Sunday, December 31, 2006
I remember watching the movie The Lost Boys when I was 10 years old. I was amazed at this awesome film about teenage vampires. That movie would become my favorite throughout my childhood. As a kid, I wanted to be in the film. I pictured myself as part of the gang as they ran around Santa Carla trying to wipe out the vampires. I always imagined myself ramming a stake through one of the vampire's hearts (preferably Kiefer Sutherland's character) and saying something slick like, "How's that sucka!"
As I think back to this great film, I remember the character Michael. It's pretty awesome that even after he became a vampire, he still had compassion for his brother Sam and his family. I mean, he could have just wiped them out if he wanted to. But he didn't. If you watch it, you could see the pain inside as he struggles with being a new vampire, and at the same time his care for not wanting to hurt those he loves. Towards the end, he uses his strength as a vampire to help his brother and friends kill the vampires once and for all.
I'm like Michael in a lot of ways. Every day, I have this war going on inside of me between my selfish and wicked self, and the struggle to do my best and love my family and those around me. Man it's rough. Just another reminder why I need God in my life.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
It was around 2001 when my wife and I met Tim. He lived upstairs from us in this apartment building in Alexandria, VA. Other than saying "hello" when we bumped into him on our way in the building, we hardly knew him. He didn't live with anyone, was real friendly, and smiled a lot. Eventually, we had longer conversations than "hello" and my wife and I got to know him better. He worked for a place that did AIDS research in Washington DC and seemed to be doing well in his job. We kind of figured out he was gay before he told us. In fact, when he told us that he was, it was very casual like he was telling us he went to the mall that day. I have to admit, before I met him, I never had any gay friends. So this was weird for me at first. One night we invited him over to have dinner with us. This was during the time we were vegan, so naturally my wife cooked tofu. (On a side note: if you think tofu is disgusting, you obviously haven't tried my wife's. She cooks it REALLY good.) We all had a good time hanging out and talking. Over time we became good friends. He was very thoughtful to us. I remember one day he left a copy of M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Traveled" at our door because he thought I'd like to read it. When I went in the hospital for depression, my wife told him where I was, and he came and visited me to remind me things will be ok. On Christmas day, he knocked on our door and gave my wife a pet fish as a gift, and he gave me a sweater. He heard me out without being judgemental when I needed to cry during some crazy shit I was going through, as well as my wife. I know homosexuality seems to be a big topic these days. I'm straight, so I don't understand what makes someone gay. But I understand kindness. And that's what he gave to us as a friend.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
"Queen's Greatest Hits"
I have to admit, I am not into '70's rock music so much. The only time I listened to it growing up was when my dad or someone else played it in the car, at parties, etc. I was more into 80's and 90's music, since those were the decades I grew up in. But something was different about Queen. Was it Freddie Mercury's opera/rock star vocals? The way the band harmonized in their choruses? Or was it because of the Bohemian Rhapsody scene in Wayne's World? Maybe all of the above, I really don't know. One thing I can say is, after listening to Queen's Greatest Hits, I have moved from casual listener to a complete fan of their music. These guys weren't kidding when they proclaimed "we will rock you". If you aren't blown away by Freddie Mercury's voice belting out Another One Bites The Dust, then you probably aren't listening good enough. Other than the obvious hits like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions, I found so much more about them on here. I really came to appreciate their music and how timeless and radical it is. Radical in the sense that you could see how they were ahead of their time by making songs that would eventually inspire many more great rock bands. An added bonus on this album is to hear the live version of the Queen/David Bowie song Under Pressure performed by them. Lyrically, you could see the cries of desperation by Freddie on tracks like Somebody To Love. On it, he sings, "Can anybody find me, somebody to love?" That's something we all have cried before. I'm also reminded each time I play their songs of Freddie's tragic death from AIDS. It really breaks my heart he had to go that way, along with many others that suffer with it too. Thankfully, his contribution to the music world is not gone.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I heard about Flyleaf when they were recommended by one of my new favorite bands, Shiny Toy Guns. So after listening to Flyleaf's debut album, they have me convinced that they can rock. The guitar riffs are intense, and the vocals from the lead singer sound part Cyndi Lauper and part Dolores O'Riordan from The Cranberries. Oh, and she can scream like she was the singer of Underoath. Just when a song needs an extra kick, singer Lacey Mosley will belt out a scream to knock you on your ass. Interested now? At times on the album, she sings as if she has a thick Irish accent, and then will break into that scream to add an extra shot of adrenaline to the song. Now don't think this is just mindless screaming noise. There's actual depth to their songs. The lyrics seem to be written through the eyes of Christian spirituality, without actually being "preachy" in the songs. There's real honesty in the songs dealing with the darkness that comes in this life, but you aren't left with just that. Despite the dark times being sung about, there's a yearning for hope that's found throughout the CD. Flyleaf appears to have found the right combination of sounds and lyrical themes to connect with a wide range of listeners.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Ghosts On The Radio
"Standing On Clovers"
Remember those Bounty paper towel commercials? The ones that compared Bounty to the other paper towel brands? Remember how they showed two pictures, one of how Bounty absorbs an entire spill while the other brand leaves the mess behind? Well take that image of Bounty absorbing the spill, and you can equate that to how the band Ghosts On The Radio absorbs all their musical influences, without leaving a mess behind for their listeners. On their album Standing On Clovers, they create a slick sound, at times sounding like AFI, Depeche Mode, and various new-wave artists, without ripping off the bands' sounds. With all of those influences, they're still able to maintain originality. I found out about this band when I noticed they were doing a show with Kevin Max at the Viper Room in LA. I'm glad I checked them out. With Standing On Clovers, there's no big record label putting out their CD. Having said that, it shows the work these guys did to create a unique sounding debut album. Anyone willing to listen will find potential written all over their music.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Ten Insights by Steven Wright
A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?
