Thursday, January 31, 2008

january's music

I found this to be a rather slow month for music. Didn't find a lot of inspiring music this month, so I went back and picked some albums I missed last yearArcade Fire Neon Bible I became fixated on buying this album after it topped nearly every music critics "best of..." list. I'm glad I did, it was just the kind of "big rock" sounding album I was looking for. I found it pretty refreshing since I had been listening to a lot of slower, softer music recently. Neon Bible has drawn a lot of comparison's to Bruce Springsteen. At their best, Arcade Fire rely on the same melodrama Springsteen uses to achieve their grandeur sound. It works pretty well for them.

Stars of Track and Field Centuries Before Love and War Portland has a pretty happening music scene. Portland music fans are proud of The Dandy Warhols, The Decemberist, and most of all, The Shins. Honestly, I never really liked any of these bands, but now I finally have some local heros. Portland's Star of Track and Field are quickly building a name for themselves around here for fans of more "ambient rock." They combine a lot of old rock styles (like jangly guitar) with new atomosphereic (electronic--Radioheadish) beautifully. Dreamy at times, and granduer at others. I'm doing my part now to support local music.
Ride Waves A complation of their sessions at BBC and with John Peel. Ride was one of the most successful bands to come out of the "shoegazer" movement of the early 90's. They were everything I love in a band. Their sound was a wash of guitars of swirling distortion. Dreamy, ambient, and with a real pop sensibility. I love the begining of this album when they were true shoegazers (their later material tended to be less noisy and more psychidelic towards the end of their career). Anyway, they only got a few stabs at recording the material for BBC, so what comes across is a real raw experience (shoegazers used a lot of studio equipment and editing to get their sound).
Bill Mallonee Permafrost Itunes finally released this album for digital download this month. Permafrost has been on Bill's website for a while, but I had a bad experience downloading from his site so I put off buying this one. It's a shame I did, because it is a great album. I usually go on about how unfair it is that Bill is such a unrecognized talent in the music industry, but it doesn't do any good to complain. It's other people's loss not to hear Bill. I would rank Permafrost among some of his best recordings.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

styles of worship

Last night we had a good discussion at home group about different styles of worship. This was a pretty good topic of discussion to help to get to know one another better. Think of it like the learning styles theory. It also reveals what are our strengths and diversity as a community.
The styles that were brought up and discussed were:
1. Nature and Beauty (Someone who appreciates the beauty of God's creation)
2. Thinker (Someone who spends time in thought and prayer)
3. Contemplate (Someone who takes time and rationalizes worship)
4. Aesthetic (someone who worships through touch, feel, sight and sound)
5. Caregiver (someone who worships through caring for others in need)
6. Activist (someone who worships through social causes)
7. Enthusiastic (someone who is just always energized to go out and win over followers)
8. Ritualistic (worship through rituals)
(There might have been a few more, but this is all I can remember)

We then needed to discuss which of these styles we were most comfortable in with the idea that we should do what ever brings us closer to God. After doing a little self analyzing, I felt like I was a little of everything except enthusiastic (most people felt the same way). This may sound bad, but I've not very good at showing my enthusiasm toward the Lord (at least to others). I attribute some of this to the fact that I was brought up in a Catholic Church were ritualism is important than enthusiasm. However since breaking away from the Catholic Church, I feel I've been pretty harsh on it. Now that I'm a little older (and hopefully wiser) I can really see the beauty in some of the rituals and how for some people can find that can be comforting.

The rest of the worship styles I feel I can fit into pretty well. I feel that I lean heavy towards the aesthetic worship style. Weather it is in the beauty of a painting from Monet or Van Gogh, or a beautiful song that hits the right chords, sight and sound can be a window into God's creation. You can hear the beauty of God in a quiet Over the Rhine song, the sound scape of Sigur Ros, the genius of Radiohead, or a spiritual charged u2 concert (which I've always said is as close to a spiritual experience as you can get).

I've found some spiritual meaning in my work with children as part activist and caregiver. Other times, post from Shakedust or Pastor Rick's sermons turn me into a thinker or contemplater. Most recently, I can really get closer to God through nature. This is largely due to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. When our group was talking this, we took a minute to listen to the wind blow through the pine trees outside. It was quiet beautiful to listen to the pines sway in the cold wind outside. Many people compare it to a whisper. Seeing some of the waterfalls around here, you realize that God is the greatest artist of all, and he takes time and detail with his work. You can travel to the top of the Columbia Gorge and take in His majesty or go down to the ocean and see His fury.

I think the real danger is getting pigeonholed in one style. If all you are is about sensory worship, do you miss the opportunities to help those in need? If all you are about is worshipping through helping others and being an activist, do you miss the chance to worship the beauty of God's creation? Does it do good to over think God's wonder that we loss all enthusiasm towards Him. If we are overly enthusiastic is it realistic to never question God? I think ideally, we need to be strong in all areas of worship.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sledding at Mt. Hood

This weekend, we took a little afternoon trip to Mt. Hood (about an hour east of Portland). We wanted to take the kids for their first sledding experience. Believe or not, in 7 years, we never went sledding in Kansas or Iowa. The conditions at Mt. Hood are perfect for winter activities. We ended up just buying a couple of sleds when we got there and found some free places to ride down. Everything was fun at first, but Wah-Wah and Nibbles had a rough landing at one point and called it quits. Woogy and I went on and did a few more and slides. Since Nibbles didn't seem to enjoy herself, I might just take just Woogy back sometime. It's a nice escape from a rainy Portland afternoon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best of 2007

Here's my chance to play "music critic" with my list of the best new albums of 2007 (In my humble opinion).

