Dude, this video. Watch it through. It's not just an amazing song. Lyrics below the video if you want to follow along.
Are we the ones left behind
by those who weave cords that bind
They draw the marrow from our very bones
And we in-turn turn on our own
Stood in line in horse-hair shirts
We cued up to eat the dirt
We traded lumps on narrow streets
And bite the hand when you've no teeth
And it's a standing ovation for the shadow of a stone
As we dig into the soil beneath our homes
The future's further day by day, as our father's turn away
And he was clinging to a mother who eats her own
The granite gaze upon us now
A skulking mass recalling how
To plant a secret and tell no lies
For now we own those same-stone eyes
And it's the last gasp of wonder for a cretin on a throne
As our daughters sneak away across the phone
The future's just a thing we say to keep the sordid past at bay
And still we cling onto the mother who eats her own
We are the ones left behind
In swaddling bound with baling twine
They stole the marrow from our very bones
And we in-turn turn on our own
I'm testing the idea that listening to a song too much makes you eventually get sick of it. So far, I'm failing.
My daughter discovered Misterwives recently and said I might like them. As a snobby audiophile I clucked my tongue, listened with arms crossed, and then listened again and again and again. Now I'm almost dancing in my seat at my coworking office and avoiding eye contact.
Check out Misterwives - "Reflections." They have a newer album, but this song from a couple of years ago is my jam right now...
Any reader of this blog should know I love the music of Brandi Carlile. One of the most talented singer-songwriters in the world.
A new album with artists like Pearl Jam, Old Crow Medicine Show, Adele, and the Avett Brothers covers the songs of Carlile's The Story album. Everything about this has me completely interested.
Here's Dolly Parton's cover of the title track, which is amazing.
Watch, and then listen to the rest of the album streaming free thanks to NPR.
There are a few times every year that I hear of a good music review and check out an album and become entranced. Michael Kiwanuka has done that to me with his album Love & Hate. Only $5 to download, or enjoy on a streaming service you use. Here's the song I can't stop playing, "Cold Little Heart." The opening is 6 1/2 minutes long and then it gets into the song and I never want the opening to end, and then it does, and I'm so glad because it's this whole other thing. What an epic this is. Hope you enjoy it.
I've been pretty busy this year, so I have a long list I could give but I don't feel like I've listened deeply enough to do 30 albums justice. But I can give you five that I think are the bees' knees. My lists all the way back to 2006 are below. Enjoy! And please let me know your favorites!
5. Pinegrove - Cardinal
4. Frank Ocean - Blonde
1. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Hands down, the bestest of the bestest. Yeah, I know, it's quirky and weird and whatever. It's almost perfect as work of art depicting the messy clamor through darkness and struggle in the search for something more. It's longing and wanting and waiting and a whole bunch of things that should make the thoughtful listener think and seek alongside Vernon. It's the kind of spiritual pursuit that I want from art. It's not easy. But it's really good.
Try: 33 "God" | Full Concert
Previous Years -- Best Albums
Bon Iver's new album, 22, A Million, is frontrunner for album of the year for me. This lyric video for one of my favorite tracks, "8 (circle)," is all it needs to be. Provoking and confounding and grappling for something. Will he find it?
This hasn't been a great year of music for me. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm out of touch. Or maybe I haven't been looking in the right places because the new album (and last album?) by Slow Dakota has moved me.
PJ Sauerteig (Slow Dakota) is headed to NYU law school but not before giving us a thoughtful and Christ-haunted album called The Ascension of Slow Dakota (or Spotify). Check out "The Lilac Bush" with the lyrics also posted below. Wonderfully done.
One day I came close
To giving up my ghost:
I put my chin inside
A mouth of knotted rope!
But instead of stopping,
My heart began to fly.
A dove perched on my shoulder
And whispered in my ear:
“Each day God comes home
With lilacs from His bush;
He picks them all for you,
His chosen darkling thrush!”
The only sound I can add to this is silence...
Another year of great music, some from artists I already love and some are new discoveries. I've been sharing my love for music on the blog through an end of the year "best of" list since 2006...
Previous Years -- My Best Albums
As usual I'll give some minimal comments just to get you started. I hope you'll do what I do all year round, which is hit the links, stream some samples, and find something new. I encourage you to buy the music you love and not just stream it online free. Support good art and great artists! If you click on my links you'll be able to buy through Amazon. It's no extra expense for you by using my links and I get referrals which provides me a little Amazon money for books and music. Thanks for your support!
Here we go. Anything that made this list is well worth checking out.
18. Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color | This is a good band making good music. It's a little more deliberate than I want it to be, but it's worthy of the effort.
16. The Gray Havens - Fire and Stone | The best musical storytellers of redemption currently working. Even when they have a stylistic choice that isn't my cup of tea, I finish the cup.
15. Chris Stapleton - Traveller | Nashtastic, beardy, soulful country. Where the rubber meets the stage. Where the boots hit the gravel. You know.
14. Wilco - Star Wars | This dropped for FREE. Wow. And it's purdy good. Dude, it's Wilco. You should own everything they make. C'mon.
13. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free | Hard to live up to the sweet perfections of last years' Southeastern, but still another great album. Must listen: "24 Frames."
12. Purity Ring - Another Eternity | Goodness, this got a lot of play this year in my house, during work, for fun, with the kids, by myself. It's remarkably catchy. Dreamy beats. Louder the better.
11. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats - Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | Rollicking fun. Lot's of roll in the rock. Honest. Authentic. The cool buddy we all wish we had. Down to earth.
10. Kamasi Washington - The Epic | Oh, jazz. When you come at me with something classy and creative, something that reminds me of what I love but also gives me something new to love, I do love you.
9. Jamie xx - In Colour | Cool of the cool. Chill. Urban. Sips (no chugging) in the club. Vibe. Flavor. Undercurrent. Emotive. EMOTIVE. Atmospheric.
8. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool | Man, this album was begging me to be put higher. It's groovy fun. Hooky goodness. And it rocks plenty hard. It's sweet adrenaline.
7. Tame Impala - Currents | Life-soundtracky. Hip. Looping. Trippy. Great for focused work, chilling out. It's groovy, man. It's an album that I can turn on most any time of any day.
6. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit | Every early sample of this album ended quickly. But I finally read enough about it to give it a real and thorough listen. Two times through I was sold. It's punkish. The later tracks are the ones that convinced me of Barnett's genius, but she first caught my ear at "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you." Almost made the top 5.
5. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear | Sermonic. Counter-cultural. Every song a stage. Laugh-tracks. Really smart. He takes you on his dramatic trip into the challenging of an idea through supremely glorious musical styles. The gorgeousity of the music should be incongruous with the content, but is actually a wonderful way for FJM to make his move on your heart. He gives you a rose and the stabs you in the eye with its thorn.
3. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell | Soft and soothing, but not gentle. Beautifully jarring. Broadly finite. Haunted. Entrancing. A warm hug and consoling whisper through the reverberating ache. Isolated & intimate. This guy is a-something.
2. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Style | The music of Will Toledo that originated from his DIY bedroom recordings as a teenager is quite excellent. This shoegazy rock album is a joy listen after listen. "Anyone new to Car Seat Headrest is, quite frankly, in for a jaw-dropping discovery. The quality of Toledo’s songs is gobsmacking; the lyrics are enthralling, the melodies are to die for, the musicianship is raw yet brilliant." This album is the introverts dreamscape, and cry, and inspiration.
1. Grimes - Art Angels | This album is "utterly uncompromising, imaginative and, somehow, universally accessible." Yes, yes, and yes to the music of Claire Boucher. This is the album that I listen to most, enjoy the most, and makes me want to dance the most. But it's also full of quirk. It's packed with super-duper hooks that aren't easy and cheap. It's fresh and throw-back at the same time. Boucher is a creative genius, "a human zeitgeist, redrawing all the binaries and boundaries by which we define pop music and forcing us to come along."
Thoroughly enjoying Whitney Bozarth's album, Anchor for My Soul. More good stuff coming out of Sojourn Music!
If you missed the Country Music Awards last night, and I'm guessing many of you did, you missed a remarkable performance by Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake. No worries, it's below. When Jason Isbell can't help but tweet multiple times about Stapleton last night, you know you found something good. Chris won Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year.
I like award shows, even if only to sharpen my snark, but this moment is one of my all time favorites across the genres and disciplines. When you are done and want to look up Chris Stapleton's music, and you will, just go here to check out his album Traveller.
Ahem...crank it UP!
Demi Lovato's two performances on SNL this weekend were just amazing. "Stone Cold" had me almost in tears. This is how you do pop music ballads, folks. THIS.
An Uber driver and riders via dashcam sing "Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd. Love this song and love the big smile I got from this video to start my Weeknd. Now download the song, because good pop music is good.
This is my favorite song right now. It on repeat. It's a new song from Jason Isbell's new album Something More Than Free called "24 Frames."
You thought God was an architect, now you know
He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow
And everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames
In 24 frames
This is great whether you like Father John Misty, Arcade Fire, or just good music.
Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" mashed up with "Bad Blood." Maybe you thought her music sounded a bit recycled?? You were right.
New Music - Out Today
Recent Noteworthy Books
Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt -- I've been able to spend some time with Jeff the last few years at conferences and Soma School. Remarkable guy with a remarkable (and simple) vision for the church being the church. And the vision, as I have experienced it first hand, is being realized. A book I wish I could gift to every one of my pastor friends.
Blind Spots by Collin Hansen -- "It's easier to associate only with our own. But anyone in the world can have that kind of community....True community results only from a miracle." Hansen explains and why the Church is are divided into three groups and how all three are important and should unite us.
The Reformation Study Bible (ESV) ed. R.C. Sproul -- Gorgeous and very useful. I use the ESV Study Bible every week, almost daily, and the RSB will now be used weekly as well.
Mea Culpa by Kyle McClellan -- I served in a volunteer capacity with Kyle as he pastored a church in Lexington, Kentucky over a decade ago. This is a book about his service as a young pastor who made some mistakes.
Bonhoeffer's Seminary Vision by Paul House -- As a guy who juuust missed having Paul House as a seminary professor (he left SBTS just as I arrived), I always look for chances to learn from him. Here's another opportunity specifically concerning theological education.
17 Bucket List Fried Chicken Restaurants -- Steve is getting HUUUNGRY!
5 Solutions for Churches that are Stalled -- "It's one thing to spout off statistics about stagnant churches, but it's a whole different sack of potatoes to acknowledge that your church has stalled. So I won't tell anyone that you're reading this. Our little secret. Here are five things you do when your church stalls."