My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder."
Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Lately I've had a fear of what I call "the unique becoming the norm". Let me explain. You know when you have something that you cherish for being original, whether it's a CD, an outfit, etc...? And you come to find out what you thought was so original is also owned by a million other people. So much for being original, right? It happens with fashion. You notice a certain style that's catchy and unique, and you think only a few people know about it. Then you come to find out everyone is wearing the same clothes. Well that's "the unique becoming the norm". I see it all the time here in New York. What was original 5 years ago, is now worn by everyone on the street, making tons of clones walking through Manhattan. I hate it, don't you? Well, as excited as I am at the new bands that are pushing musical boundaries and going against what's "the norm", I fear that a thousand other bands are waiting in line to jump on the bandwagon, making the music common. Only time will tell. So what does that have to do with Jonezetta's album Popularity? I'm getting to that. Well, I found out about this new band Jonezetta when I saw they were touring with Mutemath. I read about them and heard people comparing them to The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, and bands like that. So I was a little skeptical, yet hopeful, that they wouldn't be a copycat band. I have to say this album grew on me. The melodies are catchy and the lyrics are witty. Ironically, Jonezetta seems to feel the same way I do about what's popular, in their track Popularity. Check out these lyrics.
They got the raddest hooks
They got the dopest looks
And when they're misunderstood it's even better
And they all agree
The future ends with me
On their computer screens
Like they even...
Matter to the words we sing
Or feel apart in our melodies
If all you have is yourself, you're never going to need anyone else
Popularity- Do you think it's scary?
Everybody's talking with their own opinion
Popularity- It's a lot to carry
I'll fall asleep to you screaming in my brain
The album is filled with lyrics like that, and the music providing the background to the songs are a combination of rock, synth-pop, and funk. With a combination like that, Jonezetta makes a nice entrance for themselves in the music scene.
"Songs From Black Mountain"
The mid to late 90's had it's share of awesome rock bands. Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, and Garbage were a few of them. And then there was the band Live. "Selling the Drama"," "I Alone" and "Lightning Crashes" were some of their songs that caught my attention, and had me tuned to to hear lyrics grappling with the pain in this life, and at the same time adding a rocking background to each track. Fast forward to 2006. I have to admit I was so caught up with the new wave of experimental music out, that I had no idea Live released a new album. Curiosity led me to check out what new songs they created this time. One thing I learned after hearing this album is, if there's a band you like that you haven't heard in a while, and they release a new album, drop all expectations before listening to it. Because you'll probably be let down. Rather than welcome a bands' new sound, we slam the door on them, saying they sold out on their original sound. I'm learning to give the bands that I like a little more freedom to experiment, without jumping all over them saying, "Sell out!" Anyway, after hearing this album, I didn't know what to think. I was expecting the intensity of a track like "All Over You" from their older songs, but didn't really get it. But I noticed the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. I found myself intently listening to the lyrics in the songs, which happen to put me in a reflective mood about life, love, pain, and hope. Then I started to appreciate where they're at as a band now. I would have to say, while their older songs would fit in great at a rock show with tons of screaming fans, this album fits in more at a coffee shop on a rainy day. Depending on your perspective, this is not an album that you could just categorize as good or bad. If you appreciate lyrics that are deep and deal with the complexities that life brings, than you'll probably dig it. As far as the sound goes, it's a little more tame than their previous tracks, but it's actually a nice background for the songs this time around.
“Sometimes you've got to die, to be born again
Sometimes you've got to fight
Sometimes you've got to learn
Sometimes you've got to burn the old brush out, so the new can grow
The weight that lays on your shoulders, could be the wings that carry you home..."
from the song "Wings" on the album.
So I'm here taking up space in this universe, and I have no idea why. What I mean to say is that I have no idea how I'm still alive, considering my past (and present too). I love the word "Grace". It means different things to different people, To some it's a name, to others a prayer before dinner. To me it's my existence. That is the only reason to explain why I'm still here. Sometimes I revisit my memories, and they scare the shit out of me, but at the same time make me grateful to God for allowing me to live. Here's some evidence of grace in my life:
- Going through severe depression and feeling like I was losing my fucking mind at 25, and being able to get through that period of my life. Grace
- Smoking weed, tripping on acid, doing cocaine, drinking heavily in high school, and not getting addicted to any of those. Grace
- Having a wife who continuously loves me, as messed up as I am, and as much as I drive her nuts. Grace
- Constantly feeling like a failure as a dad, and then seeing how much my son loves being with me. Grace
How has grace been manifested in your life?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I heard two of my favorite songs today. Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant, and Take On Me by A-Ha. They're the kind of catchy, "get-stuck-in-your-head-all-day-long" songs. (Those trumpets from Goody Two Shoes are still spinning in my head.) So I wanted to pose a question to all of you in cyberspace. What are some of your "get-stuck-in-your-head-all-day-long" songs?
