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My Favorite Music of 2014

January 20th, 2015

Now that the year has wrapped up, it’s time to figure out my favorite music of 2014. It’s impossible to talk about music in 2014 without talking about Taylor Swift’s 1989. The album dominated sales for the year and it some ways it reminds me of the year Adele dominated the music scene with 21. Much like there is no shame in an old guy like me listening to 21, I don’t think there should be any shame in listening to 1989. That being said, while it is audio candy, it misses the list. The album style fits the title perfectly, I feel like I could have been listening to “Style” on my car radio on Power 99 in my Plymouth Horizon. However, it’s not lyrically very interesting to me, and maybe it shouldn’t be because I’m not a girl in my teens/twenties. Much of the album sounds defeatist, the relationship is going to end poorly before it even begins. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist in my romance. So, great sounding album and very much hummable, but not on the list.

On to the list…

Kye Kye – Fantasize
A terrific sophomore effect that is simply hypnotic in sound. Paper Route’s Chad Howat has done an incredible production job on an album that excites and soothes.

The Choir – Shadow Weaver
I have really enjoyed the recent increase in activity by The Choir in the last five years and each album that they have released since Burning Like The Midnight Sun has been better than the album before it. This is the noisiest one with lots of Marc Byrd’s influence. Steve Hindalong’s lyrics are as quirky and creative as ever, no one does a turn of phrase like he does.

Jeremy Casella – Death In Reverse
Casella has near-singlehandedly created a gorgeous sounding album loaded with longing for paradise. It is an album that inspires. I think of joy when I hear this album and that is a rare thing in music these days. He has managed to make an album that is not cliched with Christian platitudes but it still loaded with a want and a need to connect with the Creator.

Coldplay – Ghost Stories
It seems like ever since Coldplay released Parachutes I have been wanting them to realize another one like it. This is as close to a second Parachutes as we have gotten. The album sounds so good even if it is so sad with Chris Martin’s very public separation bleeding into the lyrics and even if “Sky Full of Stars” sounds like every anthemic song they have done before, it’s not possible not to dance along to it.

Anberlin – Lowborn
I’ve already written a review about this album, but I’ll repeat myself a little bit. Lowborn is a fine swan song for a band going out on their own terms and the bittersweet tone fits the situation perfectly.

Lecrae – Anomaly
It’s past time to start taking Lecrae seriously. The album crackles with anger against injustice, sarcasm against social unbalance, and even gives some humor. Alongside artists like Propaganda, I am very happy to hear hip-hop artists taking on both their faith and social concerns in an upfront manner.

Steve Taylor – Goliath
The tour from this album was a whole lot of fun but the best part is that Taylor has moved back in the saddle with such ease reprising his role as the “clown prince of Christian music.” Taylor leaves no sacred cow unskewered on an album that snarls with loud guitars and drums and I hope there is more to come from this legend.

The Darkest Night of the Year at the Edge Of The World

January 4th, 2015

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We spent the Christmas week in Savannah and similar to last year, we left the girls there for a week at home without them. You would think we had a nice, lazy, relaxing weekend, but far from it, we spent five days cleaning out the house, throwing out junk and splitting the girls’ bedrooms up. We have thrown out so much junk, and even still we didn’t get everything out before they came back home. That’s an apt metaphor for this past year. It’s all been too much. I have been overwhelmed with too many things to do, too many things to think about, and too many things coming into the house to handle.

So, I am not really a person to make resolutions, but my goal in 2015 is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Whatever we decide to get the girls involved in during the winter and the spring, I am hoping it has less commitment than cheerleading and maybe allows me to take care of myself with a little bit of exercise.

This article about this year’s end of the year is, much like the rest of this year, late and succinct due to lack of time. However, we’ve arleady got the Christmas decorations put away and it feels like 2015 is open with some opportunity. I’m ready for a new start and a new year.

Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil

November 24th, 2014

Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor hasn’t played a show in Atlanta in twenty years. The last time he was here, Bill Clinton was president and Nirvana was dominating the airwaves. While that’s a long time, it’s not as if Taylor has been slumbering. When he has not co-written songs for other bands, he directed Don Miller’s movie adaption of Blue Like Jazz, but Wednesday night he was doing what he does best. Taylor’s acerbic lyrics have always found home in a variety of musical styles, first in Bowie-esque New Wave and later the very grunge sound that the aforementioned Nirvana brought to the radio. He brought a new collection of songs from his new album, also his first in 20 years, to go alongside his classics. For me the new songs all sound a little bit the same, but Taylor’s wit has not diminished one bit and the sound, well it rocks and that seems to be an increasingly rare thing these days. The rocking sound comes from a band that is an all-star super group. John Mark Painter of the duo Fleming and John played bass, along with some saxophone (a long missed and vital part of Taylor’s music) and even french horn. Guitarist Jimmy Abegg has been associated with a variety of artists including Rich Mullins, Charlie Peacock, and even his band Vector in the 80’s. He may look like a homeless man, but he added a nice biting edge of guitar. Former Newsboys front man Peter Furler played drums.

The set list was a mix of the new album combined with some classics, including the cover-of-a-cover “I Want To Be A Clone” and “Moshing Floor” which was kinda funny because everyone in the crowd was too old to mosh. Taylor finished the night up with his newest epic “Comedian.” The encore of the evening was a tounge-in-cheek rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” which led directly into “Cash Cow” and he finished the night with a serious song, “Hero.” All through the night, Taylor was ageless. He may not do cartwheels across the stage anymore, but the leaped and spun like a man who hasn’t aged in twenty years. I know I was more tired than he appeared to be at the end of the show.

