I’d have to say that this mix is one of my all-time favorites, just because of the time and the experiences that it represents – in many ways, it’s the soundtrack to falling in love again.
In with the New:
Jimmy Eat World
Out with the Old:
Listen on Spotify:
On our first “date”, I took Christine to the Huntington gardens in San Marino, which has been one of my favorite places to visit since my youth. This picture was taken in the Japanese Gardens, which I consider to be the centerpiece of the Huntington, and something I figured she’d appreciate, since I knew she was part Japanese and she also enjoyed visiting botanical gardens in Hawaii.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Revolution”, Jars of Clay (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
One of Jars of Clay’s all-time best “quirky rockers”. I think sometimes they secretly wish they could be a garage band, just for a song or two, to get all of the “banging on things” out of their system. This song still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, beyond its apparent broader meaning about being proud to be an individual, but from the first moment I heard it, I knew I’d never get that oddly-syncopated melody out of my head. (I still can’t get the timing right when I try to play along on guitar.)
2) “Bleed American”, Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American, 2001)
I grew curious about JEW after hearing them on KROQ and asking my brother if their album was any good. His response: “In a word, awesome.” I couldn’t say that uniformly about any of their albums that I listened to after that, but they had some pretty darn good rockers on their self-titled album (which I still call by its original title Bleed American, in defiance of those who misunderstood it as being somehow un-patriotic in the wake of 9/11). Not a particularly cheerful song here, but I can relate to its account of a false, constructed happiness, built on the necessity of having the TV on to drown out distractions, and having to constantly take the right medications. I don’t think it’s wrong to medicate the physiological symptoms of depression for a time, but as a permanent way of life, I think it could easily amount to a form of slavery.
3) “Yours”, Toby Mac (Momentum, 2001)
For a while, I couldn’t get over the line “Nobody told me that my doo-doo stunk”, so I couldn’t take this song seriously, but I had to admit that it packed a punch. The pure heaviness of it caused me to eventually cave and admit that it was a lot of fun. Something about the desperate edginess worked for me, despite the ridiculous metaphors and pop culture references. Plus, the closing shout of “Take this space between us!” led perfectly into the next song.
4) “So Far Away”, Stabbing Westward (Stabbing Westward, 2001)
The last of a trilogy of break-up songs from Stabbing Westward (it’s actually the first track on the album, but I seemed to latch onto these songs in reverse chronological order) cries out from the middle of an ongoing relationship, lamenting how there seems to be an invisible wall between a guy and a girl… he knows she’s there, he can touch her, and yet she’s emotionally unresponsive. You’d think that the sheer force of will could break through that barrier, but sometimes it can’t. Sometimes two people just don’t connect. It’s incredibly unhealthy and frustrating when you’re in the thick of it, but being able to recognize that this was where Sharon and I had been, and that it likely wasn’t a state we could have healed from, was healthy as I prepared my heart to accept the reality of falling in love again. I knew to express myself better, to not assume the person would automatically know how I felt about her, to not let that distance grow between us. There was a lot of physical distance between me and Christine at first, and yet as we got to know each other, she felt closer to me than anyone had in a good long time.
5) “40 Days”, Third Day (Come Together, 2001)
A resolved rocker, that declares the worth of preservering and heading straight through the middle of a difficult situation, because you know it’s yours to overcome instead of to run away from. “It’s only for a season.” It’s healthy to recognize that while God wants the best for His children, that doesn’t equate to immediately wiping our problems away. During that 40 days in the wilderness – maybe even 40 years in some cases – we become stronger and learn to lean less on what we can see and touch, and more on what we know it’s wise to hold out hope for. I knew I wasn’t healed from my breakup yet, but I could see ahead with just enough confidence to know that I would overcome the insecurities and I didn’t have to keep making excuses about why I couldn’t ever be loved by anyone again. (This song was also a part of an excellent set by Third Day on the Come Together tour, which I caught with Francis and Jim at Universal Amphitheatre at the beginning of March. One of the best concerts I’ve ever attended… despite the Paul Colman Trio.)
6) “Youth of the Nation”, P.O.D. (Satellite, 2000)
Thankfully this one doesn’t relate to any personal experiences that I had – I didn’t know anyone that got shot at their school or anything. But it kind of fit the theme of perserving through hopelessness, and it was just an all-around awesome song. Everyone suffers, even the quiet and shy kid or co-worker you see every day. You suffer, too. Will you reach out and relate, or just let them slip quietly into the night without them ever knowing you cared, only for them to do something drastic and potentially lethal just to give you a wake-up call?
