home

Buy it at Insound!





ulrich schnauss: a strangely isolated place (domino)
is it just me or is shoegaze making a comeback (watch for dykehouse's midrange to possibly make it onto my 2004 list)? i'd venture to guess it might be on its way back in the door. ulrich schnauss' latest album is just one example of why i can make this claim and not feel like a pipe dreamer whilst doing so. although it's not your traditional shoegaze (rather than live guitars, this is mostly synths and looped electronic samples), it certainly adopts a lot of the atmospheric, dreamlike elements that we have grown to love and cherish for the past sixteen years or so.
MP3: on my own
MP3: a strangely isolated place

Buy it at Insound!





menomena: i am the fun blame monster (filmguerrero)
have you ever heard of a band developing their own computer software for the sole purpose of customizing their recording process? me neither. but menomena did it. that's insane. they also came up with some great packaging, in the form of a hand-illustrated flipbook featuring that cute little dragon on the front cover. not to be missed. oh, what? am I forgetting to mention the music? my bad. the first three songs are magically delicious. there is a bit of a dropoff later in the record. still a couple goodies there, but truthfully, some of it weirds me out a little. anyway, the album maintains itself enough to still be considered a solid purchase. and - oh my goodness - don't get me started on their crazy website. these guys are so weird, but pretty dang cool, too.
MP3: cough coughing
MP3: e. is stable

Buy it at Insound!





aqualung: still life (wea international)
while some may quickly pin the gold ribbon for coldplay/radiohead/travis imitation onto aqualung's lapel, i wouldn't be so quick to. i would say that fans of those bands will probably enjoy aqualung's still life. however, the songwriting and talent shown on matt hales' sophomore effort is not to be ignored or thrown aside as derivative so rashly. what we have here is actually quite beautiful and stands up to repeated listening pretty well, too. 10 songs, most of which are piano-driven pop/rock ballads and most of which are love songs. same sort of thing we heard on aqualung's self-titled debut, really. however, this time around, hales has gone for a bigger sound by steadily building up to a number of epic choruses, complete with - (gulp!) - drums and strings and guitars! it definitely proves to be a good move for the band. hales' voice and the heartbreak put forth on display here make this a record that should be heard and enjoyed by many. give it one or two chances and i can almost assure you that you'll be hooked. and 50 times better than those keane wankers.
MP3: easier to lie
MP3: 7 keys

Buy it at Insound!





damien rice: o (vector recordings)
i heard damien rice last year and turned a cold shoulder rather quickly. i had heard all this stuff about how he was this great new artist (he won the 2003 shortlist award), but when i first heard some samples of his songs, they just didn't come close to living up to the hype for me at all. i misguidedly lumped him in with the john mayer/jason mraz crowd. so, rice was relegated to the furthest reaches of my mind for most of the year following o's release. then my wife got wind of him and tugged my arm for awhile to download some of his songs for her. once i did, she liked what she heard. then that trailer for the movie closer came out with rice's beautifully sparse ballad "delicate" all over it, and the rest is history. only now, a year later, have i finally taken notice of this promising young talent.
MP3: delicate
MP3: the blower's daughter

Buy it at Insound!





dolorean: not exotic (yep roc)
out of nowhere late last year came dolorean with a voice that sounded very familiar to me, yet i couldn't quite put my finger on where i knew it from. i quickly gave up on that and just decided to enjoy it for what it was: an incredibly delicate collection of songs that sucked me in and won me over right front the get-go. fans of iron & wine, damien jurado, and mark kozelek (red house painters) will definitely fall in love with dolorean. hell, anyone else would, too, if they had any brains and picked up this record.
MP3: morningwatch
MP3: hannibal, mo

Buy it at Insound!