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
A New Kind Of Christian
So I finally got to finish reading Brian McLaren's "A New Kind Of Christian". Yeah I know, I'm really late in getting to read this. Anyway, when I first heard about this book, I have to admit I started feeling nautious. I thought, "Oh great. Another 'how to' book on being a Christian in a postmodern age. More principles, lists, and cool ways of being a Christian. What the hell is a 'new kind of Christian' anyway?!?!" So I avoided it for a while, thinking it was the newest fad in Christianity. Then I started hearing all the harsh criticism directed at Mr. McLaren. You know, things like heretic, gnostic, son of the devil, etc. Then I thought, "Ok, now I'm interested in reading this!"
So, like I said, I just finished it. And I loved it. It was like reading in a book all the thoughts that have been floating around in my head for a long time. So, for me, this book wasn't so "shocking" or "radical" as some make it out to be. For all the criticism I've heard about what McLaren wrote, I could pull out passages in the book to refute what the critics said. You just have to look deeper into what he's saying to see where he's coming from. To sum it up, he takes all the sacred idols within Christianity, and questions them. Yes people, isn't that so (sarcasm inserted here) radical! And what's great is that it's written as a fiction book, a majority of it being a conversation between the 2 main characters, Dan and Neo. For anyone who's constantly fed up with being religious, and for anyone who's not a Christian and is constantly annoyed by them, then this book is for you. I will end this with one of my favorite quotes in the book, when Neo told Dan:
"Look, Dan, I believe Jesus is the Savior, not Christianity."
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Why do we cry?
I cry, do you?
Sometimes I cry, and the tears fail to come out.
Sometimes I cry, and the tears fall like rain.
I could be crying in front of you, and you wouldn't even know.
I may show a normal face outside, but inside I am crying.
Right now someone in this world is crying.
The tears remind us that "we all break the same".....
"we all break the same" is a line off of Mutemath's song, "Break The Same".
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Shiny Toy Guns
"We Are Pilots"
I can't tell you how excited I am with this new wave of artists bringing back synth rock. It's an invasion on pop music as we know it. And if it's an invasion, then Shiny Toy Guns are on the front line of the battle. I am blown away by their new album We Are Pilots. On here, they bring the best of synth, but they add some modern rock to create some catchy tracks that'll be stuck in your head for days. As far as style goes, think Depeche Mode meets Garbage. Lyrically, they cover a wide range of experiences we all go through in life, going way deeper than superficial topics. Some of the best tracks are sung in coversational style, with Chad Petree and Carah Faye going back and forth on each verse. Each song brings a different mood to it, taking you on an emotional roller coaster. In fact, you might find yourself in tears after a few listens to the title track "We Are Pilots". And that's what makes it beautiful. It's beautiful because it brings you into an intimate musical experience that goes beyond just being entertained. This is one of the best albums I've heard in a while.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I watched The Santa Clause 3 today and heard a great line from Santa Claus.
"You don't have to be a perfect family to be a good one, you just have to be together." (my paraphrase)
That's a good reminder. So the next time you have chaos in your home, and your family resembles the Osbournes more than the Brady Bunch, you're not the only one experiencing it. Remember that in this Brady Bunch, idealistic, "American dream" society we are in, that WE ALL have issues.
That was a reminder for myself.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
For anyone who would like to go to a Halloween party, but is a little shy putting on a costume and going to a real one (especially you guys who always dreamed of dressing up as Robert Smith from The Cure), well why not try an online party. If you're interested, Kevin Max is planning an online one at his website. For more info, click here.
Friday, October 06, 2006
"The Open Door"
With Ben Moody leaving the band in 2003, I have heard speculations that Evanescence will fall apart. That they are nothing without his guitar playing. Well to clear the air, those who said that are dead wrong. Now if you told me that singer Amy Lee was leaving, then I would agree that they'd fall apart. In fact, if you listen to the new album The Open Door, you'll see how she carries this band. After their smashing debut Fallen, I wondered how they would do their next album. Would they change their style? Tone it down a little? No. They stayed with the style that made their first album work so well. Haunting melodies, piano ballads with a hard rock background, and Amy's hypnotizing voice soaring on each song makes this album work well. Evanescence has always been honest in their songs when dealing with life, love, self worth, faith, and doubt. And you'll find that this new album further explores those topics. From reading a little about the band, I found that Amy had just gone through a breakup. It shows on The Open Door how that experience shaped some of the songwriting. That kind of transparency connects the band with an audience that also deals with the pain in life while looking for hope. That's where Evanescence connects with listeners on a more intimate level. The Open Door is a great follow up to their debut album.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
"Between The Fence And The Universe"
Between The Fence And The Universe is an an album that was made after Kevin Max's solo debut Stereotype Be. It's an independent release, so it wasn't a big seller in record stores. However, that doesn't mean the quality of the music is bad. In fact it's just the opposite. This wasn't released by a major record label. But by listening to the songs, you'd think it was put out by a major label. Having said that, it shows the quality of work Kevin puts into his songs. One song that stands out is the energetic rock track 21st Century Darlings, where Kevin showcases just how far his vocals can stretch, proving why he's one of the best singers in music. In the chorus of the song, just hearing him belt out the word "Sleep" is worth the listen(you have to hear it to know what I mean). Irish Hymn is a mellow track that has a hopeful theme for those of us who "hit rock bottom", as he sings in the chorus. Stranded 72.5 is a song that adds more variety to the album, showing how diverse Kevin's influences are in music. As unpredictable as his style is, one thing that is predictable is that Kevin always produces awesome music.
