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JFH Staff Blog | JFH Staff

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Your 'Favorite' Band/Song/Movie Probably Isn't Your 'Favorite'

Each week, one thing you're bound to see online or even heard spoken by friends when a new album or movie comes out is something like:

"The new album by ____ is their best yet!"

or

"_________ is awesome! It's my favorite movie!"

But the truth is... can we really call a brand new album we've only heard a handful of times over the course of a couple hours or a couple days -- or a movie we've only seen once -- our "Favorite" or "the best?"

Let's look at it this way... If you were to only be able allowed to watch one movie for the rest of your life, would it be that one? If you were only able to listen to one album, would that be it?

When I was a teenager, I remember seeing a movie in the theater and enjoying it enough to call it my favorite film. Upon multiple viewings, and as I got older, I realized I enjoyed the movie still, but it was in no way my favorite movie. At around the same time in my life, I found my "favorite band" changing a bit too much as well. I'd hear one band, see them live, and love 'em to death. Then a few months or a year or two later, they'd have a new album, but a different band would put out a BETTER album. Well then, THAT album was my favorite, and so was that band. Then it happened again. Then, as I got a little older, a previously favorite band put out an album that really hit home. They were my favorite once again, and pretty much lasted that way past their retirement.

Why does this matter? It's tough for true music fans to discuss music openly when things like "Album of the Year," "Best album by far!", etc, are statements used far too often time and time again by the same people. (Don't get me started about it being overused in music reviews!) Are these listeners just really easy to please? Or are these albums REALLY each the best... at the time they hear them? So what's the criteria for "best"? Sure, it's exciting to have new music. But sometimes when we get music weeks or even months in advance, it's still difficult to boldly proclaim "This is their best album yet!" or "Album of the Year" (especially, with the latter, when there's plenty of music yet to come out that year). It just seems like a pretty big statement to make.

As I've gotten older, I've found it important not to jump to conclusions. Did I love that one new movie? Actually, yeah, but will it endure to be a favorite of mine 5, 10, 15 years from now? I've found that the movies that are my absolute favorites are ones I've seen many times over the course of several years and still really like them. I can honestly tell you that my absolute favorite, hands-down go-to movie is Ghostbusters because I first saw it as a kid and still can watch it at almost any time. It's held up pretty well, despite being dated (but what isn't, right?) and it's also nostalgic for me. And it still brings a smile to my face. For music, I've also found bands like PFR, their songs just feel like a warm blanket, a dip in a hot tub, or reclining after a day of being on your feet without a second's rest. I think that warrants calling their music a favorite. It feeds my soul too. Is that one new album by _____ awesome? Yeah! I like it! But let me get back to you on if it's their best or if it's one of my favorites. I've had albums that I'd never dreamed would be a favorite still sound like gold to my ears many years later. I love that. But I've also had albums I was quick to call amazing or the best not hold up very long at all.

Maybe none of this really matters, I do realize that, but every street week when glowing comments for new albums (or negative ones, actually) flood the internet on THE DAY an album comes out, praising (or condemning) an album after what could be no more than just a handful of listens, you have to wonder how much time was devoted to really digging into the music and letting it just soak in. For real music fans, that's important. I know it's new and exciting and you were waiting a couple years for it since the last street day, but give it time. Sure, we sometimes read reviews to see if something is better than what came before it, but it can be much too hasty to just jump at calling something the best prematurely. There's nothing wrong with letting it simmer and sit with you a bit. You'll be surprised, in the end, just what IS the best or your favorite to you down the line. Happy listening!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

YOU Almighty -- Being His Hands and Feet

Today, I was reminded of the 2003 movie "Bruce Almighty;" I thought about one of the messages the film focuses on and how it related to all of our individual Christian walks.

We live in a time where it's easier now more than ever to plug into a cause that can change the world. I was listening to Remedy Drive's new album "Commodity" and thinking about how vocalist David Zach has expressed his hope to impact and make a change in the serious problem of human trafficking in our world. It's a very real and disturbing practice still going on today. The band's goal with the album is to raise awareness and help aid in the fight against it (Zach has even paired with a ministry called The Exodus Road that goes to the frontlines of this problem and tries to rescue women from slavery). It's a passion of Zach's and if you get the privilege of hearing him speak about it in person, it makes you want to rally in support and join him.

In this age, it's even easier to voice our opinions on what we think others should be doing. Whether it's social media or through a blog or magazine article, just about anyone can say anything that someone else will see or hear. I've heard ministries beg for just financial aid while other opinion-sharers have condemned people fir "just throwing money" at a problem and not doing anything else about it. These opinion-sharers don't always take into account that these people may not be called to do anything other than that; some have families and careers and may not be called by God to drop everything and go. The financial support may be all Jesus is moving them to do.

But that's where "Bruce Almighty" popped in my mind.

In the film, Bruce Nolan--played by Jim Carrey--is an aspiring news reporter who would love a news anchor position someday (think Ron Burgundy set in 2003 with much less pretention). His rival is Steve Carell's Evan Baxter who is a bit of a pompous jerk who seems to easily get the things Bruce only dreams of and fights so hard for. Bruce's girlfriend Grace (I don't think her name choice was a coincidence) encourages him to be thankful to God for what he has and, in one particular crucial scene, Bruce says, "God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but He'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm!" After some other blasphemous remarks, God meets with Bruce and gives him the job of "god" for a short time so he can see what it's like, and Bruce learns first-hand how selfish humans are, how frustrating free will is in His position, and how God's role is no picnic.

Near the end of the film, Bruce learns that we're here on this earth not for ourselves but for others. Our society is very me-centric and it's easy for any of us (myself included) to fall prey to that mindset. By the end of the movie, God physically leaves Bruce to clean up the messes he made and Bruce says, "But wait! What if I need you? What if I have questions?" to which God laughs and says, "That's your problem, Bruce. That's everybody's problem. You keep looking UP!" It was a controversial exchange because it kind of sounds like the film's saying we shouldn't seek God, but the director, a professing believer, later explained that the point of the story was that we're supposed to be God's hands and feet to each other. There's even a montage in the film where Bruce is seen doing nice things for people and helping others out--something he'd never done before.
 


It's no secret we live busy lives. If our families aren't demanding our time, it's our jobs, our teachers, our managers, our coaches, our record labels, our bandmates, our friends, etc. Sometimes it just feels like God's another person demanding our time. But we're called to help the widows and orphans, the needy, the forsaken. God wants us to seek HIM first and to put everything else second. BUT we're all called to different things. Not everyone is called to be a missionary to Haiti. Not everyone is called to stay home and watch sports all Sunday. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Not everyone is called to be a deacon. Not everyone is called to lead a Sunday school class, and not everyone is called it sit in on a Sunday school class. It's our responsibility to seek God for direction in how we're best to use our time. If we're all part of the Body of Christ, we all have different roles to play. For some of us, it may be to send money to HELP that missionary in Haiti. For others, it may be to go and help out there with their bare hands.

But whatever that call is, we need to heed it. Just don't be discouraged if others are telling you what you need to do. They might not know what God has in store for you, but what THEY think YOU should do. And that doesn't matter. Only what God wants for you is what matters. But whatever it may be, it'll be an expression of His hands and His feet. And I pray He makes it clear to you (to us!). Just don't give up seeking Him.

- John DiBiase

**Note: the blog title "YOU Almighty -- Being His Hands and Feet" is in no way meant to be disrespectful. The idea is a play on the film's title, since it kind of sparked the topic, and is to imply that YOU / WE are to be HIS hands and feet... like Bruce was instructed in the film.**

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Do We Enjoy Music?

It's no secret that we at JFH advocate for excellence in Christian art. Anything that Christians put their hands to deserves to be done well, giving the glory to God in the process. But I have recently been contemplating the concept of what "Christian art" is supposed to look like in the real world, particularly when it comes to how listeners are supposed to interact with the music they listen to.

To sum up my feelings on the matter, I think Christians are supposed to enjoy music.

At first, this sounds like a "duh" statement, but I think the word "enjoyable" is more comprehensive than it sounds. There's two main definitions for the word "enjoy." The first is straightforward, "to take pleasure in," which is simple enough. But the second makes the word a little more complex: "to have or experience." Experiencing music seems a lot different than just listening to it, doesn't it?

When the term "enjoyable" is applied to music, it can often bring to mind recyclable pop music that doesn't take too many chances. The song begins, the catchy beat takes hold, the simple lyrics are easy to memorize, and the listener can hang their hat on the song's whole. It's a quick escapist detour that lasts for a whole three and half minutes, though it's over as soon as it begins. If that's all that "enjoyable" music is supposed to be, Christians are selling themselves severely short. Great music grows on the listener with time, unfolding layer after layer with successive listens.

Please don't misunderstand me by inferring that I think pop music as a whole is bad. To call out one whole genre as a lower form of art than another would be to discredit the artists who use pop music to its fullest artistic potential. But if you turn on any Top 40 pop radio station, you can immediately hear the kind of material I'm talking about: unsophisticated and hopelessly aimless pop ditties. And all too often, CCM stations echo this same method with their setlists comprised of mindless earworms that don't improve the quality of life of the listener beyond a few minutes.

Art is not a utilitarian concept, of course, but truly enjoyable art requires a significant investment of time and emotion. It means listening many times, though not necessarily in a row. It means personally applying it, empathizing with the spirit of the song's message. It means comparing the song to others like it, identifying what makes it unique and beyond the norm. It means letting the music affect you in the long run rather than compartmentalizing the listening experience to the length of the song.

This concept of enjoying music affects how I approach every album I hear, especially when reviewing something for JFH. I can't tell you how many times I have listened to an album for the first time, disliked it, but learned to love it after more listens. Given that I have to write a polished critique of the album in the near future, I have to listen to an album more than once. If I wrote my album reviews after only one self-contained listen, I wouldn't be handing out too many positive reviews, and even the positive reviews wouldn't be credible or properly representative of the music. But that's why I hesitate to give a decisive opinion so early on in the listening process. Sure, there are albums that I've enjoyed on the first listen with my attitude towards it not changing much, but they're rare. Great art grows on you.

Is this taking music too seriously? Taking this concept a step further, what happens if we approach people this way? There's the adage that first impressions are deceiving, and it's just as true for music as it is with people. Are first impressions important? Absolutely! We always want to present ourselves well when we meet people for the first time. But if we judged others on just those first impressions, we'd have some lopsided relationships to wrestle with. My deepest friendships are with those who I've gotten to know over time, over many occasions and seasons, not on one-time, one-way transactions. When we truly experience people, we see their many facets, and we love them for who they truly are. I'd contend that if we are interacting with music in a similar fashion, we gain a better idea of our both ourselves and the music we're listening to, giving everyone their due credit. Experiencing music isn't as complicated as experiencing people, by the way.

With all of this in mind, there are some inherent dangers attached if we change our music listening habits to this method. For some, this could be a huge lifestyle change. This refreshed concept of art as an enjoyable entity creates quite a few problems for a culture that thrives on speed and instant gratification. We want to enjoy things now! But when Christians can slow down, find beauty in the details over a span of time, and learn to love the individual parts that make up the whole, our perspective on enjoyment will change for the better. The Christian's status as an image-bearer makes this level of enjoyment possible, and if we apply this reasoning to our habits as music consumers, we can become music "enjoyers" instead.

-- Roger Gelwick, JFH staff writer

Friday, January 24, 2014

Five Reviews For One Album?!?

So, by now, many of you are probably thinking something. That thought may or may not be related to JFH. If it is not related to JFH, I won’t even venture trying to guess what that thought is. However, if it is related to JFH, I have a very strong hunch I know what you are thinking. I’ll bet is falls something along these lines

  •  “WOW! Switchfoot has FIVE positive reviews!”
  •  “I didn’t think Fading West was that great."
  • “Of course JFH would post five great reviews of Switchfoot, they’re all biased fanboys."
  • “What is a 2-cents review?”
  • “Why does Switchfoot, or any album for that matter, have five reviews in the first place?”, or possibly
  • “I can’t believe JFH gave Nine Lashes a positive review! They usually hate modern rock!”

If your thought was more along the lines that last bullet point, that is a topic for a different post (and probably a different person). However, if it was along the lines of the first five bullets, then this post is for you.

Longtime readers may recognize “2-Cents Reviews” as an appendage onto a reader review, like on this review of the Newsboy’s Take Me To Your Leader, or this review of Demon Hunter’s self-titled debut, or even this review of DC Talk’s 1989 debut. Their original purpose was to give an official rating to albums that otherwise would have none (either due to the fact that they came out a while ago, or no one on staff ever got around to writing a full review). But a reader had to write a review of the album first in order to get a 2-Cents Review.

Recently, the staff was having a discussion, and after going through a variety of different topics, somehow it came around to our current review format. That is, that albums, if they are reviewed, have a main opinion and a second opinion, and if not reviewed, a reader (ie, you guys) can send in their own review that might get posted if it is fair enough (and written well enough), and might get a 2-Cents Review as well. In any event, someone on staff (actually me, but I digress) suddenly came to realization that, well, why not have more than two staff reviews? We’re not bound by any strict “Music Website Code,” that firmly states, “Thou shalt not review an album more than twice!” Plus, with more reviews comes either more diversity or a stronger consensus, so the readers can get a clearer idea of what the staff as a whole thinks, not just one or two people on staff.

But then, as soon as I thought that, I also realized, “…but then someone would have to actually write those reviews.” And I can tell you, writing reviews can be a very tedious chore. Not to mention that it is a chore for a reader to read them all. But then I thought about those 2-Cent reviews: Those are easy enough to write. They are about a paragraph long. Easy to write, and easy to read. Diversity of opinion is offered, readers are more interested, it makes our site even more unique, and since 2-Cent Reviews were already offered in some capacity, it would not be hard to implement. Everyone wins!

As such, Fading West is the first album to receive this treatment. Not because we are biased fanboys of Switchfoot and just want to keep gushing out praise for them, but because, well, they were the first truly “big” album of the year that many staff members have heard and wanted to offer their thoughts on, and hopefully the first of many. Simple as that.

Hope you guys like the idea. Let us know what you think!

- Mark Rice

Friday, January 17, 2014

Listening To Old Music, Hearing New Things

Prisoner to the Chains of Time - The Music of Common Children

I write full time; all kinds of things, books, articles for magazines, humorous columns etc. When I write, I usually select something out of my record collection to put on, and sometimes I go with a theme, or "band of the week." A few weeks ago, Common Children, an important band to me during a critical time in my life, was the choice, and hearing such poignant music made me think some big thoughts as I wrote about silly things, like the groundhog who is now living under my porch, and whether or not to contact my daughter's teacher to ask if the spelling words she is sending home are far too advanced and difficult for my 2nd grader. ("Opinionated" is a great word, but tough on the psyche of a seven-year-old at test time.)

I first ran across the music of Common Children as a senior in High School. I picked up their first album Skywire in the spring of that year and in those days of confusion and anxiety about my future and who I was in Christ. Hearing a band address the “deeper issues of life” from a perspective of faith meant the world to me. Later in college, after my first (and thankfully last) broken heart, the music of their second album Delicate Fade reminded me that all of life is under God’s control, and that He is always with us. Their third and last album, The Inbetween Time, helped me to see that there are two sides to every story and that life is wonderfully complex. The lead singer and primary lyricist, Marc Byrd, remains a busy man. In the last decade, he has co-written the popular worship song “God of Wonders,” released a worship album with his wife under the name “Glassbyrd,” and recorded a few fantastic instrumental albums under the band name “Hammock.” All three Common Children albums can be found in various places online, and should be required listening for every young person of faith.

The following thoughts are related to my favorite song on each of Common Children’s fantastic three albums, Skywire, Delicate Fade and The Inbetween Time.

 

"Absence of Light" - The Inbetween Time (2001)
This week my pastor said that “church needs to be a living shelter for lost and hurting people.” To emphasize this point, he read the story of the prodigal son and stated this one line over and over again “love, not logic”. The point that I easily miss in this story is that the prodigal son brought his misery on himself. His selfishness and impulsiveness led to his wretched state, not any other factor that can be seen in the story. It would have been logical for the father to run the prodigal son off his property, or to take the son up on his offer to be a slave in his father’s household. But it is the illogical choice that is made. The father celebrates the return of the son and restores him to his former position. The first song on The Inbetween Time, which addresses this issue so well, opens with haunting Pink Floyd-like atmospherics that bring to mind the coldness of space, then drenched in reverb, a ghostly voice rings out seemingly from above the music...


For maybe just a second, the sun was in your eyes

It flickers like a spark from the fire that burns inside.

You were broken by the darkness by the silence of the night,

Searching for a shelter from the cold absence of light


This song stopped me cold when I first heard it. The atmospherics bring to mind a very cold day and the lyrics suggest to me that whoever the narrator is talking about brought on his own suffering. The lines “For maybe just a second, the sun was in your eyes” suggest a momentary lapse of judgment. But the narrator does not pass judgment on the main character. Instead, he points out that he was “broken by the darkness, by the silence of the night”. To me this was a refreshing perspective. Suffering in any form must be met with true Christ-like compassion. Christ had a true love for those whose poor decisions had produced suffering in their own lives. It has been said time and again, but it is worth repeating. Christ hung out with some pretty unsavory people; tax collectors, prostitutes and various other “fallen people.” He did not shun these people, but rather showed “illogical love” in a real way. These people had been “broken by the darkness” and were responding to the light that Christ offered. This song helped to change my perspective on those who have had a “moral failure.” Who among us has not ever had a lapse of judgment; let him cast the first stone. Thanks be to Jesus for loving us illogically.



"Broken Smile" - Skywire (1996)
A prevailing stereotype of Christians is that they are all happy go lucky, out of touch with reality, “Ned Flanders”-like people. Somewhere in his past, Ned was told to “count it all joy” when misfortune finds him. (James 1:2, a powerful scripture, but woefully out of context here) He says “well, praise the Lord” when his house is demolished by a tornado or “she’s in a much better place now” when his wife passes away suddenly. Fair or not, this stereotype exists and it is vital to try to figure out where it comes from. I would like to suggest that it comes, in part, from the art that we produce. From cliché ridden “positive” music that anyone can find on their car radio, to schmaltzy visual art, so much of what we produce suggests that that everything in the Christian life is hunky dory. I like to call it the “I once was lost, but now I’m found” phenomenon. This phrase from "Amazing Grace," (possibly the most profound song ever written) when taken out of context from the rest of the hymn, leads to some mistaken notions. Notions that say “Now that I have been born again, all of a sudden my problems are over and the rest of life will be a cakewalk.” But as we all know, this in no way matches the reality of daily life. Those who are “found” still suffer gut wrenching tragedy, crippling depression and doubt. (See Job, King David. The Apostle Paul)

Why does the music we create not adequately reflect the experiences we all go through? Music has been called “the healing art form” and brings comfort to so many in times of trial. After September 11th, radio stations played selected songs with “healing aspects” to them nonstop and Rolling Stone even published a list of top songs people named that helped them through those tragic events. Why do Christians, who have the ultimate hope to offer, someone to walk beside us through this dark world, and hope of a better world to come, write such pithy music to express this wonderful truth?

When I fist heard "Broken Smile" from Common Children’s Skywire I was stopped in my tracks because I had never heard such a profound song about loss and alienation come from out of the CCM world. Here was a song that in both its lyric and music captured the emotion of sadness and loss. Songs like this were being written by Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I had never heard one from a “Christian” artist. The simple nature of the track, with its barebones acoustic guitar playing dark minor chords and assorted minimalist instrumentation of violins and cellos, is reminiscent of the unplugged era of MTV. The harmony vocal provided by Christina Glass (later to be Marc Byrd’s wife) adds the final haunting touch.

What makes this song unique in Christian music is that the writer did not feel the need to wrap up the song with a “Jesus is the answer” final verse. The song is simply a meditation on sadness, how it can stay with you for a long time, how it can creep into every aspect of your life, how it seems never ending.


Can the truth refine and free the soul?

When the hurt you have is all you know?

Through endless searching and nights of wondering

Someone said, “Just let it go”.

We all know that we all have felt the pain

For a little while. 

With lines such as “can the truth refine and free the soul when the hurt you have is all you know?” the writer dares to question God. He says "I believe that you are true, but what does that mean to me during this time? Can your truth lead me to freedom from this sadness, this darkness in my soul”? This kind of hard questioning is rare in Christian music, but it is, ironically, common in scripture. David asked “How long will you hide your face from me O Lord.” (Psalm 88:14) This might seem blasphemous to many, but to David “a man after God’s own heart” it was a very natural comment. In an article in Seven Ball magazine, I read how a couple had written to Marc Byrd and told him that the song had helped them get through the loss of a child to miscarriage. This floored me. A couple found, in Christian music, a song that spoke to them during a time of profound loss. Such an accomplishment should be celebrated and not easily be forgotten.

 

The Eyes of God - Delicate Fade (1997)
Perhaps responding to criticism that their music was too dark, Common Children released “Eyes of God” as the first single off their second album Delicate Fade. The song did pretty well on Christian radio, no doubt due to its more positive outlook. The track kicks off with a chiming guitar that is decidedly more radio friendly than the harder edge of the previous album, and when the chorus kicks in, it finds Marc Byrd singing…

All the while the Eyes of God shine on us

The Broken smile and the eyes

God shine on us

Feel the pain

You need to show

Take the time

Now let it go

Embrace this day of healing

What I find so interesting, is that this song makes a reference both lyrically and thematically back to the aforementioned song "Broken Smile" on Common Children’s previous album, Skywire. It’s as if Marc Bryd didn’t want to leave the listener where he left them after hearing that song. “There’s more to life than this” he says, “you can be free”. “Eyes of God” serves as a sort of alternative music instruction manual for how to deal with the tragedy that “Broken Smile” described so well. Marc Byrd first instructs the listener to “feel the pain/you need to show”. Honesty is crucial when dealing with suffering of any kind. Being like Ned Flanders and saying “everything is fine” is to be dishonest with yourself. Everything is not all right. It’s ok to say that, to assess your situation honestly. This type of honesty is very difficult for many believers who think that somehow they have done something to bring on this tragedy on themselves. Many Christians think “This is not the abundant life I have heard so much about, I need to keep this problem undercover until I can figure out where it all went wrong.” Fundamental honesty is the critical starting point for weathering any crisis. Christ never promised an easy life, but he did promise that he would be with us through the tough times. This is a critical distinction.

Next, we are told to “take the time”. The healing of a physical injury cannot be rushed. If you sprain your ankle, there is an approximate amount of time that it takes to heal. You can help the injury to heal quicker with treatment and medications, but there is no such thing as an “instant fix” to a physical injury. Why should injured souls heal any differently? It takes time. This is a tough sell to "instant gratification America." Fast food, fast internet connections, eight minute dating, same day service, we speed all of life up. People who suffer tragedy are often told by well meaning people to “get over it,” “keep a stiff upper lip,” “pull yourself together,” etc. This is terrible advice. Grief needs time to work itself out. This brings us to the last instruction “now let it go/embrace this day of healing”. In the movie Chocolat, an old man is interested in a woman in his 1960’s era French village known as the “Widow Odell”. When asked why he does not pursue her, he responds “the Widow Odell is mourning her late husband who died in the war.” Another character says “well, the war was 15 years ago”. “Oh, no,” the man says, “Her husband died in the First World War. It was quite a shock to the Widow Odell.” There comes a time to let go of your grief, to move on. Holding on to something too long comes with its own price tag. Like the Widow Odell, opportunities may be missed, life may go by unlived. To quote Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under Heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Sometimes, it has to be a conscious action to “embrace this day of healing”.

 

Marc Byrd, like me, probably does not have a degree in counseling, but he writes with his heart and eyes wide open to the world around him. He seems to know loss and heartache very well, and I’m thankful to God that I happened upon the music of Common Children during a formative period of my life. It has helped to shape my thinking in regards to the nature and shape of suffering, and has helped me to be more sensitive to those who Jesus called “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). I thank God that He gave me the ears to hear His truth in the songs of Common Children.


- Alex "Tin Can" Caldwell

 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Michael Weaver Examines His Top 10 Albums of 2013

With the recent release of the JFH official staff picks for 2013 and more in-depth blogs about the individual picks of John, Alex and Mark, Michael Weaver joins in with a look into his top albums (and honorable mentions) of this year's album releases...

1. Fear Inside Our Bones, The Almost - Aaron Gillespie has been quite busy since deciding to leave Underoath.  Between writing a solo worship album and touring for said album, as well as The Almost, he’s had a full schedule.  While I was looking forward to Fear Inside Our Bones, I wasn’t looking for it to top my list; I wasn’t even looking for it to be an album that landed on my Top 10 list this year at all.  Instead, what I was given was an album I listened to more than any other this year.  Reviewing some albums can honestly be a chore.  When you get ahold of a weaker album -- I will not mention any names -- it’s tough to keep listening in order to give it a fair shake.  That was simply not the case with this record.  I honestly enjoyed every song on this album and, while I did consider a couple of others for the top stop, there wasn’t really a competition for it.  If you’ve never been a fan of The Almost in the past, it’s time you give them another shot.  This alt-rock album with a slightly southern flare is sure to please most rock fans.

 

Saloon

2. Saloon, The Ongoing Concept - I was completely unfamiliar with their music.  Basically, I watched the lyric video for “Cover Girl” and thought, “This sounds decent enough.”  That was the understatement of the year.  This album brings a metalcore sound with a wild west feel that is ridiculous.  Saloon is catchy and fun and reminiscent of early Showbread.  Any metal fan should at least give this one a shot.  Some people may not agree that metal music should have pianos and B3 organs mixed with heavy guitars, but these guys pull it off with a near flawless execution.  The Ongoing Concept provided the surprise of the year for me and is easily my favorite new artist of 2013.  Solid State Records still has a good eye for talent.

