Last week I mentioned how much I love good “roots” music, but if I am honest I tend to play another style more. A lot more. I listen to a ton of post-rock. To most people, this sounds like the ambient noise in the background of movies. I love to listen to this as I study and as I work in the office. There is just enough going on to keep my mind moving. Some of the better post-rock bands have been featured on some great TV shows and movie soundtracks. All of the background music in the TV show Friday Night Lights was by a band called Explosions in the Sky.
Last summer when the full length trailer for Moneyball came out, I was hooked. The song in the background was by a band called This Will Destroy You. I fell in love and got all of their albums. They are in heavy rotation along with the soundtracks to Inception, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Tron.
Here is a sample of This Will Destroy You:
I will freely admit, I am a sucker for roots music. If tapes still existed, my Mumford & Sons would be worn through. If records were still around, my Nickel Creek would have ruts in it. A few weeks ago, Noisetrade sent me an email recommending I download a few songs by a band called The Vespers.
The Vespers are two sisters and two brothers who play rootsy folk mixed with indy vocal sensibilities with a dash of spirituality to boot. I bought their new album and I am in the process of playing the files so often that they will somehow wear out. I like these guys that much. You can hear one of their better songs below, or you can go to NioseTrade and download it there.
In October of 2010 Sufjan Stevens released his latest studio album, The Age of Adz. The album is much different than just about anything he had done up to that point. First, musically it was a blend of the electronic music he had experimented with on Enjoy Your Rabbit and his traditional multi-instrument sonic landscapes. Second, the album was free of gimmick or theme. Most of his albums up to this point had some sort of geograpic or thematic centerpiece. As such, the album, by his own description is far more introspective than anything he had ever done, or at least since 7 Swans.
The album became devisive for many fans of Sufjan, and was a particular sticking point for my best friend and I. My best friend is far and away more musically inclined than I am. His name is Rich and he holds 2 masters in Jazz Composition and Jazz Performance. In addition to that he is working on his Doctorate degree in Worship studies. He has an incredible publishing complany focused on bringing musical and liturgical excellence to the Christian community. Check them out here.
Rich thought, in a word, that the Age of Adz was “Junk”. He pointed out that Bon Iver’s self titled album that came out a few months later was the album Sufjan should have made. While I share Rich’s high regard for Bon Iver, I think his take the Adz is off. Way Off.
The first time I listened to Adz, I was shocked. There was far more dissonance than I had come to expect from Sufjan. And more cursing. And yet I was drawn to listen again and again. The album is dark in a way that nothing Steven’s had ever released was. He had shown a talent for making the objectionable palatable. Look at his treatment of the infamous Illinois serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Hauntingly beautiful.
And yet this album is an audio exploration of what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul. Sufjan says in the song the Age of Adz:
When I die, when I die
But when I live, when I live
I’ll give it all I’ve got
It lives in all of us
It reminds me of David Bazan’s album Control in that it is a tragic and dark tale that is haunted by a sovereign God. Both albums seem like someone was able to put the shadowy grace of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories. Take a listen to the album below and share your thoughts.
When I was a teenager, my one strong passion was rock music. And I was fortunate enough to live in Tampa, where the independent music was thriving in the late 90’s. I was at a show every weekend with my crew of Ace, Bowie, Pytlik, and whoever else jumped in my ’85 Buick Regal that night. We saw Underoath (when they were scary metal) and Anberlin (when they were a ska band called saGoh 24/7) a hundred times.
And yet from that Tampa music scene, one band stands out as the biggest influence on my musicaly taste. Denison Marrs was a spacey indy rock band from the next town over. Everytime I went to there show, I was stunned. It didn’t matter how many times I saw them, I never wanted the show to end. One of the best shows I have ever seen was at an old Lutheran church in Clearwater. Denison Marrs saw the venue with it’s large stain glassed wall behind the stage and moved all the lights outside and pointed them inward through the stain glass. Then when they started their set, the windows were lit up and no other lights were on. The entire show was played as they were only visible as black silhouettes. Awesome.
But even better than their showmanship was thier music. They blended a lead guitar with an armada of effects with beautiful crunchy rhythms. Their lead singer Eric would sing over top of these changes while the drummer avoided the high hat like it was the plague. If you listen to their music (two songs are available at the bottom of this post) you might think it is another indie band.
