We have been thinking we are done with our yearly crazy Christmas photo now that we have one graduating high school in the spring. So we decided to go back to reenact our first in 2007. Well, we had considered something else but we HAD to do it after the Elf showed up this morning holding our old photo! Mischievous little bugger!! Merry Christmas, everyone!
Welcome to the official announcement of the greatest Christmas song of all time. You. Are. Welcome.
- Tim Keller - Prayer (Amazon) | I'm partway through and it's excellent. Inspiring. Refreshing.
- Paul Tripp - New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional (Amazon) | These are dated, so perfect for 2015.
National Book Awards for 2014 | I'm going to check out Louise Gluck's winning book of poetry, Faithful and Virtuous Night. Check out winners and finalists for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature.
Christmas music on my radar...
Global HAIKU Project by Baron Fig | These creators of great notebooks are trying to help you collaborate on great poetry. A neat idea! Nothing complicated. In the span of a few minutes you can contribute to three poems. Can't wait to show my kiddos and get them involved. Also check out Baron Fig notebooks & company. (Also, don't miss my earlier post on the most beautiful, affordable notebooks I've come across for daily use. They aren't Baron Fig, but I love those too!)
I was looking at my shelf and thinking there are some helpful books for reading around the holidays (though not holidays based books) that have come out this year. Here are a few...
UPDATE --> I added one more on top from Matt Anderson. He talks about all the pondering we should do...
Matthew Lee Anderson: The End of Our Exploring (or Kindle) | A great time of year to look to have our questions answered and answers questioned is Christmastime, New Year's, the end of a year and the start of another. We need to question well.
Timothy Keller: Encounters With Jesus (or Kindle) | This is an eBook series (chapter by chapter) finally packaged into a hardcover book. Each chapter is on a personal encounter someone had with Jesus. It's helpful for those who want to know better how to share the faith better, and for those who may need an encounter with Jesus.
Jim Belcher: In Search of Deep Faith (or Kindle) | I'm working on a review for this book, but let me just say here that I've enjoyed pacing my way through it as a meditation not only on the faith, but thinking of the faith of my kids and my responsibility as a Father to make our faith come alive to them. A worthy topic during the holidays and any day.
Timothy Keller: Walking With God Through Pain & Suffering (or Amazon | Kindle) | While Christmas is a happy time for many, it's a time of significant grief and struggle for many too. I'm very thankful for Dr. Keller's take on this subject and for providing this substantial book. It's not brief, so probably not for those fresh into suffering.
Kevin DeYoung: Crazy Busy (or Amazon | Kindle) | Christmas and New Year's is a nice break from the regular work cycle, but also for many of us shows just how busy we can make the un-busy times. Why not take a break and read this short book and see if it doesn't help to reorder your life, especially as the new year approaches.
Elyse Fitzpatrick: Found In Him (or Amazon | Kindle) | A book on "the joy of the incarnation and our union with Christ." Perfect for this time of year, though for every time of year. Many chapters end with a hymn to help us learn to worship because of what we just read.
Tullian Tchividjian: One Way Love (or Amazon | Kindle) | "Inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world." If you are anything like me, you know you need to remind yourself every day of grace. Bathe in it over Christmastime by reading Tullian.
Sleeping at Last is one of those unique bands that owns its own sound. They have a compelling, emotionally engaging style that I love. Their melodies and vocals soar. They have brought their style and given us a wonderful Christmas collection. And you can get it free or for donation.
This album offers a great mix. Christmas hymns like "Silent Night," "What Child Is This?," and O Holy Night" are gorgeous. Crank it up on "O Holy Night" for one listen and I'm sure you will, like me, add it to your yearly must-listen songs. I love their versions of cultural Christmas songs like "White Christmas," "Silver Bells," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas." One of my favorite funny Christmas songs is by Bill Nighy in Love, Actually, "Christmas Is All Around." I don't know of anyone that covers it as it's meant to be funny and not a real Christmas song. Sleeping at Last covers it as a cute, folksy little ditty. It's legit.
