This one’s for Winter 1998, the beginning of my second semester of Junior Year. It rained cats and dogs, it was lonely, I dealt with the difficult loss of a friend’s life, and ultimately I think I learned a lot. And I may have sought out more fluffy catchy songs than normal in an attempt to soothe the pain.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
Geoff Moore & the Distance
Listen on Spotify:
This is a picture of my “music wall”, in my dorm room in Chilcott during junior year. Maybe it was a result of the time I had on my hands in those days, but for whatever reason, I would create these crayon/colored pencil drawings of the covers of my favorite albums and tape them to the walls, showing my Top 20 at any given time. These days, I have the Internet to manage the various lists of music that I like… and apparently I still have a good deal of time on my hands!
Where in the world is this?
1) “Lift My Eyes”, Miss Angie (100 Million Eyeballs, 1997)
Christmas vacations were always rather boring for me, but one thing that mitigated it that year was the discovery that we had Z Music Television, a short-lived channel that showed Christian music programming. This was one of the videos that I caught on that channel, and the song was like getting walloped in the face with an extra-crunchy dose of pixie dust. I just had to have the album (which was nowhere near as excellent as its singles) on the basis of this one super-catchy song.
2) “Supertones Strike Back”, Supertones (Supertones Strike Back, 1997)
Hey, how many ska bands do you know of who have the gall to rip off a Metallica riff, rhyme “Jesus” with “Beavis”, and proclaim, “I spit when I rap” all in one song? Yeah. Didn’t think so.
4) “Everything”, Zilch (Platinum, 1997)
Since most of that semester was dark and rainy, I often found myself without a whole lot to do on Friday nights. So I’d often bum around with friends who were stuck in the dorms over the weekend, even if they had studying to do. One Friday evening, Tracy took me to the Lighthouse store in Glendale and I picked up this Zilch tape (they were dc Talk’s backing band). They’re probably one of the most obnoxiously poppy and quirky bands in the world, but she was gracious about letting me listen to it while she studied. Interestingly, this band later recruited Jeff Deyo as their new lead singer, and morphed into SonicFlood.
5) “Bright Red Carpet”, All Star United (All Star United, 1997)
When I first started making these mixes, I tended to go for the eclectic approach, but I think it was Tim’s influence that led me to pursue the wall-to-wall rock approach, with songs that made slicing transitions from one to the next, keeping the momentum going. The beginning of my tapes more or less tended to become that, and it’s a pattern that I’ve rarely broken since. This was a prime example of how to pile together a bunch of noisy power-pop rock songs and make it sound good. ASU in particular was always a good choice for cramming somewhere in the middle of such a mix.
6) “Whirley Wheel”, Dryve (Thrifty Mr. Kickstar, 1997)
Not many rock bands can use an organ and make it work (as evidenced by Tim’s complaints about the Caedmon’s Call song “Stupid Kid”). But here, it really worked. This was a fun and highly enigmatic song about a guy who laments being grown up and not being able to ride the kiddie rides at the amusement park. Or something. Sharon later noted its striking resemblance to Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)”.
7) “Hands in the Air”, The Waiting (The Waiting, 1997)
Here’s where I finally slowed down to take a breather, with this gorgeous song of surrender that really cut to the heart of how I was feeling that spring semester. Life just flat out wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, and I dealt with a lot of depressing setbacks, set to the tune of the constant rain during those winter months. I remember sitting in my dorm room one Saturday morning, staring out the window and feeling sorry for myself, and tearing up as I heard this song. Surrender has never been easy for me. It looks good on paper, but it’s nearly impossible to put it into practice.
8) “Losing Myself”, Reality Check (Reality Check, 1997)
I felt it appropriate to follow up a somber song of surrender with a much happier and jumpier one. This was the perfect way for Reality Check to end a blast of an album, and I remember descending from Mt. Fiji (a hill out back of campus) one February afternoon, singing it at the top of my lungs, not caring if I looked like an idiot. Sometimes I needed those little hilltop getaways to keep me sane.
9) “Deep Surround”, Fold Zandura (Ultraforever, 1997)
I’ve always been a sucker for techno-rock hybrids. Here’s another enigmatic band that I got into on account of those 7Ball magazine samplers. I loved the little electronic “WHEE!!!” that set this breakbeat-driven trip in motion. In its own way, it was a worship song of sorts that reminded me of God’s sovereignty amidst the utter chaos.