 

The Water & the Blood

3. The Water & The Blood, Dustin Kensrue - Mars Hill Music has been doing an excellent job of acquiring worship leaders for their different campuses.  Thrice front man Dustin Kensrue was the most interesting of the bunch for me.  While Thrice has always been lumped in with Christian bands by many (even if the band wasn't keen on the idea), and Kensrue himself has never shied away from his spiritual beliefs, he’s simply not a guy I figured for a worship leader.  Well, I was wrong.  The Water & The Blood displays worship music with an indie rock sound similar to that of a Kings of Leon or NEEDTOBREATHE mixed with a bit of folk influence found in his previous solo works.  The formula ultimately offers up honest and sound worship music.  Even better are the lyrics: theologically deep and far from cliché.  Anyone who knows me, or has read a couple of my reviews, probably knows that I have many issues with the course that modern worship music is on.  Dustin Kensrue has delivered what’s probably, quite honestly, my favorite worship album ever.

 

Royal Flush

4. Royal Flush, FLAME - FLAME is far from an unknown commodity, but I still hold to the fact that this guy is severely overlooked and underrated.  This super-talented rapper has been nominated for a ton of awards and always loses out to someone else.  He also seems to be rarely mentioned by fans of CHH when names like Lecrae take the spotlight.  Awards and accolades mean nothing to FLAME, though.  After interviewing him about a month ago, it’s obvious that he is only about spreading the love of Christ to others.  Royal Flush definitely accomplishes that.  For me, this was the hands-down top rap album of the year.  FLAME is on top of his game and has released his best album to date.  God has given you the Royal Flush; what do you plan to do with the winning hand?

 

Backdraft

5. Backdraft, Fallstar - Fallstar shifted from the indie label Come&Live! to Facedown Records -- a more established label (especially in the metal genres).  Backdraft is a record that provided me with tons of listening fun.  Straight up metal, metalcore and the interesting hip-hop within “Alexandria 363” is spread throughout.  Fallstar have stepped into the spotlight and delivered.  From the great music to the fun album cover, Backdraft is a must-have for metal fans.

 

Between Here & Lost

6. Between Here & Lost, Love and Death - Brian “Head” Welch and company didn’t release the most original rock album of the year, but they released one of the most solid overall.  With sounds that were similar to his solo album and that of his former (and now current band again) Korn, Head knows the formula for success.  Between Here & Lost added melodic elements in with the heavy on the musical side of the spectrum, and thankfully featured Brian being much more comfortable with his role as lead singer.  Musically and vocally better than Save Me From Myself, Between Here & Lost is a great album well worthy of its spot on my Top 10 list.

 

http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/cdreviews/covers/unworthyhumility.jpg

7. Unworthy/Humility, Creations - I fully expected Creations to provide me with just another generic metal album to pass the time.  Upon first listen, I thought that is exactly what I got.  With each subsequent listen, I discovered so much more.  Buried deep within the heaviness of it all are small subtleties that really set it off.  Every time I listened, I heard something new and interesting.  I can see how this record could be quickly passed off after only one listen, but, if you were guilty of this, I urge you to listen again -- this time more intently.  This impressive metal album unexpectedly snuck its way right onto my Top 10.

 

Inland

8. Inland, Jars of Clay - Jars of Clay once again sits atop of our JFH site average list.  Many people think very highly of Jars and rightly so.  I fell in love with Jars of Clay way back at youth camp when I first heard “Flood.”  When I got home, I immediately bought the single (on cassette and CD) and forced my parents to listen to it repeatedly.  (In the end, they were actually pretty thankful and are still fans today.)  Once the debut finally released, I found myself even deeper in love.  Jars of Clay were revealed to me at a time when I was REALLY starting to embrace music and were probably my first favorite band.  All of these years later, Jars of Clay is still relevant and still making great music.  They manage to recreate themselves with each album, but still stay true to who they are.  While Inland wasn’t my personal favorite for 2013, it is more than worthy of claiming the site’s top spot.  I already can’t wait for their next.

 

Engine of a Million Plots

9. Engine of a Million Plots, Five Iron Frenzy - When Five Iron Frenzy called it quits, I was heartbroken.  I still count myself thankful for being able to attend one of the dates on their farewell tour.  When they announced their reunion, and the Kickstarter campaign to fund it was so ridiculously successful, I honestly got a bit worried.  Expectations were probably higher for this album than any other Christian album... ever -- at least in recent history.  When I got my hands on this to review it, a nervous anxiousness came over me as I hit play.  Once the music came to a halt after “Blizzards & Bygones,” I sat back in disappointment.  I didn’t think it was a bad record, but it wasn’t what the long time FIF in me wanted.  I wanted ska.  I wanted funny songs.  I wanted an awe-inspiring worship number that puts all worship artists to shame.  I basically got none of that.  After a couple of days, I listened for the second time without any expectations and started to become pleasantly surprised.  It wasn’t the album the fan in me wanted, but I think it was the right album for Five Iron at the time.  It’s still lyrically deep, though maybe not their best, and musically as solid as ever.  Engine of a Million Plots will not go down as my favorite Five Iron Frenzy record, but it was a great comeback and managed to find its way inside my top 10 albums of 2013.

 

 Kings & Queens

10. Kings and Queens, Audio Adrenaline - I think most people would agree that Audio Adrenaline today is not really Audio Adrenaline.  One founding member in a band, especially when it’s not the lead singer, does not make it the original band.  At least the change in Newsboys has happened over time...  Audio A went from non-existent to reformed, with basically all new people, overnight.  Though it’s very strange that the powerhouses of the nineties have switched teams, Kevin Max (Smith)’s vocals are still just flat-out amazing.  The guy has always been a little quirky, but, man, can he sing.  While it’s so obvious that Kings and Queens is not an Audio Adrenaline album (even though their name appears on the cover), it's undeniably a great pop/rock record.  It took a while to get this out of my CD player after purchasing it and I still like revisiting it now.  This one was honestly close to being on the outside looking in at the top 10, but in the end, I just couldn’t leave it out.  Maybe it was just nostalgia, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one anyway. 

 

As with every year, it’s tough to narrow the list down to only 10.  I was really happy with Christian music in 2013, heard a lot of great albums, and discovered some amazing new talent.  The actual posting had no room for honorable mentions, but here I can let you know about them.

1. Line in the Sand, Close Your Eyes - It really hurts that this didn’t land on my Top 10; I’ve actually even stressed a little about it not being there.  This record was off-the-charts good and that’s quite impressive after a couple of changes of lead singers between albums.

2. Extol, Extol - These death metal veterans returned with a vengeance.  After such a long leave of absence, it was great to have these guys back.  This was a great heavy album and proved that Extol haven’t lost a step or forgotten how to write brilliant material.  Extol’s return became my favorite album by these legends of the industry.

3. On My Way to the Sun, John Elefante - I’ve been a John Elefante fan for a while.  John graced us all with a great progressive rock album reminiscent of his 70’s and espcially 80’s years.  The former Kansas front man released a superb album that garnered a lot of play time for me.

4. 8:18, The Devil Wears Prada - TDWP continue to grow and improve with time.  I really don’t know what else can be said for this awesome album that revolves around Romans 8:18.

5. Minorville, Derek Minor - Derek Minor (formerly PRo) is back with some powerful messages.  For me, this wasn’t Derek’s best, but it’s seriously hard hitting.  The messages in songs like “Dear Mr. Christian” are a necessity for today’s generation.  It’s a solid album that all hip-hop fans should spin at least once.

6. No More Hell to Pay, Stryper - Michael Sweet still has an amazing set of pipes.  These kings of 80’s glam metal have returned with their best since the smash To Hell With the Devil.  I finally listened to this one late in the year, but it was still in contention for a top spot.  It’s a fun record with great music and a straightforward and Godly message.  Stryper is back and bringing that familiar Stryper sound with an added modern twist.

 

Monday, December 23, 2013

John DiBiase Examines His Top 10 Albums of 2013

We've been picking our Year-End favorites in Christian music for 11 years now, but we've always kept the lists themselves pretty straightforward as titles and artists only. This year, we thought it'd be fun for any of the staff who were interested to present their lists (in addition to the official compilation of staff members) in blog format with our own commentary on why the albums were picked. Alex and Mark have already weighed in, and I thought I'd follow suit.

  1. Inland, Jars of Clay  -- I realize this'll show my age some, but back in 1995, I first saw Jars of Clay open for PFR before their self-titled debut even released. My older brother actually ended up liking their live show more than I did, but it didn't stop me from grabbing his album preview cassette (remember those?) and listening to it over and over while waiting for the full CD to release. I ended up calling my local Christian bookstore every couple weeks to find out when the much-delayed album was going to be in stock (the date kept moving apparently...the internet would have been nice to have at this point in time). So, since 1995, when I was a freshman in high school, I've been listening to Jars of Clay pretty faithfully. There isn't a single other band I can think of that I can tell you that I've listened to from the age of 15 to today at 33 where not a single one of their members have left  (or have been added) and they haven't broken up and reunited at some point. I've listened to Jars as a teen, when I started JFH (I even saw them in concert the same night I started JFH), during my dating years, while engaged, newly married, trying to figure out adulthood, entering into parenthood, and trying to adjust to change and getting older. You can realistically look at where Jars of Clay was when they started, musically and lyrically, and where they are today and see incredible growth and maturation. So, all of that is to say that Inland hits home now as an adult about as much as the debut did when I was in my mid-teens. I'm quite thankful these guys are still at it full-time.

  2. The Glorious Unfolding, Steven Curtis Chapman - In the same way that I started listening to Jars as a teen, I first started listening to Steven Curtis Chapman when I was around 14 years old, and a fairly new believer. His album Heaven In The Real World struck a major chord with me as someone looking for hope during those perplexing, trying teenage years. (Let's face it: high school is TOUGH!) His songs have always resonated with me, and The Glorious Unfolding has already been speaking volumes into my own life. I've already turned to songs like the title track and "Take Another Step" as a soundtrack for the current season of life.

  3. Need You Now, Plumb - You're going to see a pattern here... Plumb is another band I started listening to right out of the gate with their debut in 1996. The industrial rock sound that Plumb displayed (y'know, before Tiffany adopted "Plumb" as her name instead of as a band name) was cool and different for the Christian music industry, but it isn't the sound that she would become known for. Need You Now has not only been a longtime coming, but it's a record that, like The Glorious Unfolding and Inland, represent seasons in these veteran musicians' lives, and seasons I can relate to as a longtime fan and listener who's grown along with them.

  4. Reanimated, Family Force 5 - Hey, there's something to be said for guilty pleasures. Family Force 5 was a band I first experienced at GMA Week 2005 in Nashville, TN and was immediately captivated by their fun-loving live show. It's really not my typical kind of music, either, but there's just something about them that I've always loved. Reanimated captured some more of the fun that seemed to be in short supply on their album III, while offering a couple of their new live fan favorites (like "Chainsaw"). And with Solomon "Soul Glow Activatur" Olds' recent announcement that he has left the band, this collection serves as his swan song as vocalist and an end of an era.

  5. Fading West EP, Switchfoot - Some will find my inclusion of a 3-song sampler EP on a year-end list as a cop-out (especially since I can tell you pretty confidently already that Fading West will be somewhere on my 2014 year-end list), but I feel like I have good reason... Aside from the fact that Switchfoot is another band I've listened to since their 1997 debut, The Legend of Chin, when I was a senior in high school, Switchfoot has been another band to write songs that have spoken to me throughout many of the chapters of my life. I downloaded this EP from iTunes while sitting in a hotel lobby in Switchfoot's hometown of San Diego, CA. I'd never been to California before, but my older brother moved there almost 9 years ago and we'd made our first visit to the left coast to visit them this year when his first child was born (she's the most adorable little niece I could ask for! but I digress...). I was taken back by the immensely poppy sound of the new Switchfoot songs, but with more listens, I began to see something different in them (plus, hey, it was just really cool listening to their music IN San Diego for the first time since I first heard them 16 years ago!). [Side note: I'm still not a fan of their Oh! Gravity. album, aside from a couple songs--like "Awakening", so I'm not just one of those fans that is quick to love everything a band does.] Since first listening to this EP, I've seen the Fading West film and gotten the chance to hear where these songs fit into the movie as part of its soundtrack. I've also heard all three songs live, and I've been listening to the full-length album that releases in a few weeks. I can honestly say I love this EP and it represents a memorable chapter of my year this year. (And, quite frankly, I loved this 3-song EP more than most of the year's full-length albums...even if I'm still partial to Switchfoot's Vice Verses kind of sound)

  6. Troubled Days, Seabird - Seabird is a great example of a band I didn't fully "get" until I saw them perform live in concert at a festival while they were touring their debut album. Now, they're fully indie and have self-produced their latest record, Troubled Days. It didn't disappoint and was surprisingly a melancholy commentary on love, lost love, and perseverance in love. It's something most anyone who's been in a relationship can really relate to... just keep some tissues on hand.

  7. Live, All Sons & Daughters - If you've been reading JFH for any amount of time, not only will you notice that we collectively, as writers, look for art in music to be married with worshipful lyrics, but I myself am very, very (very, very) picky when it comes to worship music. Trust me, it's nothing I'm proud of. If anything, I'd love to be able to pop on any given worship album and blissfully connect with our Savior through the music. However, it's not the case for me at all. Worship music that stands apart from the norm, doesn't subscribe to overly simplistic instrumentation, structure, overused phrases, over-sung choruses, or subpar vocals, seems to be near impossible to find. But with All Sons & Daughters, we have a pairing of artists who not only can sing, but really know how to write a great song that can be used in corporate worship or in a more intimate setting. Personally, I feel like a lot of LIVE worship albums have a "you just had to be there" feeling, while some can really pull you into the experience. (I'm more partial to intimate worship considering how some big, loud, boisterous live worship albums can seem too showy) All Sons & Daughters' LIVE album is a near perfect presentation because it's got the energy of a live album but the sound of a more intimate experience. It's easily my favorite worship album of 2013. Nothing else comes close.

  8. Freaks, The Hawk In Paris - Speaking of guilty pleasures, if you haven't heard of The Hawk In Paris, you may be surprised to know that it's Jars of Clay vocalist Dan Haseltine's side project. It's not really a CCM market release (although he did give us permission to cover it with that understanding), but it's a batch of synth-pop anthems for the soldiers on the battlefield of love. It's very different from Jars but fans of Dan's day job will probably find a lot to like about this one. (I mean, c'mon... he's got a song with the chorus "Our love is science fiction"!)

  9. Currents, Eisley - Eisley's The Valley was a very different record for them, but it spoke to the different experiences of my own romantic ups and downs throughout my own life. Currents was more of a return to form for the band (I also loved Combinations and this more closely follows that album in feel), and is definitely an album I haven't overplayed, so it's still a treat to revisit each time. (And be sure to grab the live acoustic versions they released exclusively through iTunes!)

  10. Black and White, Tal & Acacia - Tal & Acacia's label debut Wake Me surprised me. Equally surprising was Provident Label Group's blatant dropping of the ball in promoting that fine record. (Really. Just because it didn't fit AC Christian radio didn't mean it didn't have some serious gems on it!) It had a mix of fun and serious with some truly impressive vocals from these sisters at its forefront. Their follow-up, Black & White, was entirely fan-funded via Kickstarter and self-produced by the girls. It's a much more laid back and raw (production-wise) album compared to Wake Me, but there's something so infectiously charming about these two that it makes it quite difficult to ignore. I really hope it won't be too long before we hear new music again from these gals again.

 

And that's it. I did have a few other albums warring for my top 10. For kicks, here they are: Five Iron Frenzy, Engine of a Million Plots .... Justin McRoberts, K .... Arrows & Sound,  Arrows & Sound .... Newsboys, Restart (It's still not "Newsboys" without Furler to me, but it's a catchy record nonetheless), and Audio Adrenaline, Kings & Queens (likewise, it's not really AudioA as I know them without Mark, but Kevin Max's incredible vocals make this a top pop rock album)

-- John DiBiase
 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mark Rice Examines His Top 10 of 2013

And yet another year in music is drawing to an end. Like any year, there were plenty of great albums released, as well as plenty of doozies and plenty of albums in between. I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I didn’t listen to all of them. BUT, I listened to a lot of them. In fact, at this exact moment in time, I calculate that I have listened to 87 albums (covered by this site) released in the calendar year of 2013, covering a wide variety of genres. And I honestly really liked a lot of them. To be honest, I had a genuinely difficult time narrowing it down to just ten, both in spite of and thanks to the fact that other than my album of the year (and possible #2 too), there were no albums that I fell head-over-heels in love with. But narrow it down I had to, so I did. As such these are my personal top ten albums of the year…

1. Beautiful Eulogy Instruments of Mercy

I direct you to my review. Nothing more need be said.

2. Plumb Need You Now

Prior to Need You Now, Plumb had made five high-quality records, with Chaotic Resolve being the best of the bunch. But this record easily bests all five in my book. A superb balance of accessibility and artistry that pulls my emotional strings in all the right places, Plumb’s album is pop/rock gold.

3. Derek Webb I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry, & I Love You

Another artist with a proven track-record of quality, Webb has no fear of being provocative. But on I Was Wrong…, he turns his sharp tongue on himself and he delivers his most introspective effort ever, as well as his most organic and inviting album in years.

4. Steven Curtis Chapman The Glorious Unfolding

Allow me to indulge myself by mentioning this quality record from my personal favorite artist. The Glorious Unfolding is unequivocal proof that Chapman can reach across generation lines as well no as he could twenty years ago, making high-quality contemporary pop/rock  that is still as relevant now as it ever was.

5. Audrey Assad Fortunate Fall

Last year’s offering from Assad was my introduction to her captivating piano pop, but while Heart was without doubt a quality record and I certainly enjoyed it, I personally found it less than enthralling. Fortunate Fall, however, enthralls me. Stripping all away but Assad’s voice and a piano (with sparse instrumentation), this soothing, liturgical worship record was nothing less than phenomenal.

6. Daniel Amos Dig Here Said The Angel

Seventeen years before I was born, Daniel Amos was formed while Christian Rock was still a child. In 2013, I heard my introduction to Daniel Amos through the band’s 14th studio album (and first in 12 years), Dig Here Said The Angel. Their alt rock sound is so timeless that they could sound at home in any one of the last five decades.

7. Jars of Clay Inland

When a band reaches the heights and prestige that Jars of Clay has, expectations become almost impossible, so the foursome has wisely decided to ignore them and simply make high quality music. Inland is a more melancholy album than I personally would have preferred (hence, why it’s “only” number seven), but the quality, originality, and all-around effort is undeniable and incredible.

8. John Elefante On My Way To The Sun

Having never before heard of John Elefante, I chose to review On My Way To The Sun almost by random impulse. In hindsight, I am very tempted to attribute that impulse to nothing less than divine influence. Drawing inspiration from classic and progressive rock and 90’s contemporary (among others), the former Kansas lead singer and prolific Christian Rock producer delivered my personal surprise album of the year.

9. Stryper No More Hell To Pay

I’ll be honest; I like Stryper, and appreciate their immense impact on Christian music, but I’ve never been too impressed with their music. Not until No More Hell To Pay. By far the group’s most mature and complete work, No More Hell To Pay delivers an album that is both quintessential classic Stryper metal and a refreshing update to their sound (rather than one-or-the-other like their other 21st century albums). 

10. Falling Up Midnight on Earthship/Falling Up Hours

These two albums together (along with a book) form the Machine De Ella Project, released track-by-track over a period of over four months. Though not technically related (and admittedly written for different fanbases), these albums complement each other wonderfully between the drawn-out experimental effort Hours and the more mellow, ethereal Midnight on Earthship.

 

Thankfully, my list of honorable mentions need not be confined to ten, and if the readers might indulge me for my overwhelming gushing, I will take great liberties with that freedom. These albums may not have cracked my top ten, but I’d be no less satisfied with it if they would have…

All Sons & Daughters Live: probably the best pure worship album of the year.

The Almost Fear Inside Our Bones: The first half of this album was album-of-the-year material.

Andy Mineo Heroes For Sale: Excellent and diverse hip-hop from Reach Record’s newest star.

Arrows & Sound Arrows & Sound: Indie experimental at its best from the former Remedy Drive member.
The Digital Age Evening:Morning: The former DC*B members deliver an excellent debut album with room to improve.

Dustin Kensrue The Water And The Blood: Creative, theologically dense worship music from the former Thrice frontman.
The Ember Days More Than You Think: Gorgeous indie worship and the last album to be cut from my top-10.

Extol Extol: I may not be the biggest metal fan, but this was too good to ignore.

Golden Youth Quiet Frame; Wild Light: To be perfectly honest, I didn’t discover this one until my list had been made.

Hillsong UNITED Zion: A phenomenal musical and lyrical upgrade to Hillsong’s usual fare

Least Of These Change Will Come: Aggressive indie rock with a offered as a free gift.

Norma Jean Wrongdoers: By far my personal favorite Norma Jean album

The Ongoing Concept Saloon: Wild, chaotic, awesome, unpredictable western influenced metalcore

Phil Wickham The Ascension: Solid modern worship even by Wickham’s high standards.

Steven Curtis Chapman Deep Roots: Organic bluegrass renditions of hymns and past hits from my favorite artist.

Tal & Acacia Black & White: Delicious bluesy pop from two sisters with phenomenal vocal chemistry

The Walking Tree We Are Instruments: More aggressive indie rock offered as a free gift.

 

--Mark Rice

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Alex Caldwell Examines His Top 10 of 2013

Alex "Tin Can" Caldwell's Staff Picks 2013 Thoughts

 

1. Jars Of Clay - Inland

People listen to music for wildly different reasons. Some folks need something to be on in the background during a shift at work, something to occupy their mind or fill up the lonely space around them. Some folks just need to party, and music serves as a catalyst for the good times. Some just like a catchy tune to sing along to.

I’m fine with all this, but I’m always on the lookout for something that moves me, engages all the senses. Melody is necessary, but thoughtfulness and purpose are important too. Music that sticks with me beyond the first listening is what I’m looking for. One Direction might have a catchy song (I saw them on Saturday Night Live a week ago), but that song didn’t really say anything. It was like a piece of candy; yummy but ultimately empty and vacuous.

And no other album hit all those requirements this year like Jars Of Clay’s Inland. It has a strong sense of purpose and theme (not just getting older, but maturing) married to memorable and tuneful songs.

It all started for me with the title. I read a post when the band announced the album’s name, and I was immediately struck with the possibilities of that one word - “inland.”

You see, I’m from the coast of Maine, and I know what it means to go inland. It’s a trip, a hike, a journey. You are leaving what is familiar and traversing into the unknown. The true pioneers of our country went inland; the timid folks remained near the coast and settled.

And Jars Of Clay did exactly what I hoped they would with the title; they used it as a great metaphor for growing up, maturing, and making better decisions. It’s a hike to get away from the coast, from what is usual and familiar, but it’s a trip worth taking. There are mountains to cross, but what you get on the other side is worth the hard work, and is so much better that moldering on the coast. It’s worth it to push inland.

The song titles alone are worth the price of admission. “Reckless Forgiver” (I sure need one everyday), “Love In The Age Of Immature Mistakes” (experienced it, made some big ones), “Love In Hard Times” (had some to get me through), “Loneliness And Alcohol” (we’ve all experienced loneliness, thankfully I knew from a very early age that substances are never a good solution to turn to, thanks mom and dad.)

Production wise, the album is full of sharp songwriting and great performances and great instrumental choices. And Dan Haseltine’s witty, insightful lyrics bring everything home. It’s the total package, and a blueprint for how to mature as a band.

May we all continue to march “inland”.

 

2. Aaron Sprinkle - Water & Guns

It’s great when a veteran makes a great, unexpected return. Aaron Sprinkle was the main songwriter in beloved 90’s alternative band Poor Old Lu, and he last put out a solo album in 2004, the fantastic compilation that was ironically titled Lackluster. Since then he has been the in-house producer for the Tooth & Nail/ BEC collective. The label kindly let him release this sugarcoated convection of an album this year. Sounding like Sprinkles’ current band Fair mixed with Postal Service type soundscapes, Water & Guns is a bottom to top great album of tuneful songs that prove that what makes you dance and smile can also make you think, feel and ponder.

It’s a wondrous thing when technology is incorporated into music, and somehow makes the music seem more human and emotional in the process. Aaron Sprinkle, who I fist heard back in the early 90’s, shows he knows how to write a hook-filled album that also speaks of deeper truths and rugged faith.

 

3. Over The Rhine - Meet Me at the Edge of the World 

I first saw Over The Rhine live at a small church in Philadelphia in the fall of 1996. I still have not recovered from that concert. They were touring with the Vigilantes Of Love, and that show maintains its number one status as the best show I have ever seen.

And Over The Rhine has never put out a bad album either. Meet Me at the Edge of the World is a wondrous double album that finds main songwriter Linford Detweiler singing alongside his wife more and more, and the harmonies this couple weaves in and out are worthy of Simon and Garfunkle. The album swings from folk-rock to blues to rock and roll and back again. At almost two hours of music, Over The Rhine continues to turn out rich and meaningful music well into their twentieth year.

This band is a well-kept secret that is told more and more every year.

 4. Five Iron Frenzy - Engine Of A Million Plots

I had forgotten how much Reese Roper and company made me think as I was skanking away in the mosh pits of my college years. Some of the boldest lyrics in the Christian music marketplace made Five Iron Frenzy a treasure. The band has questioned the American church’s love affair with the right wing of this country, and the glossing over of history when it comes to marginalized people. Taking on gun-culture (“lock and load, just like Jesus did!”) and the soft racism that parades itself as much of “immigration reform” (be scared of brown people, even if they are providing the services that allow you to eat that cheap cheeseburger!) Back in the day, few youth group leaders realized that their kids were listening to critiques of the military-industrial complex or America’s treatment of its Native American population. It’s possible that Five Iron Frenzy was the most subversive thing on the Christian Bookstore’s shelves.

 Five Iron has a sneaky way of making you think while you shake about. Their sound here is matured, but familiar. This is a blueprint for how to make a return, rock the body, illuminate the mind.  