But here’s the thing. These songs are almost 15 years old! These guys were way ahead of their time. Their album, Holding Hands @ 35,000 Feet is still in very heavy rotation in my iTunes. Enjoy these emo tunes from the days when Emo was a good thing!
When I moved to Myrtle beach, two of the first characters I met were into Ska music. I mean, really into ska music. Card-carrying members of the Aquabats Army. And who am I to hate; I grew up in the era of No doubt and Less Than Jake. (And for those of you who have known me for a long time, let us please forget the Left Shoe Untied era)
But as time moved on, these two characters grew up, both musically and in their vision for art. One of them, in an effort to foster better music in the greater Myrtle Beach area started an indy label. Encouraging locals to share their talent and fostering this through show promotion and record releases. While Tom hasn’t been able to devote the time he once thought into this endeavor (since becoming the editor for the University’s literary magazine) he has a knack for identifying talent.
The other character moved away and has flourished at the College of Charleston. Michael, has grown in his talent as a musician while studying psychology. Gone from his music is the over the top fluff. What’s left is an incredible blend of narrative and neo-folk.
Why I am so proud of these two guys is because they have allowed their genuine Reformed faith to work itself out in their chosen mediums. Michael and Tom have created beauty from the chaos around them. I couldn’t be happier to know these two.
The Sad Songs EP is a split between Michael’s roommate Shane (Conceptual Reality) and Michael’s solo project (Storyteller). It is released through Bandcamp of Tom’s label, Rose and Arrow Records.
Conceptual Reality is a fantastic mix of post-rock/soundscapes that would Brian Eno proud and an indy sensibility that reminds me of bands like Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos, Carrousel, and All-Time Quaterback. Pretty great stuff that you can listen to over and over.
Storyteller’s half of the EP could have come straight off the B-sides of Bright Eyes Digital Ash in a Digital Urn/I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. From the diversity (a ska influenced bluegrass song!?) of the music to the honesty of the lyrics (the pain in my heart goes away when I wash my self in the shower of all my thoughts) Michael is a Storyteller. Check out the whole EP and share it with your friends!
One of the awesome/terrible things about most music is the lyrics are often vague and subject to interpretation. As someone who tries to discern authors intents in ancient writings for a living this can be incredibly frustrating. However, as someone who loves the beauty of the ambiguity much modern music provides, it can be very beautiful.
It is like my right and left brain are at war with one another. Part of me says, “What does it mean? It must mean something!” The other part of me says, “Who cares what it means, it’s provacative and it gets the people going”.
No artist evokes this sense of wonder more than Bon Iver. These indie darlings write beautiful music that communicates a sense of trnascendance in a way that is normally isolated to clasical composers like Bach and Handel. And yet, these songs complete with biblical imagery and references to sermons and seminaries communicate some elusive meaning that I can’t quite crack.
Watch this video for the banks song, Towers.
Gorgeous song. Gorgeous video. It seems to communicate something so profound about the way we desire to create and control and yet when it falls apart, so do we.
I know this is how my idolatry works. I work so hard to only to have things fall apart. This leads to anger and despair, which often pushes me deeper into the arms of my idols that don’t fulfill. Thank heaven there is the Spirit which reverses the tower of Babel and tames my desire to rebuild it. Again and Again.
A few years ago a friend introduced me to a band from Michigan called Anathallo. I immediately fell in love. To this day, every song they ever recorded is on my phone. At all times. No matter what is moved around to make space for this application or that audio book, they always make the cut. The only thing bad about Anathallo is that they stopped making music.
A few weeks ago I was pointed in the direction of another band out of the same state, called the Soil & the Sun. I immediately fell in love all over again. I am not sure if it is the brutal winters and beautiful summers or the copious amounts of Dutch calvinism that runs rampant, but something about Michigan produces these bands. These unbelievably beautiful bands.
the Soil & the Sun describe themselves as experimental spiritual folk-rock meets New Mexico space music. They have an uncanny ethereal quality to their songs that few outside of Anathallo have ever captured. They soar with a sound that can only be described as transcendant.
If you are a fan of Anathallo, Sufjan Stevens, or Bon Iver, you should definitely check them out.
Hopefully that pasted their player in…