Divad’s Soundtrack #72: January-February 2008

Not having seen Christine’s parents since late 2006, we took an “off-season vacation” in late January/early February to go back to Oahu and visit them. This was a much cheaper trip than usual – no side journeys to outlying islands or overnights in Waikiki hotels or anything like that. Just low-key relaxation in suburban Mililani – and of course the usual driving around and exploring the island that I can never resist doing. Most of these songs aren’t tied to memories of that trip in the direct sense, but any good vacation offers its fair share of moments to pause, take in the peace of a beautiful place far from home, and reflect on personal issues I’m dealing with at that point in time, ways that my beliefs and passions are being shaped and challenged, etc. Listening to this batch of songs ten years later, it’s pretty clear that I was on the verge of some of those changes.

In with the New:
Arcade Fire
Edison Glass
Jon Foreman (as a solo artist – appears earlier with Switchfoot)

Out with the Old:
Matchbox Twenty
Chris Rice

Listen on Spotify:

I was determined to get a good amount of exercise during our visit to Hawaii, so I went on a few solo hikes while Christine was shopping with her parents or catching up with her friends. One hike – the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail – turned out to be a fabulous discovery, despite the grueling climb that took me over steep, root-covered hillsides and up precipitous stairs in a lung-busting trek to the Ko’olau crestline. The reward was this breathtaking (and ridiculously windy) vista of the island’s Windward side. This is the kind of view you normally only get from a plane – and the sharp drop-off right in front of me made it abundantly clear that the “End of Trail” sign in front me was pointing out the obvious.
Where in the world is this?

1) “Keep the Car Running”, Arcade Fire (Neon Bible, 2007)
2008 was the year that Arcade Fire finally began to strike a chord with me. I had listened to Funeral before, but at the time I just couldn’t get into Win Butler’s vocal style, which often felt like a manic preacher yelping portents of doom and gloom. I later realized that was an amazing album – way better than Neon Bible, in fact – but unfortunately not in time for any cuts from Funeral to make my 2004/2005 mixes. The first song of theirs that really got me excited seemd like it had the sound of pure momentum, the instrumental power of the guitars and strings and drums bravely marching forward, keeping one eye open as though death could be right around the corner, but resolving to face it with dignity. Arcade Fire would go on to become one of my favorite bands… eventually. I just had to look past the hype and digest their music slowly, on my own terms.

2) “Let Go”, Edison Glass (Time Is Fiction, 2008)
I wasn’t sure whether to call this band power pop, emo, or just plain old indie rock, but they had a knack for smart, rapid-fire lyrics and twisty, turny song structures that made catchy little gems like this opening tune from their final album feel like there was a lot more to them than the just over two minute runtime might have suggested. The return trip from that challenging hike up Kuli’ou’ou was when this album really started to connect with me, with the excited shouts of “Hey!” and “Let go!” feeling like the start of a well-earned victory lap.

3) “Here It Goes”, Jimmy Eat World (Chase This Light, 2007)
My fondness for Jimmy Eat World dropped off pretty significantly after Futures. I honestly don’t remember much about their follow-up, Chase This Light, aside from this admittedly odd track pick, which took their sound into kind of a goofy dance-rock direction. Maybe it was corny, but I liked its story of an awkward kid who didn’t care if his dance moves made him look dorky or if the cool kids picked on him for his mode of personal expression. To use the old inspirational cliché, he was gonna dance like no one was watching, dang it. Even though this track is quite different from the rest of the album, maybe someday I should give Chase This Light another try.

