Monday, May 08, 2006

Two reviews

Okay, a quick post and then back to organic chemistry. My last two finals at GPC are tomorrow. Elation began (very) shortly after the close of my physics II final this evening and should reach its peak around 7:45pm tomorrow, as I exit my organic chemistry II final.

Anyway, to the topic: two CDs that you absolutely must purchase soon. First up...

Switchfoot: Nothing Is Sound
(2005, Sony)

Alright, so we all know Switchfoot: one of the most promising bands in Christian music since 1997. Nobody can forget songs like "Ode to Chin" and lyrics like "I Turn Everything Over" ("I'm an already but not yet resurrected fallen man / Come break this limbo / 'Cause I know You know just who I’ve been / Come define me"). And you can't forget one of my personal favorites, "Poparazzi":
Leave me alone with your social mingle.
You try so hard to stay on top.
Leave me alone with your little jingle,
With your picture-perfect pop.
I thought my eyes were gonna get off clean
'Til I read your lips on the TV screen,
You were busy saying what you didn't mean.
Now everyone's singing along
With your ridiculous song.
...
You can close your ears and your eyes
But pop will never leave you alone.
But the band's breakout into the mainstream of alternative rock with The Beautiful Letdown in 2003-2004 saw their muddiest songs paraded on the radio as standard Christian fare. This left me wondering...will they go the way of Third Day? The Beautiful Letdown was certainly not their most hard-hitting lyrically, though it saw a great improvement in their sound (especially the use of keys on "On Fire" and "Twenty-Four"). At such a point they could easily dilute their message, add a few ego-boosters like "This Is Your Life," and finally lose my interest. Honestly, that's exactly what I expected with Nothing Is Sound. That's why I didn't pick it up until I had heard a few songs in April. My mind changed a bit...

This album is amazing. Not only have they maintained and continued to improve their sound, but they are back on the lyrical level of their second and third albums. The very fact that the album contains a song titled "'Happy' Is a Yuppie Word" and the line "War and love become pedantic / We wage love with the mistletoe" should be enough to sell it. But, for those of you that require a bit more convincing, take a look at the song "Easier Than Love":
Sex is currency
She sells cars,
She sells magazines
...
Sex is industry,
The CEO, of corporate policy
Skin-deep ministry,
Suburban youth, hailing so-called liberty
...
She is easier than love
It's easier to lie
It's easier to fake and smile and brag
It's easier to leave
It's easier to lie
It's harder to face ourselves at night
Yeah, I thought so. Switchfoot has come back in true form, with lyrics that drip of entropy and moral decay, but somehow come up with hope—how do they do it? That's what we're all hoping the unbeliever will be asking when he hears these no-nonsense rockers. Go buy it already!

And for the second round, we have...
Shaun Groves: White Flag
(2005, Rocketown)

I like Shaun Groves. He doesn't mince words, and he's pretty straight theologically, as far as I can tell. I truly bought Twilight just for the title track, and though the album has other very good ones on it, there aren't enough of them! Ten tracks is a pitiful offering for such a talented songwriter, even if they're really good ones. (I especially like that album because of the intimate, acoustic sound—it was recorded in Shaun's basement studio.)

White Flag is more of a rock album than Twilight, an aspect fans of his first CD will appreciate. Once again, what hooked me was the lyrics: "This world is not what's wrong with me, / I'm what's wrong with this world. / I don't need your help to be this devilish and dark. / I confess I made the mess while using just my heart. / Change my heart." Ah, depravity. That's an automatic 5/10 before grading even starts. But the album delivers in other ways: "Sad Song," for instance. Many Christians have lost (or are trying to eradicate) the virtue of Godly sorrow. This guy hasn't. And talk about drama: just one listen to "Heaven Hang On" and you'll start it over and really listen. The melancholy of the guitar/piano duet, the hopelessness of the stories, the desperate cry to heaven...it's hard to keep a tear from falling on this one.

And don't think we don't have some upbeat tracks. "Peace Has Broken Out" is a choral-backed rock number that looks forward to the perfection of the new world, and "Hummingbird" is a fast-paced musing on why we live like earthbound creatures despite the chance of wings.

So he gave us two more tracks than last time. That's enough for another excellent CD. Bravo!

Note: if you'd like to purchase either of these CDs, or anything else, on Amazon.com, do so through this link, and my church will receive a donation of a percentage of your purchase.

6 Comments:

Anonymous KEV said...

I find it interesting that the number of tracks determines whether a CD is good or not. So I guess "A Collison" is the greatest in your collection. ;-)

I would much rather have 7 great songs than 12 good and mediocre ones any day.

BTW - nothing can touch "New Way to be Human" in their catalog

9:19 AM, May 09, 2006  
Anonymous Amy said...

"A Collision" is the best album known to present day man.

Just thought I'd clarify :-)

10:57 AM, May 09, 2006  
Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

I don't think you can exegete a desire for more mediocre songs as opposed to fewer great songs from that post...I was simply expressing disappointment at the fact that he didn't have many tracks on the CD. And I don't recommend White Flag just because it has more tracks (I think that was clear, too), that's just a bonus.

Yes, yes, New Way to Be Human was a great album. But like I said: they're still cranking out lyrics like that one but with a much improved sound to back them up.

Alright, Crowder is great! I know. But since my blog is frequented by the crusty-reformed-club, I felt no need to recommend that one. ;)

1:39 PM, May 09, 2006  
Anonymous KEV said...

I agree with Amy. 3 + 4 = 7 is an amazing record and I could be considered reformed on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but not Wednesdays. ;-)

Hey JJ, you were the one splitting hairs over 2 tracks, not me...

And once again, taste in music is subjective. You say Switchfoot sounds improved now. I would argue only his voice has improved. I feel the overall sound now is too produced.

4:40 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

Good point: he doesn't sound like Kermit the Frog anymore, but the music is a bit processed.

4:42 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for the kind words. Glad you like.

10:06 AM, May 15, 2006  

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