10) “You Make Me Mad”, Third Day (Conspiracy No. 5, 1997)
Another song that I learned to appreciate more after seeing it on Z Music Television. I loved how Christian music videos, and even the songwriting took the more “alternative” approach in those days – it didn’t all have to make sense right away, and it produced funky little songs like this that I didn’t figure out for years after the fact. Who knew that the “you” in this song was the personification of music, and that the song was describing the different things that it made us feel? Not I. But the guitar freak-outs were cool.
11) “Portrait of an Apology”, Jars of Clay (Much Afraid, 1997)
Well, it makes sense to follow up making someone mad with an apology, right? This one still stands as one of the most gorgeous and heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard, which by Jars of Clay standards, is saying a lot. One thing that really let me down that January, right around my birthday, was finally being told by a woman I’d revealed my feelings to, after she took Christmas break to mull it over, that she wasn’t interested in dating me. It upset me and I got kind of mad at her over it, because there I was thinking I’d finally get a chance at a serious relationship, and I was back at square one with no potential new interests in sight. And during the week of my birthday, no less! (Looking back, that was pretty lame of me to treat her like she’d committed some sort of crime… but rationale tended to go out the window when I was dealing with disappointment.) She kind of caught wind of my animosity, but she was nice enough to not ignore me on my birthday (most everyone else did because it was a three-day weekend and they all took off); she and another friend made cookies and brought them over to my dorm room to cheer up an otherwise dull Monday night. And of course, when she showed up, I made sure to cue up this song on my stereo. I had a thing for wanting music to force a poetic meaning into a situation back then, as if my life were some CW drama or something. I don’t think most people caught on.
12) “Not Enough”, Caedmon’s Call (Caedmon’s Call, 1997)
You know what? I really miss the early days of Caedmon’s Call, when Cliff and Derek would trade off vocals in the middle of the same song, and it didn’t feel like a batch of “Cliff songs” and “Derek songs” with Danielle wedged in between. This track (which was even more fun live due to Derek’s little acoustic guitar freakout) was a great example of that, and it also explored the fallacy of trying to earn grace – everything we do is “not enough” for God, but then, that’s the point.
13) “Bí-se I Mo Shúil, Pt. 2 (live)”, Iona (Heaven’s Bright Sun, 1997)
I’ve gotta give props to any band that can sustain a frantic, fast-paced jam in 11/8 time in a live setting. That’s basically what this Gaelic interpretation of “Be Thou My Vision” develops into, and I thought it was even more thrilling here than on Journey into the Morn.
14) “Live the Life”, Michael W. Smith (Live the Life, 1998)
Yet another video that I got hooked on, which made me appreciate the song more. Not that there was much to this one – some swirly effects, MWS playing guitar, two MWS’s playing guitars, another blatant shot of MWS proving to us that he really could play guitar, and some girl hanging around who wasn’t MWS’s wife. Scandalous! (Not really. But I remarked that it was as a way of spoofing the people who griped about that Amy Grant video all those years ago.)
15) “I’m Free”, Geoff Moore & the Distance (Threads, 1997)
A wonderfully crunchy remake of a classic Who song, this one made me see Geoff Moore in a whole new light. I believe this one became one of Tim’s jumping-around-because-I’m-so-happy-that-I’m-done songs whenever he’d complete a particularly egregious midterm or final. (Interestingly, the original version was one of Chris’s songs that he used for the same purpose the year before.)
I defected from the Chilcott/Haines Bible Study that year, which for all intents and purposes was stifling a lot of creativity and good questions, and joined the Pauley Bible Study, which seemed more lively and interesting and willing to deal with the tough questions. I was hanging out in Pauley a lot, thanks to several friends who were living there on the third floor (Esther, Dawningstar, Suzie, etc.) So the staircase pictured here is a sight that I saw frequently, since it was how I got to that dorm (using my “key trick” of jiggling my Chilcott key in the lock to one of Pauley’s back doors, which usually let me in, so that I didn’t have to harass friends by calling them to come down and let me in). Incidentally, this picture was taken in the exact same place as the front of Bell-Young on Soundtrack #8, just facing a different direction. (Small campus, and I didn’t get out much.)
