January 2002 was an important month in my life, because it was when Christine – the one from Hawaii who I would end up marrying – sent the fateful IM that served as our first online contact with one another.
In with the New:
Mac Powell (as a solo artist – appears previously with Third Day)
Out with the Old:
Listen on Spotify:
January 2002 was the first time since college that I had gone away on a “retreat” with friends. Our Sedaqah Group decided to spend a weekend up at Lake Arrowhead, a cold but picturesque destination where we were able to spend some time bonding, playing games, singing worship songs, etc. This is a shot of Arrowhead Village, with the lake visible behind it. I was thinking of Christine a lot while I was away during this weekend at Arrowhead and we couldn’t chat – it was hard not to be able to tell my friends just yet that I might have a “special someone”.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Rejoice”, Audio Adrenaline (Lift, 2001)
I wanted to start off 2002 with something happy – a song that celebrated being alive and no longer having to fear. On New Year’s Day I went to see A Beautiful Mind with Dawn (some other friends of hers were going to come, but bailed out), and I distinctly remember having the thought as I was leaving the movie theater parking structure that day, “I’m still here. I was so stressed about terrorism and all these other things, yet New Year’s Eve came and went and all of the big crowds gathered and there were no catastrophes”. And it was at that moment that I chucked my paranoia and praised God for giving me another year of life.
2) “Get On”, Third Day (Come Together, 2001)One of the last convincingly “Southern”-type rock songs that Third Day ever did – kind of a response to critics who told them that doing the Christian rock thing was somehow wrong and that they’d never make it. I was 100% behind them on that sentiment before they started to show diminishing returns on the increasingly less rocking albums that followed.
3) “Bullets”, Creed (Weathered, 2001)
Speaking of anti-critic songs, no one took the subject as Scott Stapp appeared to have. By this point it was becoming trendy to hate Creed, and I’ll admit that they kind of brought a lot of the criticism upon themselves, so from that perspective, writing a song to lash out back at the critics seems a bit silly. But this was the most rocking song Creed ever did, and its uncomfortable melody and furious swirling around definitely left an impression on me. I still love it quite a bit, except for the ridiculous spoken intro.
4) “Momentum”, Toby Mac (Momentum, 2001)
It took me a few months to warrant to Toby Mac’s brand of rap/rock – something I had really appreciated as an influence on dc Talk, but that seemed a bit too rowdy and filled with shouting and awkward verse/chorus transitions to take seriously when he did the solo thing. By January I had come around, and I couldn’t get enough of the CD – especially with Pete Stewart on board to handle the heavy guitars! I went to dc Talk’s final tour (as of this writing, anyway) with Danny and Cheryl and James and Heather in February, and along the way Danny said that Toby’s solo material was the only stuff he hadn’t heard yet, and he wondered if it was any good – I sort of quoted this song by describing it too him as “obnoxious”. I think he and Cheryl decided to stay away. In a live setting, it was certainly rowdy, but not terribly impressive. Fun CD, though.
5) “Alive”, P.O.D. (Satellite, 2001)
Another rap/rock song that I had taken a long time to warm up to. It seemed to cliche and cheery to really fit P.O.D.’s style when I heard it the previous summer, but now that I was listening to Satellite on a regular basis, it was one of many heavy-hitters that I couldn’t get enough of. It fit so beautifully after “Momentum” that I couldn’t resist putting it on here. There’s a lot of loud, rockin’, hopeful defiance at the beginning of this CD, and that’s how I was feeling in this new year.
6) “If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?”, The Juliana Theory (Emotion Is Dead, 2000)
You’ve gotta love the extremely long, emo song title on this one – probably tongue-in-cheek considering how TJT was almost mocking the whole emo thing on Emotion Is Dead. This one appeared to be about a conceited person who just kept talking and talking without realizing the damage they were doing – nobody I knew at that present moment, but it was fun to shout along with the pointed insults back at them all the same.
7) “The Grudge”, Tool (Lateralus, 2001)
This was the Tool song that, oddly enough, reminded me that I was supposed to be a Christian who forgave people who wronged me. Maynard James Keenan probably never realized how close his thoughts, as expressed in this songs, came to the principles that I said I believed about not letting the sun go down on my anger. (Yeah, there was some other weird alchemy stuff in there too, but whatever.) This song was cathartic, with the crazy 10/8 rhythm and the pounding drums and that unbelievable scream. It hit me square in the face and warned me that it just wasn’t worth holding my grudge against Sharon any more. This year, I was going to learn how to really “Let go” and stop trashing her every chance I got.