7) “This Is the End of Your Life”, The Juliana Theory (Music from Another Room EP, 2001)
Kind of morbid, putting a song about teen shootings and suicide next to a song that describes the moment when one realizes one’s life is about to end. I was somewhat preoccupied with the thought of my own death, and how I totally wasn’t ready for it, in the fall of 2001 when it seemed like any unexpected act of terror could happen anywhere in the country at any time (not really, but my imagination exaggerated it that way). Farther removed from the horrors of 9/11, I was a little more stable and convinced that I wasn’t any more likely to die on a given day in the present than I had been in the past. But still, I realized that this was a time of renewal, a time to make my life count instead of wasting it. I relished my “freedom” from pretty much all obligations other than the basic one to work and pay my bills, but was it worth hanging onto that forever and being non-committal about everything in life? What would matter when it did end – all of the fun I had and the things I acquired, or the people I loved and the mark I left on them?
8) “Should I Tell Them”, Shaun Groves (Invitation to Eavesdrop, 2001)
For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into Shaun Groves the first time I listened to him, but I gave him one more shot when I found out he’d be opening for Jars of Clay’s Eleventh Hour tour, and I found a lot of thoughtfulness and conviction there. I still think he’s done his best work with this song, which dares to stand up in front of a crowd and ask, “Am I really ready to stand up here and sing when I don’t know the answers, and be misunderstood, and have people mistakenly assume that I’m some sort of wise sage?” You can have all the zeal in the world to want to tell people about God, but there’s still that question of readiness – what you will say and how you’ll communicate it. God will give you strength and courage, but you can’t just turn your brain off and say any old dumb thing when there’s a crowd of people out there who will believe it just because some musician with a “Christian” record deal said it.
9) “I Don’t Care”, Plus One (Obvious, 2002)
Alright, you may proceed to laugh uproariously at me for caving in and admitting that I actually liked a song by this accursed boy band. All I can say is that they brought edgier guitars and beats in and tried to do the whole “rock” transformation on a few songs, and it worked for me, at least until I realized that a lot of teenybopper acts were trying this tactic in order to appear more relevant. This song was fun – it’s pretty cheesy, but I actually still enjoy it. It fit with the theme of “Should I Tell Them”, by posing bravery as the response to such a question, and basically saying, “I have questions, I have issues, but I know how God changed me and I know I can’t keep silent about that.” I wanted to be that confident. I knew I wasn’t, but I admired those who could be while expressing their faith in intelligent terms.
10) “Stand Here with Me”, Creed (Weathered, 2001)
Creed definitely straddled the line between pop and hard rock, and strained their credibility more than they had previously with “feel-good” songs like this, but then I kind of think they needed something less depressing to strike a balance. For once, they dropped the grungy tempos altogether and just did an upbeat rocker with a big old smile on all of their faces, guitar solo and all, and it felt good. I was looking for songs like this that were obviously more happy-go-lucky, but still rocked, as kind of a bridge between my musical tastes and Christine’s. I wanted to be able to communicate to her in a musical language that she could pick up, but that wasn’t totally unnatural for me. When I’m falling in love, I tend to gravitate to the happy stuff more than I otherwise would.
11) “Show Me Heaven”, Delirious? (Audio: Lessonover?, 2001)
Another happy rocker. This is the part of the mix where we pump our fists in the air and shout to heaven, unafraid of whatever may come my way. It was one of the few new songs played at the Delirious? concert I dragged all of my friends to on a Monday night in Hollywood. It was an extremely loud, brash and brilliant evening – one of the best concerts I’d ever attended. I think most of my friends just got headaches.
12) “Wish You Were Here”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
The title of the song should make it obvious what sort of sentiments I was feeling towards my potential future girlfriend at that point. The prospect of finally meeting Christine in person excited me, and I really hoped that we hit it off well. For once, I was going to let go of all of my worries and calculations of how much risk I could stand, and just ride the rollercoaster and see where it went.