Peter Furler opened the night with his three piece band. None of his new songs stood out to me, but it was fun to hear him cover some old Newsboys songs like “Not Ashamed” and “Shine”. The songs were fun to hear again and had a very different take with a raw power-trio with all of the drum machines and backing tracks stripped away. Perhaps the best old Newsboys cover that fit his new sound was “Lost the Plot” which remained powerful and loud. While the Newsboys have always seemed a little phoney, Furler was soft spoken and authentic, he seemed to enjoy the smaller crowd and simpler vibe.

So many of my favorite musicians have changed so much in twenty years, and many not for the better. Taylor however seems to be trying to pick up where he left off and while he does have some momentum to regain after being away for so long, his return to the music scene is a very welcome one and I hope there are more tours and more albums to come from here.

40

November 20th, 2014

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When I turned 30 I had something of a existential crisis. I wasn’t cool anymore. I wasn’t young anymore. My glory days were behind me. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. At 40, nobody has time for that kind of stuff.

I think I was prepared for life to change a lot when I turned 30, but I don’t know that I anticipated how much it would keep changing. I also don’t think I realized how isolated I would feel when all my friends moved away and parenthood and jobs prevented any of us from meeting up anyways. I wish I had a mentor for my 30’s. I had mentors in college and after college, but I’m not sure anyone warned me how hard the 30’s would be.

Football has finally wrapped up and our weeks are starting to relax a little. We were starting to buckle a little under the grind of practices and early mornings, but now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can start looking forward to the holidays. Our kids are normally fun, but they are a special kind of fun at Christmas.

Today, a tow truck came and took away my Acura Integra. I donated it, and I don’t say this to make you think I am some great philanthropist, I did it for the tax write-off. I was a little sad to see it go, but it hasn’t operated well for almost a year now, so it was time to go. It is however, a tangible reminder that my 30’s are over. I bought the car when I was 25, but it has been my ride all through the 30’s, taking me to a Cornerstone Festival, all over the Southeast, and back and forth to work when I used to commute. I hope someone takes the car and gives it some love (and maybe a loud muffler, neon lights, and a big spoiler.) Just like other parts of my life, everything is changing again.

The Blur That Has Been Fall

October 29th, 2014

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A week before Adriene and I left for London, my laptop died. The power supply completely failed and I was without a laptop. So, I mailed it off to get fixed and left for London and everything since then on a technology level has been a complete mess. When I returned home, the laptop arrived a couple days later, but apparently it had been used as a basketball on the way home because the screen was cracked. I sent it back to technical support and let them know this was not satisfactory and I wanted the screen repaired for free. After two weeks of doing I don’t know what, they informed me they didn’t have the part and at that point I told them to just send me back the laptop and refund all repairs. So, I got my laptop repaired for free and it only took four weeks and one cracked screen to get that done and in the meantime all of my internet usage was on tablets and tiny computers with tiny keyboards.

I say all that to say that trying to compose anything on touchscreens and tablets is enough to drive a man mad, so while I felt like I built up some nice momentum here on the site this summer it all came to a screeching halt and I haven’t written anything in a couple months. At the same time, I have been so busy trying to catch up at work and keep up with my kids’ activities that it’s not like I had much time to try and peck (and curse) something on a tablet touchscreen anyways.

What to say about London? A month now in the rear-view mirror and it seems like a dream. It was an alternate world that we lived in for a week and now that we are back it seems like it canters along at it’s own pace, totally oblivious that we were ever there. The whole order of our day was totally altered. We never sat in a car and we stood in crowds the entire week. At one point, Adriene saw a fatigued expression on my face and said, “You’re tired of being around people all day, aren’t you?” I did admit that I longed to sit at my desk at home and look out over our (people-less) pond and trees in the back yard. But it was amazing, it really was. Some old friends that live in London swooped down and took us off for unbelievably good Turkish food, Indian food, and so much beer I can’t even begin to say which one I liked best. By the time we got familiar with the city, I had sat in the dark corners of Stamford Bridge and watched a match from one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world and then later taunted Stoke City fans when Niko Kranjcar hit a free kick for QPR in the dying moments of the game. We listened to Georgia Tech play football in an alternate universe where it was daytime on our phones at night in the pub. Adriene saw the Hogwarts model castle used in the Harry Potter films and we saw the Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s oldest chess sets in existence, thousand-dollar (sorry, pound) shoes at Harrod’s, and just like that we were home again where everyone drives on the right side of the road and we have 700 channels on our TV.

What a return, though! The girls signed up for cheerleading this year and I have to say there is nothing funnier than watching first grade kids play football. They are kinda like weeble-wobbles with their shoulder pads that stick out on both sides and helmets as big as their shoulders. They don’t tackle each so much as they run into each other. Games are almost always decided by a comedy of errors, almost always because there is one kid bigger and faster than the others and no one can tackle, or even catch him. The girls have had mixed opinions about cheering at the games, mostly because of the varying weather conditions, so we’ll see if we do this again next year. However, this fall it has consumed our weeks and our weekends and we’ve had to squeeze normal activities into the hinterlands of our weekly schedule. It has been fun and exciting, but I’m not sure I will be that sorry when it’s over. When it is over, it is time to get ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The children are happy. There is always something to look forward to.

This post is like the final piece in the puzzle of catching up this fall. I feel like the last couple of months have been a blur, but things seem to finally be returning back to a more normal pace of life just in time to start ramping up for the holiday season and more adventures to come.

(I know some people love vacation photos and for other people it brings back horrible memories of sitting at someone’s house while they show slide after slide on a screen, BUT if you’re the sort that likes vacation photos, here they are.)