5. Beautiful Eulogy - Instruments Of Mercy

I am way out of my depths discussing hip-hop. I have very little experience with the genre and I’m constantly afraid of making blundering, mildly-racist observations when the topic comes up. Being from rural Maine does not lead to much perspective here, but Instruments Of Mercy seems like so much more than just beats and rhymes. Genuine instrumentation is the order of the day, and a deep artistry of matching music to themes bursts out of the speakers. “Cello From Portland” opens up the album well (despite its painful pun) and “Vital Lens” and the title track mesh acoustic guitars and pianos to fierce and thoughtfully spit out lyrics. The ending of “Instruments Of Mercy” with its sung ending coda shifts from a hip hop number to a folky, campfire sing along with ease. The takedown of the miserable prosperity gospel that pervades television and bookshelves on “Symbols and Signs” sounds like an updated version of a Old Testament prophet standing on a hill outside Jerusalem and taking down a corrupt kind who would use Jehovah for personal gain. More power to you Beautiful Eulogy.   

 

6. Gungor - I Am Mountain 

I think I’ve hit on a theme here, because I Am Mountain might be the most subversive and thought provoking thing currently sitting on your local Christian bookstore’s music shelf.

Coming from a band who made their mark in worship music and touring with the likes of David Crowder Band, Gungor’s new album contains songs that sound like the list of following influences: Sufjan Stevens, 80’s soft rock band Toto, the auto-tuned tendencies of the last few years, the dance music of Daft Punk and the film scores of Ennio Morricone (The Good The Bad And The ugly).

But beyond the wild mix of influences, the questions asked by I Am Mountain make me glad that they took a risk and followed their consciences in making something that was not “safe” but was “true” to the Christian tradition of questioning the status quo. “God An Country”, a song that traces the history of the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels and the wars that dependence has sparked, is probably not played on the loudspeakers very often at your local Family Christian Bookstore, though maybe it should be. This album is the spiciest tamale’ currently in circulation.

7. Citizens - Citizens

 By now, most folks know what “worship music” is supposed to sound like (mid-period U2 and Coldplay, with a touch of Pink Floyd for the daring), but Citizens have come charging out of Portland, Oregon (a great city for subversive art and culture, see the show “Portlandia” for further research) with a poppy, punk-rock take on worship. The same vertical lyrics are present, but they are delivered on a bed of spiky guitars and vocals that are anthemic, inspiring and refreshing.

8. Audio Adrenaline - Kings and Queens

I wish these guys would have just gone ahead and named their band something else, because one founding member does not a band resurrection make, especially if that band’s lead singer is well known from his time in another beloved band. It’s like Sting fronting Pearl Jam and still calling the band Pearl Jam. It’s just a silly marketing tactic based on name recognition.

Having said that, the album Kings And Queens is a really tuneful slice of pop-rock that sounds great on the highway and has ten songs that sound like summer and surfing. “Believer” and “Kings And Queens” soar in that way that my ears love, and the video for the title track is heart felt and inspiring in all the right ways.

These guys got back together to raise awareness for the band’s longtime commitment to the orphans of Haiti, and that makes this a comeback that I can get behind and trumps my (mostly surface-level) objections. “Boys will be kings, girls will be queens when we love the least of these.”

Amen.

9. Plumb - Need You Now

This is another welcome comeback in a year full of them. Tiffany Arbuckle Lee has always had a knack for the dramatic, and it serves her well here on tunes like “Drifting” and the pleading and worshipful title track. The mix of industrial crunch and alternative rock set against Plumb’s wailing voice and great songwriting make Need You Now a comeback worth waiting for. Arbuckle Lee reportedly had a few tough years leading up to the release of this album, and that makes the title all that more important and resonant.

10. Fiction Family - Fiction Family Reunion

When does Jon Foreman sleep? Does he write a song every night before he goes to bed? Does he own stock in Red Bull? Is he currently sitting on twenty albums worth of material?

I hope so. His songs with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins are folkier versions of Switchfoot songs, but retain the great lyrics (“God Badge being another Old Testament style takedown of shallow religion) and fantastic melodies fans have come to love.

 

 

Top 10 Songs of 2013:

 

1. Switchfoot - “Love Alone is Worth the Fight”

This song does what I hope every new song I hear will do; inspire me to get up, get out of my comfort zone and go live this life God gave me to the fullest. There are few things worth fighting for, most of our struggles down here are for silly things; things that are passing and are honestly a waste of precious personal energy and resources. Love alone is worth the fight. If you mix soaring music with a worthy message then you have me every time. Currently, Jon Foreman and Switchfoot do this for me more than anyone else out there right now. This is a lyric I have written down, put in my pocket and hope to live out every day. Loving my neighbor as myself is a good way to “put my God badge down.” Thank you Switchfoot.

2. Jars Of Clay - “Reckless Forgiver”

Why does God forgive? Why does he show grace? It seems pretty reckless to me, like I’m only going to break his heart again. For that matter, why does my wife extend me grace, why do my daughters? It’s hard to understand, but no less real.

I need a reckless forgiver. I’m so often a mess. It really is amazing grace.

3. Jason Gray - “With Every Act Of Love”

“God put a million doors in this world for his love to walk through. One of those doors is you.” Amen.  Jason Gray’s music is consistently the best that you will hear on Christian radio.

4. Aaron Sprinkle - “Giving Up The Gun”

 …a great song of hitting bottom, surrendering and seeing that the rescue you need is closer than you realized.

5. Fiction Family - “God Badge”

 “Put your God badge down and go love someone.” Maybe I should take that fish off my car and go help someone in need.

 6. Plumb - “One Drop”

 The best use of a ukulele this year. The video inspired my daughters to buy gifts for believers in third world countries this Christmas.

 7. Five Iron Frenzy - “Zen and the Art of Xenophobia”

Here is an exercise for you: Go look up these lyrics on the internet, print them out and stare at them for a few minutes. Then consider your position on current hot topic political issues.

 8. Audio Adrenaline - “Believer”

 Kevin Max sounds fantastic here, and this tune swirls and soars and makes me want to punch the air Rocky Balboa style.

 9. Over The Rhine - “Meet Me at the Edge of the World”

 This is a song where the world-weariness seeps into every note. Life is hard, but it’s worth living well. Sometimes it helps to think of what is ahead, and the world being re-made.

 10. Beautiful Eulogy - “You Can Save Me”

 A sermon set to a great set of beats. This is where the mix of faith and hip hop shines the brightest in my opinion.

 

And that is all. It’s great to think back on all the great music that I listened to this year. Sometimes a reviewer’s work is tough, because there is much that you have to call what it is; lazy songwriting, uninspiring melodies etc. It’s refreshing to talk about the good stuff all in one spot.

Have a great 2014, and remember, love alone is worth the fight.

- Alex "Tin Can" Caldwell

 

YOUR 2013 Year-End Top Album Picks

Hey guys! Each year, the JFH staff like to choose their favorite albums of the year and post them for all to read, and we know everyone's thoughts and opinions differ, so we - once again - want to give you, the reader, the opportunity to share YOUR top 10 albums in the Christian market of 2013!

So, please feel free to post a top 10 album list of 2013 in a format similar to below. I'll post my 2013 album picks as an example...

    1. Inland, Jars of Clay
    2. The Glorious Unfolding, Steven Curtis Chapman
    3. Need You Now, Plumb
    4. Reanimated, Family Force 5
    5. Fading West EP, Switchfoot
    6. Troubled Days, Seabird
    7. Live, All Sons & Daughters
    8. Freaks, The Hawk In Paris
    9. Currents, Eisley
    10. Black and White, Tal & Acacia

Thanks for sharing! We look forward to reading your picks of 2013 -- and Merry Christmas!

~ John DiBiase

Monday, December 09, 2013

Kickstart My Heart

We are more than 50 years into this rock and roll experiment of ours. 1963 gave America its first exposure to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and before that, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly had provided a musical soundtrack to the lives of countless folks. Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" helped many get through their first heartbreak and the Fab Four's "Hold My Hand" captured that feeling of young love in three minutes of sheer youthful energy and enthusiasm.

But pop music can be a fickle friend. That same artist who spoke to you so clearly in high school or college might not have aged all that well. That band that soundtracked your last summer of freedom before the realities and responsibilities of life caught up with you might now be embarrassing to watch or listen to. I have seen a few heroes of my youth in concert recently and wondered "What are they thinking? Have they run out of ideas and energy completely?" There is nothing quite like seeing a hero in their twilight.

But some beloved artists of my youth are as good as I remember, it's just that economics and trends are not always on their side. They might have been the go-to artist for that lonely night in the dorm room in February of your freshman year of college, but it didn't quite work for them, financially speaking, to keep going, year after year.

But the economics of the music industry have almost always been tough to traverse. The normal cycle of putting out albums, touring and repeating, can be withering to family life and good habits, and many artists put in a few years before entropy catches up with them and hard choices need to be made. Ghoti Hook, a classic Tooth and Nail punk band, named their last studio album Two Years To Never to illustrate how much longer they could sustain the grind of trying to make a living while driving around the county in a van going into their 30's.

But often, no matter how successful an album or tour might be, there is always musical mortality right around the corner. The winds of taste and preference change rapidly, and that rap-metal sound you dig today might be noise tomorrow to many. (I missed the rap-rock thing almost entirely, though my little brother loved Pillar and P.O.D., so it was always sort of around me).

As a result, artists hang it up and go find gainful employment elsewhere. Many in the CCM arena go work for churches and ministries where they can be close to home. Some try their hand at other art forms like film and novel writing. Some become policemen.

But the thing is, their music is always sort of around. Their CD (or tape or vinyl album, etc) is still in circulation in some form--be it in a bargain bin, a Good Will store or your uncle's bookshelves. So, though an artists' popularity might be at a low ebb, their music is still being discovered, even if it's at a yard sale.

And so, that once popular artist, who once topped retail lists and sold concert tickets and t-shirts, find themselves at a tough crossroads. The people who once bought a concert ticket, album and t-shirt still love the artist, but the economics of the music industry (which is rapidly changing year to year) go with the younger, cheaper-to-sign artists rather  than taking a chance on a veteran artist's next album.

That's why I'm thankful for Kickstarter. This fundraiser site allows veteran artists to appeal to their fan base and raise money for projects like tours, new albums and so on.

There is an existing fan base out there to be cultivated; it's just the folks in that fan base started paying attention to new music less as their thoughts turned to having children, buying houses, dealing with grumpy bosses and other signs of growing up in these times of ours.

Take for instance this week's artist of the week, The Choir. They've made great albums since the early 80's, toured their brains out for fifteen-plus years and are still the best of friends. But the tide is against them in a traditional music market, and especially for being signed to and promoted by a label. The numbers just aren't there. But they have maintained a passionate following over the years by making fans and friends one by one and releasing good-to-fantastic (and mostly self-funded) albums every few years.

And now, they've run a super-successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album (one they can craft with time that a budget can afford) and a career spanning live album. They raised so much money that they can now buy new equipment for the road and tour a bit more than they have in recent years. It's a win-win situation all around. They brought in twice what they asked for, and got a huge dose of encouragement in the process. Those fans were still there, and happy to help out.

This model has worked out for other veteran artists, too. Five Iron Frenzy, Daniel Amos, Steve Taylor (of "I Want To Be A Clone" fame), Guardian and Andrew Peterson (he raised almost five times the funds he asked for to publish his latest book), have all run successful campaigns. There will no doubt be a slew of artists trying this model on for size in the next few months. I suspect the Lost Dogs, the 77's, Vigilantes Of Love and more will try and stir up their fan bases. The money raised has not been proven to be able to kick start a career back to its glory days yet, but it's a great way to keep making music and to hear one of your favorite artists grow alongside you. They still have songs to write and miles to go before they sleep.

So here's to the internet, and the boundless opportunities out there for veteran artists of every kind. You are not forgotten. Your CD is still on my shelf, and that t-shirt is still in my drawer.

And those lyrics? They are still written all over every notebook I own.

- Alex "Tin Can" Caldwell

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Christmas Music - Our Favorites and What's New!

It's Christmastime again! Yes, Thanksgiving is over, so for those of you who wait until the turkey is fully digested to even think about jingling bells, the time is here.

If you're like us--and especially, me--you've already dusted off some Christmas records or plopped a batch of Christmas favorites onto your mp3 device to start getting into the holiday season again. And each year, there's new Christmas music that tosses their proverbial hats into the ring in hopes to join your annual rotation of holiday favorites.

But what albums do you return to each year?

SOME STAFF FAVORITES
A couple of the JFH staff rounded up a list together of standout albums that we turn to each Christmas season from artists in the Christian music realm. Here are just a few of them:

August Burns Red - Sleddin' Hill: A Holiday Album (2012)

Jars Of Clay - Christmas Songs (2007) (and the follow-up 2011 indie EP, More Christmas Songs)

Family Force 5 - The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant (2009)

Relient K - Let It Snow Baby, Let It Reindeer (2007/2008)

Future of Forestry - Advent Christmas EPs (2008, 2010, 2013)

Rebecca St. James - Christmas (1997)

David Ian - Vintage Christmas (2011), Vintage Christmas Wonderland (2013)

Kevin Max - Holy Night (2005)

Project 86 - This Time of Year (2008), The Midnight Clear Single (2012)

Of course, many artists just do a song or two, and for me, ones that come to mind are Switchfoot's "Evergreen" and "Old Borego," Audio Adrenaline's "Little Drummer Boy," Supertones' "Joy To The World," Five Iron Frenzy's "You Gotta Get Up," NEEDTOBREATHE's "Go Tell It On The Mountain," PFR's "Wonderful Christmastime,"  Charmaine's "Angels We Have Heard On High," Seven Day Jesus' "O Holy Night, Joy Williams' (before The Civil Wars) "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Plumb's "It's Christmastime," and TobyMac's "Christmas This Year (feat. Leigh Nash)," among others.

NEW IN 2013
If you're looking for NEW music that's released this year in 2013, several projects have been released including (but not limited to):

Singles: Group 1 Crew ("Holly Jolly Christmas") [iTunes], Britt Nicole ("O Come All Ye Faithful") [iTunes], and Love & The Outcome ("Emmanuel") [iTunes].
 
Full-length Albums: Brandon Heath (Christmas Is Here), Falling Up (Silver City), Dave Barnes (A December To Remember), Sidewalk Prophets (Merry Christmas To You), and Paul Baloche (Christmas Worship), John Schlitt (The Christmas Project), among others.

EPs: Citizens, (Repeat The Sounding Joy), Meredith Andrews (Behold The Savior), for King and Country (Into The Silent Night), Future of Forestry (Advent Christmas, Vol. 3), and The Rocket Summer (Christmas Madness).

So there's really quite a bit to choose from -- what are YOU spinning this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Which Do You Prefer? EP or LP or Singles?

Let's face it; music just isn't the same as it was 20, 30, even just 10 years ago. Thanks to the digital age (err... mp3s and such, not the band), not only can we carry our music collection around in our pockets (which previously would have not only looked ridiculous -- be it CDs, vinyl, tapes, 8-tracks, etc -- but it's actually physically impossible), but we can easily go to any digital retailer (like iTunes or AmazonMP3) and literally shop for songs like you would hunt-and-peck for eats at a buffet. 

"I'll take a song or two from Skillet, maybe a single from RED, how about most of the songs off this Lecrae record, and this new Switchfoot single."

To do that before, you... would have had to buy each album entirely.

I remember buying a CD--which shall remain anonymous--years ago because of a music video I saw for a song off that album. It was a weird video but the song was quite catchy. The rest of the album though? Nothing like that single! The rest of the album was quite bizarre and eccentric (kind of like the music video itself was, but not the song in the video). In today's music world, I could have just purchased that song alone and thus saved myself money to buy other songs or a full album from another artist.

But let me ask you this -- How many times have you purchased a full album -- be it a CD, vinyl or mp3s -- because of one song and you discover "Oh my goodness! I love the whole album!!" IMAGINE if you had only bought that one song by itself and never heard those other songs?

So with people buying songs a la carte a lot these days, the music industry has had to rethink the album model. Labels want artists who can fill an album full of singles. This alone raises another question though - how many times have one of your favorite songs been one of those kinds of songs that would NEVER be played on radio as a single? Kind of scary, huh? That'd be like Jars of Clay's self-titled debut album not having a song like "Worlds Apart" on it. You can assume that pretty much your favorite ballad (or really hard song...or lyrically deep song) on any given album from a band who otherwise gets airplay would not exist.

And so, many bands and labels are looking at releasing more singles and EPs. EPs are those little 4-song (or sometimes a few songs more) samplers that, at one time, would usually accompany a full-length album. However, they've kind of just become appetizers and cheap ways to release less music it seems. [Some argue that it's less music but released more often, but it seems most artists don't adhere to that idea. I once heard, many years ago now, a record company employee say that EPs were the future; that labels would release an EP from an artist and then fans would get EPs every 6 months from that artist... Thankfully, that hasn't exactly become the norm.]

Gone seem to be the days when a band crafts an honest-to-goodness ALBUM. An album where every song works together in a seemingly common goal or theme. Instead, we have more EPs that just feel like short little bursts of new goodness that kind of tease you and leave you hanging and seldom feel complete.

So what are YOUR thoughts? Are you an "album" buyer? Do you like and prefer EP's? Or do you like your songs more a la carte? (i.e. You just pick and choose your favorite songs from album to album) Me? I do prefer a good, solid album... But what about you?

-- John DiBiase

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oh, What Great Lengths...

 

Earlier today, a famed band by the name of PFR (JFH artist page) closed the door on its much anticipated Kickstarter launch and on its triumphant return to the music industry. And the saddest thing is you have probably never heard of them. And, if they were current, you probably wouldn't listen to them. Music has changed so much over the last two decades and it's hardly debatable if it's for the worse.

So let me explain the last twenty years to you from the perspective of a huge PFR fan and what they have meant to me. In the early 90's, when I was first being introduced to "Christian music," there were several groups I was exposed to: Petra (much to my parents chagrin) and Carman. At this point in life, I was just about to embark on my high school journey. I came across PFR thanks to Cory Edwards. His show Signal Exchange introduced me to awesome bands like Audio Adrenaline, dc talk, Big Tent Revival, Hokus Pick Maneuver, Iona and Whiteheart. But out of all of them, PFR has been the one band over the last twenty years that has remained timeless.

So, from 1992-1994, this band released three studio records: their self titled debut, Goldie's Last Day and Great Lengths. Goldie's Last Day (the song and the record) had and still has some of the finest musicianship and some of the most incredible harmonies I've ever heard. I wore that album out so much over the years. Let me quick explain something about reviewing music to everyone; it gets old quick, especially if you don't enjoy what you're listening to. But to do a proper criticism, you have to immerse yourself in the music. I did that for twenty years with this album and it has never gotten old.

So skip ahead to a year later, and they released Great Lengths just after Christmas in 1994. I remember buying that at a home school convention booth in Hershey, PA after my parents decided to start home schooling my siblings. I must have walked past that booth 100 times wishing I had the money to buy it. "Wonder Why" is still one of the best songs to sing at the top of your lungs. Their next record, Them, released in 1996, was harder, darker and sadder than anything else they'd done prior. Perhaps it's from the years of perspective looking back on what was to be their final project in 1996 that makes it feel gloomy. The next year they released three new tracks on The Late Great PFR that almost make me weep when I hear them to this day.

Skip ahead four years and think of Christian music during that time. Bands are breaking up left and right. These are bands that had large influences in my life and bands that showed so much promise: Church of Rhythm, Seven Day Jesus, Reality Check, johnny Q. public all came and went. Then the compilation Roaring Lambs is announced. And what appears on the track list but a brand new song by PFR (and Steve Taylor!) and I'm so excited. "Maybe the fact they're coming out with this song, 'Kingdom Come,' means they'll make more music??" And lo and behold, the following year they returned with Disappear (on Steve Taylor's own label, Squint), and that's what they did (vanish, that is) for another three years until they released The Bookhouse Recordings. And you know what, I don't care that it was commissioned by Family Christian Stores and recorded in a couple days' time; it was great. "In the Middle" is a great song.

Skip ahead 7 years (ask Crowder if that was a coincidence) and they announce a tour to coincide with their 20-year anniversary and a StageIt.com performance. I dragged my wife to John's house to see that. After they announced their Kickstarter project this month, I was counting my money and getting ready to blow my budget. And then the band announces today on their Facebook page that they are officially over and done.

PFR totally encapsulates the notion of less is more. Joel Hanson and Patrick Andrew's vocals complement each other so well, so much so that it may compete with Michael and Kevin from dc Talk. Three guys who once said that they never took a break from each other, just music, are taking a permanent break. (And they are one of the only bands John DiBiase will sing out loud too in the car. After every show we go to together, we inevitably end up talking about PFR at some point). They are the only "spiritual" or "Christian" link that my blood brother, who claims to be an atheist, share anymore. They are the light to which all other trios are held to and they were such a blessing to me over the last two decades.

You're probably asking yourself, "why all the fanboy loving on this band?" Or you maybe you don't really care. Jordan Taylor said in one of Blimey Cow's "Messy Monday" videos that the older music is always better than the newer music, and he's so right. Music that I grew up on will always be better than the new music. Whether that is perspective speaking or is actually true is for you to decide. In 20 years, will what you listen to currently be better than what will be brand new then? I hope not. Will you still have such an appreciation for the bands that you berate and harass people over after they've come and gone (and come and go) again? Or will you forget their last record when the new one hits street? Are the bands you've grown up on making you appreciate music more? -- Whether it was or is Relient K, or a new combo of a powerhouse corporate megaband, or the small local artist who works his tail off because he loves what he does?

I don't know why PFR called it quits. I have my theories, sure, but they're just for me and close friends to ponder. All I can say is "Thank you" to Joel, Patrick and Mark for the best Merry Go Round ever.

-- Kevin Chamberlin

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stepping Up To The Microphone

1998 was probably my first real experience with witnessing the shuffling around of lead singers in a favorite band of mine. It was the time when, mysteriously, Newsboys front man John James had quietly stepped down as the lead vocalist for the Newsboys and drummer/vocalist/co-founder Peter Furler literally stepped up to the microphone. It was something that the band decided to highlight as well, even naming their first all-Peter-fronted album Step Up To The Microphone. It was a good album, too, but it was only a so-so successor to the far superior 1996 album Take Me To Your Leader.

While it was a major disappointment to be losing the eccentric presence of John James from the band's live shows, Furler was already a founding member and a frequent lead singer (You can see him singing "I Cannot Get You Out of My System" on their video from their 1992 album Not Ashamed). It wasn't as much of a shock to the proverbial system, as, say, replacing the road-weary Furler with DC Talk's Michael Tait in 2009, but fans still had to get used to percussionist Duncan Phillips moving over to drums and the absence of James' unmistakable stage presence.

While I can think of several vocalist changes in recent years, from Audio Adrenaline to Flyleaf, Further Seems Forever to Underoath, and beyond, the most recent vocalist retirement brings to mind the exact same situation that Newsboys fans faced in 1998:

Family Force 5.

On Monday of this week, the band made the shocking announcement that original vocalist, Solomon "Soul Glow Activatur" Olds, was not only stepping down, but he had already played what was his final show as lead vocalist just two days prior without a single formal announcement. During that show, the band primed their new vocalist and drummer, much to the surprise of fans who, like me, just thought it was something special for their live show (until they told us after the show that night).

 



Photo of Jacob "Crouton" Olds taking over the mic from Solomon's final live performance on Saturday at Uprise Fest. Jacob sang a new song called "Dance Like Nobody's Watching"
Photos by Jesusfreakhideout.com's John DiBiase



So, as with Newsboys, original drummer, co-founder, and occasional lead singer Jacob "Crouton" Olds has been announced as the band's new lead vocalist. Jacob has a much more unassuming presence than the wild persona of "Soul Glow Activatur," but from his performance of a brand new song on Saturday, there was evidence that it would be completely different, but nothing short of still being very much "Family Force 5."

Still, the whole change is a shock to fans. And I, admittedly, have been a fan of Family Force 5 since seeing them perform at GMA Week in Nashville in 2005 before their debut Business Up Front, Party In The Back would release almost a full year later. They have one of the most energetic and fun live shows around, but one can easily argue that with success, many changes have happened in their music and live shows that haven't always sat well with fans.

So where do they go from here?

A clean slate is obviously on the table, but it's also clear that the band doesn't want to alienate their fans. Just from the snippet of new song "Glow In The Dark" that can be heard on Solomon's exit video, or the catchy and very danceable "Dance Like Nobody's Watching" that fans will be able to hear live from now on, Family Force 5 is retaining the spirit of what it is about them that won over fans eight to nine years ago.

Fan response has already been mixed, but I don't think it'd be fair to count the guys out just yet. While I will miss Solomon's infectious and outrageous stage presence, I'm still looking forward to supporting these guys and seeing them live again very soon.

-- John DiBiase
Jesusfreakhideout.com

 



Photo from Solomon's final live performance on Saturday at Uprise Fest.
Photo by Jesusfreakhideout.com's John DiBiase

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rich Mullins Tribute

Soon after I had turned six, a tragedy occurred that I could not comprehend until I became older. It was a tragedy that robbed the world of one of the most incredible musicians that ever lived. On September 19th, 1997, a rolling Jeep ended the life of Rich Mullins. As an artist, he was incredible. As a human being, he was remarkable. As a man of faith, he was unshakable.

His was the first music I ever remember hearing, and thanks to my efforts to emulate my brother, he became my first favorite musician. His death passed my notice once it happened, but I remember being disheartened upon hearing the news (but not nearly as much as seeing Mufasa's death the first time; ah, the values of the post-toddler). Since then, Mullins and his music has been an integral part of my life, from his genre-bending "Awesome God" (the first worship song I ever learned) to his timeless words of "Sometimes By Step," from the delectably catchy "Screen Door" to the brazen beauty of "The Color Green." His is a brand of music that never gets dated, and never grows old. He's one of the best instrumentalists and songwriters of his time, and there is no doubt he would have stood even taller in our time. He made the hammered dulcimer and Irish tin whistle stand front stage in front of music fans who had their ears trained on synthesizers. He ingrained the words of the Nicene Creed in the minds of even the most historically ignorant. And, indeed, perhaps more than any artist since Larry Norman, he changed the landscape of Christian Music as we know it (maybe barring Amy Grant, whose performance of the Mullins-penned "Sing Your Praise To The Lord" gave him his big break, AND improved Grant's popularity).