It's refreshing when a great song writer ventures into something else that deals with words, like poetry or writing books. Well, not limiting himself to only writing music, Kevin Max carried his creative mind over into poetry, showing his talent with the spoken and written word. He put a collection of his poetry in a new book titled PO.ET.RY. In this book, he presents a gift to those who crave for an authentic poetic expression. Kevin's never one to create music that lets down his listeners, and in this new book, he doesn't let down with his poetry either. He shares a side of himself other than the eclectic musician. The poems are categorized in 3 different sections: philosophy, romance, and spirituality. There is nothing simple or common about these. Just like his songs, these poems are mysterious, beautiful, dark, and unique, making each page a different experience. There is also some awesome artwork in the pages to match the mood of the poems. What also makes this book special is that it is not put out by a big name publisher, so it is void of extra crap just to make it appeal to the masses. Those who appreciate good poetry and art would be satisfied with this book.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Once in a while, a band will come out and push the boundaries in music. Soon, that band will explode on the scene to surprise many new listeners, and confirm longime followers' intuitions that the band would eventually make it. Well to me, Mutemath is that band. I remember the first time I heard the song Control in 2004. From the first note, there was something different about it. I followed their music since then. I remember thinking, "There is hope after all." Yes there's hope. There is hope for music now with bands like Mutemath and The Killers paving the way. And Mutemath's debut album, which finally got released by Warner Bros (you'll have to do the research yourself to find out what the delay was about), is a breakthrough album that leads the way in a new revolution of music. Combining elements of Radiohead, The Police, and a list of others I could mention, these guys blow away a majority of bands out there. Paul Meany brings his Sting-like vocals, Darren King thunderously pounds on the drums like a madman, and Greg Hill and Roy Mitchell-Cardenas tear it up on the guitars. Put it all together, and you have a sound that you just can't quite put in a specific genre. If you find yourself getting this album, be prepared to be taken on a musical journey that will blow your mind. Definitely one of the best albums to come out in a while.
Monday, October 02, 2006
First came their debut album Hot Fuss. Amazing is a word that doesn't even come close to describing it. It was one of the best albums I've ever heard. I was immediately hooked onto this new band, The Killers. I remember after the last song played on Hot Fuss, the question on my mind was, "Could they do it again?" Well after listening to their new album Sam's Town, the answer to that question is an astounding, "Yeah! Hell yeah!" Not only did they do it again, but I'll even say that Sam's Town surpasses what they did on Hot Fuss! To any Killers' fan anxiously waiting if this will be a mediocre second effort, no need to worry. This album immediately turns up the heat with the opening track Sam's Town, which sets the mood for an experience in music that's unforgettable. The Killers continue to bring their trademark electro-alternative sound, and this time around, they sound a little more mature. It shows the work they put into this album to make what is soon to be a classic. While listening, I noticed a theme of returning to youth in the album, especially on the track When You Were Young which says:
We're burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young
When you were young
And sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live
When you were young
There's also lyrics that deal with returning to a love that's lost on the track For Reasons Unknown:
But my heart, it don’t beat, it don’t beat the way it used to.
And my eyes, they don’t see you no more.
My lips, they don’t kiss, they don’t kiss the way they used to,
And my eyes don’t recognize you no more.
For reasons unknown, for reasons unknown.
Another song that dealt with honest lyrics is The River Is Wild, where lead singer Brandon Flowers says:
Should I just get along with myself?
I never did get along with everybody else
I've been trying hard to do what's right
But you know I could stay here all night
And watch the clouds fall
From the sky
Because this river is wild
One word to describe this album is consistent. The good songs are consistent on Sam's Town. You won't have to skip through the CD to find anything worth listening to. There isn't one bad track in this CD. And that is a rare thing in music! Not only that, but it proves that The Killers is a band that's consistent in bringing groundbreaking music.