Radiohead In Rainbows The more I listen to it, the more I hear the genius of Radiohead . It doesn't hurt that I practically got this album for free and legal. This album is way ahead of it's time, not only in sound, but the way it was distributed without a record label. This could be the future for the music industry.
The National Boxer Paste's magazine record of the year as well as many other critics. This album is smooth sounding and different sounding from anything else out there.
Travis The Boy With No Name Fran Healy named the album after his unborn son who is now named "Grant" (so I guess the boy does have a name). This is such a great return to form for Travis after their last album. "Battleships" is one of my favorite songs that recognizes the struggle of relationships under the stress of modern life.
The Brothers Martin The Brothers Martin With Jason and Ronnie Martin combining their skills, it's impossible not to come up with anything but gold. This fantastic album combines Ronnie's pop sensibilities with Jason's indie style. Every track is single worthy. It would be nice to see the two brothers work together more often.
Stars In Our Bedroom After the War A wonderful follow up to their last album Set Yourself On Fire. It kind surpasses it in many ways with a lot more catchy tracks and vocal swapping between male and female leads.

Over the Rhine The Trumpet Child Influenced by the loss of New Orleans, Over the Rhine incorporate more jazz and brass into their palette with great results.
Blonde Redhead 23 Another critical favorite, this is the closest to "shoegazer sound" that I've heard all year.
Editors An End Has a Start I'm declaring this my favorite album of the year. Sure, Editors don't hide their Joy Division influence, but they improve on it. This album was produced by Jacknife Lee who I have concluded is a producing genius after his work with U2, Snow Patrol,and Bloc Party (He's now working with REM so I'm looking forward to see how he improves upon their sound). Anyway, Jacknife's style is to polish the sound and bring guitar's to the forefront. On An End Has A Start the guitars are polished and as sharp as shards of glass. This really brings the Editors sound to the stratosphere and elevates the listener. They were great live as well.

Bloc Party A Weekend In the City Another Jacknife Lee produced album that I developed an interest in after seeing Bloc Party live in KC. Less experimental than their debut album, but more accessible and tuned for the masses.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

December update and music

After a little blogger break, I'm back and on a new computer. Our home computer crashed on New Year's Day (great way to start a new year), forcing me to take a little break. After attempting to recover some info, it became clear that we needed a new computer. I still don't know what I am going to do about my lost itunes however. It make take a while to reload 6,000 songs I had on it.
Not knowing what to ask Santa for this year, I ordered the remaining Over the Rhine albums I didn't have off the band's web site. It goes without saying, that I've been listening to a lot of Over the Rhine lately.
Over the Rhine Changes Come A live album taken from their Ohio tour a few years ago, this CD captures a brilliant concert performance. Most of the songs highlight their album Ohio. Over the Rhine is a great live band. They seem comfortable and laid back yet a very intimate performance. This is a great disc to experience Over the Rhine live.
Over the Rhine Live From Nowhere Vol 2 The second disc in a yearly tradition of Over the Rhine releasing highlights from their performances from over the past year. Live from Nowhere has got some great songs and covers not available on any other album. I liked the Changes Come disc a little better. I like my live albums to come from a single or couple of performances. Live From Nowhere jumps around a lot from performance to performance. This gives the listener a little less continuity than a single performance (in my opinion).
Beck Sea Changes It might surprise some that I like Beck since I've never mentioned him before and he has been around for a while. I got his latest album The Information last year and liked it. I found it innovative with lots of musical styles that seemed to blend together pretty well. I picked up Sea Changes based on the singles "Lost Cause" and "the Golden Age". This is Beck's break up album (he supposedly made this album right after a rough break up). Most of the songs are pretty sober compared to what else he has done and don't have the mix of urban and hip hop beats. In their is no rapping at all. Beck just sings in a stripped down fashion with some pretty moving results.
Ryan Adams Easy Tiger Here is another artist I generally haven't paid much attention to. I got this one based on the single "Two" which has been getting some air play. I thought the song was absolutely beautiful. It was one of those "I need to buy that album to get that one song." Luckily the rest of the album is worth keeping. Ryan sings short-sweet "alternative country songs". He's about as "country" as I like.
Over the Rhine Eve Over the Rhine's third album and pretty hard to find. Eve captures the band still growing and changing right before they made their masterpiece "Good Dog, Bad Dog." Probably my favorite out of their early albums.
Over the Rhine The Darkest Night Of the Year I opened this X-mas present a little early this year since I lack seasonal Christmas music. I thought this would be a good disc to crank up for driving around looking at Christmas lights. I found this to be a very dark sounding Christmas CD (which is what it was intended to be), but over all, it lacks the Christmas feel and joy that much of their latest Christmas CD-Snow Angels has.
Over the Rhine Amateur Shortwave Radio One of Over the Rhine's "fan only" albums, this is a collection to celebrate Over the Rhine's birthday. The album opens with a beautiful rendition of one of Over the Rhine's first great songs "Like a Radio" and then goes into a effective version of the Stones's "Ruby Tuesday".
Over the Rhine Cutting Room Floor (not pictured) Yet another "fan only" album of songs and demos not found anywhere else. You can't complain about a band that truly is appreciative towards their fans and releases albums geared especially for them. These "fan only" albums are not to make new fans, but reward the old ones. That's a nice change every so often. Cutting Room Floor is a great example of this. The closing tune "Helpless" (a Neil Young cover) is pretty effectively delivered when Karen puts in the context of post 9-11, when it was performed.