But as a man, you could hardly imagine someone more fascinating. His humility was unbounded, to the point that he decided to finish his college education at the peak of his career, attending Friends University on a trombone scholarship. His charity was immense, to the point that he lived on $24,000 a year by the time of his death, giving everything else away. He lived the larger part of his last several years on an Indian Reservation in his effort to share God's love. He was a vagabond who ruffled the feathers of the Evangelical culture whenever he spoke, not caring what others thought about himself as long as he was serving God with everything he had. He was a scholar whose depth of biblical knowledge was profound, and a teacher who could mesmerize child and adult alike. And he was a wanderer who needed no more than a trailer home in New Mexico as a "permanent" residence.

Now more than ever, a man like Rich Mullins is sorely missed on the CCM scene. While the spirit of his music is captured by artists like Andrew Peterson, his creative expression and aura of magnificence that his music evoked, as well as his faultless expression of God's beauty, is significantly lacking. Even if he were still around, I don't know if he could deal with the way the music scene has changed (and mind you, not for the better). Ask yourself, what in the world would today's music industry do with a man who gave away almost everything and moved onto an Indian reservation? But I digress.

So those of you who don't know this man, take a moment. And those who do, recall his ingenuity... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhGOosxTLrY

- Mark Rice

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What To Listen To When You Are Fed Up With Music

We’ve all been there…

You turn on the radio one too many times. You hear one-too-many generic worship albums. One-too-many of your favorite artists degenerates into just another pop act. You heard one-too-many new artists that sound like Nickelback. Who knows what might set you off, but the time comes when you are just fed up. You cannot stand the direction that music is going and you decide that you need to remember what “real” music is.

So you turn off everything. You get your MP3 player or your stereo or your computer or your record player (etc.), and you put on some artist that never fails. And instantly, you forget all your frustrations with music. You remember how beautiful it can sound. You forget all that generic, sound-alike, unoriginal music that has been crammed into your ears, and are completely taken up with ethereal, emotional, pristine perfection which now graces them. Maybe they are simply your favorite artists. Maybe you have a more emotional or nostalgic connection to them. Maybe you like it for its lyrical substance, or it unfailingly points you toward Our Creator of All Things. Or maybe some artist really does create the most beautiful music you have ever heard. But whatever the case, you simply are indebted to those artists for making such incredible music.

Here are six artists (in no particular order) that I often turn to in those situations (although this list of by no means exhaustive)…

·        -Steven Curtis Chapman: I fell in love with SCC’s music at the age of nine when I discovered that he mentioned my (at the time) favorite TV show in the first verse of his song “Live Out Loud” (don’t chuckle, I’m sure your first impression of artists were just as shallow when you were nine). Eventually, I developed a more solid foundation for my fandom, which has only solidified more as years went on. Honest, heartfelt, often emotional, well-written lyrics paired with music that is both irresistibly accessible and of a sound artistic integrity. And the nostalgic value of his music puts it over the top.

·        -John Reuben: I was late to the John Reuben bandwagon, but I quickly made up for lost time when, after reading the JFH reviews on all six of his albums, I made an impulse order on Amazon of four of them despite the fact that I had never heard any song of his. At first, I didn’t know quite what to make of him with his stereotypical “white-man raps” and blend of the silly and serious, and I wondered if I had been too hasty in my purchase. But after latching onto a few of his more lyrically biting songs and slowly coming to the realization of how unique his craft was, my respect and admiration for him grew immensely. Thought-provoking, honest, innovative, and just plain fun, this is definitely one impulse purchase I don’t regret.

·        -Propaganda: Before I listened to Propaganda’s album Excellent, I was not a hip hop fan. After I listened to the album, I was. Need I say more?

·        -Adam Young: Before The Midsummer Station, there was a shy, wide-eyed, Minnesotan insomniac who played around on his computer and who, in comparision to most sugar-infested pop music out there, served up a veritable gourmet meal of delicious treats that it was hard to believe was actually healthy. Indeed, no matter which musical project Adam Young tacked (most notably his indietronica project Owl City, but also his more acoustically-based project Sky Sailing, and others), you could expect a creative explosion of dreamy charm and wit that would drive away frustrations like the plague. I just pray that Adam Young can steal his music back from being just another pop act in an ocean of pop acts.

·        -Charmaine: Who makes the best pop music in the CCM industry? I believe that if her 2010 album Love Reality is any indication, it is, without a doubt, Charmaine. Aside from having one of the most captivating voices I’ve ever heard, her brand of orchestral symphonic pop is the most excellently executed and unhinderingly appealing sounds I have ever head. In a span of 10 songs and 40 minutes, I doubt you’ll find any more perfect pop music for the music lover.

·        -Iona: For this one, I need to give a shout-out to my fellow staff reviewer “Tincan” Caldwell. Sometime last year, I was sifting through the reviews index looking for some promising music I can check out, and I saw a Mr. Caldwell’s review for Iona’s album Another Realm (rated 4.5 stars), whose genre was listed as “Irish Folk Rock.” I was intrigued and read the review to discover that it was a 95-minute double concept album, and that Iona had been making music for over twenty years. I was more intrigued. After finding a couple of their songs on Youtube, I was no longer intrigued; I was dumbfounded. Breathtaking vocals, mind-numbing guitars, wicked saxophones, ethereal flutes, swirling bagpipes, explosive drums, countless other impeccably played instruments, and beauty all around. I thought then, and still think to this day, that Iona makes the best music I have ever heard.

So who do you guys turn to when you are facing musical depression?

 --Mark Rice

Thursday, August 29, 2013

If I Were A Musician

I’m not a musician. I played bassoon in high school band and took four years of piano lessons, but that is the absolute extent of my musical career. Well, I guess I did technically write a song in 6th grade (as a school assignment). I called it “Mark’s First Symphony,” and it was a 45-second long ditty on the piano (that I was unable to play).

But that doesn’t stop me from making mental masterpieces. Every once in a while, I feel a particular moment of inspiration, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to make an album like (insert whatever my inspiration was)?” Sometimes I even wish I could climb up on top of a mountain and scream out whatever my idea was in the hopes that some talented musician with a like mind could see the genius to the idea and carry it out. But I digress…

My most recent masterpiece was inspired by CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, which I read earlier this month. Amazingly, I had managed to survive for these twenty-something years of my life without having ever read it before, but even that made me appreciate the book more. As I was reading it, the thought crossed my mind, “You know, as much as I love Heath McNease’s gorgeous CS Lewis-inspired The Weight of Glory album, he really needed MUCH more than one song dedicated to Screwtape.” Indeed, even one CD would not be enough. No, it would need to be a double-album, with one song dedicated to each of Screwtape’s 31 letters. What type of music? Well, I can’t really say. It would really depend on the tone of the specific letter. Hard rock seems the most appropriate seeing as we’re dealing with dark and serious subject matter. I’m sure metal could sneak in there somewhere, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the letters would demand a heavily electronic, hip hop/rap, or even light acoustic treatment. In any event, the music would have to be progressive. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the song titles would simply be the same as the chapter titles in the book, and possibly a short subtitle to hint at the general theme of the letter (“Letter 1: Art of Distraction,” “Letter 2: Using Christianity,” etc…). Much of the lyrics would probably be direct quotes, and such quotes would probably be presented in a spoken-word style similar to meWithoutYou, but it would also have to have sung verses too (most songs would probably be absent a chorus). There would need to be no fewer than three vocalists, I think; one male, one female, and one rough vocalist. And if Wormwood were to ever speak/sing, he would need to be a child.

This is just one of the ideas I’ve had, and not even one of the more ambitious ones. Once, I conceived of making a band with some Greek name that I can’t remember (something to the effect of “Theology,” only in Greek), which would make a trio of album trilogies, one trilogy theme around the events of the bible, one themed around the history of Christianity, and one around famous theologians (and heretics). But all that aside, I know I can’t be the only one who has ever mentally conceived an ambitious musical masterpiece with no means of making it a reality.

So let’s hear it! If you could make any musical project, what would you make?

-- Mark Rice

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Are We Supposed to Expect?

The other day, I was doing some reflecting. Specifically, I was reflecting about the album which our very own Roger Gelwicks declared was "set to frustrate, enthrall, and polarize in 2013." Even more specifically, I was reflecting on the highly combative response to this website's published thoughts on said record.

Yes, I was reflecting on Skillet's Rise.

In particular, there was one commenter that stood out among the dozens of people that voiced their... thoughts... on the record and on the two reviews. I perused all of the comments and saw that this person had asked the same question no fewer than five times in his various posts and comments, in defense of the criticisms against an album that he obviously held in a much higher esteem than the reviews did.

"What were people supposed to expect?"

That got me thinking; how much do our expectations shape what our thoughts of an album are? I could expand the question to encompass even more of the philosophical landscape of life beyond music, but for sake of simplicity and length, I'll leave it at that. Take Skillet as the prime example: to most fans, Rise was either the third or fourth (or, if they were really late to the bandwagon, only the second) Skillet album that they had heard. They knew Skillet as a modern symphonic rock band geared mostly towards difficult problems and life situations of youths and comforting them with nostalgia and encouragement, sometimes even directing their worries and fears towards God. So, of course, they would expect Rise to sound like that! And since they became fans during that era of Skillet's life, they were obviously fans of that "sound" for one reason or another, and so their excitement was directed towards a Skillet album that had generally similar themes (which Rise did). So the final result is an album that, with a little variance here and there and without doing anything too unexpected, satiated the appetites of their biggest fan base (much to the chagrin of the "original panheads" that grumbled about Skillet retreading old ground from Collide and Comatose in Awake and Rise).

But what if Skillet would have made some drastic changes? What if they felt that they wanted to stretch themselves musically and personally? What if they went against all expectations to make the piece of art that they truly felt led to make? What if they would have made a Project 86-like hard rock album instead? Or, what if they made an Anberlin-like alt-rock album? Or they went the Relient K route and made a random pop album? Or a rap album? Or metal? Or folk? That would have surely put a damper in the expectations of those fans, wouldn't it? Especially if their voyage into new territory resulted in floundering. Would any fans buy that album? Would they even still be a fan? Well, many might, but I think most would feel like they had been "betrayed" and leave the bandwagon.

But here is the kicker: what if Skillet had made drastic changes and the resulting album was simply phenomenal? Profound lyrics (if there were any at all). Completely original. Impeccable musicianship. A complete masterpiece in every respect, and far superior to anything they had ever done before. But would the fan reaction be any different?

Of course not.

Maybe some critics would recognize that album for what it is, but the critics have their expectations too. They can feel betrayed too. Same with record labels and others in the music business. The fans and critics and businessmen that recognize the brilliance of the album will stay. The rest will probably move on to things that are more... profitable... in some way, shape, or form. It doesn't matter in the end what the final product is if expectations are not met. In the music business, it is dangerous not to meet them, and can even mean financial suicide. It is the reason why people like Adam Young can take his dazzling project Owl City and turn it into just another pop act. Or why artists like Sanctus Real and Hawk Nelson are now inevitably pigeonholed into one melting pot of contemporary sound. Or even, conversely, why so many more artists nowadays are leaving record labels and record deals and going independent.

So what do we expect bands like Skillet to do?

Make an album that the fans are satisfied with. That is the bottom line. In many cases, particularly with a band as popular as Skillet, it is even the only line. The fact is that so much of music criticism nowadays is simply judging how well a band or album or song met, exceeded, or failed to live up to expectations. I'm guilty of it, and I doubt there is even one person on the JFH staff that also isn't at one time or another.

But it ought not to be this way. The fans don't own the music. Record labels don't make the music. The artists are fully accountable for what they make. There is a reason musicians are called "artists" in the first place; they make art. Art does not include expectations. Expectations are what originally caused Stryper to lose popularity and break up. Art does not include money. Rich Mullins' worldly possessions after he died fit into 80 cubic feet. Good art has a value far beyond money or expectations. Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Mozart died penniless and was buried in an unmarked mass grave. Larry Norman didn't even have an audience for his music!

At JFH, we try to make it our sole expectation of the artists we review to make great art with creative integrity. We therefore judge and critique music in that light. We believe that by making great art for God, the artists are giving greater glory to God than by simply making something that is merely marketed to glorify God. Yes, these artists are making their living through music. Yes, the songs can potentially be ministry tools, or help someone personally get closer to God. We don't judge that. We can't judge that. If we expect anything else from the artists we review, we will not be fair to the artistic integrity of either that particular artist or other artists.

So what do we expect Skillet to do? Or Relient K? Or Casting Crowns? Or Chris Tomlin? Or For Today? Or (insert your favorite artist name here)? We expect them to make great art with creative integrity, whatever that may look like for that particular artist. And if we don't think they did, it will be adequately reflected as such.

-- Mark Rice, Jesusfreakhideout.com Writer

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

John's (and YOUR) Most Anticipated 2013 Releases

We recently released the staff's 15 most anticipated music releases from July till the end of the year, and it got me thinking about my own anticipated list for the entirety of 2013 and YOURS as well.

Because it's tough to predict what will come out later in the year, last year we split the "Highlighting" yearly feature into 2 parts -- the first half of the year and the second half. But it's still tough to tell what will come out in which month because releases are always shifting, being delayed, etc.

I decided to personally compile a list of 15 of this year's releases in order from most anticipated (No. 1) on down to the least--but still anticipated, mind you (No. 15). I know many of these are out already, so I went back to the lists I compiled earlier this year when we were voting for the feature -- and before hearing most of them -- and did a quick adjusting of my level of anticipation (meaning: I had two separate lists, so I combined them).

This list does NOT reflect what I thought of how the end product turned out, but it ultimately reflects how much I was/am still looking forward to each release this year.

Please feel free to join in and post YOUR 15 in order in the comments below! :)

#01 = most anticipated

01. Jars of Clay - Inland
02. Switchfoot - Fading West
03. Needtobreathe - untitled
04. Steven Curtis Chapman - The Glorious Unfolding
05. Seabird - Troubled Days
06. Five Iron Frenzy - untitled
07. Guardian - Almost Home
08. Plumb - Need You Now
09. Tal & Acacia - Black & White
10. Eisley - Currents
11. The Fold - Moving Past
12. Audio Adrenaline - Kings and Queens
13. Skillet - Rise
14. Relient K - Collapsible Lung
15. Fiction Family - Family Reunion
 

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Sorry, But Your New Album Just Isn't Enough

Every true music fan can probably relate to the feeling of anticipation when there's new music from your favorite band on the horizon. There was once a time when we absolutely had to wait until a specific date for the new music to hit stores in the form of a tape or CD (and for others, vinyl, 8 track, etc). Some of us even had to hunt down a copy – travel from store to store to track down that exciting new album. Then we either listened to it for the first time on the drive home, or had to wait till we were back at home or at a friend’s house to free the album from its shrink-wrapped bonds and finally get to enjoy the sweet (and sometimes not-so-sweet) new sounds. Today, we can wait till midnight and download the album’s music at our computers or onto our phones and portable listening devices, or – for the less honest of you – download it illegally from some unauthorized, unapproved source who has leaked it, and get to listen to it even sooner (But that’s not what this blog is about).

What do we do once we’ve spun the album several times and listen to it for a few days (or weeks or months)? We wonder what’s next. When will the new album be out? How about an EP? A live album? A remix album? A Christmas album? An acoustic album? A covers album? A worship album? A worship covers album? A live worship album? A b-sides album? Cool. What next? A follow-up to that last album that was awesome/OK/had a couple good songs/disappointing/too short/too long/impossible to find/a really expensive drink coaster?

I can imagine that the question about a new album for an artist is much like that those that a young couple might get after they get together. Soon, a person sporting a goofy grin inquires, “Soooo… when you two crazy kids getting’ married?” And then, on their wedding day they ask, “Soooo… when can we expect a little one running around?” And not a few seconds after said little one pops out and takes its first breath, the same creepy person Tweets you, “Soooo… when can we expect number two??”

I think it all boils down to— music fans are never satisfied. Till the day the artist is planted six feet under, there will be at least one person on God’s green earth expecting new music from that artist. As an aging music fan myself, I often will revisit some of my favorite Christian music releases in the 90s with very fond memories and listen to them because, well, I love them. And to me, they sound good. I could care less if there’s some kind of ‘cool’ factor I’m desecrating by indulging in what, to me, are some of the most enjoyable things my ears have heard. Who cares what other people think you should listen to. Listen to what you like. The end. But, alas, I digress…

Back to the topic: So, my thoughts often drift to… “I wonder what ____ is up to these days?” “Wouldn’t it be great if _____ [got back together and] put out a new album?” And the funniest thing is, if and when said artist does put out new music, we fans are excited and just have to wonder (and often wonder aloud) “So what’s next?” That has to be frustrating for the artist. I mean, this isn’t limited to just music either. Yesterday, Iron Man 3 hit theaters and everyone’s asking about Iron Man 4 or Avengers 2. And as a movie fan as well, I have to admit I’ve had the same thoughts. But I actually can relate, on some level, to the artist and what they must feel when fans are just plain insatiable. JFH has put out 2 free compilations now and it hasn’t been long after each before people ask about the next volume. And, as a site, we’re frequently asked about what’s new that we’re doing. What’s next? And, beyond JFH and music, I could work on a new drawing of something and show it to people and a lot of people have their ideas of what I should do next (sometimes a list! Ha).

So what point am I trying to make? I guess this is just something I’ve been thinking about recently after listening to some of my favorite music and wondering when we might have new material from them soon (or if ever). I suppose I just want us, collectively as music fans and listeners to be mindful of this demanding nature and to perhaps even count what we DO have as blessings and truly enjoy it, because, at the end of the day, we might be all too focused on what’s next; how about we be grateful for what we’ve been given before and presently! I know it’s something I can work better on myself.

Friday, January 11, 2013

AutoRip -- YES! Thank you, Amazon!

In completely coincidental fashion, I just blogged recently about my struggles with being a "music collector" and one problem I've had in recent years--with everything moving the way of the exclusively digital--is that I often miss having the CD and artwork when I buy an album on iTunes or some similar digital music outlet. In fact, I often will want to buy a CD but wish I could have the music immediately like you can with a purchase via iTunes or AmazonMP3. Thanks to digital retailers, we don't have to wait in line at a music store or try to hunt down a CD the day it comes out. Now we can just purchase and download it at midnight on release day! All is right with the world.

I love how some indie artists will allow you to order a CD or vinyl album from their website and then email you the album digitally right away too. That, my friends, is the way to do it. Heck -- I've seen some artists send full digital albums weeks in advance if you just simply preorder it (This method threatens albums to be "leaked" by insensitive and irresponsible music listeners--ruining it for the artist and the fans alike--but I digress...)

Just today I was perusing Amazon.com, like I tend to daily--I'm kind of addicted to their store, sales, and selections (I admit it. haha)--but, in all honesty, I was grabbing a link for our reader review page of Sanctus Real's Pieces Of Our Past: The Sanctus Real Anthology when I saw this interesting little graphic:

Uhhh... AutoRip? Could that be what I think it is? Sure enough -- and I swear I'm writing this as nothing more than an elated fan and don't mean to sound like a commercial -- AutoRip is just what it sounds like. If you buy select CD's (like, actual physical compact discs) that display that "AutoRip" logo on the page, they'll give you the mp3 download IMMEDIATELY... for FREE! According to the instructional video on their website, if you've bought any music on Amazon since 1998 that is eligible for this program, they're including it in your Amazon Cloud player too.

Again, I can't help but geek out about this. I've always wished you could just instantly get a digital copy of your music when you order the physical disc online and I'm stoked to see a big online retailer like Amazon.com has debuted this option.

Now... if we could only just get free Kindle books with a paperback purchase (...hey! how about applying that "any purchase since 1998" gig to books too!) and maybe even digital movies (OK, I'm getting greedy here)... ;)

Does this AutoRip feature excite anyone else?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Music Collector Role Call

I was organizing some CD's on my shelf this afternoon, making room for new stuff, and a thought came to mind... It's awfully hard to NOT be a music collector sometimes. It's no secret that we get sent a lot of our music for review purposes, and these days it's almost always a stream or mp3s and not physical CD's, but I come from a generation where we bought our music in a physical form of some kind -- we got artwork on a disc and cover artwork, lyrics to pour over, etc. So even now, even if I have the music already in digital form, I often like to still collect the CD's and even vinyls from my favorite artists. This requires the "music collector" to buy music once, twice, sometimes more to "collect" everything available. (Like those artists with special editions exclusive to different retailers? That's just MEAN to the collector!)

I'll find myself at the merch table of a favorite artist or on their website, staring at that "limited edition EP" or "limited edition vinyl" release that contains music I already own and something nags inside:

"You gotta get this. You gotta get it now or never."

The rational mind shoots back, "But I have this already. Is there a better way to spend this $10.00?"

You find yourself looking up at the t-shirts at the merch table -- there's something you don't already have. But your music collector instinct pushes your gaze downward towards that special EP that's not available anywhere but at this artist's live show.

"I don't even really like that song," you tell yourself.

"But it's a collector's item! If you don't get it now, it'll be $75.00 on eBay in a couple months."

"...or 75 cents."

"FOCUS!"

I realize this is an exaggerated (even silly) example, but I know there are others like me out there -- others who don't need that dang physical EP CD or limited edition vinyl but for some reason have GOT to have it.

Let me hear you, music collectors! Any other fans out there who can relate?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

YOUR 2012 Year-End Top Album Picks

Hey guys! Each year, the JFH staff like to choose their favorite albums of the year and post them for all to read, and we know everyone's thoughts and opinions differ, so we - once again - want to give you, the reader, the opportunity to share YOUR top 10 albums in the Christian market of 2012!

So, please feel free to post a top 10 album list of 2012 in a format similar to below. I'll post my 2012 album picks as an example...

  1. Wait for the Siren, Project 86
  2. The Peace of Wild Things, Paper Route
  3. Vital, Anberlin
  4. Cold Hard Want, House of Heroes
  5. O God Save Us All, Disciple
  6. New Horizons, Flyleaf
  7. Lost in Transition, Sixpence None the Richer
  8. The Quiet Life, Anchor & Braille
  9. Resuscitate, Remedy Drive
  10. The End Is Where We Begin, Thousand Foot Krutch

Thanks for sharing! We look forward to reading your picks of 2012 -- and happy new year!

~ John DiBiase

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Favorite Christmas Memories Involving Christian Music

I'm going to go out on a limb here with a blog post that's a little random and probably out of left field.

I love Christmas -- there's the timely, relevant part. My mind is wired to start feeling like a kid again around the holidays. Christmas music triggers all kinds of memories -- a single song segment can transport me to a young age when G.I. Joe figures were the treasures masked by festive paper that just needed to be shredded by anxious fingers. And just as memory-jogging are distinct smells -- like that of pine or cookies baking in the oven and the cold December night air. I love it all. Call me Mr. Sentimental and it wouldn't be far from the truth.

Believe it or not, with JFH approaching its 17th year in existence in 2013, there was a time -- wait for it -- when I wasn't running JFH. There was actually a time when I was just your average kid who loved Christian music and would get Christian music CD's for Christmas and birthday gifts. This was an age before the dawn of JFH and before we started receiving free review copies of most of the major releases (and then some). There's something special about buying your own music or being gifted a most anticipated album for Christmas.

And that is where this blog is coming from.

I have a couple of fun Christmas memories involving "CCM" (Contemporary Christian Music, as it were) gifts, and my absolute favorite memory was in 1994. I knew very well that the "newest" CD from a pop rock band called PFR was about to release, but it wasn't hitting stores until December 27 -- otherwise known as two days AFTER Christmas. So, you can imagine my--and my older brother's--surprise when we unwrapped a copy of PFR's Great Lengths ON Christmas morning! This was a time when I was young and naive enough not to know that music was even remotely obtainable outside of the exact "release date." That, and I never knew -- until a few years later -- that there were even things such as "pre-releases" (go figure!). But with elated faces frozen in amazement, we asked our parents how they could have worked this kind of magic to get an album several days early. It turned out that our local Christian bookstore had put out a couple copies of PFR's Great Lengths on their shelves early -- and my parents just happened to be there when they had a couple copies out. It was a Christmas miracle in our eyes.

So, with that little trip down memory lane, I want to know -- Do you have a favorite Christian music-related Christmas memory? Did you get anything special from someone that involved a favorite artist or album? I'd love to hear it!

...and Merry Christmas! :)

~ John DiBiase

Friday, December 07, 2012

When A Music Video Makes You A Fan

There are many different ways fans of an artist can discover the artists they become fans of. When I was a teen, music video shows -- like Signal Exchange and CCMtv -- were big parts of my after school television viewing and I would be subject to music videos of new artists and styles I wouldn't typically listen to. While YouTube seems to be the main source for music video watching today, there seems to be less of a need for music video shows and more accessibility to the videos themselves.

When I was younger, videos like "Big House" by Audio Adrenaline, "Crawl" by The Walter Eugenes (ha, it was two guys chasing each other around in public mixed with professional wrestling footage. it was hard not to like), and Switchfoot's silly "Chem 6A" that won me over (Note: I was going to include this animated pic I once found online from the Switchfoot video but it's a bit too repetitive and distracting to include here. So check it out here. :) ). I believe it was even dc Talk's "Jesus Is Just Alright" and/or "The Hardway" videos that inspired me to check them out. Typically, it's a band's live show that grabs my attention -- or, nowadays, just giving an album a serious listen -- but music videos, especially in my pre-JesusFreakHideout days, were once a chief source of finding new music.

So, now that I've dated myself painfully, my question to you - the reader of all ages:

What music videos, if any, have caused you to actually like an artist that you previously may not have?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Ten of Michael Weaver's Top Favorite Songs of All Time

After reading John’s list of Top 10 songs, I was inspired.  I was inspired by his openness and felt like I had gained a new and better understanding of him.  This caused me to look back over the songs that have really spoken to me.  I couldn’t do an injustice to what John had started and pick out rocking tunes I really love.  I had to dig deeper and look for some tracks that really spoke to me for different reasons.  Strangely enough, the list came together pretty quick.  It’s fitting to me that nine out of ten of these songs are from the 90s.  I love each of these songs for different reasons and I hold them near to my heart.  I’m not trying to copy John, but I’m hoping to expand off of what he started.  I see this as a way for you the readers to get to know us, the staff, in a little more personal way than just as music critics.  It gives a different perspective on what our musical tastes are and shows where we’ve come from and where we are.  It was hard to leave a few songs off, but these songs certainly speak to me more than any others.

