Friday, December 28, 2007

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names

With a name like this, you would think this band would be American, but they are Swedish. I first heard them on my friend Kara's car stereo as she, Rob Gifford, and I explored the lovely Hampshire countryside. What a great soundtrack for our little, temporary "escape" from the L'abri Manor House. Anyway, two fun videos for two fun songs. Hope you enjoy:
"Loop Duplicate My Heart"

"Rent A Wreck"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Web Cam, Good TV, Good Music

Tonight I had a lovely time hanging out with my friends Josh and Jen. Here are my first ever webcam snapshots to document my first ever time to talk to someone (it happened to be Cannon Kirby) on a webcam. I have no idea what that white area on the right in the second photo is there for, but I still love it. Josh looks like an angry Russian (Dostoevsky?), Jen looks giddy, and I look as if I have just spent 100 bucks for hair haighlights (my hair changes color on its own, so no highlights).

Another highlight of the night was being introduced to the hilarious show 30 Rock. Josh and Jen are crazy about it, and I can now see why. At first, I was nervous as the title sounded dangerously close to Third Rock From the Sun (clearly not a good sign). But I was wrong. The writing is quirky, fresh, and extremely clever (thanks Tina Fey). I found Tracy Morgan particularly hilarious, especially when talking about "dropping truth bombs" about the fact that "the white man has been injecting AIDS into our chicken mcnuggets". I think I will soon become a big fan.

Tonight I also learned of a fun new song by another NC band via Josh, Jen, and Cannon.
Here it is: "Die, Die, Die" by the Avett Brothers
What is the deal with all this great music from North Carolina?? It seems nearly every good band I come across these days has some connection to this state. I just remembered that my friend Abby also introduced me to a new (to me) Raleigh band called The Bowerbirds (pictured below). Abby claims that their music is "like a dream", and the more I listen to the following song, the more I feel caught up in the dreaminess. It is mesmerizing, rich, multilayered. lovely. Stick with it till it ends--it will surprise you:
"In Our Talons"

The last exciting discovery of the night was that if you absolutely must shop at Walmart during the busy Christmas season (because you desperately need a new printer cartridge) then 11:30 p.m. is the best time to do it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Music that Doesn't Make You Groan

Lots of Christmas music does make me groan--sentimental, commercial, "jolly", yuck. I would usually skip over a post that said "Christmas Music", espcially if it had anything to do with Santa or rockin around the tree or all that crap--any of that overproduced, saccharine schmaltz that is basically muzac for Christmas( although I love lots of classical Christmas pieces)--. But I ask you--yes, you who might even be as cynical as me--to stop and listen to a few refreshing Christmas offerings.
First, a trip back to Sunday School with Half Handed Cloud in these bubbly songs full of childlike wonder and faith:

The * That Moved Around the Nightmp3
Asian Meteorologists Predicted the Heavens to Snow-down a Child to Us (Plant a little Fir Tree) mp3

Next, a lovely reworking of a Christmas classic from Pedro the Lion. Bazan poignantly depicts the co-existence of faith and doubt, thus emphasizing the reality of the human condition. Check out these lyrics:"Now my wife and children dream of gifts beneath the tree/ While I place in the manger baby Jesus figurine/ Sipping Christmas whiskey wondering if I still believe/ Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemenmp3

