Howdy, folks! The Window Philosopher has returned, after two of the most amazing weeks of my life on an island in Greece with 90 other choir people. I wish we all could have stayed longer. I met so many awesome people, and then had to leave them. So I miss Syros, but it’s kind of nice to be home.
It would be an injustice if I didn’t tell you, my dear readers, all about it. But for now, I’m holding off while I consider making a video blog of the trip instead. Well then why are you writing, Peuce? WE WANNA HEAR ABOUT GREECE! Yes, I know you do, but until that’s ready, I will give you something else I love doing: album reviews.
See, international travel means long plane rides, and long plane rides mean lots of time to listen to music. I didn’t really expand my horizons with these, but I have expanded my knowledge of two of my most favoritest bands, Jars of Clay and Death Cab for Cutie. So without further ado:
by Jars of Clay
Gray Matters (2013)
If there’s one thing that got me excited about Amazon Prime Music, it’s that I could listen to Jars of Clay’s most recent album for free. Even I had bought it first, it would have been worth the price. Jars of Clay always proves to be good at trying new things, and this album is no different.
What distinguishes Inland from previous Jars albums is that sounds a little more pop, a little more indie. Everything else I love about Jars is still there. The harmonies and chords are more than just G-Em-C-D. The lyrics are meaningful (they are nearly poets in some of these). These are songs about living, not just abstract statements. They all apply to and can have relevance to any listener. Beyond the newfound nuances in their sound, they are still Jars of Clay.
The first two tracks are amazing. “After the Fight” opens the album powerfully and upbeatedly (not sure if that’s a word). “Age of Immature Mistakes” is half love song, half pointing out what’s wrong with our view of love. (“I don’t know enough about love, so I make it up.”) “Reckless Forgiver” features the neat addition of a solo violin. Some of the middle tracks fell a little flat for me. Even “Fall Asleep” didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for it. However, the ending kicks things back into gear with the pointed “Left Undone” and “Inland”, unfulfilled, but with a definite and optimistic direction. It’s not a concept album, but there’s a definite journey from the first track to the last.
If you are a Jars of Clay fan, buy this album. They’ve created something familiar yet refreshing, true to form. If you’re a fan of indie and/or Christian music, you might give it a shot too. It’s likely a little different from what you’ve heard, but whoever said trying new things wasn’t a good idea?
Just keep heading inland.
Versus other Jars albums I’ve listened to:
Who We Are Instead will forever and always be my favorite, but Inland is a solid addition to their discography.
- Who We Are Instead (2003)
- Good Monsters (2006)
- Inland (2013)
- The Eleventh Hour (2002)
- If I Left the Zoo (1999)
by Death Cab for Cutie
Atlantic, Barsuk (2008)
I only discovered them this year, but Death Cab for Cutie has come to be one of my favorite bands. And (I promise Amazon is not paying me to say this) a lot of their music has ended up on Prime Music as well. So, I seized the opportunity, and discovered a bit more than I expected.
I say this because Ben Gibbard’s songwriting can never be labeled as cheery (at least until Codes and Keys). DCFC excels at writing beautiful songs about sad things, which are after all part of living. But this album is at times downright depressing. In the end, it’s mainly the closing tracks “Pity and Fear” and “The Ice Is Getting Thinner” that keep me from giving Narrow Stairs a higher score. Most of their songs have some hint of optimism. Not these two.
However, some tracks still shine enough for me to enjoy listening to this album. “Grapevine Fires” is a melancholy slow dance on the theme of the wildfires in California. And while “Your New Twin Size Bed” is full of heartbreak, the fact that it’s written in the second person keeps it from self-pity. It’s a beautiful and impassioned song. (“I tried not to worry, but you’ve got me terrified. It’s like you’re in some kind of hurry to say goodbye.”) “Cath…” and “Long Division” are catchy as all get out, though you’d never guess it by their lyrics.
What lifts Narrow Stairs from the grave is still the complex instrumentations and melodies I love about DCFC. It’s not an album for everyone, but I would give it a listen if you want to call yourself a fan. I might give it three and a half stars, but I’m too lazy to make a half-star image right now.
Versus other Death Cab albums I’ve listened to:
Don’t get me wrong, Narrow Stairs is good. I just prefer a little less despair. (And yes, I actually like Codes and Keys better. I don’t know why people bash that album.)
- Plans (2005)
- Codes and Keys (2011)
- Narrow Stairs (2008)
Well, folks, I won’t take up any more of your time, but I’ve got one more review up my sleeve for later. It’s the last album I listened to on this trip, and probably my favorite. Any guesses?