4) “Devastation and Reform”, Relient K (Five Score and Seven Years Ago, 2007)
Listening to this mix again after a very long time, I’m kind of impressed at how much the string of up-tempo rockers I arranged back-to-back on the front half still resonates with me. There were so many solid track picks from Five Score that I was still cherry-picking from that album a year on. This track, which was definitely more tough and aggressive that RK’s usual (especially on an album that tried everything from programmed pop to piano rock to epic baroque progressive folk/rock), struck a chord with me because it was about the debilitating effect of getting too deep inside your own head when the fear of a worst possible outcome had you paralyzed. It’s stupid, but this is basically a fear that I face every time I get on a plane. it’s gotten easier over the years, and I probably have all those trips to Hawaii to thank for it. The “what if” scenarios that play out in my brain concerning what would happen if the turbulence got really bad or if some emergency happened during take-off always do a way worse number on my stomach than the actual motion of the flight. A lot of things I fear in life are that way. The actual experience generally works out to be a lot less stressful than all the buildup of stress I put myself through before it.

5) “The Haunting”, Anberlin (Lost Songs, 2007)
This has got to be, hands down, the single greatest B-side in Anberlin’s discography. It never quite made it onto an album, and I think the band expressed regret later on for not putting it on Cities. Instead it accompanied the “Godspeed” single and later became the lead track on their odds-and-ends collection Lost Songs The way that the easygoing acoustic strum suddenly explodes into thundering drums and fiery electric guitars still captivates me to this day. It’s one of Stephen Christian’s most intriguing and passionate performances, as he tries to come to terms with a now-empty house that seems way to big for him to live by himself after the person he loved has left. That person now haunts the rooms and corridors, presumably reminding him of much happier times spent in those very same spaces.

6) “Sometimes I Can’t Make It Alone”, Mae (Singularity, 2007)
There’s an underlying sensitivity even in Mae’s most muscular rockers. This track was a great example, trying to give off the bravado of a man in control of his situation, who doesn’t need any help, only for his facade to come crashing down when he realizes it’s putting a relationship he cares very deeply about in a precarious position. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been Mr. Selfless, always thinking of my wife’s needs before my own, but when I’m dealing with stress caused by situations outside of our marriage, sometimes I have difficulty sharing with her the full extent of what’s going on. I don’t want to seem “needy”, even though it’s a good thing for married partners to express a need for each other and a deep trust that no matter what they share, the other person will help them through it the best they can.

7) “Life in These Little Boats”, Deas Vail (All the Houses Look the Same, 2007)
I’ve always loved the frantic motion and constant syncopation of this song. It has a 4/4 rhythm, but it feels like it keeps tripping over itself in a race to get all of its frenzied emotions out in the open. The claustrophobic, tumultous sound makes it easy to picture a helpless little boat being tossed about on the cruel sea, even though this isn’t an overly heavy or angst-ridden song. It just hardly ever gets the chance to catch its breath, and yet despite the sheer speed of it, Wes Blaylock’s voice is just as beautiful and captivating as it is on the band’s mellowest ballads.

8) “808”, Olivia the Band (Where We Come From It Never Snows, 2008)
Hawaii, here we come! A lot of Olivia’s songs celebrated life back in the islands, and Christine would queue up their second album a lot as we anticipated our trip back to her home state. This rowdy, feel-good number that started it off was named after Hawaii’s area code (a good year before Kanye West would manage to wring a double meaning out of the number by titling an album 808s and Heartbreak) , and it was a pretty simple celebration of long, sunny days spent surfing and hanging out on the beach with your best buds.

9) “I’ll Believe You When”, Matchbox Twenty (Exile on Mainstream, 2007)
This was an unusually “jangly” song for Matchbox Twenty – I think there was a bit of glockenspiel used in its main melodic riff, and the guitar work was much less “gungry alternative” and more fluid – almost a hint of country to it, actually. Rob Thomas was up to his old sad sack tricks here, wondering when he was ever going to get a woman he had scorned to believe he was capable of doing anything other than screwing up in the future. Not his most insightful lyric, but it was an amusingly self-deprecating song. It’s the last thing Matchbox Twenty did that truly showed enough personality and ingenuity to get me singing along. (They went away for a few years while Rob Thomas did his solo thing, then came back in 2012 with an album called North, and by that point I just couldn’t bring myself to care.)