1.    Tomorrow's Another Day - MxPx
This is my all-time favorite song by my all-time favorite band.  Hands down; not even close.  It was from their album, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, where they were a little more open about their faith.  The lyrics in this song have stuck out to me since the first time I've heard them and they resonate still today: "Just know this that God is faithful even if you don't have faith yourself.  There's nothing quite like being sure of what's inside your heart…"  It a great statement of God's love for us despite our actions and the peace that He will bring us in knowing He is our Savior.

2.    What if I Stumble - dcTalk
The first CD I ever owned as a teenager was dcTalk's Jesus Freak.  The album literally changed my life.  I was already a Christian, but it gave me such a different perspective on life and more specifically, music.  I credit this album to my current love (borderline obsession) of music today.  With an album full of classics this song stands out to me from the opening line, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle…"  The song speaks to me personally as a Christian who has indeed stumbled and fallen flat on my face.  I've embarrassed God and embarrassed myself so many times.  This song has always served as a reminder of my shortcomings, God's love, and an inspiration to grow my walk and try to reach others by both my words and my lifestyle.  This is definitely a life song for me.

3.    Rest Easy - Audio Adrenaline
I don't think any Christian music fan in the 90's can make a Top 10 list and not include an Audio Adrenaline song.  "Rest Easy" is probably my favorite Audio A song and definitely speaks to me on a personal level more than any other.  I tend to be a worrier and, at times, I let fear eat me up inside.  In the verses Mark tells of his faults, which feel like they came out of my life (especially now) and in the chorus he gives God's response.  I talk a big game in person, but the bridge really sums me up: "I am not a bold man even though I want to be.  I am just a dreamer with a timid history.  I'm scared of confrontation; I fume all through the night.  The world has its hold on me and I just want to fly."  I thank God that He will take my burden and in return give me His grace.

4.    Much Afraid - Jars of Clay
Can you sense a pattern?  Not just that I was, and am still, a fan of the "big 3", but that this is the second song circling around fear.  On top of being one of my favorite songs from that album musically, again lyrically it felt like Dan wrote the song for me.  Obviously he didn't, but when he sings, "…Of all of these things I'm so much afraid.  Scared out of my mind by the demons I've made.  Sweet, Jesus, You'll never let me…  Let me go."  It seems the screw ups and mistakes you make in life manage to stick in your head even though God has forgotten them after you've asked forgiveness.  I guess it's human nature to fear further failure, or that the demons of your past will come back to haunt you, but that's still not a comforting notion.  The only comfort I find with this fear I seem to share with Dan is that Jesus will always be there and won't let go.

5.    After the World - Disciple
After looking at my first few songs, this one may not seem to fit in.  "Scars Remain" came out in November 2006; my daughter was born in June of 2007.  I never really paid much attention to the song other than it being a "nice acoustic song" when I first got the record.  I was still listening to it quite a bit as my daughter's birth approached and then this song finally stuck out to me.  It is written as a love song from our Heavenly Father to us, but I couldn't help but draw similarity to the feelings I was already having for my daughter.  "I'm the one that you've been looking for.  I'm the one that you've been waiting for.  I've had my eyes on you ever since you were born.  I will love you after the rain falls down, I will love you after the sun goes out.  I'll have my eyes on you after the world is no more."  This song reminds me of my loving God and my daughter who I love more than I could have imagined.  This song makes me cry to this day.

6.    King of the Hill - Eli (often stylized "eLi")
Not many folks I've run across really know who Eli is or about any of his songs.  If you don't know Eli, you need to stop reading this and listen to this song now.  It's so powerful and really gives you a picture of everything Christ gave up by dying on the cross.  The lyrics start with an angry mob demanding the crucifixion of Jesus and take the viewpoint of our Messiah.  The first two verses are a great reminder of the crucifixion, but the third verse gives you a perspective that so many ignore.  "Well I could've had servants and I could've ruled this world as their king.  And I could've had wealth beyond measure.  I could've had anything, but it wouldn't have meant anything."  These seem to be the final thoughts of Christ before he cried out to God before his death.  The human side of Jesus had to have this temptation present, but instead of calling out to his Father to save him, or stepping right off the cross on his own, he willingly gave up his life.  This song is another tear jerker for me and I still hold it near to my heart.

7.    Strength - Seven Day Jesus
Seven Day Jesus' The Hunger…  What a great album!  "Strength" stood out for me on this album from the first listen and is still my favorite song.  Although the song is entitled "Strength", it too deals with fearful behavior.  "In my eyes I see a blur of things that others see so clearly.  In my strength I run away from things that cause me heart to fear.  Back and forth and back again to the place where I began.  Maybe I'm making this much harder than it is."  In the lyrics, he mocks his "strength" and says it's what causes him to run.  I've found this to be all too true in my life.  The minute I think I'm strong enough to handle things on my own is the minute I fail.  The strength of God is the only thing that can hold us up and I definitely make thing much harder than they need to be every time I try to pick them up again on my own.

8.    Found Someone - Shaded Red
Looking at these songs after I selected them tells me something about myself.  Wow...  This song, from a band whose time was much too short, continues the theme.  The verse starts, "Didn't I swear I'd be there?  Didn't I make you this promise to hold you tight forever and ever?", and continues, "Yet I fell apart and my world crashed down.  I was sinkin' fast 'till I felt true love."  Again I find myself relating so much to a song of human failure with a loving God holding true to his promise to be there.  The lyrics speak further of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, but the final line in the chorus sum on the solution: "It's Your love that makes it right."

9.    Grace My Life - Grover Levy
This is another gentleman that no one seems to know and it's so unfortunate.  The verses of this song are in a similar fashion to some of the previous.  Human failure…  Levy starts, "I must confess the obvious seldom occurs to me.  I make a mess then I'm the first to deny and the last to see", but the chorus is so hopeful to me.  "I have a hope that's everlasting; I have a peace of mind.  Lord, I am loving how Your love becomes me.  Amazed at how Your grace me life."  Despite the mess I make, God is there to love me, but even more so than that his love becomes me.  If we allow Him to, God will grace our life in such a way where His love shines through us.  This is a type of honest worship song to me.  It doesn't shy away from admitting failure, but quickly points to Christ as the answer.  I've loved this song for years.

10.   Goodbye - Plankeye
Finally a change of pace!  This is Plankeye after Scott Siletta, but it is good nonetheless.  I remember watching this video (which featured Eric Balmer and Luis Garcia in a hospital elevator - possibly as angels - as people come in and out dealing with death) as a teenager and thinking it was pretty neat.  I actually bought the album because of this song and video.  I liked the album, but it didn't take long for it to end up deep in my collection to be forgotten.  My grandfather who I was very close with died in 2008. My grandmother, his wife, died three years later.  For some reason I grabbed Relocation out the pile a few days after my grandmother's passing.  I wasn't thinking about this song, but something had sparked my interest in Plankeye again.  When this song started playing, the lyrics hit my like a ton of bricks.  The second verse and chorus especially did as they say, "Now all that's left are pictures on the walls.  Memories and stories that are told; the more often told the bigger they get.  Create a legacy lest we forget. - Goodbye, goodbye.  Walk away it's time to say goodbye, goodbye.  Walk away it's hard to say goodbye."  This is a difficult song to listen to with the newer added meaning over the past few years, but the lyrics in the bridge bring the hope I need when I'm missing my loved ones, "Halfway there but He always fills my cup and He lifts me up; oh how He lifts me up."

-- Michael Weaver

Friday, October 05, 2012

Ten of John DiBiase's Top Favorite Songs of All Time

About a year or so--maybe even longer now--the JFH staff talked about compiling our top, favorite songs in Christian music of all-time. They'd be songs each staff member had chosen on a personal level, and we'd comment on why we chose those songs. Recently, and I forget exactly what brought this to mind, but I began thinking about which songs still resonate with me over others and which songs just really hit home...which songs never stop connecting with me on some level. I've decided to reflect on some of those here, in a more unofficial way than we'd originally envisioned it. Again, these are songs that are personal TO ME in some form. I'm not saying they're the best songs ever written or that you'll ever hear, but something about these songs just still mean a lot to me. If you want to listen to these songs (except for one that Spotify wouldn't list), check them out in a Spotify playlist here!

1. "Tremble" by Audio Adrenaline... I'm a big critic when it comes to worship music. I'm not proud of this, and I do want everyone to understand that. It's difficult for me to connect with a lot of the bigger worship songs that have been crafted for youth rallies and mega churches. I tend to connect with God on a more intimate level with the more intimate, personal songs. Audio Adrenaline's "Tremble" may be my all-time favorite song. It's so much so that I tend not to listen to it much for fear of wearing it out and it maybe losing some of the weight it carries for me. With Mark Stuart's soft vocals and the almost-trembling in his voice, there's this sense of reverence... musically, it also captures this and it's one of the few songs that just really drags me to my knees if my heart's in the right place when I hear it. It's not a song you can just have on as background music and expect to really "get." It's one of those best heard via headphones/earbuds in a dark room or walking down an empty street at night. It's you and God. And I love that about it. (read the lyrics)

2. "I Love The Rain" by Rock N Roll Worship Circus/The Listening... This is another song that is way up high on the list. It's got a personal worship feel from the opening words "Have you ever loved someone so much..." and a guitar solo that sends chills up and down my spine almost every time I hear it. And did I mention it's amazing live? The imagery of rain being tears falling from our Father's face out of His love for us is really powerful to me. I just plain LOVE this song. (read the lyrics)

3. "A Million Parachutes" by Sixpence None The Richer... This, among others you'll see listed here, plays to the sentimentality in me that I've found inescapable throughout the years. It's a melancholy song about solitude and missing friends on a lonely snowy evening. Leigh Nash's soft vocals evoke all the right emotions while the piano melody hits all the right notes; it's truly beautiful. (read the lyrics)

4. "Privately" by Between Thieves... This my friends, about sums up an introverted heart. If you're an introvert and know what it means to feel alone in a crowd, this song describes exactly what that feels like. If you're lost and brokenhearted, "Privately" seems to just say all the things you're feeling but don't necessarily know how to say. And to those who don't quite understand us crazy introverts, this is a good song to listen to to try to understand us. Just check out the first verse alone, "Privately, behind dull eyes a soul cries out in pain / Quietly, behind the smile, the tears will fall like rain / Alone is not a number, but a state of mind / Surrounded by my friends, sometimes I'm hard to find." (read the lyrics)

(Totally random, but as I made up a playlist of these songs in Spotify, my top 4 clocked in at 27 minutes. Coincidentally, my birthday is 4/27. I guess my top 4 really ARE my top 4...)

5. "Too Far" by Bernard... If you're noticing a trend here, you're right. This piano anthem is a powerful one to me. It serves as an anthem for those times in life when we just don't know what in the world God's doing and we kind of wish He'd spell it out for us. "Please turn back time / Please, God..." says it all for those moments I wish I could redo or relive. Ultimately, Jesus redeems those times, but sometimes a song helps provide a voice to help us cope with the feelings. (Get with it, Spotify, and add these guys!)

6. "Work" by Jars of Clay... When my wife and I got married in 2003, I was leaving my family and living with someone else for the first time in my life. That isn't a bad thing, but her profession as a nurse found her working on nighshift at a local hospital. To make that worse, she did this for almost the entire first three years of our marriage. This gave me several nights out of the week of living completely alone that I never ever had before. "Work" by Jars has a chorus that asks, "Do you know what I mean when I say 'I don't want to be alone?'" It's a song that was born out of loneliness for the band and it's one that I was definitely feeling when they released it in 2006. It's still one of my favorite songs by them, or anyone, and it's just yet another song that gives a voice to those frustrating and stifling feelings of loneliness. And like Between Thieves' "Privately" says, sometimes we can feel alone in a crowded room, and this song speaks volumes. (read the lyrics)

7. "Glory" by Audio Adrenaline... This echoes my thoughts as stated above with "Tremble." But "Glory" IS more of a corporate worship song, the only difference is it rocks and it has not been adopted widely by churches. I think that's unfortunate, actually, because--to me--it represents what Heaven will be like when we're all together singing Glory to the King. I just love this song. "And I can’t find the words to say / Life gets in the way / Lord You know my heart’s desire / To sing glory." It's honest, it's real. It's longing to sing Glory! (read the lyrics)

8. "The Forces Of Radio Have Dropped A Viper Into The Rhythm Section" by Project 86... And now for something completely different. I tend to look back on parts of my life a lot -- especially in those quite moments. Part of me remembers crummy times with rose-colored glasses and wishes to relive some of those times. That would not be cool. Aside from the fact that this song has one of the craziest drumming I've heard, and I just love it for that, I had the pleasure of asking frontman Andrew Schwab about the meaning of the interesting lyrics once. He explained that he likened the unreliable technology of the VHS tape to things we look back on with fonder memories than they really were. Heck, the song even says "Don't you feel like a trip back to '96." I was a sophomore in high school then and had some profoundly affecting friendships at the time...not to mention I started Jesus freak Hideout that summer...and this song just gave me this angry voice for how I feel about erroneously looking back on those times fondly (although starting JFH IS a good thing, other things around that time weren't all that great). And it's just a killer song! (read the lyrics)

9. "Lost The Plot" by Newsboys... Say what you will about pop or pop/rock bands for the youth group crowds, but these bands knew how to write GOOD songs, man. "Lost The Plot," from Newsboys' 1996 album "Take Me To Your Leader" is a gem. It's this slowly building, moody rocker about Jesus' return and the complacency that dogs many Christians. "When you come back again, would you bring me something from the fridge? Heard a rumor you that the end is near. But I just got comfortable here." (It's back when Newsboys wrote their own songs, too. Peter Furler and the genius of Steve Taylor were a crazy good match) It's an edgy song and an embarassing reminder of how comfortable we can get here and how lazy we can be. "Are you still listenin', 'Cause we're obviously not. We've forgotten our first love. We have lost the plot." For some of us -- even if it's just for a short time -- it's true, and it hurts. But it's great reminder to be careful not to get too comfortable here. (read the lyrics)

10. "Worlds Apart" by Jars of Clay... This song has been a powerful one to me since I first heard it around the age of fifteen in 1995 (Please don't do the math. Thank you). As a pretty young Christian at the time, it was a wonderful voice for those times I felt like I fell short. And while I may feel like I fall even shorter now than I did then, it was somewhat comforting to hear a voice speak words I was feeling to remind me I wasn't alone. And, on top of that, there was vocalist Dan Haseltine's ad-lib at the end that summed it all up for me too... I get a bit emotional just reading them even now. (read the full song lyrics)

"I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now
I owe you more each passing hour
The battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin-soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
And serve the ones that I despise
Speak the words i can't deny
Watch the world i used to love
Fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
So wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
So steal my heart and take the pain
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things i cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
Take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
Take my world apart
"

Obviously I have more than 10 top songs, and I can't say for sure if this is my actual, concrete top 10, so what I'll do is stop here for now and post another ten sometime soon. Take the order here with a grain of salt, but the impact of those with so much more. Thanks for reading!

~ John

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big Daddy Weave 'Redeemed' Devotional

Hey friends, please check out the following exclusive guest devotional from Big Daddy Weave about their hit song, "Redeemed!" -- John (JFH)

Luke 10:27 - He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” New International Version (NIV)

In this verse, Jesus condenses all of the commandments.  Love the Lord your God with everything you are.  I've always tried my best, and I always just assumed that loving my neighbor as myself meant that I was supposed to treat others well.  I always breezed over and never really paid much attention to the loving myself part.  In fact, I can't remember hearing anything about that from the pulpit growing up in church either.  I heard plenty about how much God loved me but never anything about how I was supposed to see myself.  I've struggled for so many years of my life with personal acceptance and self worth.  At a really low point in that battle about two years ago, the Lord began to set some things straight.  As I cried out to Him, He interrupted my pity party by impressing on my heart, "Why don't you let me tell you what I think about you for a change?"  He began to flood my heart and mind with things that He, the King of the universe, likes about me!  The Lord redefined humility for me that day.  I'd always thought being humble was this self-depreciating thing.  I now know that humility is simply agreeing with what ever God says about anything.  And for those of us who are His children, He says we are redeemed by His blood alone.  So who are we to argue with the God of everything?  If I'm going to love God with all my heart and love other people the way He wants me too, I have to also love and accept myself the way that He does. ~ Mike Weaver, Big Daddy Weave

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Christian Music Dream Teams!



Left to right: Kevin Max, Dave Ghazarian, Jared Byers, Will McGinniss, Jason Walker

 

Well, the cat's out of the bag! We had been keeping the lid on the recent leaked Audio Adrenaline news at the request of the band, but apparently not everyone around the web got that memo. So with the news out that dc Talk's Kevin Max is taking over lead vocal duties for Audio Adrenaline (who disbanded in 2007 and are reuniting this year... sort of), something interesting comes to mind...

See, only one member of Audio Adrenaline is returning: bass player Will McGinniss. Joining Will is Kevin Max (dc Talk), Jared Byers (Bleach), Dave Ghazarian (Superchick, Church of Rhythm) and Jason Walker (Know Hope Collective).

So with the 'new' AudioA being an amalgam of previous popular bands in the Christian music circle, an interesting question can be posed:

Who is YOUR Christian Music Dream Team??  Dream away in the comment field below, friends!

--John DiBiase

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Words and Worlds Tour in Central Florida May 30

Hey, central Floridians, listen up!  You may have noticed the banner running across the top of the JFH site talking about the show we are sponsoring.  The Words and Worlds Tour, featuring Sent By Ravens and Nine Lashes (two of Tooth and Nail’s hottest bands right now), are coming to the Sumter County Fair Grounds.  Where are the Sumter County Fair Grounds you may ask?  They are actually pretty conveniently located about 45 minutes to an hour outside of both Orlando and Tampa (depending where you live in the area) and only about 15 minutes away from the Florida Turnpike and I-75.  If you live in Ocala, Gainesville, Clermont, Lakeland or Zephyrhills, we are even closer!  The show will be held indoors in their brand new 1,000 person auditorium.  The bands promise that this will be a production and light show that you will not want to miss.  This is going to be an amazing show featuring two of today’s biggest up-and-comers, along with three other acts that are worth your attention; The Protest, Pure Star Movement, and Cory Lamb Failed Escape all have their own following and each promise to put on a great show as well.

You can’t beat five bands for the low price of just $10 for an advance ticket (general admission only).  The price will be $15 at the door, but you can expect to pay $20 or more for a concert like this in a lot of venues.  The best part of the price is that parking is included!  That’s right, free parking.  Help support Jesus freak Hideout and our local churches by coming to see this tour on its only central Florida stop; you’re not going to want to miss out on your chance to see these bands rock the house.

May 30th, 2012
Doors – 5:30 pm
Show – 6:15 pm

Check us out: www.facebook.com/sbaevents

Buy your tickets now: http://www.itickets.com/events/284694.html

For more information you can contact (by phone or text) at 352-303-6330.  If you are interested in a group I’m sure we can work things out.  I look forward to seeing you all there.

--Michael Weaver

Thursday, April 19, 2012

LIVE from the 43rd GMA Dove Awards Press Room!

 

Tonight, Jesusfreakhideout.com's Ryan Barbee is blogging LIVE from the 43rd Annual GMA Dove Awards!! Tune in and post comments this evening! Blogging will start soon!

 

10:06 - Well folks... we lost the feed... and the show is now over. It was a much faster paced show this year which i think everyone appreciates but I can't say I'm really blown away by the results. It seems that a ton of excellent talent gets overlooked but "that's life." Some of the greats will never receive their just reward but until then - we fight on! 

Until next year.  

10:03 - The feed is still down folks... sorry for the lack of updates.

10:00 - Montell Jordan just said, "I didn't transition from Secular to Christian... I left the music industry and went into ministry." Cool. 

9:58 - Mandisa just gave great wisdom about how to stay faithful and livea life of integrity... "Choose good friends." Not just an idea folks.

9:56 - The feed is down still... no bueno GMA... no bueno.... still love you but no bueno.

9:54 - Mandisa says that she bets we'll be seeing Colton Dixon here at the Doves next year. She's also hoping to do a collaboration with Lecrae and Tedashi and Mary Mary. Make it happen folks. That would be amazing.

9:51 - Mandisa is back stage now, she killed it up on stage. (The room is filled with "go girl.") 

9:48 - The feed has gone down... hopefully it'll be back up soon... 

9:45 - Michael Tait, Group 1 Crew, and Todd Smith are in the press room. Tait commands the stage. (in a good way... he truly is a living legend!)

9:40 - Reuben Studdard is on the stage and he sounds amazing. It's not fair that people can sing that well. All of the AI alumni, have blown away the crowd.  

9:36 - Now the American Idol performers... my guesses were right. (I'm not normally right in everyday things.)

9:31 - Montell Jordan and the wrestler that could break my bones by just looking at me are announcing the winner of Rap/Hip Hop song of the year.
The award goes to Lecrae! Woot woot! Congrats man! 

9:25 - Natalie Grant is on stage now... and she is obviously bringing down the house. It's how she rolls.  And that's why she can win the Female Vocalist of the Year award!

9:24 - Whoever is performing on stage is getting some intense looks from the crowd. People look scared.  Just found out that it's Todd Smith. 

9:22 - Wes Morgan is back in the press room sharing how honored he was to participate in the tribute to Russ Taff. Really humbling. 

9:18 - The Newsboys are performing now. It is always an amazing show with them. Michael Tait could sing the ABC's and it would deserve a Dove. Just sayin'.

9:11 - Male vocalist of the year Jason Crabb. I was hoping for Chris August. Dagnabit. At least Jason has a cool jacket. Patches on the elbows... very cool.

9:07 - Mary Mary has taken the stage and the bass is shaking the walls. That's what I'm talking about. (Or if you're a Lord of the Rings fan... Tolkein about... I know... It's lame.)

9:01 - Russ Taff is back here now. And it looks like he brought a posse.

9:00 - Laura Story just announced that she found out that she is having a girl. The due date is September 12th. 

8:57 - Story has received 4 Doves already... craziness. 

8:55 - Laura Story has just come back into the press room and man the journalists flock to the stage like moths to a flame.   

8:52 - David Mann takes an opportunity to thank the Dove's Music Director and the All Nations Choir (which he said was "All Black.") Chonda and David are some of the edgiest people to host the Doves! So hilarious! Chonda has no filter! Hahaha! She just said about Southern Gospel Music "That's where the old ladies play piano and then... they die." MY GOODNESS! Amazing!

8:51 - Chonda has changed wardrobe, "We rednecks clean up... especially when someone else is buying the clothes." 

8:48 - Southern Gospel Album of the Year goes to... Karen Peck... Like i said before, Southern Gospel isn't my jam but i can appreciate it. It's their first Dove award in 20 years - that's crazy.

8:47 - They just called for some presenters and... welp... it looks like they're not coming. That's no good. 

8:47 - They're transitioningh some stage stuff... TV makes it go a lot faster than it actually is.

8:45 - Kari Jobe is wrapping up her performance. This ball is rolling tonight - which is great. Especially since last year, it went till 12.  

8:39 - They are now announcing Song of the Year... my fingers are crossed for "Blessings." And it goes to... Blessings! Woot woot! 

8:36 - It feed from backstage is going in and out... so I'm not sure what's up next. On another note, Jayme Grace is backstage and apologizing for skipping one of her college classes this morning. She said she forgot to give her professors a shout out.

8:35 - KIA Motors Marketer is joining them on stage... they sponsored the event so this is their time for a short infomercial i guess.

8:33 - Chonda is going to get herself and David Mann in trouble, but she said, "I don't care. I ain't got no record deal." Classic!! 

8:32 - Some American Idol alumni are going to be performing soon. Everyone in the press room is guess who it's gonna be. My guesses: Reuben Studdard, Mandisa, Phil Stacey, and Danny Gokey. 

8:30 - Tedashi is joining him now - so bad to the bone!

8:29 - I hope they include subtitles for the broadcast because it would look amazing. Lecrae's blowing it up on the stage.

8:28 - Lecrae is taking the stage! Always a pleasure.

8:26 - Michael Tait and Jaci Valesquez just announced that Jamie Grace just won New Artist of the Year.... I was hoping for The City Harmonic, but it's all good. Congrats Jamie!

8:21 - David Mann can't stop talking about his wife. (Woot woot!) He's celebrating 24 years of marriage and he says the key to marriage is, "keep loving each other... and she beats me." Haha. 

8:18 - Russ is now saying his speech. What a passionate guy. You would think you would have just walked into a pentacostal church. Everyone's stomping their feet. "I'm proud to sing about the one who makes all things new." <- Awesome quote!

8:17 - And now Russ Taff is singing with them... man - the guy's still got it. Okay... he's rockin' it. Now it's amazing. Such a great moment.

8:15 - Now all three and a choir are singing together. I think the opening trio was better but Donnie is killin' it! The camera is going back and forth from the stage to Russ Taff. He looks pleased with the performance.

8:14 - Wes Morgan is singing now... he looks like a football player.

8:12 - Donnie McClurkin is up next - power voice!

8:10 - They are now honoring Russ Taff and his legendary career in Christian music by performing a few of his songs. Jason Crabb is singing first... i hope there's a paramedic in the crowd. His face is redder than Bob the Tomato.

8:07- Contemporary Gospel album of the year award goes to... Kirk Franklin's "Hello Fear." (I think he knew that was coming.) Why? because he wears cool clothes.

8:05 - David Mann, just mentioned how his wife Tamela plays his daughter on Meet the Browns. Chonda asked if he was born in Kentucky. 
"Girl... you look like an apple. I just wanna bite you." (David talking to Tamela as she walked on stage.)

8:04 - Excellent performance by The Isaacs, make sure not to miss it! Wow. 