Friday, September 29, 2006
"You Could Have It So Much Better"
The British are coming! The British are coming! Actually, Franz Ferdinand isn't a Brit-rock band, they're from Scotland. Even though they're not British, their sound resembles something like a musical British invasion. All I have to say after listening to this is that they can rock with the best of 'em! While listening to this, they came off to me like a reincarnation of the Beatles with a much edgier sound. They have this way of unexpectedly taking a song in a totally different direction than how it started. For example, the song This Boy starts off with an intro that has you thinking you know how the song will play out, and then goes off into another realm. It's the unexpected hooks they throw in the songs that keep you tuned in. You know those CD's that you get and you find yourself skipping each track frustrated to find a good one? Well this is not one of those albums. Standout tracks are The Fallen, Do You Want To, This Boy, Eleanor Put Your Boots On, and You Could Have It So Much Better. Side effects of listening to this album may include jumping around ecstatically and singing (or shouting) out loud frequently.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Catherine Edwards Sanders
When you hear the word Wicca, do you think of ladies having animal sacrifices while dancing naked in the woods? Are you confused about this new interest in Wicca? Rather than quickly condemning those "evil pagans", it might do you good to read Wicca's Charm to understand why people are drawn to this. I related to the topic covered in this book. First off, as someone who experimented with Wicca a few years ago, I was interested in reading this. Second, now that I'm a Christian, I wanted to read a book that covered this topic in a graceful way, without getting into the self-righteous attitude of how "those pagans" are ruining society. Catherine Sanders does an awesome job of writing this book that way. She didn't just study the topic from a distance. She met Wiccans where they were, spent time with them, engaged in deep conversations, along with studying about the history of Wicca. During that journey to find out what attracts so many people to Wicca, she shares insights that only someone who spent time with a Wiccan would know. Along with that, she shares how the church has failed to meet the needs of these spiritual seekers. It's funny that a lot of the things that people try to find by practicing Wicca, are already found in the Gospel. Liberation for women (and all people), concern for the environment, and a supernatural experience are just a few of those. Sadly, these aren't proclaimed often by many believers in Christ. I found this to be a bold look into the world of Wicca, from a Christian mindset. While reading this, I remembered how I was when I experimented with Wicca. While I eventually stopped, I still remember the people I met when I dabbled with it. They were confused, searching, and looking for meaning, just like me. I'm glad Catherine Sanders wrote this. It gives Christians a deeper understanding of why people are into Wicca, and encourages them to reach out a loving hand without being judgemental or superficial. And it also gives Wiccans a view of what the Gospel is all about, without the extra baggage that is added on by others.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Jars Of Clay
Jars of Clay is coming out with guns blazing on their new album Good Monsters. I've always seen them as a band with a lot of potential. There was the debut album that made it big back in the mid 90's. But since then, I felt like there was something missing in their sound. I couldn't pinpoint it. They're not a hard rock band, so for them to try and go that route would have been strange. And at the same time, they're not a pop group, so they wouldn't fit well in that genre either. So what's a band to do? I think the new wave of experimental bands (The Killers, Mutemath, Franz Ferdinand, etc...) opened the door for Jars to come out and really show their hidden weapons. I've always respected the transparency in their lyrics, especially as Christians, when most people just want to hear happy-clappy songs. Lyrically, they still maintain that honesty about themselves. They titled the album Good Monsters, reflecting the "monsters" that each one of us has within. The wicked monster and the good monster. And the struggles that go on inside us while those two are at war. Some standout tracks are Work, Dead Man (Carry Me) and Good Monsters, which have a Brit rock influence that shows the band's versatility. Then there's the slower track Oh My God, which lyrically resembles a cry from the book of Psalms, about the injustices in the world, and crying out "Oh my God" in the chorus.
Sometimes when I lose my grip,
I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children - this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers - this is our greatest offense
Oh my God
There's a new horizon ahead for Jars of Clay. Good Monsters gives us a glimpse of where they're headed.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
When I think of Sublime, I usually think of blaring trumpets, killer guitar riffs, and the late Brad Nowell's quirky lyrics. After listening to Sublime's Gold, I'm reminded why these guys are the kings of ska. Sublime blends sounds from all different styles like reggae, rock, rap, and adding their Southern Cali flavor to make them unique. They can speed up the tempo in a song, or slow down to a mellow groove to give a nice musical variety. And they do it with a simplicity that you don't hear often. This CD contains the popular radio hits like What I Got, Santeria, Badfish, and Wrong Way. But there's also a whole collection of other tracks on here that weren't as popular. And it's in these songs where you get to see how vast their collection was. You almost feel on some of the lesser known songs that you could be hanging out in a garage listening to them jam.
Sublime didn't get popular until after singer Brad Nowell tragically died from a heroin overdose. That is sad because he had alot of talent. Lyrically, he sounds like he's goofing off in his songs. But underneath, there's an honest approach to the fucked up things going on in society, like rape in the song Date Rape, or prostitution in the song Wrong Way. But there's also a reminder of love being the most important thing in What I Got. And to quote him...
"Lovin', is what I got, I said remember that."