Where in the world is this?
1) “Pluto”, Plumb (Plumb, 1997)
This song was pure fluff, but I loved it. I would never have discovered it if I hadn’t come across a used copy of the CD while working at Wherehouse one day. I already had the cassette, but since I knew there was a hidden track on the CD version that I hadn’t heard, I bought a used copy of the CD, taped the hidden track, and gave it away the next time I struggled to figure out what to give somebody for a birthday or whatever. Anyway, it was about life on Pluto and it was totally silly, but boy, was it a lot of fun. I believe Plumb co-wrote it with Eric Champion.
2) “Pike’s Peak”, Considering Lily (Considering Lily, 1997)
“It’s like driving down Pike’s Peak, ninety miles an hour in the dark with the headlights off.” For some reason, my behavior did seem a bit self-destructive that semester, so I guess this was a fitting song for someone who was so stubborn about going off his own way and not heeding the warnings.
3) “The Way I Am”, Reality Check (Reality Check, 1997)
“I’d rather drown than take Your hand, it’s the way I am.” Another song about turning God’s help away, going off in my own direction, suffering the consequences, but still being shown grace in the end. I didn’t really seek music out for this express purpose, but there were a high number of songs in those days that helped me find solace amidst my guilt.
4) “Peace”, Third Day (Conspiracy No. 5, 1997)
Despite having a fast-paced fuzzy current of pounding guitars, this song was sort of a relaxed mantra that I wanted to adopt in the midst of a hectic semester of dry classes and wet weather and rushing to work and back at varying hours of the day. “Peace is a river flowing within me.” Truth be told, I’ve never been a very calm, peaceful person. But I had moments when I could fight the tide and remind myself just to get through this current three-hour block of classes or eight-hour shift at Wherehouse, and give myself a little time out to breathe before rushing off to the next thing. Rest is a virtue, I would later learn. It’s Biblical. Watching how frantic everyone around me in college got and how that affected some of them spiritually, I can see why.
5) “Here We Go”, Zilch (Platinum, 1997)
This scratchy, quirky pop number was basically about how we take our friends for granted. As someone who often jumped at opportunities to be proven right and had a really thin skin that caused me to always be expressing annoyance with certain people, it’s wonder I didn’t lose friendships more frequently. I was definitely guilty of “thinking it all will mend in time”, and it took a few of my uglier spats with certain people who I called “friends” to make me realize that I wasn’t doing my part; I was a friend to them in name only.
6) “History Maker”, Delirious? (King of Fools, 1997)
This was one of the tracks on the Delirious? album that really inspired Esther. She, and many of my friends in InterVarsity, were the kind of people who wanted to honor God by trying to make a difference. They volunteered their time in various outreach and urban projects and reached out in very tangible ways to their fellow students… it kind of made me wonder what I was doing to really live out my faith in a believable way.
7) “Paradox”, Sarah Jahn (Sparkle, 1997)
To this day, this song remains one of my favorite expressions of the need of questioning as a part of developing faith. “If I close the door on doubt, I find that the light will never grow.” There was like, nobody in Christian music who had the guts to say such things, but I knew it to be true. Through venues like Mark study and through personal conversations, even times when I exploded at God for something that wasn’t really God’s fault, my willingness to ask tough questions became an asset instead of a liability. I had a fire for that sort of thing back then; I miss it now.
8) “Never Dim”, The Waiting (The Waiting, 1997)
I thought it appropriate to have the crickets at the end of “Paradox” (which I didn’t have a proper way to fade out back then) lead suddenly into this song about the break of day. This was a fine piece of jangle-pop that reminded me not to fear even though things seemed dark and depressing. I had been through depression a year prior; by that time I figure I should know that I’d get through it again.
9) “Frail”, Jars of Clay (Much Afraid, 1997)
The acoustic guitar line that runs through this mostly instrumental track has become one of the most memorable melodies ever to lodge in my brain. My roommate Calvin learned how to pick it out on his guitar, and I loved listening to him play it. I vowed that if I ever learned to play guitar, I’d eventually pick this one up (and I eventually did). I just could not get enough of Much Afraid that year – it saw me through some dark times, and that may be part of the reason I remain so fond of it to this day.