Okay, I wasn't going to include Sufjan because EVERYONE includes Sufjan and perhaps we are all sick of it. But I just had to come back and edit this post to include this song. "That was the Worst Christmas Ever" is one of the most real, touching Christmas songs I have ever heard. This picture of hope and redemption in the midst of a very dysfunctional family situation speaks reality into the plasticized notions of sentimental, hunky dory pictures of Christmas gatherings depicted in most Christmas related rhetoric. For many people, family harmony and vacuum packed faith are not the reality of Christmas--but Sufjan emphasizes the brokenness, of a family, of an individual, that needs some sort of healing. Listen to the words. For some folks, Christmas is not a happy time. Maybe a great deal of this is due to the fact that the falsified notions of peace, love, and joy embodied in plastic smiles and jolly music highlight the pain of family dischord, questions about faith, the hardness of life. This song does not ignore the hardships,pain, and dysfunction and emphasizes that this is exactly the real reason for Christmas. Part of the strange appeal of Sufjan's music is the constant inclusion of a violence of sorts--physical violence, violence of relationships, of words, of expectations that haven't been met. This tends to offfset the soft, breathy voice, calling attention to the consistent presence of both beauty and pain that is the disturbing mixture of our real lives: "Silent night, holy night; silent night, nothing feels right."..."In time the snow will rise, In time the snow will rise/ In time the Lord will rise, In time the Lord will rise."
I believe in this hope, a hope that doesn't ignore what seems hopeless.

That was the Worst Christmas Ever mp3

Lastly, here is a little surprise treat (although not a video of amazing quality) from the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers:

Oh---One more thing!!
Another reminder that for more music of this general ragtag, creative sort, don't forget to purchase the compilation Peace on Earth which includes Christmas offerings from Michael Nau, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Prayers and Tears, David Karsten Daniels, Rosie Thomas and many others. It is only 7 bucks and ALL of that money goes to Toys for Tots. It is only available until Christmas on this blog.

**Okay, so I have another edit/addition. I just found out that there is a free Christmas Collection over at the blog for Sounds Familyre records. These folks--including Danielson, Half Handed Cloud, and Soul Junk among others have given us this little free gift. Check it out! The cool thing is that they are adding a song a day for 12 days--they have added a Sufjan number since I originally posted this.

Okay, that really is it! Please let me know what you think about all this stuff, especially the interesting lyrical content of most.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sufjan Stevens, a UFO, and the Incarnation

I have been thinking quite a lot lately about the postmodern rebirth of the religious imagination,particularly in the indie music world. This is actually why I am posting the videos and lyrics for these Sufjan and Page France songs. Once I finish all my exam and essay grading, I will be writing an expanded post on the larger subject. This lush, yet sparse, song from Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise takes the contemporary, quirky imagery of a UFO siting to somehow allude to the perplexing mystery of(and the disorientation we feel when trying to understand)the Incarnation. I also really like this guy's little homemade video--hope you do as well.

Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
When the revenant came down,
We couldn't imagine what it was.
In the spirit of three stars.
The alien thing that took its form.
Then to Lebanon, oh God.
The flashing at night, the sirens grow and grow.
Oh, history involved itself.
Mysterious shade that took its form.
Or what it was, incarnation, three stars.
Delivering signs and dusting from their eyes.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Wrecking Ball With a Heart of Gold

The song "Chariot" by Page France is one of the most creative, krazily joyful, passionate songs I have heard in a long, long time. Why can't music like this be sung in church? Be sure to check out the lyrics below--they will blow your mind, and make you long for a "happy ending".


Swing, like a chariot
At the trumpet call
When we're all unsaved,
Swing like a wrecking ball
Like the heart of god
What a mystery
Filled with the wedding feast
For the snakes and bees
With the angel teeth, swing
Come and carry us
Come and marry us
To the blushing circus king
And dance like elephants as he comes to us
Through a fiery golden ring
With a violin and a song to sing
As he brings for us our wings
Now he's one of us
Plays the tambourine
Breaks the bread for us
And sings
Will you wait for us
Will you stay for us
Will you grace us everything
You're a wrecking ball
With a heart of gold
People wait for it, swing
Like a chariot
Swing it low for us
Come and carry us away
So we will become a happy ending
So we will become a happy ending
Fire come and carry us
Make us shine or make us rust
Tell us that you care for us
We need to hear a word for us
Let your body stand with us
Or let our rags be turned to dust
Chariot you swing for us
We think that you can carry all of us
So we will become a happy ending
So we will become a happy ending
So we will become a happy ending
So we will become a happy ending