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
How Movies Helped Save My Soul
As far back as I can remember, movies were always a big part of my life. I love watching movies. That's just the way God wired me. I especially like movies that stretch the mind and stir the soul. So reading a book like How Movies Helped Save My Soul was right up my alley. At some parts in the book, I felt like this guy Gareth Higgins could have been a long lost twin brother of mine. Reading this was like taking a trip down memory lane, remembering alot of the movies I watched in the past, as well as being introduced to newer movies as well. But as I remembered those films, this book provided insight into them that I didn't realize at the time I watched them. Reading this feels more like you could be having a beer (or wine if that's what you prefer) with him and chatting about movies. Gareth writes in a conversational style, not in a way like, "Here's the 10 steps on how to watch movies through the lens of Christian spirituality." If that was the case I would have thrown the book out after the first page. He says at the end of the book, "I did not write this book to give you easy answers but to provoke you in a new way of appreciating film." And that's exactly it. He's not feeding answers to the reader. But he tries to provoke you to maybe see films in a different light. And maybe you'll start to ask why certain films stir something up inside you, whether it be an emotional experience or something else. Maybe Someone could be speaking to our hearts and souls through these films. The chapters in the book cover movies with themes of Anti-Heroes, Brokenness, Conspiracy, Death, Community, Fear, God, Justice, Love, Quest, Outsiders, Power, War, and a chapter reserved for a movie with obvious spiritual themes, The Matrix. If you're a movie lover like myself, this is a great read. Even if you're not, you might find yourself eager to check out some movies you may have ignored, and be surprised at what you may uncover while watching.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
This CD is one of those hidden treasures in the music world, waiting to be dug up and found for the creative genius that it is. After hearing Kevin's latest album The Imposter, and loving every bit of it, I wanted to check out some of his older material as a solo artist. Now that I've heard Stereotype Be, I think that this would be the best album to introduce you to Kevin's music. The title of the track Return of the Singer testifies to what he's bringing as an artist. A real singer. Real lyrics that have depth, pushing you until you either brush off the lyrics as weird or "out there", or if you like music that provokes the mind, you'll find them brilliant as they communicate the spiritual reality in the brokenness of humanity. Sorry everybody, if you're looking for songs that are overloaded with superficial garbage, don't look here. If listened to with an open mind, you'll discover songs with a dark, mystical vibe to them that stir your soul, and (hopefully) move you to look deeper to discover the message he's communicating. Isn't that what great poets do anyway? Communicate life experiences in a way where you have to look deep into their writings to discover the message. Well the great thing about this poet is that he can sing. And on this CD, it's that voice of his that breaks down the stereotypical walls we like to build up as humans. Stand out tracks on the album are Existence, Dead End Moon, The Secret Circle, and Blind. It's difficult to pick a favorite song, as they each are unique. In an era where real creativity gets silenced by commercialized nonsense, Kevin Max is a voice in the wilderness. Check it out.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
"Solid Gold Hits"
Here's a CD that pays tribute to a great band. 3 white boys from NYC who entered the old school hip-hop scene, almost to be taken as a joke, but little did anyone know their songs would spread like wildfire. The same band that inspired me as a 3rd grader to start a "rock band", and perform our own version of "Fight For Your Right" on stage. But we're not gonna get into that now! Listening to this CD reminded me of how they stuck together over all this time. And the way they feed off of each other when kickin' rhymes in everything from "Brass Monkey", to "So What'cha Want", to "Sure Shot" is amazing. Here's one group that would fall apart if one member left. If you take one member out, then there's no Beastie Boys. There's no Beasties without Ad Rock's high pitched voice, MCA's raspy voice, or Mike D to bust rhymes with. Each band member is essential to the sound. Anyone who's familiar with them knows they don't take themselves seriously, and they have alot of fun doing their thing. Maybe some musicians could learn something from that. The tracks on Solid Gold Hits showcase how unpredictable they are. Just when you think they're some stupid rap group, they crank up the noise and hit you with a rocking song like "Sabatoge". Just listening to that one song will have the the line "Listen all y'all it's a sabotage!" spinning in your head all day long. From "No Sleep Til' Brooklyn" to "Hey Ladies" to "Intergalactic", this is a great collection of songs from those crazy white boys from NYC. Keep it coming Boys. We need more of your music!
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
For me, when I hear of the band Creed, right away I'm taken back to 1998 when I first heard the song "My Own Prison". I felt like the song was about me. The lyrics hit the core of my soul. Ever since then, I have always been intrigued by them. To mix spiritual matters, normal life experiences, love, brokenness, and at the same time to be able to rock out to it without sounding cheesy is a tough thing. But man, these guys seem to do it pretty damn well. From the opening track "Torn", the background guitars combined with Scott Stapp's vocals rip open your chest and invite you to experience the feeling of a man who is broken, "torn" as he sings, looking for hope. And from there, the album progresses on to most of their popular songs. Creed grasps life situations, without trying to sound "hip", in a way that most bands aren't able to. I know for me at least, at low points in my life, hearing a song like "My Own Prison" or "What's This Life For" remind me I'm not alone in feeling the struggle of life, and also to be reminded of a better life to come in the song "Higher". As you listen to their older songs moving on to their newer ones, you'll notice they stayed true to their core messages from the beginning : life, love, pain, loss, God, doubt, friendship, brokenness, and beauty. Fans of Creed won't be disappointed with this collection of their greatest songs. Too bad the band broke up a few years ago. What kind of songs would they be putting out now? We'll never know. But at least we have this collection of songs to remind us of one of the greatest bands ever.
