Like Wine Pairing, but Not Really (Also, Hi Again)

Heyyo, peoples of the internet!  So… how’ve you been?  *sigh*  I hate being so busy.  I rather feel as though I’m neglecting you all.  But I’ve got a moment now, so I thought I would post something to cap off the evening.

An idea came to me the other day, you see (well, really two ideas).  The first is, since I am an avid listener of independent music, and, by His grace and blessing, a follower of Christ, to combine these two aspects into something interesting.  (Maybe.  Hopefully.)

The other idea is to post small pieces of Laudato Si, reflect on them, and open a space for discussion.  So that will be coming soon.  In the mean time… well, it’s probably easiest to just show you.

I thought I would take a look at what’s at number one on the Christian charts…

… and pair it with something indie.

Why?  Because I think these two songs offer some interesting contrast to one another.

Let me start off by saying I was pleasantly surprised by “Brother”.  Family and supporting one another are both awesome themes, and the song makes deft use of its genre.  I don’t understand why the Christian station near my house doesn’t play this kind of stuff.  I might listen to it regularly if it did.

Then we have “My Body Is a Cage”, a number vastly more subdued in tone that finds its crescendo two minutes in. Arcade Fire’s songwriting and ability to inspire emotion are not in full force here, but it’s still a fine song with some fantastical instrumentation, an anthem that in fact bears a lot of similarity to our first one.

The most obvious connection between the two lies in a single word: cage. Both songs speak of being locked inside a cage; Bear Rinehart has dropped the keys face down in the desert, while Win Butler maintains that the key is in his mind. They’re tied to each other by a desire to transcend the limits of this prison.

Still, a few things set these two songs apart from each other. The setting for “Brother” is a wilderness, while “My Body Is a Cage” takes place on an empty stage. Despite the implied barrenness of such a landscape, salvation is only as far away as the chorus for our first suffering hero, whose brother is by his side to help lift him up. And we all have someone like that, don’t we? It doesn’t matter how much of an introvert you might be. We need people; we need community. That’s part of what church is all about. You could go and worship God on your own terms, under a tree or somewhere cliché like that. But how would you know if you’d fallen? With whom would you share your moments of joy? After all, “Where two or three are gathered in My name”…

(I had to. I really did.)

Does salvation come at all in the second song? It ends almost like a cliffhanger… but I like to think so.

Though the two bands bear absolutely no relation to each other in real life, one could almost view “Brother” as a sequel to “My Body Is a Cage”. Butler cries out at the end of the song, “Set my spirit free!” He exists in a surprisingly Christian world, “living in an age that calls darkness light”, and like a puzzle piece, his last realization is that sometimes the key in your mind is not enough.

And then Rinehart appears walking out of the desert, reaches out his hand, and sings: “Brother, let me be your shelter”.

Red & Black

if I paint the skyline
too close, and
force red and black
to define the pathways
you weave in the sky,
throw my paintbrush
to earth. sometimes
i bind myself to it
too closely.
one foot in front
of the other, begin
with a single
step.

(7 August 2015)

image


No need to bother with the last five minutes of this one.  Unless you’re really bored or find it soothing.

In Review: May

Books

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket | HarperCollins (1999-2006)
A-

Lemony Snicket’s uniquely quirky writing sets this series apart from most others.  Though its first half gets somewhat repetitive, the books’ short length and Snicket’s prose make the escalation of the plot from Book 8 onwards worth waiting for.  It even ventures to ask some Big Questions as the Baudelaire Orphans’ situation grows more desperate, such as the problem of ends justifying means, and it gradually becomes clear that the main antagonist’s motives are less cut-and-dried nefarious than was first imagined.  It definitely leaves one wanting to know more, about V.F.D., the Sugar Bowl, Beatrice, about everything.  Whether Snicket will provide any answers in the future remains to be seen…

Worth reading; Snicket writes like no one else, despite these books’ young target audience. Somewhere in between 3.5 and 4 stars out of 5.
stars35

Music

The Suburbsexcellence-music
Arcade Fire | Merge (2010)
A

The Suburbs does a very good job of capturing a complex emotion: that inexpressible nostalgia of growing up, of feeling restless to explore the world, yet longing for the simplicity of one’s childhood.  Perhaps its success in this is what led it (quite unexpectedly) to win Best Album at the Grammy’s in 2011.  Its 16 tracks carry this theme without growing dull for over an hour, stumbling but once or twice.  It may not be as incandescent as Arcade Fire’s debut, but it is an exceptionally paced record that rewards repeat listens.