10) “Forgive and Forget”, Wavorly (Conquering the Fear of Flight, 2007)
Now this song’s pretty angsty. Some pretty heavy guitars here, even some double bass, I think – not a “metal” song by any stretch, but definitely on the heavier side of alt-rock. A guy’s really torn apart about the hurt someone has caused him and to add insult to injury, the other person seems to have forgotten all about it and never apologized or tried to make amends. The struggle to truly forgive and not hold a grudge is a hard one, especially when the other person seems to have completely escaped the consequences or even the realization of what they did wrong. Forgiving is the “good Christian thing to do” – I’ve been taught this since I was little. But it’s easier said than done, and I think sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by pretending we’ve forgiven someone when the anger and frustration still burns deep within us, and we’re ashamed to admit it’s still there.

11) “Guaranteed Nightlite”, The Polyphonic Spree (The Fragile Army, 2007)
I’m usually not a fan of songs that speed up and slow down multiple times. I prefer for a band to pick a rhythm and tempo and just go with it, or if they speed up mid-song, to not slow back down just when I’m getting into a killer groove. But I found something amusingly off-kilter about this song’s slow verse and faster chorus – it felt like it was struggling to climb a hill at first, then careening down the other side, then repeating the process – it reminded me of the children’s story The Little Train That Could. With pianos banging furiously and the band’s choir shouting exuberantly the whole time, this was yet another highlight in the incredibly solid back half of The Fragile Army.

12) “January Rose”, Fono (Too Broken to Break, 2007)
I loved how loud and in-your-face the closing track on Fono’s second (and as far as I know, last) album was – it had the lyrics and pacing of a power ballad, but every instrumental part seemed to hit extra hard, making sure the record wouldn’t go quietly into the night. I wasn’t sure what a “January Rose” was – perhaps a flower that bloomed to early and then withered away, serving as a metaphor for a relationship that escalated quickly but then found the other person withdrawing rather suddenly, ashamed for some reason of the love that he wanted to shout from the rooftops. So this song serves as a bitter goodbye. Thankfully I didn’t relate to it for any personal reason at the time (or since), but this was my first mix of the year, so if I was going to include a song with “January” in its title, this would be the time to do it.

13) “Bachelorette”, Björk (Homogenic, 1997)
I dug pretty far into the back catalogue for this one, largely because I was mad at myself for not discovering the beautiful aural assault of Homogenic when it was still new. I was head over heels for this track in particular, which found Björk wailing with the best of them over a lover gone missing who apparently couldn’t hack the whole commitment thing. The aching melody to this song pretty quickly burned itself into my brain, and the instrumentation brought drama of the highest order, as if the song was a maudlin soap opera brought to life. (The surreal, self-referential video directed by Michel Gondry is also one of my all-time favorite music videos.) Dropping a 10-year-old song into a bunch of tracks that were current at the time may seem a bit weird, but thematically, I think it fit pretty well with the songs I put on either side of it.

14) “The Whaler”, Thrice (The Alchemy Index, Vol. II, 2007)
This is one of the most unusual, and most gorgeous, songs that Thrice has ever written. It’s a far cry from their usual heavy rock style, with the sound of cresting waves giving way to cool keyboards, playing a compelling chord progression in 10/8 time. It’s one of the most heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard played in such an unorthodox rhythm – the beat skips and stutters along, but it never overpowers the song’s emotional center. Dustin Kensrue used a whaler who spends weeks out at sea to provide for his family as a metaphor for his life as a touring musician. His daughter begs him each time not to go, lest he be swallowed by the sea and never return, and for a moment he thinks about abandoning it all just to make her wish come true, but then he knows he’d be letting his family down. This is one to listen to with the lights low, and just let the layers of synths and vocal harmonies wash over you.

