The onset of winter is normally my least favorite time of year – but in 2002, I looked forward to it because it meant stepping off a plane a few days after Christmas, and seeing my love again.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
Listen on Spotify:
In November, Mark led us on a hike along a stream in the high desert near Hesperia, which ran for nearly five miles into the back side of the San Gabriel Mountains, to a place called Deep Creek. As he explained, “It’s a clothing-optional hot spring, but we’re a church group, so we won’t be exercising that option.” The hot springs proved to be an excellent way to relax and recharge after the long hike, but it was bit bizarre seeing a few naked people walking around. Partway up the trail, this bridge crossed the stream and I snapped a picture of it from a higher vantage point – I think the contrast between the autumn trees in along the streambed and the dry hills above it is rather beautiful, though the shadows do make this picture a little darker than I’d have liked.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Electrical Storm”, U2 (The Best of 1990-2000, 2002)
There’s something about rain that I’ve always found romantic, even if I complain when it occurs during the day and I have to go outdoors and deal with it. When it’s late at night, and it’s pouring cats and dogs outside, and thunder and lightning are making a hell of a racket, there’s a part of me that just wants to turn off every light and source of noise in the house, light a candle, and curl up with the one I love. This U2 song isn’t really about that – I think the storm is a metaphor for a couple’s quarreling, actually – but it became one of my favorites by the band due to the imagery that it evokes. When I heard this, I could close my eyes and be in Hawaii with Christine, with a tropical storm passing through the Mililani sky, safe under the roof of her parent’s house.
2) “Do What You Say”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
This song had a rather inane chorus, truth be told, but there were a few lines that really perked my ears up: “We’re here to love and not to be manipulated. To each his own, and that should never be understated.” It was a good vent for my frustration with the overly restrictive beliefs of some of the other Christians I encountered in my Internet travels, or even in my own home church, who were so hung up on “Only this type of worship is valid”, or “Christian singers shouldn’t sing songs about (subject)”, or “You have to be baptized to be truly saved”, etc., that they couldn’t get along any more. Guilt trips, manipulation, and shouting the other person down became the rule of the day. Is that really what we Christians want to be remembered for? How we love each other speaks volumes to the world about how we’re gonna be able to love them. Not saying we can’t have our disagreements, but by this point in time, I had grown increasingly intolerant of intolerance… likely because it reminded me of the person I used to be.
3) “Speaking in Tongues”, The Elms (Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll, 2002)
I have Jars of Clay to thank for getting me into The Elms. They did an opening stint for JoC’s fall tour that year, a concert that I would have regretted going to all the trouble to attend if not for The Elms, who totally burned up the stage with their short opening set. Charlie Lowell joined them on keyboards for this, their most impressively rocking song at the time, which was the beginning of my admiration for the guitar skills of one Thom Daugherty, who I would later meet and trade occasional Xanga comments with.
4) “Superfly”, Supertones (Hi-Fi Revival, 2002)
Pretty silly, and for the most part I had “been there, done that” with the Supertones by this point, but I was amused by the attempt to work a little bit of funk influence into their poppy ska style.
5) “Just Another Name”, Lifehouse (Stanley Climbfall, 2002)
One of those songs on Stanley Climbfall that nobody else seemed to get into, but that I loved. It was good jangle-pop with a moody melody, and eerily enough, every time Jason Wade sang, “Everybody knows your name”, I wanted to follow it up by singing, “And they’re always glad you came”. Weird, ’cause I never actually watched Cheers.
6) “Just a Phase”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
The long instrumental intro to this song, including the synths that sounded like ocean waves, struck me as a really unique move for Incubus, an attempt to do something more artistic. And I kind of figured the song was about that – they were getting tired of being lumped in with the trendy nu-metal bands that just whined about the same old stuff and, against all logic, continued to irritate us by getting really popular doing it. Maybe Incubus was once one of those bands. Maybe some of my other favorite bands were among the people were chastising and considered as annoying as “a fingernail running down the chalkboard I thought I left in third grade.” (Lulu’s comment upon hearing this song: “That’s not very nice!”) It was an inventive, and well-executed kiss-off to those who didn’t deserve to be riding high on the charts.
7) “Paralyzed”, Sixpence None the Richer (Divine Discontent, 2002)
I thought this was one of the more intriguing rockers in Sixpence’s repertoire – Leigh sings from the point of view of a reporter interviewing the band about their silly little three-minute hit song, who is internally suffering from the loss of a friend who was reporting in Kosovo and caught a bullet. He doesn’t know how to tell the guy’s wife the news. “It’s hard to say a healing word when your tongue is paralyzed.” I always saw this song as a reflection of Sixpence’s unease whenever they were blindsided with the age-old “Christian band” question in interviews.