8) “Perfect”, Stabbing Westward (Stabbing Westward, 2001)
I loved the moody, fast-paced acoustic guitar strumming in this song. It keenly described the innocence of a new relationship that a couple finds themselves wanting to go back to when they’re so unhappy that they’re about to break up. I remembered what that was like in those final days with Sharon. But there was no “reset button”, no easy way to start over. The truth was that we were never “perfect” in the first place – that’s where the guy in this song doesn’t get it when he asks, “Why can’t we be perfect like we used to be?” It was just a matter of stuff we didn’t yet know or understand about each other when we first got together and were both happy just to be with somebody who found us interesting. Falling in love is great, but I’ve come to believe that true love is experienced much later on in the relationship, when you really know what’s going on and still want to stick around, rather than just reverting back to being ignorant about the person.
9) “Enid”, Barenaked Ladies (Gordon, 1992)
This is probably one of the oldest songs I’ve ever put on one of these mixes (it was 10 years old at the time), but it was one of my favorite tracks on the best-of CD that Terri gave me, and I loved its wacky description of a teenage guy who was torn up about a girl who had dumped him, and how he admitted being so angry that he wanted to kill her at one point, but then realized that keeping her would have meant changing in ways he didn’t really want to, and finally admitted, “We never really knew each other anyway.” Take some of the comic misunderstandings out of it and increase the ages of the ex-lovers, and that was pretty much me and Sharon.
10) “My Ever My All”, Steve (Falling Down, 2001)
Sifting gears now – this was a fun worship song by a band that got away with more ripping off of Coldplay and Radiohead and Delirious? than they ever should have. It was the slick bass line and the sweet guitar solo that really made it work.
11) “Breathe on Me”, Jennifer Knapp (The Way I Am, 2001)
I was still in my elementary stages of learning to play guitar at that point, but I must have had delusions of grandeur, because one day I had a dream that Jennifer Knapp was there, in the flesh, and I was playing this song along with her, chord-for-chord. Actually, that’s not so difficult since it’s a fairly easy song which I later learned (and it’s kind of fun to play), but obviously I never really thought I’d be as good as her. Man. I miss you, Jennifer.
12) “Even If”, ZOEgirl (Life, 2001)
Few people other than me would have the audacity to put Tool and ZOEgirl on the same mix CD, but I was trying to expand my horizons in a more youthful direction for the sake of finding more musical common ground with Christine. During one of those first few chats, she mentioned a Christian music festival that would be coming to her area, and among the acts that would be there, she said that True Vibe would be present, but she didn’t know who they were. And I was all like, “Ugh, boy band, you don’t want to hear them”, only to realize that I had just majorly stuck my foot in my mouth, because she really liked the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync and Plus One and those sorts of groups that I loved to make fun of. I couldn’t quite bring myself to listen to a boy band, but I decided I’d give teenybopper music a fair shake by listening to ZOEgirl, and you know what? They turned out to be pretty darn good, especially on this confident little dance-pop song, which would later be the first song performed at the first concert Christine and I ever attended together (Fish Fest 2002 in Irvine that summer).
13) “All that I Need”, Corrinne May (Corrinne May, 2001)
One of my favorite ballads from Corrinne’s CD – just one listen to her and Todd harmonizing on this one in concert and I was in love. It worked as a worship song, and all of the ladies in Sedaqah Group knew it, so I challenged myself to figure out the chords, and it revealed a bit of genius in the composition – verses in G, chorus in F, then a bridge that pulls off a transition to the key of F sharp for the final chorus. Pain in the butt to play, but really beautiful with a room full of people singing along.
14) “I Need You”, Jars of Clay (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
This one might have been a bit redundant coming after “All that I Need”, but I had a leak of the new Jars album a month and a half early, and I was pretty stoked about it. Even though this one had a bit of a repetitive chorus and seemed more “normal” than the Jars of Clay I was used to, I grew to appreciate it as a smartly written worship song with the sort of chord sequence that was guaranteed to hook me every time (D to D major seventh right at the beginning – very similar to Sixpence’s “Kiss Me”). Khat went with me to their Eleventh Hour tour in May, and she was amused when they transitioned from this song into The Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town”, an 80’s song when she recognized, that had a very similar guitar intro.
15) “You Get Me”, Michelle Branch (The Spirit Room, 2001)
A song about being a really weird, wallflower sort of person, and meeting a friend/romantic partner who totally understands and appreciates all of your quirks. This song described my friendship with Khat rather well – we weren’t romantically involved, but we were definitely two people who could be socially awkward at times, who appreciated each other’s nerdiness and less-trendy musical tastes, and who often marched to the beat of our own drummer. And then of course I met Christine, and that song described the budding romance between us rather well, too. So I guess it makes me think about two girls (with the same name!) that I had two completely different relationships with.
