Friday, September 29, 2006

You Could Have It So Much Better

Franz Ferdinand
"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

Wicca's Charm

Wicca's Charm
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

Good Monsters

Jars Of Clay
"Good Monsters"

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

How Movies Helped Save My Soul
Gareth Higgins

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

Stereotype Be

Kevin Max
"Stereotype Be"

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.