15) “God Will Take Care of You”, Plumb (Blink, 2007)
As much as I didn’t care for Plumb’s habit of edging slowly away from trippy, confrontational alt-rock and closer to middle-of-the-road CCM pop in the 2000s, her mellowest album of them all actually came along at just the right time for me to appreciate it. Blink was a collection of lullabies, hymns, and songs about parenthood, all rather slow-paced and keyboard-driven, nary an electric guitar to be heard. Her take on the hymn “God Will Take Care of You” really caught me off guard – she’s tweaked the chord progression slightly to turn it into something mystical, almost like it’s floating into the child’s bedroom from some mystical, supernatural place beyond the visible world. Christine and I had talked about possibly starting a family back in those days – I had no way of knowing how far we were from actually doing it at the time, but listening to Blink, and especially this song, helped me to make peace with a lot of my fears about it and start to look forward to the ways it would undoubtedly change us. 10 years later and we’re finally realizing that dream – and you know what, I really need to sing this song to my daughter at some point.

16) “Rafe”, Fauxliage (Fauxliage, 2007)
That feeling of a calm, soothing melody drifting through a loved one’s window at night to reassuare them as they slept bled right over into this song from Fauxliage, which was an unusual collaboration between Sixpence None the Richer’s Leigh Nash and the ambient electronic duo Delerium. I felt like this song had a sort of “mid-90s” aura to it – the mixing of acoustic fingerpicking with a relaxing drum loop and some chilled out synths overlaying made it sound like the kind of thing I’d have heard as I perused the aisles of a health food store or something in that era. That may sound like I’m making fun of the song – I’m really not. I think it’s a beautifully relaxing piece of music, yet it’s still upbeat enough to get stuck in my head. The graceful line on which it ended made it feel like the perfect closing track for Disc One, as Leigh sang her wish into the still night air: “I would love to see you out here tonight/Just you dancing under the light.”

Part of our attempt to “rediscover” Oahu, despite it being an island that Christine and I were so intimately familiar with, was our little “Lost Filming Locations” tour. Rather than shelling out a lot of cash for the official tour of Kualoa Valley, we drove around the island on our own and visited several locations known to have made an appearance in the show, including YMCA Camp Erdman (the Others’ village/DHARMA Barracks), and this exotic locale, the Byodo-In Temple (which was a stand-in for a South Korean location in early flashbacks centered around the characters Sun and Jin). While I’m not a Buddhist, I have nothing but admiration for the gorgeous architecture that goes into houses of worship like these – especially when they’re nestled beneath the lush, green mountains of Windward Oahu.
Where in the world is this?

1) “In the Girl There’s a Room”, Sara Groves (Tell Me What You Know, 2007)
Sara Groves’ music usually leans toward the mellow, folksy side of things, so hearing a downright loud song like this one from her, with its swampy groove and its abstract lyrical premise, was a real shock to the system. It reminded me of the first time I heard Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Lord of the Dance”. I could tell that Sara was celebrating the defiant spirit of several individuals who had a story to tell “about God and the world and the human soul” that would never be silenced, no matter how much adversity they faced. Looking back at it now, I can see that it might be more specifically a celebration of musicians and artists of other types, using a creative medium to communicate their message in a way that conveys hope with images that require interpretation, and not necessarily with linear stories.

2) “Sacred”, Caedmon’s Call (Overdressed, 2007)
It’s easy to forget that Danielle Young rarely wrote her own songs for Caedmon’s Call, as this track fit her voice so incredibly well. Here she struggles with the daily chaos of being a mother, a job that doesn’t pay overtime (or regular time, for that matter), and which can be messy and repetitive and altogether unglamorous. It’s easy for Christians to separate our lives into separate bins for “sacred” and “secular” – the “sacred” stuff is usually thought of as the directly spiritual stuff like going to church, praying, etc., and apparently the only occupations fitting that description are things like being a pastor or missionary. We forget that jobs outside the church building are God’s work, too – and that includes parenting. Sure, there isn’t a whole lot of high-concept theology going into cleaning up juice spills or singing nursery rhymes ad nauseum. But parents form the building blocks of their children’s initial concept of who God is, which is a huge influence to have on a young mind when you think about it. This was another one of those songs I’d listen to in order to get myself psyched about the concept of one day becoming a parent, rather than seeing it as a series of repetitive and dull tasks that needed to be performed just to get to some sort of a “goal” farther down the line where that child was older and only now could you dig into the deeper concepts with them. The “sacred-ness” of that job comes into play much earlier than a lot of us realize.