16) “Angel in Disguise”, Delirious? (Audio: Lessonover?, 2001)
Lovely, intimate little piano ballad, with a nice shift from 3/4 to 4/4 and back and some pretty orchestral flourishes – nice experiment for Delirious? on an album that was mellower and more quirky than their usual fare. Christine’s Yahoo! ID that she used to chat with me was “angel_messenger7”, and as cliche as it may have been, anything and everything that referred to angels started to remind me of her. This song described my little secret, my online friend who was trying to disguise the crush she was developing for her (as I was with her), but we could totally see through each other, and as she began to hint that she was nervous about meeting me in person when she came to California in March, I just had to call it and admit that we were becoming something more than just pen pals.
Of the many hikes I’ve done over the years, Malibu Canyon has been one of the more interesting ones. This is a shot of Malibu Canyon Road and the Creek below it, a scenic byway that we took to get to Malibu Creek State Park for the Evergreen hike that February. We walked through the upper part of this creek’s watershed to arrive at what used to be a filming site for the TV show M*A*S*H. I actually remember meeting a young woman on this hike who I ended up developing a bit of a crush on, which was problematic because I already had this ambiguous online pen-pal thing going with Christine. As with a few other crushes that I had during this time, it didn’t last, partly because it was difficult to keep in touch with her, and partially because she ended up meeting a guy online and getting married not long after the fact. Part of me was rebelling against the idea of having to deal with a long-distance relationship by wanting to explore interests here in L.A., I guess, but now I’m glad nothing came of that.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Eating Me Away”, Skillet (Alien Youth, 2001)
“Save me from my rage, and my humanity. I’m more nothing than being, is this my legacy?” That angry, somewhat atonal song was a way of recognizing my tendency to have a short temper, to let a few things that were going wrong with life put a damper on an entire week or month. I had spent most of 2001 being angry. 2002 was going to be different.
2) “Idioteque”, Radiohead (Kid A, 2000)
Many months after I first denounced it as being disturbing, drug-addled weirdness, Kid A took a strong hold on me. Not that the album really made any more sense, but I started to see a method to the madness, even more so than Amnesiac, which I had inexplicably warmed up to (and purchased) first. So I figured I owed it to that album to give it a place on one of my soundtracks, and I did so with this paranoid little dance track, which Radiohead had first intrigued me with on Saturday Night Live back in 2000, and remains one of my favorite songs in this odd British band’s catalogue. Maybe it’s here to make fun of my own paranoia, that seemed unwarranted after the rest of 2001 came and went without any sort of West Coast crisis. Maybe it’s here because it was something funky and unusual to place after the abrupt ending of “Eating my Away”, which transitions into “Kill Me Heal Me” on Skillet’s album without missing a beat, leaving pretty much no good way to transition it into anything seamlessly on a mix CD.
3) “Glorious #1”, Remy Zero (The Golden Hum, 2001)
I made an online friend in October of 2001, through a seemingly innocuous post on the old about.com boards for Christian music that would later morph into the CMCentral.com forum. His name was Josh and he was looking for reviewers to write for a new site called The Rebel Base that he was starting up. At the time, our tastes in Christian rock music with some exploration into mainstream music overlapped quite a bit, so I started letting him use my Epinions reviews on his site, and I’d read his reviews for recommendations on new stuff to listen to. One of the first signs of his influence on my musical tastes was Remy Zero, an alternative mainstream band with quirky lyrics who was most famous for singing the theme song from Smallville. Most of their stuff failed to really grab my attention at first, but I was highly amused by this frenetic rocker, which was apparently all about looking out for your own self even if it meant getting away with murder. Something like that. They definitely weren’t a “Christian” band, but Josh had a different view of where and how God could be found in music, even if the creators of that music weren’t deliberately trying to invoke Him, and I credit him for helping to radically change my own views of the sacred vs. the secular in music and art.
4) “What Have You Been Doing Lately?”, Relient K (The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, 2001)
Another cute, sudden musical transition brings us into an oddly swingy song by Relient K that basically wags its finger at immature people who used to say they were Christians and now do things like drink at college parties (GASP!) OK, so Relient K was a bit judgmental and tactless in those days. The song had enough swagger that it still amused me.