13) “Breathing”, Lifehouse (No Name Face, 2000)
The first “real-time” meeting between me and Christine happened at a very modest motel in Van Nuys, where her parents were staying while they were in my area (it was inexpensive and close enough to Hollywood). Her dad got lost on the way there, and I had no cell phone at the time, so I was waiting around for almost an hour before they finally showed up. Any irritation that I felt immediately melted away the first time I saw her – dressed modestly in a cheesy orange T-shirt that mimicked the Reese’s logo and said “Jesus, Sweet Savior”, but definitely very cute. All I needed to know at that point was that she was cute – I already knew that I was totally in love with her personality. One of the first things we did together was to visit Universal Studios with her parents – we had lunch at Universal City Walk the next day, and I showed her around a little, trying my best to be more outgoing than usual, even if that meant acting like a bit of a goofball. There are these fountains that shoot up from the sidewalk in one spot, and in an attempt to amuse her, I tried to time it so that I could run across and not get wet – which failed miserably, so I got soaked. Her dad caught the whole thing on his camcorder, much to my embarassment. But it unexpectedly worked in my favor – it was cold and windy that day, and while waiting with her for her parents after lunch, I started to shiver, and she gave me this completely uninhibited, warm embrace to help me feel better. That was her signal that she liked me back – I had expressed very clearly to her the day before that I was definitely attracted to her, but she had kind of let me sweat it out overnight before giving a response. For the rest of that day, I was giddy beyond belief as this playful, golden-hearted woman led me around by the hand, snuggled up next to me on the E.T. ride and so forth. When we returned to City Walk after our time at the theme park, this song by Lifehouse was playing on the massive video screen, and it hadn’t been one that I had really been all that attached to before, but now it just sounded so sweet to my ears, and I had to sing along while standing there, holding her hand and feeling awkward as her dad filmed everything that was going on. I couldn’t help it. I was hanging on every word she said. I was in love.
14) “Cristina’s Dream”, Fernando Ortega (Storm, 2002)
This subdued instrumental – mostly just piano and violin – immediately struck me as an achingly beautiful piece. “Cristina” is, of course, the Spanish equivalent of the name “Christine”, and whatever she was dreaming about, it sounded romantic enough that I wanted to make an appearance in that dream.
15) “Same Side of the Moon”, Corrinne May (Corrinne May, 2001)
Oh, man. We’re really getting sentimental now. This delicate acoustic guitar ballad became one of my favorite love songs, due to how easy it was to relate to Corrinne’s depiction of a long-distance relationship. When you let yourself fall in love with someone and then you have to be physically separated for long periods of time, it’s easy to cling to just about anything that reminds you you’re connected, even if it’s the trivial recognition of a scientific fact that the Earth and moon are locked in geosynchronous orbit, so as the two of you look up at the night sky, you’re both seeing the same side of that celestial body. (I beleive Pink Floyd wrote about the other side.) I might have mentioned to Corrinne at one of her performances that I related to this song because of my girlfriend in Hawaii – when she played it at a show a little over a year later, when Christine was sitting there next to me, she kind of gave us a subtle wink as if to dedicate it to us. Or maybe I’m just imaginging that part. But it was a small enough audience and Corrinne has a good enough memory for that sort of thing.
16) “Grace”, The Normals (A Place Where You Belong, 2002)
There’s such an innocence when one falls in love for the first time, especially if you’re a Christian – you’re totally sure that you’re going to stay totally pure and treat that person with total respect and dignity, and lust isn’t going to play a part. When you’ve been seriously involved enough before to have struggeld with such things, though, you start to realize that it’s hard to genuinely fall in love with somebody without realizing that, hey, they’re pretty sexy. Some Christians would advocate extremely chaste measures, such as never going beyond holding hands, in an attempt to curtail the lust. My approach is simply to know that hormones are hormones, and good things come to those who wait. A mere kiss can set off some pretty intense curiosity. Especially if one’s experienced more intimacy than he should have before, and wishes he could again. I knew enough to be extremely careful with Christine. And I might have felt guilty at times about my internal hormonal reactions to the most innocent little lovey-dovey things, but eventually I realized, “I probably wouldn’t want to be with someone if I didn’t find her attractive.” We didn’t know yet that we were a good enough match to warrant getting married, so I just decided to be proud of the fact that I was attracted to someone who exhibited a lot of virtue but also wasn’t afraid to tell me that she, too, was very attracted to me, while not pushing for anything we weren’t both absolutely sure we were ready for. (Like that first kiss that I postponed for a few months – totally worth it, even if I wondered the day after telling her it wasn’t time yet how on Earth I could have turned down a girl who wanted to kiss me!) It’s possible to know that, and have grace with the other person (and know when to separate yourselves) when they have a tough time keeping those wants and wishes under control. It’s just a reality of God making one sex attracted to the other – people who want to save sex for marriage are still going to find themselves just dying to know what that’s like before it’s the right time to actually experience it. As long as you want the whole of who that person is instead of just the physical aspects, I don’t consider that to be lustful. It’s just a deeper expression of love that you have to agree to hold off on until you’ve made a commitment to stick with each other for good. Lots of people in this society may make fun of that conviction, but speaking as a person who regrets jumped the gun the first time around, I can safely say that I like it better this way.