3) “A Sight to Behold”, Eisley (Combinations, 2007)
One criticism I’ve heard of Eisley is that they padded out a lot of their songs with “ooh”s and “aah”s in order to make them exceptionally catchy without having to write a whole lot of lyrics. That wasn’t always a fair criticism, but this song was probably guilty of it. It also did a really good job of wringing every ounce of drama and deeply felt affection out of those “ooh”s, which filled in the blanks between every single line of lyrics in the two verses, and then some. At its core, it’s a simple song about how strong two people’s love for each other has become, and how they feel like they might just “have life figured out” and now they can do anything together. But it was effective. The band’s rhythm section was especially on point here, giving extra gravity to what might have otherwise been a lightweight, cutesy little song.

4) “Anybody There”, Andrea Corr (Ten Feet High, 2007)
This track kicks off a series of “piano-driven songs in 6/8 time” that for some reason I felt compelled to string together. For a song about loneliness, and wondering if you’ll ever replace the presence of someone who brought warmth and a genuine human connection to your home after that relationship has apparently been severed, this sure seemed like an awfully upbeat and perky one. “What is life if there’s no one to share it?” is a pretty heavy philosophical question for a musical setting like this.

5) “Learn You Inside Out”, Lifehouse (Who We Are, 2007)
Lifehouse generally isn’t known for piano ballads, but they have a few that genuinely pack a punch. Among their many love songs, this one probably went unnoticed as the penultimate track on Who We Are, but I loved its message of reaching out and learning to interpret someone’s facial expressions and body language, even while they were going through difficult emotional circumstances and didn’t feel comfortable speaking up about them. To be so deeply invested in a relationship that you can understand at least some of what a person might be feeling, wondering about, afraid of, and how they hope you’ll respond to their vulnerable situation, is no easy task. Years of marriage have made this easier in some ways – but it’s also easier to take for granted that things are “normal” if the other person doesn’t state otherwise, and to not watch for those non-verbal cues. I feel like in my marriage, I’m reasonably good at picking up on those cues concerning how my wife is doing when I’m actively looking for them – and rather bad at remembering to actively look for them.

6) “Hanasakajijii (Three: The Man Who Made Dead Trees Bloom)”, Anathallo (Floating World, 2006)
I believe the closest Anathallo ever got to mainstream fame is when their instrumental track “Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!” (which was the intro to this song on the album) got used in a Vicks commercial. (Well, and their multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost ending up as a member of fun.) It was surreal to hear a brief snippet of their music on TV, and then to not get the payoff of that calm, beautiful instrumental exploding into the lively, expressive song it was meant to introduce. So I’d get the song stuck in my head as a sort of “phantom musical limb” that it had been separated from whenever I would hear it on TV. The story told here, which seems to be about some sort of a mystical gardener who can turned dead and buried secrets into a lush, thriving landscape, is meant to take place chronologically between the “Four” and “One” sections I featured a few mixes back, but since nothing about Anathallo was ever straightforward, the album was ordered so that “Four” came first and “Three” was the conclusion of the story arc.

7) “The Dark Side of Indoor Track Meets”, Falling Up (Captiva, 2007)
The piano melody in this song, the concluding track on Captiva, was sublime and a bit otherworldly. From the surreal song-title to the bafflingly strange lyrics, this one was pretty out there, even by Falling Up’s standards, but I loved how it bucked normal songwriting conventions (the chorus was literally just the word “Far” stretched out over several notes) and built to a big crescendo, only to gradually fade out on a cosmic synth melody that sounded like something out of a documentary about space from the 1980s. The title, and the story that the lyrics hint at, made a lot more sense to me after hearing Jessy Ribordy’s Hours audiobook in 2013, in which a group of genius students are given access to a magical gymnasium in which they perform all sorts of superhuman and death-defying stunts. I still wonder at times if there’s an interconnected narrative between all of Falling Up’s albums that results from the songs being fragments of stories that only made sense in Jessy’s head.