5) “Angel with No Wings”, Kevin Max (Stereotype Be, 2001)
Another “angel” song shows up here, though this one isn’t so much about Christine, in terms of why I put it on here. Maybe it’s about an imaginary someone who wasn’t her. Part of me wanted to let myself fall in love with her, but I was afraid of some of the things on my “wishlist” for an ideal mate that she didn’t have – a college degree, a full-time job, stuff like that. And it was OK to admit I wanted those things, but maybe I needed to realize that the “angel” I had imagined was the one flying with “strings attached” – the person who looked good on paper because of certain material aspects, but who, as far as I knew, was imaginary. And there was this real person who wasn’t perfect, maybe hadn’t made some of the life choices that I thought were wisest, but was still sweet and caring and seemed to take genuine interest in me. She was the “Angel in Disguise” from the Delirious? song, and I needed to let go of the imaginary “Angel with No Wings”, but that was going to take some time.
6) “Looking for You”, Tait (Empty, 2001)
A long and hopelessly sappy ballad (especially due to those disarming major-seventh chords used throughout the verses) that seemed to echo my own desperate longing for a soulmate. As Christine and I first got to know each other, I decided to make two mix CDs for her – one as an introduction to the rockier side of my musical tastes (the stuff I didn’t think we had in common based on her personality), and one as more of a “love letter” to woo her. This was the first track on the second disc – I wanted to hit her with something powerful and tear-jerking right from the get go. She was a little nervous about giving out her mailing address before we met in person, so I wasn’t able to give her the mix CDs until March, but I found out much later on that she listened to those mix CDs often and found herself having to skip this song because it just made her miss me too much. (Awww.)
7) “In the Air”, Toby Mac (Momentum, 2001)
Since I had a KMax song and a Tait song, I figured I might as well throw in one more by Toby just to get all three dc Talk members lined up back-to-back. This one’s a pretty amusing conversation between Toby and himself (playing the role of a non-Christian friend), who he has a dream about and realizes, Hey, I was never honest with this guy about what I really believed, so he decides to meet up with the guy for coffee and just lay it all out. I was never big on “Guilt trip young listeners about not evangelizing to their friends” sort of songs, but this one was cute enough that it worked for me, especially with the whimsical trumpets and all that. Strangely enough, I ended up having a really strange dream as a result of listening to this song too much, in which I and several other people were flying in the air, and we were all anticipating a video message from God that would appear on a cloud screen in front of us, only when the message started, we realized that it wasn’t God, it was Bill Gates. Um, yeah. Some dreams are better left uninterpreted.
8) “History Maker”, Plumb (Acquire the Fire: Unshakeable, 2001)
Plumb covered one of my favorite Delirious? songs, and I thought it was amusing. She got the strong melodic hook of the original all wrong, but other than that, it was good to hear her take on it, and I was kind of missing Plumb at that point, so on the mix it went.
9) “Mr. Beasley”, Corrinne May (Corrinne May, 2001)
Among those of us in the Sedaqah Group who liked Corrinne’s music and would frequently discuss the finer points of relationships and singleness with one another (basically me being “one of the girls”, though Jim, the one other guy in the group before Francis joined, would occasionally end up in the discussion as well), I would sometimes quote a line from this song – “Just be yourself, Mr. Beasley”. I had no idea who the “Mr. Beasley” was that inspired the song, but “Beasley” sure sounds like a goofy name, like a nerdy guy who wore glasses or something. Hey, kind of like me! (First time I saw her perform the song live, she seemed to glance in my direction when singing the line, “I’d like to see your eyes through those goggles that you’re wearing”, though given the small size of the crowd, I may have been the only guy in the room wearing nerdy-looking glasses.) I loved the message here, that a guy didn’t have to do all of these traditional Romeo things to try to impress a girl, because what really won her over was seeing him pray in church, or work with little kids, or whatever he’d naturally do just because his heart was in it. I wanted to be liked by a girl without having to make her like me, and that seemed to be happening with Christine even though it was all a bit too sudden. I wanted my other single friends to adopt this philosophy too, and not try to keep up appearances for some boilerplate date who would probably just put on a façade of their own.
10) “Don’t Push Love Away”, The Juliana Theory (Emotion Is Dead, 2000)
On a CD that had its share of bitter and guarded songs, this one really stuck out to me, as if it knew I’d be meeting a woman who I’d be unsure about, but who would turn out to be the perfect match for me. Sometimes you’re afraid to let yourself fall in love because you can clearly see a person’s shortcomings, but you don’t give that person the time and space to show you the side of themselves that will really captivate you. Which is not to say that everyone who ever expresses romantic interest should be given infinite time to prove themselves, but you know, there’d probably be fewer lonely people in the world if more of us would give an “imperfect” person a chance, realizing that we too are “imperfect” and that special someone might just need to get to know us a little better before seeing what’s most likeable about us.