8:00 - The Isaacs are taking the stage now, more of a bluegrass performance. Wow - they sound excellent. Rock that mandolin!

7:59 - You'll notice a lot of "..." tonight. If you were here you would be doing them too. 

7:57 - Natalie just thanked her husband and said that she married up. Good to hear of good marriages! (on a side note... it smells like a buffet restaurant in here... now i'm hungry.)

7:56 - Female Vocalist of the year... I'm guessing Laura Story (and she would deserve it)... and it goes to... Natalie Grant. Dang - whaddayoudo? But still, congrats to Natalie!

7:55 - Chonda just said that 27 pairs of spanks were involved in the opening act. HAHAHAHAHA! Everybody is blushing. 

7:53 - Chonda just said that this is the only award show where it encompases every genre. (I'm not sure that's true... but whatevs.) 

7:52 - And now for Chonda and David Mann!! I'm preparing for a gut-busting night.

7:49 - A choir! Expect great things for the opener. And then there was Southern Gospel... not a big fan - but it still sounds good.

7:46 - Yolanda Adams and two other singers are opening up the show... dang... i mean dang... where's my tissue? Well done ladies.

7:44 - NOW WE BEGIN!!! THE SHOW!!!!! SCREAM!!!! AHHHHH!

7:41 - The chairman is getting teary eyed as he thanks his wife... good man.

7:39 - The GMA Chairman is welcoming everyone. He's really excited obviously... I can see his veins in his forehead. Preach Preacha!

7:38 - Here we go... IT BEGINS NIGH!!!!!

7:36 - They're doing the applause runs right now. It's kind of cheating but kind of cool at the same time. I won't judge... but only because I applauded too. 

7:33 - I'm drowning in a sea of people. But thankfully I've just heard that The City Harmonic might stop by and see us tonight. That would be wonderful!  

7:23 - Just got the run-down on how it's going tonight. My fingers are ready to type a tempest of words. Brace for impact.

7:20 - Okay... it's official... It's ridiculously packed in here. (pronounced "cheer") I'm ready to get this show on the road... 4 hours sitting in a chair watching Billy and Bobby Reporter take pictures in front of the GMA Dove Awards/KIA poster. (Granted... I did take a few pictures in front of it too... however my pictures are neither serious nor flattering.)

6:42 - The press room is getting packed. And yes... I am one of the few that has my computer plugged up. It's a beautiful thing to have a full battery.  

6:03 - People are starting to file back into the press room little by little. The tension is starting rise. 

5:08 - Everyone is breaking for lunch. In about an hour and a half the festivities will really kick off. Woohoo!

4:33 - Plumb is in the press room right now - someone asked what brand of clothing she was wearing... her response, "TJ MAXX." Classy. 

4:25 - Lecrae's shirt says "Pure Hip Hop Nutrition Facts" - that's awesome. He also just stated that Hip-Hop is really starting to make in an impact in Christendom.
"Awards are just things we get to lay at the feet of the Father."  

4:22 - Lecrae is in the press room right now. Always a humble dude and rockin' his Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the year award. He is in the studio now recording a new album and possibly some free tunes coming out soon.

4:15 - It's so loud in the press room... Best songwriter of the year is... Laura Story! I have a feeling we'll be hearing that name all night. Haha!

4:10 - Chonda is practicing on the stage... she is the epitome of comedy! Can't wait to hear her host tonight with David Mann (who is the man - coincidently.)

3:57 - Someone just scolded the press people... I feel like I'm in the 8th grade again. I just dared him to give me a detention... not really but I'm considering suggesting it.

3:49 - The press room is overloaded with people who want to take their picture in front of the Dove Award poster... I might take one later... I'll make sure to strike an amazing pose. 

3:47 - David Crowder's "Oh For Joy" won the award for Best Christmas album. Congrats Crowder!!! Twas a good Christmas album indeed.

 3:45 - Just got a great setup for the press room. It looks like two chairs against a wall being used for a desk... because it is two chairs against a wall being used for a desk. I call it a fashion statement "Vagabond Office."

3:35 - Laura Story just said, "I'm hoping to just be a good mom." The singer-songwriter is pregnant, on tour, a Grammy and Dove award winner, and has an extremely supportive husband. I think that's pretty much a busy family.

3:30 - Just spoke with Laura Story. She said that she should win the award for worst "Acceptance speech"... haha whatever! Her song "Blessings" is great. She deserves a ton of awards for that song! Plus her and her husband are super humble. Congrats to Laura on winning the pre-show award for best Pop Contemporary Album and Recorded song of the year.

3:21 - There is a car on the stage... I know Kia is sponsoring the event but dude - isn't that a little extreme?

3:15 - Alright folks... we are now live from the Dove Press Room... it's pure chaos.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Music To Fall Asleep To

Today, via JFH's Twitter account, I had the sudden urge to quiz those monitoring their Twitter feeds about what music they enjoy falling asleep to. When I was younger, I used to always lie in bed with my CD player (Yep.. this was pre-iPod days!), and fall asleep to whatever new music I was into at the time. Of course, I didn't always fall asleep to what I would listen to, but over the years, some tried-and-true records have been great go-to's as a send off to dreamland.

Since I don't really fall asleep to music as much as I used to, and since the wonderful world of mp3 players opens up a whole new wonderful world called "playlists," my go-to full-length albums are mostly old school. One of the oldest is also a deliciously melancholy release in Sixpence None The Richer's self-titled album. It's still a favorite. Another gem is Plumb's lullaby album, Blink. It's a great mellow pop record that you don't have to be a youngin' to enjoy. It's soothing and a nice means to drift away. Jars of Clay's self-titled used to be a favorite as well. And Eisley's Combinations -- which is also sort of more recent -- was a great one too. Jon Foreman's acoustic work also comes to mind.

How about you guys? What music do you love that's perfectly soothing enough to you to fall asleep to?

 

-- John

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tell Us YOUR Top 2012 Anticipated Releases!

Hey friends! In the past, I know we've asked for you to share your own favorites and "picks" lists, so to accompany our recent "Highlighting First-Half 2012" feature, we'd love to hear what albums in the Christian market -- releasing from January 2012 (yeah, it's fine if it has already come out) until this Summer -- you're anticipating the most.

For an example of what we did, check out our list and then tell us YOUR most anticipated projects!

-- John/JFH

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top Indie Releases of 2011

Hi.  Last year, we started our first installment of the top independent albums of the year.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we're doing it again!  This year, Samantha, Michael and myself went through and highlighted some of our favorite independent albums released in 2011.  This includes artists who currently have no record label as well as artists who are signed to what is considered an independent record label (Come&Live!, Humble Beast, etc.).  Take a look at our lists, check out what you haven't heard (maybe you'll find a new favorite!), and feel free to leave us comments about YOUR favorite independent albums from 2011. --- Scott Fryberger

Scott Fryberger's Picks
Aaron Newberry - Homewrecker
At one point, Newberry was the lone member of SONS (Sons of God at the time), so it's no surprise that he can hold his own as a solo artist.  Homewrecker sounded indie, but it was a solid effort.
 
Alert - Red Opus .45
The first full band to sign to Humble Beast, Alert really impressed me with their EP.  Terrific musicianship with hard-hitting and quick-witted lyricism.
 
Andrew Huang - Schism
A master of multi-genre music experimentation, Huang's blend of electronic music and hip hop is some of the best you can find.
 
Braille - Native Lungs
Braille and friends produced a banger with this one.  The raps are some of his best to date, and the beats are out of this world.
 
Heath McNease & For Beats' Sake - Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape
For Beats' Sake shows off his creativity with Nintendo music-turned-beats, while Heath does some of his finest rapping thus far.
 
Playdough - Hotdoggin'
"Come on man, you heard the flow, you know who I am."  Raps so good you can't say anything but "gosh DANG!"  Playdough's labor of love blew hip hop fans away last April.
 
Playdough & Heath McNease - Wed, White & Wu
These two dudes teamed up for an extraordinary mixtape that kept it raw, and featured some amazing guest vocals all throughout the whole dang thing.  Get ready to take your shirt off, fellas.
 
Propaganda & Odd Thomas - Art Ambidextrous
Propaganda is a very skillful spoken word artist who also happens to be a great rapper, too.  Teaming up with Odd Thomas for Art Ambidextrous made for a terrific pairing of beats and vocals, with a lot of meat in the message.
 
sosaveme - The Garden
These guys were a bit of surprise to me in 2011, but when I was introduced to their first single "Gentle Slope," I knew I was in for a treat when I heard the rest of the album.  Solid indie rock with a bit of intensity and a load of imagery.
 
Southlen - Loving Life, Living Love
While not as recognizable as the other albums on my list, it's right up there with some of them as far as quality.  I heard of these guys when they signed up for our indie service, and I was very impressed by what I heard.  With so much mediocre pop rock in the indie scene, Southlen is a breath of fresh air.  I look forward to more from these SoCal guys.
 
 
Samantha Schaumberg's Picks
Benjamin Dunn and Friends – The Hymn EP
Quite a few bands released collections of hymns this year, but this EP was my most played set, with six cohesive, folky hymns strung together by an instrumental opener and closer.
 
Half Price Hero – The Outcome
This beautifully honest acoustic album from solo act Half Price Hero features quite a few excellent quest vocalists, including an appearance by Dan Smith of Listener on the opening track.
 
Playdough & Heath McNease – Wed, White & Wu
Not many duos could pull of a 17-track mixtape composed of Wu-Tang Clan beats. Also make sure to check out Playdough’s Hotdoggin’ and Heath McNease’s Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape. These guys both deserve recognition for being so prolific this year.
 
Propaganda / Odd Thomas – Art Ambidextrous
Art Ambidextrous is more of spoken poetry over beats than a rap release. I had the opportunity to see Propaganda and Odd Thomas perform parts of this album together this year, and they were phenomenal.
 
Rigoletto – Prodigal Again
After the introduction, this EP only has four songs, but each of them is a separate masterpiece and all are definitely worth taking a listen.
 
sosaveme – The Garden
A great indie rock album that is, lyrically, very forward with bold imagery, one of my favorite releases of 2011.
 
 
Michael Weaver's Picks
Scott Silletta - The Life and Times of...
As a fan of Plankeye I was excited that Scott Silletta was back at it.  This was a great album that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Though it didn't make my Top 10 of 2011 list, it was an honorable mention at the 11 spot.
 
Cool Hand Luke - Of Man
This was an album that saw the end of a band I have enjoyed for many years.  It was a beautifully crafted album with deep spiritual content.  Though Cool Hand Luke will be missed, this was definitely a proper send off.
 
B. Reith - How The Story Ends
What more can you say about B. Reith other than he is amazing.  This was a great release that was tons of fun to listen to.  Can't wait to hear what he does next.
 
Our Hearts Hero - Love Is Breathing
This album caught me completely by suprise.  What started off as an album I wanted just to hopefully add a couple of new songs to my Christmas collection, became my favorite of the season.  While far from perfect, this is a fun Christmas album with a stellar title track in "Love is Breathing".
 
Falling Up - Your Sparkling Death Cometh
While not my favorite Falling Up album, I would be hard pressed not to mention it with 2011's indie releases.  This is another solid release from a band who has quietly been around for 10 years.

 

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Death of Rock

The Death of Rock… 

As I sit here and listen to another highly disappointing “rock” release from a newly signed band, I wonder, “When did rock music die?”  When did music become strictly about the business of selling records?  Seriously?  This trend is, and has been, occurring in both the Christian and secular music arenas for a while now.  When I review an album that is mediocre at best, I almost feel that I need to rate it higher just make others happy.  I try my best to stick to my guns and write what I truly think about the release, but it’s difficult sometimes.  I completely understand that I am not the ultimate authority on music and I strictly represent one man’s opinion, but I am appalled by what some folks consider to be a great release.

iTunes and similar sites are a perfect example of why I feel I need to rate albums higher than they should be; pretty much every album has a 4 to 5 star rating, no matter how poor the production, vocals, or musicianship may be, they all have nearly perfect ratings and every band is someone’s favorite.  As you read reviews that you may agree or disagree with, keep in mind all of these factors.

I personally upset many people by my subpar rating of Jeremy Camp’s latest worship album, We Cry Out, and the average rating I gave to Christian rap heavyweight Tedashii’s newest release, Blacklight.  Neither of these albums really fit into the rock arena, but I’m using them to make my point.  Though I have gotten emails and Facebook posts stating how far off base I am, it is refreshing to get an email or two thanking me for not backing down from my opinion.  However, I digress.

This is another issue within the Christian market.  It is not wrong to say that a band’s music is not good regardless of their message.  This website is dedicated to Christian entertainment and music.  While lyrical content is obviously important in Christian, as well as secular, music, it isn’t necessarily the end all be all.  An artist can bring a very good and powerful message in a very poorly written and played song.  Perhaps they are just better poets.  In addition, just because the lyrics are highly spiritual and praise God, does not mean that they are well written; case in point with the album I am reviewing now.  Song writing is a particular craft and art.  Some have it and some do not.

I have no problem whatsoever with a band whose sound is influenced by another, but I take serious issue with a band that sounds like a carbon copy of someone else.  In the world of literature, that is known as plagiarism.  As I recently stated on a Facebook post about an album, it drives me crazy when I hear a song by one artist and can sing the lyrics from a different artist’s song over the music; unless it’s a “Weird Al” song, or on an extremely rare occasion, an Apologetix song, it is not a good quality to find  in music.  Yet it seems like every day the radio, both Christian and secular, keeps pumping out so-called music that sounds exactly the same song after song.  The labels are after the next band that sounds exactly like the previous band because the previous band sold some records; originality is a thing of the past.

The Beatles influenced hundreds, probably thousands, of bands, but there isn't another band out there that sounds exactly like The Beatles.  Music didn’t work that way near as much back then.  Trust me, I don’t believe that every band that comes out will be or should be as groundbreaking or as trend setting as The Beatles.  That would be entirely too much to ask for or expect, but shouldn’t being unique be something that a band strives for?  Just as in our Christian walk, we will never be perfect like Christ, but we should strive for it on a daily basis.  Bands should also strive to be the best versions of themselves, not the band that currently has the number one Billboard spot.  A few more bands to ponder on that I believe are/were more trendsetters and less copycats are ZZ Top, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 311, Family Force 5, Showbread, and A Hope For the Dying.  What made these guys different?

The fact that I can probably name 20 different bands that play modern rock music that sounds exactly the same is discouraging, especially when most of them are coming out of the Christian market.  Seventh Day Slumber, Kutless, Red, Skillet, Ashes Remain, Since October, and on and on  (I won’t even go into the secular bands who not only sound the same musically, but all seem to fight to see who can make their next song more sexually explicit than the previous group’s song).  Don’t take it the wrong way; I enjoy some of these “same sounding” bands, but how many drop-D guitar playing, post-grunge, hard rock bands can a person stand before you just want something different?

Looking back on history, I guess I would say that rock ‘n’ roll took a huge step towards the grave with the birth of nu metal.  While it was fun and different on arrival, the barrage of bands labels signed that sounded like one another was staggering and only a handful of them made it on to second and third albums.  Who would have thought that the explosion of bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Staind would have eventually led to this?  These guys couldn’t even spell! (Ha!)  Maybe I just missed the point of how cool it was to “purposely” misspell your band’s name.

This brings me to the final reason why I believe rock ‘n’ roll could be dying or already dead.  What is up with band names today?  I spend more time telling my computer that I actually spelled the misspelled word correctly, than I do typing the name in.  Another issue I have is numbers.  Take for instance BEC Records new rock act 7eventh Time Down (I see “Seveneventh Time Down”), or a band that I actually somewhat like, Se7enth Seal.  No matter how cool you think it is, it’s not good to insert numbers in place of letters, especially when the number doesn’t really resemble the letter.  I will let Deliriou5 have it without too much argument because there are no five references in their name, and a 5 actually looks like an S.  It seems like bands spend more time trying to find a “creative” way to spell their name and less time coming up with a more creative sound.  Whatever happened to the days when all bands were “The insert any word here”?  It is quite frankly just flat out discouraging.

Rock music, if you can hear me, I hope you survive.  I hope that there is a great revival of music that comes in to save you.  I hope there is a band on the horizon that can be the defibrillator that you need so desperately.  The only bright spot in you heading in this downward spiral is that I will start saving a lot of money on buying music.  If you are with me on this matter I recommend checking out The Choir’s Burning Like the Midnight Sun, Regie Hamm’s Set it On Fire, or if you like your music on the heavier side, A Hope For the Dying’s Dissimulation.  These are just a couple of albums that made me smile and spent time in heavy rotation in my CD player this past year. 

My final thought is to the readers and listeners.  You do not have to be content with the same ole same ole.  It is perfectly ok and well within your rights to want something better than “Check these guys out, they sound just like Kutless!”    If Band B sounds just like Band A who has been around five years longer, why not just listen to Band A?  Chances are Band A is going to offer a much more polished and better overall product.

-- Michael Weaver, JFH Writer

Friday, July 29, 2011

An Intriguing Documentary- "Divided"

 I happened upon an absolutely fascinating documentary today. It takes a hard look at modern youth ministry and asks some really rough questions. I highly recommend it, and at just under an hour, it isn't even much of a time investment. I hit play this morning thinking I'd just watch a few minutes, but it's immediately engrossing. I can't say I agree with every point (i.e. I'm not so sure the "concert" scene is fair.) But once the doc starts rolling into it's main points.... it's sucker punch.

It makes a lot of points that I've long suspected to be true. Definitely a breath of fresh air. I'm about to watch it again with my wife! Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Six Books on Marriage

Lots of things change once you get married. Some are big, and you see them coming- home arrangements, lifestyle changes, eating habits, etc. And other things are smaller, more innocuous, and take you by surprise. For example, I had no idea that Kelli and I would become such avid video gamers once we got married. It's just something we really enjoy doing together. We like puzzle games (You can do some serious bonding through the difficulties of the Portal and Portal 2 test chambers), and we enjoy hearing "Killamanjaro!" while taking out grunts and elites in Halo: Reach. 


Another thing that changed was my reading habits. I never hated reading, I just never had the patience to finish a book. It had to be really, really, really good to keep my attention for the required 200-400 pages. But leading up to our wedding, and certainly thereafter, I started reading more books. I still don't read a lot. But I'm normally in the middle of at least two books. It still takes me forever to finish them, but at least I usually finish them now!

 

I attribute a lot of this to the fact that Kelli and I read quite a few books on marriage leading up to our own marriage. The books we choose to read ended up being just perfect, and all were very helpful. We have a lot of friends getting married before this year is up, so I wanted to encourage them with some very instructional reading.

 

6. & 5. For Better or for Best and If Only He Knew by Gary Smalley

 

Gary Smalley has written a ton of books on marriage and relationships, but we found these two to be his best. For Better or for Best is written for wives, and If Only He Knew is written for husbands. Each goes into great detail explaining the inner workings of the opposite sex, and how they react within the confines of marriage to situations that arise. He approaches the subject matter as a counselor, so it can get kinda dry sometimes, but the wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from these books is great.

 

Kelli and I came up with a fun system to further the experience of reading through these books- I read the book written for women about men first, and wrote notes on all the pages, detailing where I thought Smalley nailed how I, as a man, think and react, and where he missed the mark. I highlighted things he said that especially resonated, and dismissed for Kelli sections I didn't think applied. She did the same thing as she read the book about women written for the men. Once we were done, we swapped, and read the books we were intended to read from the get go, but now with all kinds of notes from our partners as a guide through the process. It ended up being such a good exercise, that we repeated it with a couple more books further down the list.

 

 

4. Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

 

This is not, strictly speaking, a book about marriage. So I'll share a story to qualify it. I received this book as a high school graduation present in the summer of 2006 from my Bible study leader. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've never been much of a reader. So when I started it, I didn't make it past the first chapter. It would be two years before I finally picked it up for another try. I can't even remember why I gave it a second shot - probably Divine intervention! But I informed by former Bible study leader that I had finally set about to finish the book she had gifted to me years before. "You better be careful, Josh!" She told me, "If you take that book to heart, someone's gonna fall head over heels for you!"

 

I mostly laughed it off and thought it was sweet, even though I didn't really understand why she'd said it.  As a nineteen-year-old who had never even had a girlfriend, I highly doubted a book with the flowery language of an Eldredge text was going to dramatically change my love life. As it turns out, however, my Bible Study leader was exactly right. Not even four months after she had predicted John Edredge's impact on the rest of my life, Kelli and I began the two year journey that led to our marriage.

 

Well? Well?! What did the book say? What was the secret?! I suggest reading Waking the Dead and finding out for yourself. But if you want a brief overview, the book is all about awakening the desires within ourselves as the living breath of Yahweh. I can't do it justice here, but suffice it to say, I never looked at other people the same way again. I began to actively seek out what brought everyone I knew to life. What it was that made their eyes light up. What that one thing was that they were perhaps afraid to really let anyone in on because they were afraid of being rejected.

 

Of course, I focused most of my attention on a sweet young woman with whom I was becoming quite smitten. And you know what? Kelli told me later that she couldn't help but fall for someone with whom she could share her dreams and desires, someone with whom she felt absolutely safe with her heart! I was too young and naive to have done this on my own, so I'm thankful to this book and my Bible study leader and the Good Lord for nudging me in the right direction. This book is essential whether you're dating, engaged, married, or as single as single can be.

 

3. & 2. Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip by Charlie W. Shedd

 

These books are not dissimilar to the Gary Smalley books listed above- one is written for men, the other for women. What makes these books so special is how timeless they are (both were written in the late 1970s) and the perspective from which they were written- These are letters from a father to his children. Minister Charlie W. Shedd was asked by his daughter before her wedding for letters from her daddy on how to be a good wife. The results were published as Letters to Karen, and then a couple of years later, as Letters to Philip when Minister Shedd's son asked the same of his father before his own wedding. The results are deep, intimate, and beautiful. While Gary Smalley's books are largely clinical and fact-driven in their approach, Charlie W. Shedd approaches these books as only a father can- from his heart. He is obviously a man who has counseled many, many couples, but these are his kids, and he approached the challenge with a personal love you won't find in many books. 

 

These are the shortest reads on the list, and could both be easily finished in one sitting. Kelli and I enhanced the experience by repeating our Gary Smalley exercise and trading books first to take careful notes. We had a lot of fun with these. I cannot recommend them more highly.

 

1. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

 

This probably isn't a surprise to anyone that keeps up with this blog. But for anyone who has never heard of it- this is the best book I have ever read on the subject of marriage. Hands down. No questions asked. No debate necessary. Thomas' thesis is: "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" And he spends the entire book tirelessly defending, expanding, and answering this question.

 

It isn't light reading, and you won't finish it with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach as with the other books on this list. Gary Thomas looks you in the eye for 300+ pages and says "Marriage is the hardest thing you will ever do in your entire life, and you will spend all of that time trying to get good at it. Are you really, truly sure you want to do this?" But this isn't a book encouraging the rising culture of "singleness" that has appeared in Christianity. He sums up his sentiment on the issue early on in the book: "If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there's no question- stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can't imagine any better thing to do than to get married."

 

Rarely does Thomas speak about the personal benefits of marriage. Rather, 99% of his attention is spent discussing how best to serve your spouse (and God!) through marriage.

 

Thomas paints a picture of marriage as the ultimate line in the sand- you will either serve Yahweh and succeed, or serve yourself and be miserable. There is no middle ground. It forces your hand. He details the ultimate irony- that the only way to be truly happy in marriage is to completely die to yourself and your own desires. In doing so, he illustrates what is meant when the Bible says the marriage between a man and a woman is a picture of the one between Yahweh and humanity.

 

You will finish Sacred Marriage feeling one of two ways- scared to death, or more resolute and excited than ever. If ever there was a litmus test determining a person's readiness regarding marriage, it is this book. I cannot sing its praises more highly. Biblically grounded on every page- you will be thinking about it long after you finish.

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

That's my list. Each of these books helped immeasurably as Kelli and I prepared ourselves for our wedding day. What books have you found that help in regards to relationships and marriage?

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Behold the side project

Side projects

I really like the idea of side projects.  I spent a good portion of one evening going through the list of Adam Young's projects just because I wanted to hear them all (search for "list of Adam Young projects" on Wikipedia for a nice big list; you can find just about all of them between YouTube and Purevolume).  Most of them don't have an actual album release to my knowledge, and most of them aren't meant to be taken seriously, thus aren't really good (the farther you go down the list, the sillier they get; the ones at the top of the list start off pretty good though).

Heh...as I'm typing this, the Owl City song "Galaxies" came on RadioU.  If you like this song, be prepared for like ten other great songs when All Things Bright and Beautiful comes out on June 14, most of which are better than "Galaxies."

ANYWHO...I was thinking about how sad it is that most of the time side projects don't end up doing any more than one album.  There are exceptions, of course, such as brave Saint Saturn, FM Static and the aforementioned Owl City.  But I'd like to know: which one-time side projects would you like to see more music from?  Even if their one album was recent, include them!  Be sure to include who is in it and what band they're from, just for any potential new fans' sakes!  Here's my list (that is probably not fully complete):

Grand Incredible (Mojo & Ethan from The O.C. Supertones)
The Brothers Martin (Ronnie Martin from Joy Electric and Jason Martin from Starflyer 59)
Fiction Family (Jon Foreman from Switchfoot and Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek)
A Rose By Any Other Name (Josh Scogin from The Chariot)
The Radio Sky (Cory Brandan from Norma Jean - I believe they had an EP and a full album, but I'm not entirely sure; the album is a free download though - myspace.com/theradiosky)
Sky Sailing (Adam Young from Owl City)

I'd also like to see actual albums from The Man Suits (featuring Aaron and Mike Weiss from mewithoutYou), The Water and the Well (Toby Morrell and Matt Carter from Emery) and The Thieves' Guild (Josh Dies and Patrick Porter from Showbread and Reese Roper from Five Iron Frenzy).

I almost included Crash Rickshaw, but then I remembered they did have a second album.  Pish tosh.