I'm thankful for other Christmas albums out this year: Folk Angel, Page CXVI, etc. These are worth checking out as well. This one by Sleeping at Last, at donation price, is a gem. Please check it out.
Tons of great, cheap music right now. I only list the albums I think are worth checking out. If you want a recommendation based on the kind of music you like, just lemme know.
- The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter ($3.99)
- Brandi Carlile: Bear Creek ($3.99)
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs ($4.99)
- Sharon Van Etten: Tramp ($4.99)
- Damien Jurado: Maraqopa ($3.99)
- Shearwater: Animal Joy ($4.99)
- Dan Auerbach: Keep It Hid ($4.99)
- Animal Collective: Centipede Hz ($5.99)
- The Black Keys: El Camino ($5.99)
- Wye Oak: Civilian ($4.99)
- Andrew Bird: Break It Yourself ($4.99)
- Benjamin Gibbard: Former Lives ($4.99)
- Liars: WIXIW ($4.99)
- Beach House: Bloom ($4.99)
- Wilco: The Whole Love ($5.99)
- Passion Pit: Gossamer ($5.99)
- The White Stripes: Icky Thump ($5.99)
- Linkin Park: Meteora ($5.99)
- J.D. McPherson: Signs & Signifiers ($3.99)
- Metric: Synthetica ($4.99)
- Purity Ring: Shrines ($4.99)
- Best Coast: The Only Place ($4.99)
- The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards ($4.99)
- Now Now: Threads ($4.99)
- Sleigh Bells: Reign of Terror ($4.99)
- The Shins: Port of Morrow ($5.99)
- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: Here ($4.99)
- Father John Misty: Fear Fun ($4.99)
- Hospitality: Hospitality ($4.99)
- Of Monsters & Men: My Head Is An Animal ($3.99)
- Regina Spektor: Begin To Hope ($4.99)
- Destroyer: Kaputt ($4.99)
- The Tallest Man On Earth: There's No Leaving Now ($4.99)
- Silversun Pickups: Neck of the Woods ($3.99)
- Civil Twilight: Holy Weather ($3.99)
- The Lumineers: The Lumineers ($4.99)
- The Decemberists: Picaresque ($4.99)
- Derek Webb: Ctrl ($3.99)
- Elliott Smith: Either/Or ($4.99)
- Band of Horses: Mirage Rock ($3.99)
- Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel ($3.99)
- Glen Hansard: Rhythm & Repose ($4.99)
- M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion ($4.99)
- Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue ($5.99)
- The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten ($3.99)
- Japandroids: Celebration Rock ($4.99)
- Band of Skulls: Sweet Sour ($3.99)
- James Taylor: Greatest Hits ($4.99)
- Gotye: Making Mirrors ($3.99)
- Guns N' Roses: Appetite for Destruction ($3.99)
I've been reading about Holidays Rule for several weeks. It includes tracks by Fun., The Civil Wars, Punch Brothers, The Head & The Heart, The Shins, Andrew Bird & others. One of my favorites is by Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten, "Baby It's Cold Outside." It's mostly a cultural Christmas album, or a "holidays" album (exceptions like Punch Brothers with "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"). But it's fun and includes some really solid stuff. And it's only $3.99.
If you needed more reason to buy Sufjan Stevens' new Christmas collection, Silver & Gold ($13.98 for 58 songs), you now have this. It's not all unicorns & rainbows. Ok, well there are unicorns. Also, it has an edge to it.
Amazon is offering many Christmas albums for $5 & cheaper. Here are my favorites and recommendations. Go check out all 100 $5 holiday albums.
- The Andy Williams Christmas Album | Most played Christmas album in my home
- Christmas Classics | Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, many others
- Bing Crosby: Christmas Classics
- Frank Sinatra: A Jolly Christmas
- Josh Groban: Noel
- Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas
- David Crowder Band: Oh For Joy!