8) “Echelon”, Pillar (Fireproof, 2002)
Heh, you’ve gotta love Pillar and their cheesy war metaphors. (Well, actually, you don’t, but at least this time around, I did.) You pretty much have to ignore the lyrics to enjoy this one (particularly the out-of-right-field potshot at “evolutionists”), but the fluid bass line and the cascading rhymes in that addictive chorus were pretty powerful stuff. Pillar had a little more bite back in the day, even if they were also a lot more likely to say something utterly moronic.
9) “Holy”, Nichole Nordeman (Woven and Spun, 2002)
Just a simple healthy reminder – more than any of my efforts to do good, what God really wants from me is recognition that He is holy and He is in charge. That’s always been one of those things that I understand in my brain, but then my actions betray my true feelings on the subject.
10) “The Body Is a Stairway of Skin”, Over the Rhine (Films for Radio, 2001)
A sexy, teasing little song that was unlike pretty much anything on any album I owned before it. It went the poetic route instead of the lewd one, and despite being one of OtR’s weirdest songs overall, it grew on me quite a bit, becoming a favorite over some of the conventional “pop” songs on Films for Radio. On one of the many evenings that I got so frustrated with my computer being slow and constantly crashing on me, I decided to write a parody of this song entitled “My Computer Is a Piece of…” Josh liked it.
11) “I John Reu”, John Reuben (Hindsight, 2002)
I think Reuben set out to come up with the goofiest self-referential hip-hop song that he could possibly manage. Then again, most of his second album was self-parody, I think. The corny diary entry that introduced this track was what really put it over the top. It makes me laugh every time.
12) “My Stupid Mouth”, John Mayer (Room for Squares, 2001)
It’s scary how well this song describes me. Things seem to always go better in my head than they do when I actually open my mouth and verbalize my thoughts. Then, when I should leave well enough alone, I have to ignite the conversation again, because I figure that maybe if I explain myself more, then whatever I said before that pissed somebody off will make more sense in context. Yeah, right – that only makes it worse. Mayer summed up this diarrhea-of-the-mouth syndrome perfectly (and hilariously!) when he came to what we all thought was the end of the song, only to pipe up again, “One more thing!” That, my friend, is where we all seem to go wrong. (And of course you remember his big hit, “Your Body Is a Wonderland”, which was the track after this on the album. But how many people noticed that the line “I’m never speaking up again” from this song actually creeps into the background of that one?)
13) “Mess with Your Mind”, Everyday Sunday (Stand Up, 2002)
I think this was one of the first CDs that I borrowed from Linda when we started trading music back and forth. (Well, one of the first ones that I liked, anyway – By the Tree and Kutless were in that first batch, and the Kutless fandom in particular, I’ve never let her live down!) I thought the scratchy vocals made them sound like a Texas version of Skillet or something. I was amused by the fact that I could never quite figure out what this song was about. Maybe he didn’t want to mess with people’s minds by making them grandiose promises that he couldn’t deliver? Was that a veiled shot at Christian radio or something?
14) “Six String Rocketeer”, Daily Planet (Hero, 2002)
A beautifully written song about music being the escape for a young boy who couldn’t handle listening to his parents fighting any more. In Jesse Butterworth’s case, it was Elton John and Billy Joel and the like – all humorously referenced in the bridge, if you can catch the sly allusions to their work. Man, I wish I had music to help me through the domestic unrest back in those childhood days. I just escaped into my silly Commodore 64 computer games and tried to pretend I couldn’t hear anything.
15) “Move on This”, Pax217 (Engage, 2002)
Fun, bouncy little faux-reggae song about a boy with dreams, who wants to marry his sweetheart and start a family, but who fears ending up like his own parents, whose marriage ended in divorce. He’s determined that they’ll be the one to break the generational curse. That was pretty much how I felt, being at this crossroads where I knew that the new year coming up just around the corner might be the one to bring the woman of my dreams to California, which could likely lead to marriage shortly thereafter. I had a lot of dreams… but was I grown up enough to move on those dreams yet?
