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My Favorite Music in 2013

December 29th, 2013

Adriene’s parents were here for the entire week of Christmas so I wasn’t on the computer at all and my inner introvert nearly died. Then they took the girls to Savannah with them and let us home along for a week. A week, y’all. This much freedom is crazy. It feels so weird not having my daily schedule determined by my children. Most days I have to cram anything that I want to do into the hour between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM before I pass out from exhaustion, but yesterday I lounged around and went to bed at 11:00 PM and woke up relaxed. Crazy. Hopefully this means I’ll have a little time to add some year-in-review posts to this here site.

So, before I leave tomorrow to head off to the Music City Bowl, I’m going to look back on the year in the music. This was the first year in a while that I didn’t come home with a bunch of CD’s from Cornerstone so I wondered if I’d have anything interesting to listen to. Thank goodness, there was still some really good music that arrived at my house. These CD’s weren’t necessarily released in 2013, but I “discovered” them in 2013. I’ll break it down into the Top 5 and the next 5.

THE TOP 5
The Lone Bellow – self-titled
It seems like a really long time ago that this album was released, doesn’t it? It’s withstood a lot of claims to the throne, but it might be the album of the year for me. Produced by Charlie Peacock, this is what I like more than The Civil Wars and I enjoyed Zac Williams solo release so I knew I was going to love this album as well. It’s a vocal tour-de-force with some beautiful harmonies.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
This is the competitor to the Lone Bellow album for album of the year. (This album also feels like it was released ages ago.) I love that Daft Punk zigged when everyone expected them to zag. Fun danceable disco songs with some clever electronic pieces in between and lots of guest vocals.

Anberlin – Devotion
The original Vital made my top albums list for 2012. Is it possible for a re-release to top the original album? In this case, absolutely. Normally, I don’t go for “deluxe re-releases” or whatever that also seems like money grabs to me, but in this case the additional songs are great and the remixes and great, too. This album was totally worth buying twice.

The Oh Hellos – Through the Deep, Dark Valley
Some friends of mine introduced me to this band this year and I am so glad they did. There’s a simplicity about the sound, it’s kinda like Mumford and Sons, but with a little more pop sensibility. Their Christmas EP was my favorite new Christmas music this year as well.

Derek Webb – I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You
I’ve already written a review of this album, so I’ll just link it here.

THE NEXT FIVE (in no particular order)
Sandra McCracken – Desire Like Dynamite
Leagues – You Belong Here
Beautiful Eulogy – Satellite Kite
Sleeping At Last – The Atlas EP’s
Over the Rhine – Meet Me At the Edge of the World

Meet Me At The Edge of The Year

December 16th, 2013

Like most college relationships, my association with Over the Rhine at first was a hot, sweaty mess. Since then, though, we have both settled down a little bit and like most relationships that have lasted well over a decade we have become a little more calm. I don’t have the euphoric highs I used to have with Over the Rhine, but there is a lot of comfort in familiarity.

I supposed it’s appropriate then, that Adriene and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at an Over the Rhine Christmas show. For our first anniversary, we flew up to Cincinnati to see a Christmas Over the Rhine concert. This year didn’t involve as much travel, but we did have to get grandparents involved to watch our children and that’s a least as much logistics and planning as a flight to Cincinnati.

The band is touring as a six-piece these days. Aside from the main members of the band, husband and wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, the only band member I recognized was Nick Radina who had toured with them before on percussion, but tonight he mostly played the little cuatro guitar. Eric Heywood played slide guitar and electric guitar and liked him better on slide than the standard electric guitar, though he was very good on acoustic as well. Jennifer Condos and Jay Bellerose held down the rhythm section and are a romantic couple as well as I understand it. The drummer was more much subdued than Mickey Grimm’s long flashy solos, but used a variety of brushes, mallets and such and spent a lot of time on the toms instead of the snare. All of the members were involved in creating the music for Over the Rhine’s latest album, Meet Me At the Edge of the World.

Most of the songs were from the new double album and they played mostly the half of the songs that I like from Meet Me At The Edge of The World so that was good. I was hoping they would do some Christmas material and they did do some songs off of Snow Angels and a couple from their new upcoming Christmas album next year. There was nothing from The Darkest Night of The Year which was a little disappointing. I was hoping for at least one traditional Christmas song since they sounded so good on The Darkest Night… but no luck.

We were sitting in the middle of the theater, directly under the slightly terrifying “Big Ass Fan” which was keeping the place nice and cool during the opener, Ben Sollee. Sollee, a proud Kentucky resident, informed us the fan company was also from Kentucky. He was a nice change up for openers as he did everything solo on a cello. Unfortunately, The Variety Playhouse decided to turn down the fan during OTR’s show and it started to get a little warm and as I remembered from Cornerstone OTR + warmth + dark = sleep. Adriene and I fought it off but it wasn’t easy.

All in all, though, it was a fun show even if there wasn’t much there for an old Over the Rhine fan (when Karin said they were going to go back and play an “old” song, it turned out to be “Cruel and Pretty” from Ohio which even she admitted was only going halfway back through their catalog) the full band treatment gave a many of the new songs a little more life. I swore I’d never become one of those fans who always wanted only the old stuff from a band in a concert and we’ll see if I can hold that at bay. Much like I enjoyed celebrating a long and happy marriage (so far) I’m okay with celebrating a long and happy career (so far) from a great band. Thanks for all of the music, Over the Rhine, new and old.