8) “Nude”, Radiohead (In Rainbows, 2007)
While this song is also in 6/8 time (or 3/4, depending on how you count), it finally breaks the trend of piano-based songs, and instead the primary instrumental hook comes from the bass. It’s a stark but beautiful, minimalist take on a song that had been known as “Big Ideas” to Radiohead fans who had heard them play it live on and off since the OK Computer era. (Sometimes Radiohead songs gestate for a really long time before a studio version gets released.) This is definitely one of Radiohead’s best ambient tunes – there’s a gentle rhythmic sway that gives it structure, but the guitars and drums are kept pretty light, and Thom Yorke’s voice is a rather ghostly wail throughout most of it. He seems resigned to the fact that no new ideas are left to be conceived, and anyone who thinks they’ve had a flash of ingenuity will be promptly punished for their deviance. It’s probably the loveliest song ever to contain a line as menacing as “You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking.” Good times!

9) “White Bird”, KT Tunstall (Drastic Fantastic, 2007)
I feel like there are lots of songs about black birds. The Beatles had a pretty famous one. Third Day had one on their debut album that I really liked. Alter Bridge had a phenomenal one that we’ll discuss a few blog entries from now. White birds seem to be less common in popular music, at least as the titular characters of songs. I suppose the color white in this case symbolizes peace and purity. The white bird that KT Tunstall chose to sing about in this gorgeously fingerpicked, swift-moving little folk song had a black tail, which to her symbolized a troubled past of some sort that it was trying to hide. To her, the most fascinating thing about this bird was the place where white and black met. I figure anyone trumpeting a little too loudly about their own purity or morality or whatever probably has those darker parts that they try to hide. To me that’s what makes people human, rather than unattainable pious caricatures that the rest of us normals can never measure up to.

10) “Nothing Is Innocent”, Over the Rhine (The Trumpet Child, 2007)
The corruption of innocence, and the price society pays when we’re expected to maintain the appearance of innocence, was hinted at in the last few songs, but that theme came to a head in this poetic little song, which in true OtR fashion, is a subtle fusion of folk, jazz, and country – with a few nursery rhyme lyrics thrown in because hey, why not? Karin and Linford were pretty clearly dealing with some disillusionment here as they described a society more willing to remain on a steady diet of lies and to keep up a facade of innocence (complete with false humility) rather than face the ugly truth if it meant exposing that none of us are really righteous. I loved the quiet rebellion inherent in songs like these – it felt more vital than a lot of what I was getting out of more ridigidly defined “Christian music” at that point.

11) “No Cars Go”, Arcade Fire (Neon Bible, 2007)
If “Keep the Car Running” was about being ready for Heaven, then this song is apparently about what to expect when you get there. Except you can’t get there in a car… or any other form of mechanical propulsion invented by humans, according to this song. The astral plane is apparently free of man-made propulsion and all the pollution and traffic headaches caused by it. Arcade Fire sure sounds exhilirated about this. I know I feel the same way whenever I listen to this one. It’s almost a nonsensical nursery rhyme, more concerned with naming all of the vehicles that can’t make it to this special place than really describing what this place is like, but the bridge gives a hint – “Between the flick of the light and the start of the dream”. Then the ping-pong-ing little synth part comes in and it’s a glorious musical extravaganza, full of old-timey and anachronistically electronic instrumentation all coming together in a glorious hallelujah that I wish would never have to end. After all these years, this might still be my favorite Arcade Fire song.

12) “She Held My Hand”, Steven Delopoulos (Straightjacket, 2007)
Steven’s incredibly nimble fingerpicking served as the backdrop for another beautiful and open-ended story on this track. It might have been a creative retelling of how he became a Christian in the first place, having gotten into rock music as a sort of “deal with the devil” but then finding an unexpected light source by way of a kind woman he met – could have been a brief fling with a groupie, or it could have been something more sincere, but either way, even though the relationship didn’t last, her beliefs left a lasting impression on him. Steven sang this one with fond rememberance, and with the joy of a man being shown for the first time what the kingdom of heaven was like, and that it was open to anyone who would simply believe, even a wannabe rock star with one metaphorical foot already in the grave.