This picture was taken during a motorboat trip out on Lake Casitas. Winnie, Dawn, and most of the folks from my Sedaqah Group teamed up with some other affiliated groups and random friends from Evergreen to plan a camping trip at the lake, which was great, since I hadn’t been camping in a good six years before that. It’s a beautiful lake, out near Ojai, northwest of the Ventura area.
Where in the world is this?
2) “Farsighted”, Five Iron Frenzy (Electric Boogaloo, 2001)
I’m nearsighted, as I’d imagine most people who wear glasses or contacts are. But it tends to be a metaphor for how I live life – always seeing the immediate consequences and the temporary setbacks, and not really thinking long-term. This song was mostly here for fun due to its guitar and horn blasts, but it was also here to remind me that what seemed difficult and required a lot of patience in the short term could be worth it in the long haul.
3) “Live Out Loud”, Steven Curtis Chapman (Declaration, 2001)
I thought this song was major cheese at first – a bit of a disappointment after the solid, fun tracks that SCC led off his previous albums with. The mention of Regis Philbin was enough to make me steer clear. But the song grew on me, and it turned out to be a lively highlight of Steven Curtis Chapman’s tour, which I caught at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, with Khat and a friend from Evergreen named Evana.
4) “My Heart”, Third Day (Come Together, 2001)
This one’s here because I liked the guitar intro that slid up and down, and I was trying to figure out how to play it. In the first year that I had my guitar, I must have sat down and figured out how to play about 50% of the songs I was listening to – I sure had a lot of time on my hands in those days!
5) “Dead End Moon”, Kevin Max (Stereotype Be, 2001)
A haunting song about wanting to be set free from the memories of a past lover. It always made me think of an eerie desert landscape in the dark of night – probably because the music took a few obvious cues from Sting’s “Desert Rose”.
6) “All You Wanted”, Michelle Branch (The Spirit Room, 2001)
“If you want to, I can save you. I can take you away from here.” Simple words from a teenage songwriter – and how many thousands of teenybopper pop songs have been written on the topic of escapism? But that was an appealing topic to me – part of me was seriously considering whether I should just jump ship on my whole entire life in Los Angeles, and figure out a way to take up residence in Hawaii, and be in tropical paradise with this girl who clearly liked me quite a bit (and who I liked just as much). But that would have been too much too soon. I was the one with the stable job and the solid church community. She was working and attending her parents’ church in Hawaii, but it wasn’t really something she felt rooted down to – it made more sense for her to be the one to move here. Still way too early to even consider that at such an early phase, before we were officially a couple – but the desire for one of us to just abandon it all and take a one-way flight was quite strong.
7) “We’re at the Top of the World (To the Simple Two)”, The Juliana Theory (Emotion Is Dead, 2000)
The simple, poppy song that became the bane of The Juliana Theory’s existence, kind of like “Shiny Happy People” apparently did for R.E.M. I enjoyed it, “sha la la la”s and all.
8) “Dismissed”, ZOEgirl (Life, 2001)
I’ve heard plenty of horribly written “abstinence” songs over the years, and I was a little old for the “teens, don’t have sex” lecture anyway, but this song won me over because of its feisty attitude and its emphasis on a woman asserting her self-worth in the face of a guy who was just trying to use her.
9) “A Little Love”, Delirious? (Audio: Lessonover?, 2001)
One of the more unusual songs from Audio: Lessonover? that was eventually left off of the American version, Touch. Despite the cheesy chorus of “All you need is love”, I thought it was quite a bit of fun, especially due to how the slow, odd verses sung by Stu G. contrasted with the straight-ahead anthemic chorus sung by Martin Smith. It’s fun to hear how those two guys play off of each other.