Now this is a singer! Think of Freddie Mercury from Queen, Sting, Morrissey, and Bono wrapped up in one, and there you have Kevin Max. No, that wouldn't do him justice, because although he resembles them, Kevin Max has established a trademark sound of his own. Add poetic lyrics on top of a variety of background sounds ranging from Brit-pop, new-wave, rock, ballads and you have a killer album. Anyway, for anyone who appreciates real creative music, you need to add this to your collection. Just hearing his voice is worth the buy (you'll have to listen to understand what I mean). Each time I listen to it I find something new that I like about it. It's like the great works of art, whether it be a painting, movie, or anything else that you love, and each time you look at it, you find something else you like that you haven't noticed before. At some parts in the album, you almost feel like you're being put in a trance by his vocals. The lyrics in the songs seem like you're being exposed to a poetry book, and taken on a visual tour of beautiful places. Lyrics covering relationships, brokenness, love, beauty, honesty, and the "imposter" that seems to be in each one of us. I read that Morrissey is one of Kevin's influences and it shows here with the song "Stay (The same as yesterday)". This album doesn't waste time with trying to sound cool and to keep up with what's hip in today's music world. It doesn't need to. This album should serve as an inspiration to other musicians out there. Kevin Max has taken his poetic voice, and shattered any mold that most musicians get shoved in these days. This is one of those albums that is hard to define in one category (although you can definitely count out "pop music"). But that's what makes it a great album. It ends with the last track, "Fade To Red (Antigalaxy)", which has a dark, mysterious feel to it, leaving you wanting to hear more. If given more exposure in the media, I could see him progressing into one of the best singers out there. Until then, the media is missing out on a great musician.
"The Singles 1992-2003"
If you never heard No Doubt before and just started playing their music from the mid-90's, you would know them as a Ska band. If you just tuned into them now, you would know them as a band making party hits. To see (or hear in this case) the progression in this band, then listen to "The Singles 1992-2003" album. It's a collection of their most popular hits with an added bonus of hearing them do a cover of Talk Talk's song, "It's My Life", from the 80's, which I think No Doubt's version being better. Now don't throw stones at me for that last statement. I've already been told I'm crazy for thinking that their version is better. But if you agree with me, it goes to show you have great taste in music. Anyway, if you're a lover of No Doubt's older songs, and hate their new material, this would be a good CD to have to give the newer stuff a chance. If you're a fan of the newer material, and don't like the older sound, than the same goes for you. I have to admit, I always liked their earlier sounds when they were more Ska, so when I heard some of the songs from the last few years like the club bangers "Hey Baby" or "Hella Good", I was a little hesitant. But the more I gave it a chance and let the music sink in, I grew to like it. So I had more appreciation for them being a band progressing with the changing times and culture, and creating new music to go with the times. And they're smart for that. This CD is a great compilation to testify of that.
"A Crow Left Of The Murder"
A great album from one of my favorite bands. With modern alternative music sounding like bands cloned after each other, it's refreshing to see a band like Incubus still putting out great music. I remember first being introduced to them, and getting hooked onto their music in 2000 when the songs "Pardon Me" and "Drive" came out. Since then, some of their peers in the rock scene have fallen off the map (see Limp Bizkit for example). But Incubus is still here. This album shows why. The opening track "Megalomaniac" kicks the album off nicely, as the tempo builds up in the intro, which then explodes into the song that shouts for a megalomaniac to step down off his pedestal. From that track, the album moves on to a variety of harder songs and more mellow ones like "Talk Shows On Mute", which seems to be about the society's indulgence into mind-numbing talk shows. I could be wrong about the meaning, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a great song. That's what I like about their music. You find yourself digging deeper to find the meaning, which is good for a song to provoke you that way. You won't find superficial songs on here. One example is the track "Sick Sad Little World" (which also happens to have one of the best guitar solos I've heard in a while). It sings about someone who seems to have lost hope in his life and is spiraling down. Scary.
"The world is a draught when out of love
Please come back to us
You're all the above
'I'm making a choice to be out of touch
Leave me be' he said, he said, he said
Leave me here in my Stark, raving, sick, sad, little world "
After hearing that, another great track that should have you jumping up and down dancing is "Pistola", which speeds up the tempo a bit. So over all, here's an album that has elements of rock, funk, and electronic music to combine for great listening experience.
If you weren't familiar with Matisyahu, and I played this album to you, you'd probably tell me you were hearing a Jamaican guy singing reggae. But if I told you that you were listening to a Hasidic Jewish guy singing reggae, you'd probably say that I was smoking weed with the Rastafarians. But the truth is that this is a reggae album by a Hasidic Jew named Matisyahu. I can hear the jokes right about now. Memories of Vanilla Ice and Snow probably come to mind. But throw all those misconceptions away. This guy is not a novelty act. This is great reggae music coming from, well, a Hasidic Jew! Seriously, this album is filled with spiritual themes coming from a Jewish perspective, sung in a reggae style resembling older artists like Bob Marley compared to modern dancehall artists like Sean Paul. Each track on the album has Matisyahu showcasing his smooth flow over tight beats, and a little of his beatboxing skills (see the track "Time Of Your Song"), resembling old-school rap artists like Doug E. Fresh. The backround music he sings over varies from carribean music, acoustic guitar sets, to sounds with a more urban flavor. The album starts off with the track "Fire Of Heaven / Altar Of Earth", and then cranks the tempo up with the track "Youth", and then leads you all the way to the last track "King Without A Crown", which was his breakout hit. Even if you're not into reggae, a few listens to this should have you agree that this is one creative artist who is able to cross a musical boundary like most people aren't able to. Time will tell if this opens the door for more out-of-the-box artists to break out. Overall, this is a bold album that has catchy tracks that will have you humming along (or bobbing your head) to and possibly move you to be interested in reggae.