Your turn.  Let's see if there's some I didn't know about!  Go!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Take Heart! Everyone Else is as Stupid as You

In high school, I was the definition of a puppy dog crush, chasing this girl around as best I could without being too obvious. She always seemed cool, collected, calculated, mysterious... all the things I was not, growing up. I was attracted to that, but also saw it as a barrier separating us; because, after all- how could a girl like that like a guy like me?

 

I was a holy mess. Socially awkward. Never quite sure of my place. Drifting in and out of close friendships, and never really feeling like I was worth the time it took to get to know me. But no way I was going to let anyone know that.

 

So instead of bottling it up and being shy and reserved, I did the opposite growing up. I told jokes. I spread myself around. I made sure everyone had a high opinion of me at all times, regardless of how tiring that eventually got.

 

Of course, the only opinion I really cared about at the time was that of my high school crush. Sometimes she paid attention, sometimes she didn't. Sometimes I'd hear she'd mentioned me in conversations with others, sometimes she would comment on my Xanga and MySpace pages... and sometimes I'd hear nothing from her for weeks at a time. I lived for the moments when she noticed me.

 

Because I was a wreck. I was figuring out who I was. And she appeared to have most everything already figured out.

 

Years later, I ended up marrying that same girl, and we have lots of conversations now about what life was like for us back then. I'm sure you know where this is going...

 

Kelli was probably even more confused, awkward, and socially inept than I was. She never fit in either, she was just good at hiding it like I was. I thought she spent almost every night partying it up with all of the school friends I wasn't cool enough to hang out with all the time; when in reality, she spent most every night of the week quietly watching television or playing video games with her siblings- pretty much the exact same thing I did every night during high school.

 

I grew up thinking I was the weirdest, dumbest, strangest person I knew. Everyone else around me had their stuff together, and I was just barely hanging on- making moves as I saw others making moves, hoping to be seen and noted, but only because I was cool like everyone else. But at some point you have enough conversations with people to realize that everyone is the exact same way.

 

One of my favorite episodes of the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey is called "Coming of Age." Little Jimmy Barclay starts going through adolescence; and he is confused, and feeling alone in the world. So Mr. Whittaker gives him one of the best nuggets of truth that the program has ever put forth: "Everyone your age feels the same way you do. No matter how cool or together they may seem on the outside, inside, they're just as scared and confused as you are."

 

A while ago, I was riffling through some old emails and came across one from a good friend years ago. "I'm a great liar," he confessed, "I'm a pro at the mask," he went on, before speaking more broadly: "It's not that you can't trust anyone, but seriously- everyone's messed up no matter how good their mask looks. They're a train wreck like everyone else."

 

These are just things I've been thinking about lately. There's no neat bow to wrap around it. It just is what it is. No one has a clue, everyone's just making it up as they go along. So, I guess, I mean it more as a stress reliever than a call to action.

 

Take heart! Everyone else is as stupid as you are. We're all in it together. Your confusion and insecurity is just more obvious to you because you're the only one who has to live in your own body.

 

So just rest in that knowledge, let yourself breath. Equipped with that knowledge, maybe find someone not so comfortable in their own skin and let them know they have a friend in you, because you have no idea what you're doing either. Thank Yahweh for it!

 

One of my best friends since senior year of high school is a guy named Barry. His friendship has always been greatly appreciated, because he's pretty much the only really close guy friend I've had since high school, aside from my brother and my father (And this guy). But the thing is, Barry and I don't have much in common. We get along great, and we have fun, always. He's a great friend, and we've seen each other through a lot of good and hard times. But if I really had to sit back and think about it, I'd be hard pressed to come up with even a short list of similarities that we share. It's always puzzled me how we've stayed such good buds for so long. I related this to Kelli the other day- "Barry and I have very little in common," I said. "I think the only reason we're still friends is that he's stuck with me."

 

"Well, you've stuck with him, too," she replied. "You two have that in common."

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LIVE 2011 Dove Awards Coverage!

On April 20, 2011, Jesusfreakhideout.com's Ryan Barbee blogged live from the 42nd Annual GMA Dove Awards!! Feel free to comment on what you think about the results...
 

12:00- Well friends, it looks like we are all done with the Dove festivities. What an incredibly full night of music and excitement. Make sure to check out the Doves this Sunday on Gospel Music Channel. It's been a crazy day, and I think I need to go get some beauty sleep... haha. If sleep were to make me beautiful I'd need to sleep for the next 42 years.

11:53 - Kirk Franklin is such a showman! He might not be the craziest singer - he is definitely an artist and an excellent performer.

11:46 - Sherri Shepherd is wrapping up the night and closing it out right with Kirk Franklin. That's a good way to conclude a show!

11:41 - Song of the Year is up next!  It goes Jason Crabb's "Sometimes I Cry" Congrats Jason!

11:36 - Ruben Studdard just said while back stage that he'd love to collaborate with Michael W. Smith. That would be incredible!

11:34 - I think people are starting to leave. This show has gone on pretty long.

11:30 - Steven Curtis Chapman and Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams are presenting the award for Artist of the Year. I'm hoping it's someone good... not that they're not good... it's just... you know what I'm saying. The winner is - Francesca Battistelli. 

11:27 - Chris August just told us that he said, "When I was a kid I would say, 'If I ever win an award I'll thank the Fresh Prince.'" Awesome!

11:23 - Sherri Shepherd is now announcing the next performance by the much beloved Sanctus Real and Tenth Avenue Northl! "Lead Me" It's a good song, but at 11:23 at night I wish it was something a little more upbeat.

11:22 - Chonda is confessing about how she's recently got a tatoo and her daughter apparently called it a "Tramp Stamp." Wow.  And following that she's going to announce Group of the Year. The winner is: NEEDTOBREATHE! A good winner! And so... Chonda just walked off the stage. My gosh, that woman is crazy!

11:14 - Chonda just gave out the secret that the Dove Award that is given tonight is a fake. Oh my!

11:07 - David Crowder* Band is back stage now and has shared with us that they have honestly begun working on their new record. However they made enough material for a Christmas album and 12 bluegrass songs. BOTH would be awesome to hear. Oh and he literally explained his frustrations and joys with Light Bright Pegs - what a crazy man!! And we ALL love him!!

11:03 - They are now presenting an honorary video of choirs from across the nation!

11:00 - The singing Pastors are now back stage. Such humility just permeates from them! What an honor!

10:54 - Chonda is now hilariously announcing the next performance by Francesca Battistelli. Not a bad performance. I'm not sure if it's the best kind of performance for an award show but... nonetheless it was good.

10:51 - Chonda has returned! She just told the crowd about her time on the Wanda Sykes Show... apparently Wanda said, "You're the first Christian that's been nice to me." Chonda's response, "That's cause they weren't real Christians." Haha! A pinch of truth and a pinch of humor! And then she made a Rob Bell joke... he'd be so proud.

10:44 - Mandisa and Ruben Studdard are presenting the New Artist of the Year award.  It goes to... Chris August. He wracking it up!

10:42 - My GOODNESS! Marvin Sapp is such an incredible vocalist! All of the pastors are! Their song is so inspirational! It's all about the unity of the Church! I'm pretty sure, this just became a church service. Freakin' amazing!

10:38 - The next performance group is up. A collective group of pastors/artists. All of them are pastors and all of them are artists. That's pretty legit!

10:31 - Kevin Sorbo hinted at playing in a hopeful movie called The Resurrection of Christ... let's hope it happens. And then he had to rush off stage to fight a Hydra... Hercules has work to do!

10:29 - Kevin Sorbo said that "What If" really impacted him in Christian walk. Very cool!

10:27 - Kevin Sorbo is in back stage! Totally AWESOME! He didn't play Hercules... He IS Hercules. I just watched his movie called "What If"

10:26 - They keep doing this thing with having two groups perform each time because now Jason Crabb is performing. Watch... now they'll probably anounce another TIE.

10:24 - MIKESCHAIR is now performing, "Let the Waters Rise" which is actually up for Song of the Year.

10:23 - I don't think that the people in the audience understand Chonda Pierce's humor. But everyone in the Press Room does. She just explained why she can't say "Pot Luck" and "Hoedown" in Los Angeles. That's funny... I don't care who you are.

10:16 - David Crowder is super funny! He said that the time that it took them to record the music video they could have recorded three albums! Haha!

10:13 - Evett Nicole Brown and Kevin Sorbo are presenting the award for Short Form Music Video of the Year... I'd like to see David Crowder Band* win... and... HE DID IT!!!!! "SMS Shine" Wins!

10:09 - Wow what a blend of musical styles. But if this were a "Sing Off"... Committed would win again!

10:06 - Sherrie Shepherd is back to announce the next performers; winners of The Sing Off - Committed with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.

10:02 - Third Day, The Chapmans, and Mark Hall just walked into the Press Room. I might leave here floating. :) Mac Powell wants a photo... oh he'll get one! You will get one Mac! (I must say once again, Mac Powell still looks like Jesus.)

10:00 - Wow - probably one of the coolest performances I've ever seen. Didn't think that Natalie Grant and Lecrae would mix well, but I was totally wrong. It looks weird but it sounds great.

9:58 - Lecrae is performing now! My goodness, what an awesome performance. And now Natalie Grant is joining him on stage

9:56 - Marvin dedicated his win to his late wife. A very emotional moment for the Doves.

9:54 - The Touhy family are presenting the award for Contemporary Gospel Song of the Year. The winner is, "The Best In Me" by Marvin Sapp.

9:50 - Now they are playing a video of Chris August singing at the Georgia Aquarium... these are some weird videos. But that fish tank sure did look cool!

9:48 - The Chapman's Show Hope has helped 2700 families adopt children! How amazing! What an emotional moment.

9:47 - The Chapman family is absolutely wonderful! This is a very active family and my goodness their story is so inspiring!

9:42 - Tim Tebow might get himself boo'd off the stage if he keeps talking about football. He's announcing the first ever Uplift Award to the incredible Steven Curtis Chapman! He deserves it!

9:41 - Kirk Franklin is back stage now... He's rockin' the bowtie! He said something very profound, "God is good to me... even when I'm not so good to him." You've gotta love honesty in artists!!

9:40 - Chonda Pierce is back. This poor lady is probably getting worn out.

9:33 - Sandi Patty is talking about her "Bucket List" and on it is to do "Hello Dolly" on stage. Not a bad aspiration at all.

9:30 - Sandi Patty just said back stage, "Audrey Assad needs to cover 'Via Dolorosa' on her next album." Called it!

9:29 - Curve ball... Mark Hall and Steven Curtis Chapman have joined Third Day on stage!

9:27 - Sherri Shepherd is back on stage and introducing the next performers... THIRD DAY!!! Singing, "Children of God"

9:21 - Chonda is making a bunch of Denominational jokes. Don't worry, she's picking on all denominations equally. :)

9:17 - Kenny Rogers is joining us in the Press Room... this guy is an actor, artist, photographer, business man, producer... this guy is so flippin' talented.

9:14 - Sandi is actually the announcer for the nominees as well for Female Vocalist of the Year. I'm cheering for Assad! And it is... Francesca Battistelli. I think I should probably stop making guesses because they tend to be wrong.

9:12 - Oh wait! Here comes Sandi! I might not be the first person to buy a "I'm a Patty Fan" t-shirt. You gotta pay homage to those who paved the way! Get it, Sandi Patty!

9:05 - The Female Vocalists of the Year are singing a tribute song to Sandi Patty. Hope everyone brought their leg warmers. I haven't heard some of these songs since 1993. It's really great that they are honoring Sandi's music. She really is a major influence of Christian music. Audrey Assad's rendition is the best. I think Sandi Patty would agree.

9:03 - I wonder if Sherri Shepherd knew that we could all hear her say, "How do I pronounce Francesca's last name?" Fantastically funny!

8:59 - Chonda is back on the stage asking what churches everyone goes to. If her stand up is anything like she is on stage right now, then every person needs to buy her stuff. She basically is the comedic humor between each group of performers and presenters. She said, "God would much rather have my tithe than my ministry." Apparently she was just asked to do this today.

8:53 - I doubt they are going to let Chonda Pierce's stuff on TV. It's funny but oh my gosh!!! They just introduced Kenny Rogers singing with Point of Grace.

8:51 - Sherri Shepherd is back on the stage... and this time - she's dancing with Chonda Pierce! What in the worlds is going on??

8:48 - Throughout the night they are showing clips of the New Artists of the Year at Atlanta landmarks. Kristian Stanfill was just shown playing a guitar in Atlanta's World of Coke. It's kind of strange.

8:47 - Haha! Chris August just thanked Will Smith for all of his pick-up lines from Fresh Prince!

8:44 - Erica Gluck and Kim Fields are presenting the award for Male Vocalist of the Year. Who do you think's gonna win? Well... it's Chris August!!

8:40 - Mary Mary is pulling out some theatrics as they perform their song, "Never Wave My Flag."

8:37 - Sherri kept her word. She screamed out "I LOVE JESUS!" She wasn't playing!

8:33 - They just announced the performers... it sounded like waves of "Woohoo" and "Yay." And here comes Ms. Sherri Shepherd!

8:31 - Chonda can't stop talking about "spanks." My goodness gracious... that is one crazy woman!

8:28 - Chonda Pierce just said, "Don't you wish Jesus would come right now, just so you could see who would really be taken." HAHAHA! What a hilarious woman!!!

8:25 - I'm not sure I could handle just being a part of the audience. They have about as many cues as the performers. An announcer says "applause" and everyone does it.  However I'm not gonna lie, he's very intimidating, I'm clapping too. Every journalist is looking at me as if I'm crazy or something.

8:22 - Also have to say... Tomlin and his band are rocking it out on the stage.

8:20 - Chris Tomlin is opening the show with his latest hit song, "Our God." Have to say... worship music is a great way to start the night!

8:19 - Awkward silence... oh wait... NOW the official show has begun!!

8:11 - Alright folks the show has begun! Bishop Martin opened up the show with a word of prayer. What an amazing pastor. Many thanks, Bishop!

7:36 - Mandisa is making sure to stay as genuine as possible in regards to writing her music. Not fake it but taking off the masks.

7:35 - Mandisa is in the Press Room now and is taking questions... but I don't think anyone knows what to ask.

7:18 - Joel Houston is back stage right now... he just anounced that Hillsong will be releasing a new live album known as "God is Able" later this year. Didn't realize how tall he is!

7:09 - Sherri Shepherd just expressed how honored she is to be a part of the Dove Awards. She said that when she gets on stage she's going to yell, "I love Jesus!" because she is able to shout that she loves Jesus without getting the 3 second delay button that comes with television... looking forward to hearing her host. But I know that she wants to get off the Press Stage.

7:07 - Pandemonium apparently just filled the room because Sherri Shepherd has entered the building. Wow - that's intense.

7:05 - Gerald Crabb is backstage now. He just said that he didn't even know he was nominated for an award. That's hilarious.

7:01 - It's been craziness during the Pre-Show but I think it's starting to slow down. Regardless it's been going well so far. 

6:52 - I'm realizing more and more... I say "Awesome" a lot. I need to work on my adjectives. For all of the linguistic readers... forgive me.

6:48 - Tamela Mann and her husband David are back stage talking about their life and marriage in entertainment. If you don't know, they are the main actors of Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns. They are such a great example of a marriage that glorifies God in the entertainment business. They're starting to work on a book on marriage and a cooking show! Great couple! Great example!

6:44 - Jason Crabb literally just said that he couldn't read the Spanish Nominees... How awesome is that! Jason Crabb, you are awesome! For real, he is nuts! The winner for Spanish Language Album of the Year goes to Hillsong's Con Todo. Joel Houston is accepting the reward. That's one cool guy!

6:43 - Casting Crowns just mentioned that they are wrapping up recording their new album coming out soon.

6:42 - Ian Eskelin just won for Producer of the Year! He definitely deserves it!

6:41 - Songwriter of the Year... Jason Crabb just got to announce that his Dad won. The Crabb Family must be proud.

6:39 - "The Master Plan"  by Tamela Mann wins for Traditional Gospel Recorded Song of the Year... Awesome!

6:37 - The Gaither Vocal Band's Greatly Blessed wins for Southern Gospel Album of the Year... who wouldn't have called that?!

6:35 - Best Musical... hmmm... As Sure As My Redeemer Lives... So Shall I wins. Interesting category. I thought that would've died out with Psalty the Singing Song Book.

6:31 - Now for Long Form Music Video of the Year, I would actually like to see Hillsong win this one. They're pretty creative with their videos. The winner is Casting Crowns' Until the Whole World Hears Live. I'm not surprised. I'm proud someone from Atlanta won, but... well...

6:28 - Rock Album of the Year... I'm pulling for Future of Forestry, but I'm guessing DecembeRadio will win. It goes to... Disciple's Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Not a bad win for the guys!

6:26 - Wow they're not wasting anytime. Back into the winners; The Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year goes to Group 1 Crew's Outta Space Love! 2 AWARDS Tonight!

6:25 - I'm pretty sure Jason Crabb is off his rocker.

6:19 - Brian Courtney Wilson is killing it in his performance. You've got to appreciate good Gospel music.

6:17 - Recorded Music Packaging... I'm hoping for Andy Barron's work to be appreciated for how awesome it is on Hello Hurricane's packaging. It goes to... the artwork for Third Day's Move. Not a bad win! 

6:15 - Country Recorded Song of the Year. Will Point of Grace get a third award? ... YEP! "There is Nothing Greater Than Grace" wins. Wow... you would think this thing is rigged or something.

6:14 - Inspirational Song of the Year... Jason Crabb's Joseph won! I'm sure he's not "crabby" about that... Yeah I know I'm really lame.

6:12 - Praise and Worship Album of the Year. Jars of Clay would be a great win. But no... it goes to Meredith Andrew's As Long As It Takes. Jason Ingram is accepting for her... that was a short acceptance speech.

6:08 - Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year... please Sanctus please Sanctus... it goes to "Beautiful, Beautiful" by Francesca Battistelli... Good song, so I'm not upset.

6:06 - Ben Glover and Laura Story are now up to present the next batch of winners. Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year is up. I'm hoping for "Tonight".... Nope it goes to "Something Beautiful" by NEEDTOBREATHE... Still a good win!

6:02 - GMC wins the Impact Award.

6:01 - The city of Atlanta is presenting an award of recognition to the GMA for bringing the Doves to Atlanta. They should have ended it with, "Can I get a woot woot?" That would've been so awesome. I would've done it.

5:51 - TobyMac is back stage telling us about how he loves being in Atlanta for the Doves. He's so funny! He just said that "The Fox Theatre" is his favorite place to perform. That's a big deal folks. And no joke dude... he's rocking a wallet chain.

5:48 - Alright, Worship Song of the Year... Ian Eskelin literally just said, "Christ is ridden..." I'm pretty sure that's not biblical. ;) The winner is "How Great is the Love" by Meredith Andrews oh wait... guess what... another tie. "Our God" by Chris Tomlin too. What in the world is up with these ties?!

5:46 - Special Event Album of the Year... I think we all know who's going to win. And it is - Yep... Passion's Awakening. Louie Giglio is awesome at giving acceptance speeches!

5:43 - Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year... everyone in the room is rooting for Lecrae. The winner is... Group 1 Crew's "Walking on the Stars" Awesome! Even though most of the people in the media room gave out an "awww, man," I am cheering. Go Group 1 Crew!!!

5:41 - Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year goes to.... TOBY MAC WINS!!! Congratufreakinlations! Can we get a woot woot from JFH!

5:37 - Best Christmas Album of the Year goes to Point of Grace's Home for the Holidays. Wow, 2 awards! And Carol Cymbala takes it for Choral Collection of the Year.

5:34 - The legendary Ian Eskelin is announcing the Rock Recorded Song of the Year; I'm hoping for Switchfoot's "The Sound"... it goes to... Red's "Start Again"... well that's not bad at all. Congratulations fellas!

5:30 - Chris August just performed his hit "Starry Night"...  an acoustic rendition. Wow - his voice is as good live as it is on a recording. And for that I applaud you Chris! Cool glasses too.

5:28 - Food for the Hungry just wrapped up their presentation at the Dove Awards. They are an incredible organization. Shameless plug: Everyone should join up with them!

5:23 - @John... me too. Jars definitely deserved it.

5:20 - Sandi Patty and Patty Griffin just both won for their albums for Inspirational Album of the Year... A tie? How does that happen?

5:17 - Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year... Jars of Clay and Tenth Avenue North have been nominated so either one of those would make me happy.  And it goes to... Chris August's No Far Away... Well, we love him too. Congrats Chris on your first Dove Award.

5:15 - Best Country Album of the Year... I'm guessing Point of Grace will win.             Oh... and they did! No Changin' Us wins! Congrats Point of Grace.

5:13 - They just announced the Bluegrass Album of the Year - Singing from the Heart by Dailey & Vincent. Congrats!!

5:05 - They are working on the Pre-Show feed so we can see what's going on during the whole show. I'm crossing my fingers, my toes, praying, and I might just start speaking in other languages...

5:02 - I'm pretty sure every journalist is trying to get their picture in front of the Dove backdrop. "I need my ten seconds of fame! Sort of."

4:48 - Blue Grass Recorded Song goes to Lizzy Long's "Mountaintop."

4:43 - "Better Day" by Gaither Vocal Band wins Southern Gospel Recorded Song... is anyone surprised? Southern Gospel and Bill Gaither are synonomous. We mourn your loss Oak Ridge Boys.

4:38 - Israel Houghton's Love God Love People wins Best Contemporary Gospel Album of the year. Sadly, he's not here to receive the award because he's on tour.

4:36 - They just announced that Urban Recorded Song of the Year is "Wait on the Lord" by Lola Godheld

4:35 - Well... just found out that the Pre-Show feed is broken... No Bueno! This might make things difficult.

4:27 - The pre-show is getting ready to begin. In the great words of a forgotten childhood movie star, "Don't get scared now."

4:00 - Some awesome guy just brought out a power strip for us! Can you say MVP?!

3:44 - There's a little bit of panic in the press room... let's all just pray for a place for people to plug in their laptops.

3:28 - Well we're here at the Doves and the media room is ablaze!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Set! Filming Abandon, 'Feel It In Your Heart' Music Video

Have you ever wondered what happens while a music video is being made? Me too! Thanks to the awesome fellas in Abandon… my curious hunger has been fulfilled.

It was a cold February morning when I made my way to the small city just outside of Atlanta known as Maysville (trivia time! It's also where Sanctus Real's video for "Forgiven" was filmed!). Its GPS location is somewhere between “Oh my gosh, where are we?!” and “I’m pretty sure we’re lost!” Honestly, it was in the middle of nowhere. To even say it’s “just outside” of Atlanta would be a lie; if that fact were true then I’d be just outside the weight bracket of being able to wear an XL t-shirt.

Anywho, the day began with the joys of Atlantian traffic! Fists balled up and teeth a' gnashing! This day was not filled with anger but with anticipation… for the hunger that was about to be fulfilled and simply the fact that I was just super stoked to meet these awesome musicians. A few days before, I was given an advanced copy of Abandon’s sophomore album “Control” (which streets next week), and to say the least, it rocked my face off. Thus, I wanted to at least shake these guys’ hands and say, “Thanks for making some flippin’ awesome music!” As I made my way out of the city and further north into the wilderness of the metropolitan area, I was trying to find the appeal of shooting a music video in the middle of nowhere. I’m pretty sure I heard banjos a number of times. [Especially as I passed by homes decorated with Confederate flags. Give it up fellas, the North won and it made life better for all of us!]

As we rolled into the small town, I could see why someone might want to live in such a cute area. It has some adorable buildings, Victorian style homes, oh… and plenty of broken down shacks that scream, “Feature me on Paranormal State!” But in all honesty, it’s a very attractive town with lots of character and some incredible Mom & Pop restaurants.

As I arrived to the location of the shoot, I quickly had to put on my game face. The first person I got to meet was the video’s director, Nate “Dust” Correna. Yes, Dust from Mars Ill! Can you say “switch hitter”? I can. At first he looked like an intimidating guy, but then he ended up being so cool and welcoming. Not wanting to eat away at any of his time, I quickly said, “Hello,” and got a chance to say a short greeting to Abandon's lead singer Josh Engler. After meeting a few more of the crew, it was time to meet the rest of the band… but looking around, they were nowhere to be found. Suddenly, like a bunch of rock stars on the red carpet, they all got out of a limo and began to strut towards me. And by “limo” I mean an econoline van and by “strut” I mean shiver as they walked. People from Texas can’t handle the humid cold of Georgia, not like I can either but like I said before “game face”.

As we exchanged greetings, I could already tell that this was going to be a great time. Each one of the guys is so different but so relatable that it’s almost surreal. As we sat in the van, I was able to ask my planned interview questions and got to know the guys a little bit more. Watching how they interact with each other, whether poking fun or praising one another, it was obvious that these fellas are not just friends or band-mates… they’re brothers. And no doubt from the time I arrived to the time I left, these were some of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and I don’t just mean people in a band. Even though I was there to see them in action, they weren’t trying to impress anybody and welcomed me with open arms. Listening to their hearts for ministry and their passion for doing what God has called them to do was absolutely inspiring.

While we were wrapping up the interview, a couple of the guys had to go assist in a new scene for the video. So for a brief moment, I got to talk with Justin, the rhythm guitarist, about the trials and tribulations of being on the road. With a raw and transparent attitude, Justin didn’t sugarcoat or glamorize anything. He was very real about how difficult it can be being away from his wife and family, and also about how shows have to really be strategically planned out. While some artists can put makeup on their situations, the guys in Abandon aren’t about that; they are all about being transparent before everyone! Which in reality is so refreshing! In addition to that, they are all ridiculously funny. From what I saw, I think this will be mildly captured by their video.

After Josh had finished his scenes, I got a chance to talk with him about his role in Abandon and about a pinch of what God’s been showing him in life recently. You can tell he’s a deep thinker and a very honest person, which is once again pretty awesome. He really has a heart for loving people, regardless of circumstance and situation. (Can anyone say “conviction”?) When all was said and done, I got to pray with him and we said our goodbyes. It was one of those moments where “the bond of peace” and “brothers in Christ” really made sense.