The Canadians have done it again.  4 stars out of 5.
stars4

In Review: March & April

Catching up on these…

Books

All the Light We Cannot Seeexcellence-lit
Anthony Doerr | Scribner (2014)
A+

In All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr weaves an intricate narrative of a young girl and boy, one in France, the other in Germany at the dawn of World War II.  The depth of his characters and the way in which the two finally meet is chronicled in a spectacular series of events that never feels contrived and in which every sentence happens for a reason.  Doerr’s poetical prose and knack for detail result in a polished novel whose only flaw is a slightly unsatisfying (though, in its defense, inevitable) conclusion.

One of the best novels I’ve read in a while.  4.5 stars out of 5.
stars45

 

The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality
Ronald Rolheiser | Doubleday (1999)
A+

If there’s a reason this book didn’t get this month’s Kitten of Excellence, it’s because it’s not merely another book I enjoyed.  It’s a book I press into your hands, saying, “Read this.  You won’t regret it.”  It’s not so much recommended reading as required reading for any follower of Christ.  Within its pages, Rolheiser outlines how a truly Christian spirituality should channel our inner energy and restlessness in this bustling 21st century.  And he does so in a series of ten near-perfect chapters of unassuming but pertinent insight that introduce the reader to this “search”, while pointing the way to the answers.

Just read it.  You’ll be glad you did.  5 stars out of 5.
stars5

Music

Carrie and Lowellexcellence-music
Sufjan Stevens | Asthmatic Kitty (2015)
A

From the opening notes of Carrie and Lowell, one can tell it will be an enjoyable listen.  Stevens’ songwriting is deeply artistic, never using eccentricity as an excuse for effort, and on his latest album, deeply intimate.  It’s a record full of sadness, candidly addressing the subject of his mother’s death in 2012.  But it never feels as though Stevens is wallowing in depression or seeking the listener’s pity.  He has succeeded in the supreme act of living: of taking one’s suffering and making it into something beautiful.

The result is his best release to date.  4.5 stars out of 5.

 

Kintsugi
Death Cab for Cutie | Atlantic (2015)
B+

Kintsugi is good.  Unfortunately, that’s about all that can be said to its credit.  Though it easily surpasses most of what you’ll find on the radio these days, Kintsugi lacks the genius of earlier releases, and falls few yards short of Codes and Keys in terms of stepping outside their comfort zone.  However, it is the sound of Death Cab doing what they do best, delivering a well-paced and polished record that nicely showcases Ben Gibbard’s skillful lyrics, even if it might not attract hoards of new fans.

Worth the price of dinner.  3.5 stars out of 5.
stars35

 

Funeralexcellence-music
Arcade Fire | Merge (2004)
A(+)?

Arcade Fire is without doubt the darling of contemporary music critics, but their reputation as exceptional artists is not without founding.  Nor is Funeral‘s reputation as a modern classic undeserved.  From the first notes of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, to the soaring chorus of “Wake Up”, all the way to the masterpiece that is “In the Backseat”, it’s a timely record of growing up that is only the more impressive for being the band’s debut album.  It’s doesn’t always speak to the listener, and is a bit of an acquired taste, but there is nothing like turning up the volume on this puppy and driving around the city.  Which, I’ve never done, but I imagine it would be awesome.

A definite must-listen.  4.5 stars out of 5.
stars45

 

R K Who?

*sighs*  Okay, guys…  Bear with me, but I couldn’t let this YouTube clip get by un-accosted.

“That’s not a good thing when you have a fire in an arcade.”  And this, kids, is why we don’t watch daytime television.

I know that clip’s a few years old, but evidently it caused some brouhaha when Arcade Fire became the first indie act to win Album of the Year in 2011.  And it’s hilarious to stumble upon the reactions of the general public at the time.  (There’s even a Tumblr page full of screenshots of people’s reactions on Twitter called “Who Is Arcade Fire??!!?”.)

In case you didn’t know…  I bet you’ve heard them if you’ve watched commercials during the Super Bowl or seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.

Should sound real familiar around 0:21.