16) “The Scientist”, Coldplay (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
I can’t listen to this song without thinking about time travel. The first time I heard it, I was reminded of that terrible Time Machine remake that Christine and I saw together. It reminded me of the better aspects of the movie (and the original story it was based on). You screw something up that involves someone you love deeply, and you want to go back to the start and fix it. Less than a year into our relationship, there were already things like this that I wanted to fix for Christine’s sake – ways that I always found myself apologizing for being impatient with her as she tried to figure out her plans for moving here, or that I blew her off by staying out late and missing our scheduled Yahoo! chat or whatever. I wanted her to know she was important to me and that I was going to keep going back and trying again until I got it right.
I finally got to see Christine again a few days after Christmas, when I flew out to Hawaii to escape California’s grey winter and spend New Year’s with the woman I loved. We went to Waimea Falls with Christine’s cousin Brandy and her fiance, and got to witness a spectacular cliff-diving show. This is a picture of the falls, flowing full force in the winter – it can degenerate to a rather pathetic trickle in the summer. Interestingly, it’s one of my few Hawaii pictures that isn’t overwhelmingly green. (Lost fans may recognize this waterfall from the episodes Whatever the Case May Be, Exposé, and 316.)
Where in the world is this?
1) “The Authority Song”, Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American, 2001)
A rather amusing song about a jock who is up to no good, and who uses a jukebox as a tool to distract the women he’s attempting to hit on. Sometimes I wonder if there was much difference between that, and some of my nefarious attempts to use the “mix tape” approach to get a girl to fall for me. Granted, I was never looking for a one-night-stand or anything, but still, sometimes I think I ascribed too much power to music, and some of those mix tape recipients must have rolled their eyes and seen right through it. Thankfully, this all ended when Christine came along, because I could mean every word implied by the song selection, and know that she didn’t mind at all.
2) “Cute Boring Love”, Blindside (Silence, 2002)
A rather accusatory song that talks about how it’s easy and comfortable to let our guard down and blur the lines between lust and love. After all, isn’t chastity and long-term commitment just a bunch of cute, boring crap? Obviously, I knew that it wasn’t, but I could sympathize with the song’s lament. Lots of people get sick of wasting their time trying to find something long-lasting, so they settle for whatever can get them attention and pleasure in the short term, and then it becomes harder for guys like me who want something genuine to get someone to trust that they don’t have any ulterior motives.
3) “Anchor”, Lifehouse (Stanley Climbfall, 2002)
This was an excellent power ballad that I still think ranks among Lifehouse’s best – it’s slow and takes its time to really build up, but it’s a blast when it gets there, and the heaviness of the music supports the lyrics, which are about being anchored down by somebody. Does that mean they’re your constant, someone who always be there to keep you from getting tossed about by the storms of life, or does it mean they’re dragging you down? The song kind of leaves it ambiguous. I think Jason Wade intended the first meaning, but he wasn’t opposed to the second one when it was brought to his attention.
4) “Overkill”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
This Men at Work cover is dedicated to my perpetual insomnia, which may or may not be related to my tendency to over-think my worries and have a tough time shutting my brain off at night.
5) “If Nothing Else”, Over the Rhine (Films for Radio, 2001)
One of OtR’s poppier numbers, with the layered instruments and programming and all that jazz, but it’s also one of their cutest, most life-affirming songs. Basically, it says that we’re all just a bunch of screwed-up people who still have a shot at seeing our dreams come true. It sounded like that fit me pretty well!
6) “FRGT/10”, Linkin Park feat. Chali 2na (Reanimation, 2002)
Venturing into the moodier side of things is this surprising remix of a song that I never cared for all that much in its original version on Hybrid Theory – too much yelling and screaming. Here, it took on a quieter, sneakier sort of introspection, like an ode to life in some sort of a futuristic ghetto or something. I usually hate remix albums, and I’d never hold Linkin Park up as a shining example of artistic integrity or anything (not that they haven’t tried), but I think this track breathes new life into an old song in such an unexpected way that I just have to admit, these guys have a good imagination when they get around to applying themselves.
7) “Family System”, Chevelle (Wonder What’s Next, 2002)
This one’s pure aggression, played to the hilt. I found it amusing that a band made up of three brothers could actually write a really good song based on their petty arguing with one another. Now that the tension between them has apparently forced one of the brothers out of the band, it’s not so amusing any more. Fortunately, the song still kicks ass.
8) “Ný Batterí”, Sigur Rós (Ágætis Byrjun, 1999)
Sigur Rós was another one of those bands that seemed so obscure and esoteric from how they were described to me, that I assumed they’d be totally out of my league and I shouldn’t bother. But someone’s description of their album at Epinions gave me that “so descriptive I could swear I’ve already heard it” feeling, and I got sucked in anyway. This ended up being my favorite track on their breakthrough album, with its melancholy horns and nerve-wracking drum pounding… it sounded like the aftermath of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem”, after the steamroller had finished running over the marching band.