10) “It Must Have Been Your Hands”, Clay Crosse (Stained Glass, 1997)
This song was here because it was an upbeat, poppy song with a killer melody on a tape that I had recently acquired, and because I thought it clever to put the two Clay artists together. That’s about it.
11) “Drive”, All Star United (All Star United, 1997)
“Let’s just drive, until it gets us somewhere, even if it takes all night.” I was still learning to drive in those days, but it was, and still is, very cathartic for me. The car’s a place where, as long as there’s not heavy traffic or anything, you can either crank up music or have a self-contained forum for a long talk with a friend, and relatively little interruptions compared to being in someone’s dorm room or whatever. Tim and I were big fans of this song, which proposed a long drive as a way to bring relief to a friend’s aching heart – I think it was the killer guitar solo at the end that really clinched it for us. I thought it would be funny to put a song called “Drive” right before the band Dryve, so that was my logic in the track order here.
12) “She Ain’t Ready”, Dryve (Thrifty Mr. Kickstar, 1997)
One of the sadder songs by the woefully short-lived Dryve, this one reminds me of different female friends at different times when I listen to it. I had attended a conference during fall semester entitled “Risking in Relationships” – basically, how to be bold in speaking about Jesus to people who trusted us. And that was easier said than done. But at different times, I would have a certain person on my heart who wasn’t a Christian but who I thought I had enough trust built with to at least initiate a conversation about it. I attempted to invite one such friend to Bible Study, but it didn’t really take. The format of Bible Study had kind of changed that semester, and I didn’t care much for it myself, nor did I have the confidence to lead it (I was the oldest InterVarsity person in my dorm, which kind of made it an odd situation since there were no real leaders there and we had to borrow someone from the next dorm over who I didn’t really see eye-to-eye with). Long story short, God seemed to want me to care for this person, and hopefully it did plant a seed, but it just wasn’t her time yet. Maybe that time came at some point in the future. Haven’t really been in touch with her, so I don’t know. And maybe I don’t ever need to know, but wherever she is, I hope she comes around to greet Jesus with arms open.
13) “Running to You”, Geoff Moore & the Distance (Threads, 1997)
Another rocking song with a theme of being trapped and then set free and running joyfully into God’s arms. I loved the scratchy, squealing guitar interlude in this one and was surprised to hear the band let loose like that.
14) “Not Home Yet”, Steven Curtis Chapman (Greatest Hits, 1997)
Perhaps the saddest incident of that semester – maybe even the hardest one to deal with during all of college – was the death of my friend Nate, who went off biking in the local mountains one February weekend (as he often did) and never returned. His girlfriend jen (lowercase “j” intentional), who was also a close friend of mine, reported him missing the following Monday, and his disappearance rapidly became a local headline. People started showing up to prayer meetings that Tim and I and a few other people would have on weeknights, and we were so convinced we could pray him home. Then they found his body on Wednesday. I was really pissed. All that praying for nothing. I took solace in a lot of songs about Heaven, since that’s where I figured he was, and since Nathan was a person who enjoyed the outdoors quite a bit, I kind of came to picture Heaven as this infinitely large mountain that he’d get to spend eternity exploring. It made me think of the endlessness of what Heaven must be like, and that it wasn’t the end for him – he wasn’t just zapped out of the universe. I was one of the friends left to comfort jen in Nathan’s absence, and I really choked when given the opportunity to do that (thankfully, other people I knew from IV were much more helpful in consoling her, one of whom – another woman named Jen, actually – even became her roommate after she vacated the dorm room where she and Nate had spent so much time together). I was scared of doing something wrong and making it worse. To this day, I still freeze up when a friend has to deal with the death of someone close. In my head, I’ve got everything in perspective, but I just never know what to say, you know?
15) “Deep Enough to Dream”, Chris Rice (Deep Enough to Dream, 1997)
Another “dreaming about Heaven” song to close it off. I felt like closing out a tape mostly filled with aggression and angst with something more sentimental and even whimsical. Angela had given me Chris Rice’s first album for my birthday, and I remembered that gift not so much for the tape itself, but because it came with a bit of tough love from her regarding some selfishness that I had shown that night in how I carelessly treated others. I was sad when I first listened to a lot of these songs, but looking back I remember a friend’s willingness to lovingly correct me, and I’d like to think it didn’t fall on deaf ears.