"Nothing Left To Lose"
Here's proof that you can mix alternative, hip-hop, folk, and a little Brit-pop to combine for awesome music. "Nothing Left To Lose" is what Everlast tried to do with his album "Whitey Ford Sings The Blues". But Everlast's album didn't go any further than his hit "What It's Like". Mat Kearney is an artist to keep your eyes on, mostly because you won't find many singers who can sing, rap, and play acoustic guitar without sounding like a mess. I already hear he's already making an impact in the industry, and expect to hear more about him, if given the right exposure. Mat's vocals are similar to that of Chris Martin from Coldplay when singing (but still remaining original), especially when he breaks out in those catchy choruses with a hypnotic feel. When he's rapping, he sounds like he could be from the streets of NYC (see the track "Bullet"). Since I grew up in the NYC area and on East Coast hip-hop as a teenager, I could easily recognize when someone rhymes like they're from the city. But Mat's from Portland, so it goes to show how multi-talented he is. Not all tracks have him rapping. Some have him singing the entire song (see "Nothing Left To Lose"), some have him singing on the chorus and rapping in the verses (see "Renaissance"). The lyrics are expressed poeticically, void of any shallowness in each song. This album is a reminder that there is still great creativity out there, waiting to be found. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
Friday, August 18, 2006
Friday, August 11, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
The brokeness allows healing waters to seep through the cracks.
If there were no cracks, where would the water enter?
If there were no wounds, where would healing come in?
The struggles that exist are crippling.
The waves crash on the shore, only to go out sea, and crash again.
And so it is with life.
We wait for the Healer.
"Evangelicals love a testimony of how screwed up I USED to be. They aren't interested in how screwed up I am NOW. But the fact is, that we are screwed up. Then. Now. All the time in between and, it's a safe bet to assume, the rest of the time we're alive. But we will pay $400 to go hear a "Bible teacher" tell us how we are only a few verses, prayers and cds away from being a lot better. And we will set quietly, or applaud loudly, when the story is retold. I'm really better now. I'm a good Christian. I'm not a mess anymore. I'm different from other people."
I stumbled across it here and thought it was timely.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
It's official. I finally passed the test to get my "Sin Boldly" license (not that I needed a "license" before, but, oh well). And it's authorized by none other than that merry ol' monk himself, Martin Luther!
And to celebrate this grand occasion, I'll be having a party at my house where we'll be drinking some "Sin Boldly" beer. All sinners welcome. Come and join the party where we'll gather around, drink some beers, and talk about the Jesus who died and rose from the dead to give 'real sinners' new life. Admission is free.
Sometimes I'm caring.
Sometimes I'm harsh.
Sometimes I'm thoughtful.
Sometimes I really don't care.
Sometimes I'm really sincere.
Sometimes I'm confused as hell.
Sometimes I'm brutally honest.
Sometimes I'm a phony.
Sometimes I'm patient.
Sometimes I have no patience.
Sometimes I'm giving.
Sometimes I'm a selfish bastard.
Sometimes I'm sharp as a knife.
Sometimes my mind is numb.
Sometimes I just wonder who the hell I really am. And I have no idea. Because the real "me" is buried deep down below the list I just put. I'm waiting for God's hand to pull me out of the rubble that I'm buried under. Until then I will try and be as transparent as I can be. The masks that I've worn throughout my 29 years of existence have caused nothing more than pain, confusion, and phoniness.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
As I sit here at my desk at work, the sounds of Incubus' "The Warmth" flow through my ears, creating a natural high, elevating me to an acid-trip like state. Don't accuse me of doing drugs, because I don't now. I've done drugs in my high school days and seen how they can seriously fuck up your life (Note to self: Another reminder to be thankful for God's grace). It's just this song always puts me in a trippy mood, in a natural way. So instead of tripping on acid, pop on this song and save yourself the hassle of totally screwing up your life.
Experience the warmth, before you grow old.....
Monday, July 10, 2006
Click here and help hungry people throughout the world. The site is called "The Hunger Site" and every time someone clicks on the 'Help Feed The Hungry' link, the site's sponsors donate money. And it's free. All it takes is your mouse to click the link. Not a bad idea, eh?
Friday, July 07, 2006
Ok all you 80's music freaks out there (like me). Take a trip down memory lane and click here. Indulge yourself in all the 80's music videos you want. Relive the days of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", "Living on a Prayer", "Take On Me", etc....
After watching a few videos, my brain started churning out some pop culture references from the 80's. For example, do you remember Johnny? He used to work on the docks, union's been on strike, he's down on his luck. His wife's name is Rio and she dances on the sand. Damn I'm feeling a little sleepy. I have a cup of coffee that's just screaming "pour some sugar on me". Yeah, that should wake me up, before I go-go. It would be nice if people didn't get so uptight when they disagree with you. I think I'll just tell them, "It's my prerogative, I could do just what I feel." I remember playing legos when I was younger. Sometimes we would argue and fight over those damn lego pieces. That's when I finally had enough and told my friends, "We could build this thing together, stand in stone forever, nothing's gonna stop us now." After that, we built a kick-ass lego town. I better go eat now because I'm hungry like a wolf.