- Selah: Rose of Bethlehem
- Harry Connick, Jr.: What A Night! & Harry for the Holidays
- Chris Tomlin: Glory In The Highest
- A Charlie Brown Christmas ($3.99)
- Elf: Music From The Motion Picture ($4.49) | Some solid classics
- The 99 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces ($1.99)
- It's $9.99, but a family fave | Harry Connick, Jr.: When My Heart Finds Christmas
Anne Hathaway singing "I Dreamed A Dream" in the Les Miserables trailer. Awesome...
I'm a huge Sojourn Music fan because I like their music and the rich content of their songs. More than that, I love their music because I love their focus on the Gospel as a church. They are friends and one of my favorite churches around.
I've given a couple of listens to Sojourn Community Church's new Christmas album, A Child Is Born. My word for this album would be "challenging." It's challenging to your ears as it's anything but a typical Christmas album. It's not even close. Their version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is "punk-rock inspired," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is poppy, as is "Silent Night." Some of the more subdued and lovely moments on the album are from lesser known lyrics retooled. I love the voices that are now very familiar to me: Brooks Ritter, Jamie Barnes, Megan Shaffer & others. They are always a joy to hear again on new projects. The cover design is lovely and simple.
In many ways, this isn't supposed to be an easy album to hear. From Sojourn's website...
There’s a place for joy, a necessary and central place for celebration, but that joy and celebration has it’s most weight when seen in the context of the suffering and longing from which it emerges. So Christmas music at Sojourn has always had a dark edge, a sense of tension and angst, which points us to the darkness of our own hearts that longs for the light of Christ.
For me, A Child Is Born is an odd album. Taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar. Taking songs typically wrapped in seasonal sounds and re-wrapping them in something unseasonal and unusual. It may not be an easy album for you to like, though I've heard from many who are liking it a lot! Sojourn takes some serious risks in genre and style that will shake your Christmas world. But you will have to be the judge if this darker, grittier version of Christmas is something that will be in your rotation year by year. If nothing else, Sojourn for me has earned a listen as they continue to make music in service of the Church that is out of the ordinary.
Folk Angel put out a Christmas Songs EP in 2009 and another EP in 2010, Headed Home - Christmas Songs. Now finally a full-length Christmas album from Folk Angel: Comfort & Joy. Eleven songs on the new one, including "O Come All Ye Faithful," "O Holy Night," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Featured artists include Lauren Chandler, Robbie Seay, Shane & Shane, and others. Love this band and their americana Christmas sound. Learn more at FolkAngel.com and their Facebook & Bandcamp sites. Follow @FolkAngelMusic.
Go pick up the Bifrost Arts free sampler. Love their music!
- PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
- Girls: Father, Son, & Holy Ghost
- Coldplay: Parachutes
- Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker
- The Swell Season: Strict Joy
- Many more
A Very She & Him Christmas (out today, only $5)
- $1.99 Albums (ENDS TODAY): Whole List | Don't Miss: Arcade Fire: The Suburbs | The XX: xx | The National: High Violet
- $5 Albums for November (ENDS TOMORROW): My Favorites | 20 Christmas albums, 8 greatest hits & 20 albums from bands like Arcade Fire, The Weepies, Radiohead & Brandi Carlile.
- Daytrotter: Via Audio | S. Carey
Pay what you want for Dunham Van Durham's Christmas album, Christmas From the Heartland. That's my photo on the cover. And seriously, we really enjoy the album each Christmas in our home. You need to check it out, stream it, download it.
Bradford Cox of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound offers four albums of demos for FREE: Atlas Sound Bedroom Database. I've heard about a dozen songs and I'm loving it. Atlas Sound: Logos is one of my favorite albums to listen to while working ($8.99).
I shouldn't have to say how fantastic The Suburbs by Arcade Fire is. It's outstanding. Did you know you can get it today for $1.99? Yeah. Also Neon Bible is $5.99 & Funeral is $5. Here's the Spike Jonze directed video for "The Suburbs," which visualizes a very near, dark future for the burbs.