13) “Resurrection Fern”, Iron & Wine (The Shepherd’s Dog, 2007)
A lot of Sam Beam’s songs give the impression that they’re being told from the perspective of a man who was raised with the Christian faith constantly in the foreground of his existence, yet due to the disparity of what was being taught and what the people around him were actually doing, that belief didn’t really take, and now he’s singing about it from the outside looking in. The ghost of a faith that never took root seems to haunt this song, which is a stunningly beautiful ballad about a heartache that I can’t quite put my finger on. I just know deep down in my gut as I listen to its melody that something’s been lost and can never be recovered. He seems to wonder if he’s never matured beyond the reckless youth hinted at in these lyrics, and if his personal hell or purgatory or whatever you want to call it will be lived out as a ghost, haunting those alleyways and overgrown woods from his childhood. Yet the song’s central metaphor is “The oak tree with its resurrection fern.” It doens’t explicitly state that some sort of redemption can be found to soothe the singer’s heavy heart… but it hints that just maybe something new might find a way to grow out of the carcass of a life filled with regret.

14) “In Love”, Jon Foreman (Winter EP, 2008)
Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot, had put out two rather low-key solo EPs before I managed to catch up with what he had been doing. Fall was a collection of mostly simple acoustic folk songs that didn’t really do it for me right away. A few of the tracks on Winter really surprised me by changing up this instrumentation, particularly this somber closing track, which felt almost like a ritual, the kind of music you’d play while meditating over your own mortality. While that sounds dark, Foreman’s simple chant – four phrases of two syllables each per stanza, never wavering from the rigid format – seemed to be celebrating a redemption found in death. The music had shades of Eastern inspiration – I think the main instrument plucking out the rhythm was a koto or some other sort of Asian zither, while the low hum of a bassoon worked its way in here and there – but the philosophy being expressed was pretty clearly Christian: “My God, my love, my life, my love/Is yours, my love, my bride, my love/This cross, my love, is mine, my love/To bear, my love, to die, my love.” This seemed like a solid choice to close out a set of songs that delt with death and redemption.

15) “What a Heart Is Beating For”, Chris Rice (What a Heart Is Beating For, 2007)
This slow-burner was the title track from what I didn’t know at the time would be Chris Rice’s final album. (I guess that’s not an irreversible truth until the day he dies, but he pretty much disappeared after this one and has apparently been living under the radar as a songwriter-for-hire ever since.) I wanted the mellow, meditative sequence of songs to be followed by a few that were more glorious and climactic, so I chose to end with this song about fully opening one’s heart and choosing to live even if that meant giving away your pride, your security, or even your life. “And so with love, the only way to gain/Is to give it all away.” I really loved the big, sweeping rock guitar finish of this song – that wasn’t a genre Chris Rice generally dipped his toes into, but it turned out to be a fitting finale, considering this is the last song of Rice’s I would pick before he went into his weird little exile.

16) “The Glory of It All”, David Crowder Band (Remedy, 2007)
Bit by bit, I was gradually making piece with the more simplistic approach heard on Remedy, after initially considering it a bit of a step down from the bizarre complexity of A Collision. Crowder and co. seemed to cycle back and forth between simplicity and complexity every few albums, and if had been all simplistic stuff, I probably never would have gotten into the band. But hearing the deeper musings and more daring musical exploration on other tracks made me more willing to take the basic vocabulary and three-syllable phrases heard throughout most of this song as the beginning of a deeper statement that Remedy would go on to explore. That album opened with a simple reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us not-entirely-evil but not-entirely-holy humans. I chose to make it a closing track rather than an opening one because it seemed like a solid reminder to end on. No matter how much we humans can manage to give unselfishly to bring a little bit of light back to a darkening world, it pales in comparison to the perfect sacrifice that was made to redeem each of us, and to make doing good possible for any of us.

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