10) “Ocean Floor”, Audio Adrenaline (Lift, 2001)
My Audio A fandom came to a rather anti-climactic end after Lift, but the last song chosen to represent them on any of my mixes was definitely a strong note to go out on. The metaphor about sins being buried so far deep underwater that there is no dredging them up again in terms of what God chooses to remember about us was a powerful one. I was listening to this song as I walked along the shore of Lake Casitas very early, probably at about 6:30 or 7 A.M., during the camping trip, because I was unable to sleep any longer after the sun came out. Looking out at the gentle ripples on the vast man-made lake, it was a prefect place from which to contemplate how different my life was now than what I would have expected it to become following the bad choices I had made in 2000 and 2001.
11) “It Is You”, Newsboys (Thrive, 2002)
Another signal of the beginning of a different era for a band I once really loved – I thought the Newsboys’ first obvious foray into “modern worship” was unbelievably simple and boring. It was probably the amateur worship leader in me who eventually latched onto it, realizing that it worked its way up to a pretty good climax despite the simple phrasing. The chorus is just one of those things that immediately grabs a lot of people. In the end, I’m glad that they recorded it; I just wish it hadn’t led to two full albums of nothing but praise songs from these guys.
12) “Light of the World”, Jennifer Knapp feat. Toby Mac (The Way I Am, 2001)
The back half of this mix definitely gets into a worshipful and reflective mood for several songs – part of me was discovering the beauty of a simple evening alone in my room, lying on the bed, listening to very reflective music on my computer and reading something that was good for the soul. This song was so simply worded and so overwhelmed by big production (even though it’s very mellow and meditative) that it’s kind of the anti-Jennifer Knapp… but part of the reason why it caught my attention was because she was able to perform it so beautifully despite it not being about her lyrical wit or musical prowess. And it’s probably got one of the most memorable Toby Mac guest appearances out of the hundreds he’s made on other people’s albums – he doesn’t rap or ham it up; he simply recites a Psalm in a reverent, hushed tone, and I think that adds a lot of depth to an already beautiful song.
13) “Iona”, The Echoing Green (Music from the Ocean Picture, 2001)
Here’s a true rarity from my favorite electronica act – an instrumental track from an album full of B-sides and remixes and such, which apparently uses theme music from a video game as its main motif. It sounds like the kind of magical suite you’d hear upon swimming into an underwater temple, with the watery, dancing synthesizers and the exotic call of a wooden flute. Coincidentally, it’s also named after my favorite progressive rock band, one which is no stranger to exotic musical passages – just without all of the electronic stuff.
14) “Aqueous Transmission”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
Despite being slow, long, and repetitive, this is still my favorite Incubus song. It’s entirely dominated by Japanese instruments, strings, and subtle turntable rhythms. It’s about a reflective trip down a river, time spent missing one’s lover, but knowing that the time spent away from her will be a worthwhile journey for the soul. I had it stuck in my head during a very scenic hike along the San Gabriel River with the Evergreen Hiking Group, which was supposed to take us to an aborted road segment dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere”, but due to time constraints, one person’s knee injury, and weather, we didn’t make it all the way. I missed Christine and wishes I could take her on a scenic hike like this one. But there was that quiet voice within me, reminding me that the patience would be worth it, since it would be time for us both to grow up and meet “further down the river”.
15) “Storm”, Fernando Ortega (Storm, 2002)
The gentle hum of frogs and crickets from the previous song leads into this short reflection about the simple, colorful beauty that can emerge from the sky after a patch of rough weather. I wished the song could have been twice as long, since it was so gentle and gorgeous. It represents one of those moments in a person’s life when the sun breaks through the clouds and there’s an overwhelming sense of clarity.
16) “Let My Words Be Few”, Rebecca St. James (worshipGOD, 2002)
“And I’ll stand in awe of You”. Those words and that chord progression were refreshingly lovely at the beginning of a worship song that I ended up singing a lot that year. RSJ’s version is really here to represent how I fell in love with the song when Matt Redman (the original author) played it during his opening set at the Delirious? concert. When nearly everything falls silent but a crowd of voices singing that simple chorus and declaring, “Jesus, I am so in love with You”, it’s a powerful thing. Despite having so few words (which I guess is apt, given the title), it’s still one of my favorite worship songs. Matt Redman has always been good about writing lyrics that recognize our place in the grand scheme of things.