Catching up on these…
All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr | Scribner (2014)
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.
The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality
Ronald Rolheiser | Doubleday (1999)
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.
Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan Stevens | Asthmatic Kitty (2015)
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.
Death Cab for Cutie | Atlantic (2015)
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.
Arcade Fire | Merge (2004)
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.