11) “Far, Far Away”, Five Iron Frenzy (Electric Boogaloo, 2001)
It always surprised me when Five Iron Frenzy, a band noted for their wackiness, could turn out a surprisingly poignant and spiritually mature song such as this one. It was catchy and poppy enough that I might not have fully noticed how sturdy the lyrics were at the time, but looking back, there was a description of how “faith is the evidence of things unseen” in this song, as described though the periods of doubt and faith in the life of the Apostle Peter, that part of me wanted to latch on to after a few years of not really knowing whether to believe that God was any of the things I had thought Him to be in my younger days, back when it had been easier to believe. This period in my life is something I look back on now as my “faith renaissance”.
12) “While You’re Sleeping”, Kepano Green (Waiting for Daylight, 2001)
This gentle, acoustic ballad, in which a man promises to stay by a lover’s side and comfort her while she sleeps, brought solace to a friend of mine when she was dealing with some frustration due to an unrequited crush on a guy. Of course, it had to immediately be added to my list of “secret weapon” songs that would go on the sappier of the two mix CDs that I was making for Christine. I’ve always had a deeply romantic attachment to the concept of sleep – and I don’t mean “sleeping together” in the sexual sense, though sex is definitely an exquisitely romantic thing in its right context, too – I just mean in the sense of falling asleep beside someone you love deeply and want to give a sense of safety to. That constancy of falling asleep and waking up beside someone was something that I longed for, and unlike some people, I believed that it could be done innocently between a guy and a girl as long as they laid down some ground rules. Christine believed otherwise at that point. So it would be a while before we had that experience of one of us falling asleep in the other’s arms. Until then, I could always dream.
13) “Land of the Free”, Andrew Peterson (Clear to Venus, 2001)
This hidden track on Andrew’s second album was an ironic exploration of how those with so little (in the eyes of us Americans, anyway) could be so much more content in the spiritual sense with what God had given them. From Andrew’s point of view, his missionary friend in South America was so much more blessed due to her freedom from modern Western attachments. It was a nice little lyrical reversal – I don’t think it’s a sin to have money or own things, but I definitely see why it can become trickier to stay aware of your own dependence on God as you acquire more things for yourself. So in that sense, I can see the rationale behind Andrew’s mock jealousy here.
14) “Breathing In”, downhere (downhere, 2001)
The first song that really got my attention by the Canadian band wasn’t really one of the “big ones” on their debut album – it was this breezy little song about Heaven with its quick acoustic guitars and peppy drums and rolling piano. A simple, but beautifully played piece about our true home. I guess I was being confronted with some of my own materialism and selfishness, and slowly learning to let go a little more and value Christian community a little more. That reflected in my choice of friends, because I admired people who could serve the Church in ways I wasn’t yet prepared to serve, and it especially reflected in my eventual choice to date Christine despite believing I should be with someone who made enough income to fully support herself. Money’s not a bad thing and we all need at least some of it to keep going (even a selfless church ministry or overseas mission needs to be funded by somebody), but what decisions impact a person’s eternity, and what decisions just impact how much stuff I’ll still have when I die?
15) “Around Me”, Jennifer Knapp (The Way I Am, 2001)
This song continues the “Heaven” theme in more of an aesthetic sense, having a light, floating sort of sound to it due to the sparse, cautious use of the electric guitar and Jennifer’s prayerful words, and… well, not much else. Definitely an odd experiment for Jennifer, but I thought it worked beautifully as a worshipful reflection on what it feels like to recognize one’s own smallness in the universe but to also feel so surrounded and embraced by God, as if nothing in that massive universe can transpire without you and the other billions of souls out there being constantly in God’s mind.
16) “Our Great God”, Mac Powell & Fernando Ortega (City on a Hill 2: The Gathering, 2002)
My interest in the City on a Hill series pretty much became nonexistent after the second installment, but this hymn-meets-modern-worship collaboration was definitely right on the money – I never understood why they didn’t just use this version, with both guys singing, on Fernando’s album. It was one of those worship songs that rang out to the Heavens above in the most captivating way, and the chords (when pushed down a notch from the cumbersome key of E flat to plain old D) were so easy, but the vocal range was either too high or too low, and I just never figured out how to make it work. The bells at the end, ringing out the “Doxology” tune, were a nice touch as well – a perfect fade-out to end on.