Page CXVI – Advent To Christmas

December 5th, 2013

I saw Page CXVI in one of their early forms way back at Cornerstone Festival in 2007 and I’ve been following their music ever since. The members of the band have done albums together as The Autumn Film, worked with one of my favorite artists, Derek Webb, and also worked together as Page CXVI, which is more focused on hymns and liturgical music.

Earlier this year they launched a Kickstarter project to do EP’s for each part of the liturgical year and now the first part, the Advent season is done. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Christmas music so I’m excited to include a preview of their album here for you all to check out and enjoy:

Cobb County Braves

November 11th, 2013

Turner Field

I don’t think when I posted a spiel about Braves baseball at the beginning of this past season that they would have an offseason like this. I’m amazed that all of this happened so quietly, not a peep was given in the press, and everyone seemed surprised. The Atlanta Braves are now moving to a new stadium 10 miles away from my house. I’m conflicted.

On one hand, I’m one of those people. The very people that ITP’ers sneer at and the very people that the Braves want in their games. I live in the northern suburbs and I have no interest in driving downtown on a weeknight to go to a Braves game. I’m one of the people in the dark red part of this map that shows a red dot for every Braves ticket purchased last year. I wouldn’t go downtown for a Tuesday night game, but Cumberland? Well, that’s a different story, I can be there in 20 minutes and home from a game before 11:00 PM. I’ve read some complaints about how the Braves are leaving a stadium only 17 years old, but this isn’t about the stadium, this is all about where it is located.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how a congested area is going to handle additional traffic. Atlanta has terrible public transportation, the reasons are many and varied, and it was terrible at Turner Field and it will be terrible at the new location in Cumberland. I don’t understand how it’s going to be easy to get to or get out of a game. I also don’t know how a feel about pulling part of the soul of the city out of downtown and moving it out. Yes, it’s only 13 miles up I-75, but there was something special about that view looking out on the skyline from behind home plate. At the new stadium? Maybe you’ll see the skyline off in the distance? I am very concerned about the area around Turner Field, which was pretty impoverished already. I assume they will tear down Turner Field, which is useless now, but what fills the vacuum in an area that no one already wants to go to?

Objectively, the whole thing makes a lot of sense for the Atlanta Braves. Baseball has, for better or worse, become an increasingly suburban sport so it makes sense to go to the suburbs where the fans are. The Braves are leaving a lot of money on the table when they have a nearly empty stadium on a Tuesday night in August. Also, for the large part of the Braves fanbase, nothing really changes. For the people that live all across the southeast and come to one game a year I don’t know that it makes much of a difference if they travel to Cumberland or Midtown. Despite all of this though, I can’t shake the feeling that it is going to be an awful experience traveling on I-285 during rush hour on a Tuesday night in August (it’s already terrible.)

A couple things I do know for sure. One, I’ve been saying for a couple years that we need to take the girls to a game at Turner Field and now I absolutely must do it before time runs out. Two, you can bet that I’ll check out a game at this new stadium. This whole thing is ridiculous, but sports are as a whole ridiculous. I’m just along for the ride. Along with the ridiculous stadium that the Atlanta Falcons are getting, why not add a ridiculous stadium for the Braves? We don’t really do “old”, “historic”, or “traditions” here anyways.

Happy 39

November 4th, 2013

Tech Tower

I’ve developed a habit of having some pretty awesome, amazing, epic birthday weekends and they are almost always unplanned, they just seem to happen. This year was no different. The week started off a little stressful with a work deadline to meet but Halloween night, while the girls were out trick-or treating I was handing out candy at the door and wrapping things up. That cleared the decks for the weekend so I didn’t have any work issues to worry about.

Adriene left on Friday to drive up to North Carolina to meet some of her friends for a weekend to celebrate our friend’s last chemo and radiation treatment. We are so excited for her that she has fought a hard fight this year and it looks like she is emerging the victor. However, that meant I was on my own for my birthday. Adriene even protested a little when invited for the weekend, “but that’s Jeff’s birthday” and Alisa replied, “tell Jeff I had cancer.” Well then. No matter, my girls and I went out for dinner (they insisted on something “fancy” for my birthday and I suppose Macaroni Grill counts as fancy, at least in their minds) and then on Saturday we drove out to visit my parents. I left the girls with my parents and went downtown for Homecoming at Georgia Tech. I’m glad I arrived early as I had time to visit with old friends, some I hadn’t seen in several years, and also wander around campus to take photos of all of buildings that have changed so much since I was in school. The game was pretty exciting as well as Tech won a hard fought game over Pitt. Sunday was fun as well as we visited my parents’ church and enjoyed a potluck lunch that reminded me of so many lunches at church during my childhood. Also, the girls spent large amounts of time outside in the incredible weather, which makes everybody happy. They even slept in to a decent time when we fell back an hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time. If that isn’t a birthday gift right there, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are a year short of 40. My mom insists the forties are much better than the thirties and I’m inclined to believe her. I used to post a lot about how difficult life had become during the first years of having babies and then toddlers, but the last couple years I can definitely feel the slow easing off of difficulty as they get older. I had the girls to myself for the last two weekends and it is noticeably less tiring than two or three years ago and there are so many more laughs and jokes now.

I love these epic birthdays and I love that they seem to come out of nowhere. I also love how they set up Thanksgiving and Christmas as the year begins to wrap up. The 40th birthday has a lot of work to do to live up to these last few birthdays.

My photos from Homecoming and the football game are on Flickr for your perusal.