9) “I Grieve”, Peter Gabriel (Up, 2002)
Man, this side of the soundtrack gets rather dark, now that I look back at it. Strange, because I was in a fairly good mood for most of that year. But this was a devastatingly beautiful ballad by Gabriel – reworked from an earlier version that I had heard on the City of Angels soundtrack. It’s simply about learning to let go and acknowledging that we came from the dust and will return to it – it’s easy to have that knowledge and try to act stoic about that, but when you really lose someone, there’s just no way around the grief process. I still don’t fully appreciate what it’s like to go through that process, having never lost anyone that I was really close to. I’ve lost friends that I knew sort of well, and family that I grew up visiting a lot but didn’t have a super-close relationship with, and I’ve wrestled with God over why he chose to take those people when He did, but I’ve never really felt that void of someone super-close to me suddenly being gone, and knowing I wouldn’t see them again in this lifetime.
10) “In Your Eyes”, Nichole Nordeman (Woven and Spun, 2002)
Bringing the mood back up a bit is this Nichole Nordeman cover of one of Peter Gabriel’s most famous songs (nice contrived segue there!), which kind of botches the ending a bit, but I still enjoy the way she sings it. I like how she doesn’t have to change the lyrics, and yet the song still plays extremely well in the context of Nordeman’s album full of songs about God’s sovereignty. It’s one of those CDs where, despite being underwhelmed with it at first, I had a hard time putting it down after a while. It had a worshipful theme without strictly being a “worship album”, and I could really relate to it at the time.
11) “Echo”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
I can hear the old-school Incubus fans crying “sellout”, and I’ll admit that the slightly Eastern tones of Mike Einziger’s nimble guitar playing here are a tad too close to “Stellar” for comfort. But honestly, they came up with a smoother and altogether more convincing love song this time around. It’s about looking into someone’s eyes (that part probably affected its placement here) and realizing that their love for you awakens you to the freedom to take risks, something which you’d been scared to be acknowledged before. They make you face your fears, and that makes you stronger. Considering what Christine and I were willing to attempt in order to be together, this one fit perfectly.
12) “Dizzy”, Sixpence None the Richer (Divine Discontent, 2002)
I just wanted to swoon when I heard this one for the first time – it’s a lavish piano waltz, with a deliciously unpredictable melody and a gorgeous string section, and it’s all about being so in love that you’re completely unembarrassed to do a little dance and spin around the room and not care who’s watching. I’m not a guy who dances. I always find excuses not to do it when I’m at a wedding or whatever. But this one made me long so badly for Christine to be in the room with me just so I could gently swing her about in the privacy of my living room, despite not having the first clue how to avoid stepping on her feet.
13) “Bartender”, Dave Matthews Band (Busted Stuff, 2002)
This was the indisputable climax of a somewhat difficult record by the DMB that took far too long to grow on me. I had loved this song ever since they brought it out on their Everyday tour back in ’01 (it had been around long before that, but hearing it live for the first time really got my attention). This was perhaps a more sincere prayer than a lot of what I’d been hearing from Christian music lately, with Matthews’ metaphor of God as a bartender, asking Him for the wine which brought Jesus back from the grave. Leave it to the DMB to mix alcohol and religion! But wine’s an important metaphor in Christianity, so this one works as a sort of quirky communion song for me – taking stock of all the bad things I’ve ever done in my life and remembering that when I sip that wine/blood/grape juice/whatever you want to call it, I’m handing those things over, and should consider them forgiven and forgotten.
14) “Great Light of the World”, Bebo Norman (Myself When I Am Real, 2002)
One of my favorite worship songs that year came from an unlikely source – a folk singer whose words and melodies had always seemed too plain to really get my attention. Despite how critical I was starting to become of the whole “modern worship” movement in CCM, Bebo’s attempt to write such a song really caught my attention when I first heard it during his opening set for Third Day’s Come Together tour much earlier that year. I was delighted to finally get an album version of it, and that turned out to be the song that roped me in and made me give him a fair shot and admit that he had a few other songs that were also really good, even if at the end of the day, Bebo’s still too mellow for my tastes. I figured this would be a good one to close out the year 2002 with – the hopes and dreams and lovey-dovey sentiments had all been expressed, the frustration and impatience and sadness over changes I haven’t yet made had all been vented, and now it was time to give that all to God and say, “Complete this work that I cannot finish on my own. Come fill up my soul.”