With all of the scene changes and set hopping it was time to say “adios” to the guys and the crew. In my humble opinion, I think the video fits the general theme of the song. Without giving away the plot of the video… let me just say the tennis rackets are my favorite. I will also say this; it does not look easy to film a music video. I’m not a hundred percent sure why, but the guys had to learn their song at twice the speed and perform it that way. Plus… they had to go to Middle-Of-Nowhere-Maysville, Georgia to film it! (However, let me state that Nate’s DustBrand Films is sure to make this an awesome video!)

You know, at first I thought I was going to go just meet up with the guys from Abandon and watch them shoot a music video, but instead I got to meet Josh, Justin, Bryan, Stevan, and Dave… five brothers in Christ. I think that beat out my original plan completely and for that, I am truly grateful.

-- Ryan Barbee

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

EXCLUSIVE Family Force 5 'Wobble' Song Debut!

Family Force 5, IIIWe're proud to bring you the debut of a brand new Family Force 5 song, titled "Wobble." Check out the track snippet that you can ONLY hear here and grab the EP when it goes on sale on their tour and online store this Friday! -- JFH

The EP is called "III" (pronounced 'three') and will be available only on the Tourantula tour and our online store http://familyforce5.myshopify.com starting Friday. Disc is limited to 3K. - Family Force 5

New full-length album out later this year!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ask the Easter Bunny

Over the past couple years, as Easter begins to roll around, I've begun hearing something that I don't remember from my childhood.  I wasn't raised in the Church, so I was never actually taught the real meaning behind Easter.  I just knew that on Easter Sunday, I was gonna get a basket full of candy and find some unnaturally-colored eggs that some mystical bunny left in our yard for whatever reason.  It actually seems kinda rude when I think about it now.  How did that bunny even get ahold of pink and green eggs?

Tangents aside, I was never really taught that Easter was REALLY about Jesus's resurrection that ultimately meant eternal life for anybody who was willing to believe such an outrageous thing.  My main thing was hoping that the Easter Bunny didn't forget to leave us those eggs and candy.  Now, society seems to have turned the Easter Bunny into a second Santa Claus.  More than a couple times, I've literally heard parents that come into my place of business (aka Toys R Us) say this to their kids: "You want that [some random toy or whatever]?  Well, you can ask the Easter Bunny to bring it to you."

*raised eyebrow*

What?  Ask the Easter Bunny for a present?  It boggles my mind.  Is this a new thing, or have I just not really been paying attention to the commercialization of yet another holiday?

God help me not to raise my future children to be dependent on material things.  But first, help ME not to.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

There and Back Again

Woah.  We’ve just come out of the first two performances we’ve ever done in public, and it was amazing!  New Day Dawning played their first gig at a youth music venue called Zeal (based in West Auckland, New Zealand) and the response was very encouraging.  There must have been about 70-80 people there at least, which is very good for a first performance.  And before you knock me for being too cocky, I’ll back up my last statement by adding that about two-thirds of the crowd went home after we finished playing (note AFTER, not DURING—got to be a good sign, I think). Of course, the crowd was probably due to all us band members inviting practically everybody on our Facebook friends list to the event.

Being up on stage was a very unique experience.  You tend to think about a lot of things: are we mixed well, will I remember my parts, will the singer remember HIS parts, do the crowd like us, should I clap to get them going, or should I just act reserved because getting into it too much would seem arrogant for a new, unknown band?  But when I got into it, all of those worries because less of an issue; instead, it became fun!  And the crowd enjoyed it too (I can say this because it was confirmed by several people who were NOT my mum, although she did too).  I’m super-stoked about this, because it means that those two years we spent practicing in our drummer’s garage, working on new songs and getting tighter as a group were totally worth it.  Some people said that they were really surprised at how good we were for our first performance, which was something I’d always hoped but never expected to hear.  So here’s a good piece of advice for any new bands out there: Be patient!  Don’t worry about taking a long time polishing your sound (or in our case, trying to decide on a sound!), because if you do, you’ll surprise a lot of people in a good way.  And if you don’t, you’ll sound like just another garage band so-and-so’s kid put together a month ago.  Only sayin’.

I booked our second performance a day after we played our first, which was happening on the following Friday.  We figured that, since we’d already rehearsed for one performance, why not do two and grow from the experience?  The gig was a benefit concert for the Christchurch earthquake victims, hosted by Eastview Baptist Church in Botany Downs, East Auckland.  An acquaintance of mine invited me to what was basically a concert with an open invitation to artists and bands to perform, so I jumped at the chance.  While the crowd wasn’t quite as enthusiastic (I’m putting that down to about eight 3-song acoustic acts before us lulling them into a semi-slumber), it was a good opportunity to raise awareness about New Day Dawning with the Christian musicians that were there.

So, what now?  At the moment we’re focusing on increasing our repertoire by working on some new songs.  Since we’ve only got a 4-song set, I’d say that’s a high-priority task for us at the moment.  I’m also looking at ditching my MIDI controller/laptop setup in favour of a dedicated keyboard synthesizer.  To be honest, it takes way too long to set up the controller, laptop and output box for a live gig, and it’d be far easier for me to control everything on one device with knobs and buttons, rather than depending on the laptop for most of my adjustments.  Here’s hoping I’ll choose the right one for what will hopefully be a year of many more performances to come.

God bless!
Adam Dawson

 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Attending The 2011 Dove Awards Press Conference

42nd Annual Dove Award Press Conference
February 16, 2011 (Report by Ryan Barbee)

Atlanta. Home of Coca-Cola, the 1996 Olympics, decent fried chicken, and some of the most popular mainstream hip hop. In addition to these fine attributes, Atlanta will be the home of this year’s Dove Awards. Is it a natural fit? Some would say, “Oh yes!”  To me? Not really.

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of attending the Dove Award Press Conference at The Fabulous Fox Theatre (Yes it is called “The Fabulous…” I’m not being flamboyantly excited about the place – that’s just the literal name of the building.)

As I left my car in a sketchy parking lot with a police officer arresting a homeless person I kept thinking, “Is this really the place they thought would best suit the Dove Awards?” With my cynicism in high gear and a smile on my face I walked the two blocks over to the theatre in high hopes for what I was about to see. But as I approached the building it was eerily quiet. I asked myself, “Is this the right place?” Thankfully a sign saying “42nd Annual Dove Awards Press Conference: Upstairs,” let me know that I wasn’t crazy.

The information I was sent said that the press conference would begin at 10 o’clock SHARP! And according to southern tradition (please forgive the twang) – if ya 15 minutes early den ya on-time. If ya on-time den ya late! If ya late, ya fired! With this mindset in play I figured it would be wise to arrive 15 minutes early. And thus begins my recording of the event… please excuse my sarcasm (I actually enjoyed myself.)

9:45 (I’ve inserted this time just for time reasons.)
I have arrived. Get my computer out and look like I’m doing something.

9:49
The GMA crew is still setting up for the Press Conference. They’re trying to set up a TV and it looks like it’s not working very well at all.

One of the organizers named Jules comes out to greet everyone. She’s very polite and cordial but looks like she’s as stressed as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The crowd has people from Gospel Music Channel, TBN, etc.

9:50
Some Dove “Trophies” are put out for all to see. How pretty! J

9:54
Elevator music begins to fill the room. It’s kind of pitiful the way the music sounds. Why not play some of the music that’s being nominated? Maybe that’s too practical… it’s just a suggestion.

9:58
The photographer in front of me asks what time it is. The pictures he’s taken so far are amazing. And he takes them like it’s nothing. His work is beautiful, simple, and he makes it look effortless…

10:00
Haven’t started yet… so much for SHARP

10:01
Everyone’s mingling… I’m not. I’m not that kind of guy. Mingling always wigs me out.

The tech guys are still testing the microphones. OH! And one of the tech guys just knocked over a Dove… awesome!

10:02
GMA’s sharpness is looking to be about as sharp as a 3 year olds plastic butter knife.

10:04
Let’s get this show on the road!

People are having “pretend” conversations… with fake laughs and religious banter. Either that or “Professional Christians” are really just that shallow.

10:05
They’ve decided to put up another TV. It took them about 20 minutes to set the other one up… Let’s see how this one does. These TVs look like they’ve been thrown around in the back of a garbage truck for the past 4 years.

10:07
Jules announces that they’ll be beginning soon so everyone starts to take their seats.

10:10
Such intriguing conversations…

This one guy has a great time cutting his dog’s hair… tulips are totally in this season… I give expensive presents on Valentine’s Day.

Oh Lord, save me!

10:16
They begin…

The Chairman says that Atlanta is so well known for Christian music… he must be confused. We’ve got Coca-Cola, the ’96 Olympics, and Ludacris! Yeah, we’ve got a few artists who make their home in the metro Atlanta area but just cuz you bake with an easy bake oven doesn’t make you the Ace of Cakes!

10:17
The artists walk out… together.  They remind me of the original American Gladiators. Not in the way they look but… I mean come on! That’s a bunch of Christian Artist MEGA STARS!

Wow - Mac Powell really does look like Jesus.

10:18
Everyone in the audience clears their throat at the same time. That was weird. I guess I missed the memo on “what time to clear your throat.”

Carlos Whitaker is as tough looking as his album cover makes him look.

10:20
Bishop Morton opens the conference up in prayer. Very nice!

10:22
Once started… it doesn’t stop! I could barely breathe. They announced the nominees for their respective categories. (click here for the FULL list)

Mandisa
Third Day
Lecrae
Francesca Batistelli
Sisters

10:46
That was a lot of information in a very short amount of time.

The GMA Chair mentions that this year they will have the Dove Awards focusing on the pastors and church choirs this year. Paying honor where honor is due. Which I think is a very cool thing.

10:48
Bishop Morton closes us in prayer. This guy is good. He doesn’t pray exasperatingly too long but aims straight at the heart of prayer. Many thanks Bishop! 

10:50
News crews and reporters bum rush the artists. I should probably stand out of the way.

My overall thought of the nominees is very mixed. It seems more and more that the popular adult contemporary music is the only thing really highlighted. Yeah there are a few standout selections of rap, rock, and alternative, but as a whole… it’s the same artists every year. And if not the same artists – it’s just the same music with different packaging. While yes, my respect for the artists is there, my heart kind of sinks for those who really aren’t getting much recognition.

They should come up with a recipe for “How to Win a Dove Award.”
1 cup of contemporary recycled lyrics
3 ounces of 4 year aged CMR radio play
1 teaspoon of Chris Tomlin
½ cup of butter
Stir until it sounds like what won in previous years.
Bake at 350 degrees for 14 months or until it’s reached Gold status in sales.
Voila! A Dove Award!

This might sound like I’m trying to bash the Dove Awards. I’m not. I honestly respect what all of these artists do. They give music that honors God and blesses the listener. But to deny the reality of what is… would be lying. However on the bright side, looking at what is to come this year it’s as if the Doves will have no option but to recognize the greatness that will be released. Think about it: Switchfoot, Blindside, Eisley, David Crowder*Band, Phil Wickham, Leeland, Family Force 5… 2011 is a year for music! And that’s something to celebrate. So if we don’t hear them receiving recognition during next year’s awards… maybe we should start a riot. Not really – cause that would be bad. But hey, that might fit-in in Atlanta just right.

11:10
I’ve arrived back at my car. That was fun.

~ Ryan Barbee

Sunday, February 20, 2011

At 30,000 Feet

So here I sit on a red eye flight from Honolulu to Phoenix. It's the dead of night. It seems like everyone is sleeping on this plane but me. As I look out the window, all I see is darkness, and I all I know is that I'm somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in all its vastness.

And in this boredom, I've just been doing a lot of thinking. Or maybe what I've actually been doing is marveling at the richness of God's creation. Below me, an ocean so big that none can fathom. Above me, stars and planets whose mysteries only He can see through. Around me, diverseness of human life, people from a multitude of cultures. With me, the God who made it all. The One who has blessed my life so fully that at 30,000 feet on a metal bullet soaring through the sky, I can sit here in admiration and feel the power of a contentment only He can offer. ~ Logan

 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections On The 2011 Dove Nominees

So yesterday, the 42nd Annual GMA Dove Award nominations were announced. (Check out the FULL List of nominees here) This marks the very first year the awards ceremony has relocated from Nashville, TN to Atlanta, GA (due to the show's biggest sponsor - Gospel Music Channel - being based in Atlanta).

My first reaction to the nominations was a mix of confusion and surprise (and maybe a little disgust?). The reason I say confusion is because I noticed several late 2009 releases had made it onto the list of 2010 releases (further investigation on my part revealed that the releases I was thinking about -- Flyleaf, Switchfoot, and Casting Crowns were all released in November, 2009, and although songs from some of those releases were nominated or won last year, their respective albums were not nominated. And, like the Grammys, the Doves must include releases from later in the year two years prior in addition to the releases of the previous year). However, at the same time, I noticed it seems to have a bit more emphasis on Gospel and Southern Gospel artists this time around too (just look at the main category nominations). Also, it's always kind of irritated me a bit that, with so many releases debuting new music in a year, group/artist/vocalist/song, etc nominations seem to focus more on an artist's success at radio or on the road than their debuting of new music that year. I can understand if the artist had a solid new album and ruled the airwaves and touring circuit... but to highlight artists that didn't really do anything "new" in 2010?

Anyway, I'd love to hear your individual thoughts on the matter -- not to eat each other alive on here with your respective opinions (play nice, please), but to discuss your thoughts on the nominees for this year and maybe how the Dove Awards could improve for future years.

-- John

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We Come From A Land Down-Under

What’s going on?!

Hey.  If you’ve been around JfH for a while, you may remember me as one of the reviewers; otherwise, my prolonged absence due to second-year university studies, looking for a job (and getting one), and working in that aforementioned job might have rendered my name relatively unknown.  Anyways, I’ve had this little musical project going with my mates for almost 2 years now, called “New Day Dawning”; the idea I put to John (head honcho here) was a blog series on what it’s like to be in a start-up band, the trials and tribulations associated with it, and whether it experiences success or a lack of it.

A bit of backstory…

New Day Dawning started life as…err, we actually didn’t have a name for it back then.  We in due course came up with “Pentomuse”, but that was scrapped as people thought we were trying to rip-off Muse (we weren’t).

Myself and a friend came up with the idea for forming the band after our first musical project—“Off-Kilter”—went south due to a lack of spare time and commitment from some of the members.  To start off with we had 6 members: Matthew (bassist, previously rhythm guitar in Off-Kilter), Joseph (pianist, also in Off-Kilter), Jasher (lead guitarist), Sam (rhythm guitarist), David (drummer) and myself (lead vocalist and songwriter).  The year went by…and so did two of our members.  Joseph wasn’t as keen as the rest of us on performing, and Matthew ended up becoming a dairy farm worker, which took him away from us in Auckland (one of the principal cities in New Zealand) for long periods of time.  Fast forward about a year, and we acquired our new rhythm guitarist—David (we now call the drummer by his last name “Hubble” to avoid confusion); with Sam having already moved to fill the bassist’s position, he was a much needed addition to the band.

That was then, this is now

Last week we went through one of our most significant role re-shuffles ever: I stepped down as frontman and ceded the position to our rhythm guitarist, David, while I took the role as keyboardist.  When you’ve harboured aspirations of leading a rock band on stage, it is rather painful to admit that you may not be the best man for the job and let someone else take the spotlight.  But if it helps the band, then it’s worth it.  I hope.

Looks like I’m holding a pity-party—anyone got the consolation-cake?  :-D

Ha ha, ANYWAY.  Ahem.  So far, 2011 looks like it might be the IT year for the band.  To this date, we haven’t performed live for anyone yet (I utterly refuse to acknowledge the talent show as a performance, because it’s a bad memory and I wish to wipe that stain from the annals of band history.  Don’t ask), but that’s about to change.  Our first gig will be at David’s 21st birthday party on the 5th of March, which will be the perfect dress rehearsal for our second gig at a youth music venue in West Auckland called Zeal, at 7:00 PM on the 11th of March.  I’d say I’m nervous, but I reckon most of that will fall onto David now—I’m just the key-lackey (hey, there ARE advantages to not being the frontman anymore!  Positive thinking, right there for ya).

Jasher and David are staying with me while I housesit for my family, who are enjoying a beach holiday for 12 days.  Hopefully, we’ll have more opportunities to practice our songs because of it.  I’ll keep you all posted.

God bless!
Adam Dawson

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is Music Piracy An Issue?

An issue I feel is very current in the music industry, as well as very relevant, is music piracy.  The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote a paper on the subject.  This is indeed a controversial topic, so I’d love to see what comments you all have.

------------------------------------------------

Hard rock/metal quintet Oh, Sleeper is a band very vocal about the broad dangers and problems with music piracy.  To illustrate their point, guitarist Shane Blay detailed out the expenses and payrolls for which the band is responsible [via a Facebook note].  Blay explains there are two main ways by which the band can earn profit: guaranties and merchandise sales.  For any given show, the band makes their money through $300 they have in each area.  To start with guaranties, which are the amounts every band in a show is promised by the venue as payment for performing, the band manager and booking agent each receive 15% and 10% respectively.  With the gas bill averaging $150 for each show as well as food costs averaging $10 for each member of the band and their merchandise manager, these are subtracted from the total.  To sum up guaranties, the band earns around $15 as the net total.  For merchandise, Oh, Sleeper sells their t-shirts for $15 per show, and it costs the band $7.50 to print each shirt.  With half profit made for each shirt, half of the average $300 in merchandise sales goes back to the t-shirt manufacturer.  Many venues, however, charge what are called “merch rates,” where around 25% of the profits of the sold merchandise are paid to the venue.  When both the guaranties and merchandise sales are added together, the band makes around $13.12 per band member, and this total does not include miscellaneous expenses such as hotels, auto repair bills, broken musical equipment and replacements, etc.  Blay concludes his article with the words, “STOP STEALING OUR CDs PLEASE [sic].”

It is a myth that all musicians today make the “big bucks.”  For a band such as Oh, Sleeper to make the amount of money they do as a signed band, it is surprising how little the band really receives for their wages.  In this age of digital music, where outlets such as iTunes and AmazonMP3 are quickly becoming the major sources of music for consumers, the sale of physical CDs is becoming more and more slim.  Digital sales are quite easy for the sellers, because they can make the money they would like very quickly, and consumers are satisfied because they receive the music they buy almost instantly.  But with this newfound convenience of MP3s, music piracy has become much more of a problem.  The infamous Napster closed down years ago because of copyright infringement issues, but this has not stopped some crafty consumers from continuing to steal music and/or give it away to friends, mostly because of the incredible ease.  One can easily burn songs to a CD and give the CD away, or even worse, sell the CD for a profit.  Some computer applications such as (the now defunct) LimeWire or Kazaa, while legitimate and legal peer-to-peer sharing networks for non-copywritten material, have also an easy avenue to find virtually any song they would like and freely download it to their computer’s hard drive.  Some also rationalize music piracy through borrowing albums from a local library, importing the CDs’ contents to their hard drive and returning the albums.  Others claim that since nobody they know has ever been arrested for the crime, they will not be subject to indictment either.  And what is possibly one of the worst aspects about music piracy is that many people partake in the activity without much thought of the consequences, including Christians.

Christians, like everyone else, are subject to the temptations to sin every day, and music piracy is no exception.  And because it is extremely easy to pirate music, many Christians participate, despite both its illegal and sinful nature; if they purposefully look for ways to obtain illegally-exchanged music, they will indeed find them.  I once was talking to a friend at my college about this issue, and he retorted with: “I’m okay with opening my mind to different types of music, but not with opening my wallet.”  But music consumers, Christians or not, cannot have it both ways.  Pirating music, any way it is performed, is a form of stealing, and with Scripture making a clear statement on the topic of theft and possessions, Christians have no place in the illegal activity.  Exodus 20:15 phrases it quite clearly with its four simple words, “You shall not steal.”  Like any other sin, piracy can be tempting, but resisting the urges is important to keep one’s heart blameless and keep our habits with money honest and pure.  For some, purchasing music from a retail store may be a better option to avoid the lure of the internet’s black market.  This should not stop consumers from using their stewardship skills, however; as long as the outlets chosen are legal, one should go and find the best deal they can on music in which they are interested.  Many digital music outlets periodically offer sales and bargains of which any consumer would be wise to take notice.

Knowing the facts about the reality of music piracy and its implications, consumers would do well to avoid the activity.  Besides its illegality, it hurts the artists and other music professionals and desensitizes the human heart towards stealing.  To keep artists such as The Lighthouse And The Whaler and Oh, Sleeper in the circle, making records and playing shows for their fans, music piracy has to end.  Truly valuing the art of music has two parts: listening to and appreciating the music, as well as giving these bands their due financial support as well.  The Lord calls Christians to be different, and the sooner Christians accept this call in this area of the arts, bands like Oh, Sleeper can survive and continue to bring innovative music to the table.

- Roger

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is The Light Being Hidden?

Recently I had the privilege of attending Winter Jam. The following day at work, my co-worker who covered for me inquired about my absence. I went on to tell him that I went to a Christian concert. He asked who was playing there, and I said some Christian rock bands which included the headliners, the Newsboys and Kutless. 

He is currently an unbeliever, so I wasn't that surprised when he said he never heard of them before. Then I mentioned that RED had also performed there. Well, he had heard of them, and, in fact, was even a fan of them. My coworker even remarked that they were pretty good and had some great songs. It even surprised him that they were a Christian band.

He then thought aloud about "that other Christian rock band..." that he knew of but couldn't think of. I tried to fill in his blank by offering up the names Skillet and Thousand Foot Krutch, Christian artists who have had some mainstream success. He then responded "Thousand Foot Krutch... I didn't know they were a Christian band."

This conversation disturbed me because he never once thought about RED and TFK's lyrics and how it made them different from other rock bands. So I'm wondering if I should be enthusiastic that Christian rock artists have successfully infiltrated mainstream rock or if I should be troubled that my unbelieving co-worker had no idea that there is something different about those artists?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

When Our Grand Kids Want to Hear the Story

It's 2005, and I'm a nervous high school senior with a serious crush on the prettiest girl at school. Likelihood of feelings being reciprocated are hanging somewhere between not likely and absolutely not. Try as I may to focus on other things, to be mature and not let this silly little crush end me, I can't seem to shake the feeling. We don't talk that much, but when we do, it just feels special. At least it does on my end. I want to get to know this girl. I want to be the one she calls when things are good, and not so good. But it's all just a pleasant fantasy, I'm sure.

In a flash, I'm sitting in the back of my family's van, five years later. Suitcases packed, it's obvious we're heading to Florida to see the relatives. It must be Christmas time! I'm aware of the presence of someone in the backseat with me, curled up and sleeping. But with my eyes forward, I see the rest of my family first. Dad driving, mom shotgun, my two siblings just ahead of me. So who is next to me?

I slowly turn my head to find that it's Her, asleep. Her hair is a holy mess, the result of some serious bedhead, but she looks like an angel. Why is she here?

I am then keenly aware of a slight pressure on a finger on my left hand, my ring finger, specifically. I've never been one for jewelry, so that piece of white gold must have some serious significance. I start to put two and two together, and all I can think to think is: "How on earth did I get here?"

Sometimes, it's fun to do this, when something otherwise mundane is going on- Take myself out of the scene for a second, and pretend a 17-18 year old me has been thrust into the very moment I am currently living, transported multiple years with no real explanation. What would I think? Would I be able to comprehend all the changes?

Only one thing is really for sure: I would be so thankful. I wouldn't be able to get over how thankful I was.

In his fantastic book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Thomas spends a lot of time stressing the importance of remembering your sacred history with your spouse. It sounds a little corny when you read it out loud. But, four months into this thing, it's already hugely apparent that this is vital!

Remembering your sacred history keeps you humble and honest and, most importantly, clear minded. There are times when the shimmer wanes and all the flash of being newlyweds disappears and being married is just... normal. I'm pretty sure that being married should never be normal.

So when Kelli and/or I threaten complacency in our young marriage, I grab her close and remind her of the time we had our "movie moment" in front of prom in 2007, or the night we finally talked about our feelings in 2008, or just how long and confusing and breathtaking our young friendship was for the first few years- all the things that make it apparent that there's a divine plan and an unmistakable romance in our relationship that is so, so special.

Oh, how thankful I am that long before we were even together, the story of our first meeting was so deeply ingrained in our minds, and was retold often, almost as though Yahweh knew our meeting needed to be just like a movie. It's for this very reason that I asked Kelli to date and marry me in the same place we first met! There is a reverence and beauty in the sacred history He has written for us, and it must not be forgotten, but celebrated.

So when we're old and our grand kids want to know the moment I knew I was going to marry their grandmother, I'll smile with pride because I'll remember exactly when it was. Because Kelli and I retell those stories to each other all of the time.

Because that stuff is important.

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the old, in with a New Year

I like the New Year holiday. I think it does has something to do with the fact that I happen to like shiny new things, but I also love the idea of a clean slate. A new year... a new month... a new date. January always feels fresh even though, essentially, it's really just a continuation of life as we know it.

But it's this time of year that we reflect on the year that's ending and a new year ahead. Whether or not January 1st really is "just another day," the truth of the matter is that we often recall periods of life by their month, year, or season. For 2010, I can look back on it being a really huge year in my life. I said goodbye to my twenties, my wife and I welcomed our first child, JFH turned fourteen years old, and in December, the site got a much needed face lift. At the same time, the year has brought just as many fears, heartaches, and exercises in trusting God as any other year, if not more.

So a good part of me wants to put my "hand to the plow" and not look back at 2010. 2011 has way too many question marks and uncertainties for my comfort zone, but I know that all of the new adventures and trials are God's way of testing and asking for more trusting from me... more leaps of faith. I'm always learning what it means to rest in Him and give things over to Him because I feel like it's up to me to change things, complete things and see things through. I know it's wrong, but I know I need to be honest with myself and my brothers and sisters in this walk of faith if I'm ever to improve upon that.

So as we say goodbye to 2010, my New Year's "Resolution" is to trust Him more and be a better father, husband, and child of God.

Do any of you have any New Year's Resolutions?

Thanks for supporting JFH, guys. We appreciate you. Happy 2011! -- John DiBiase

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Resolute New Year

Looking back on a year is one of my favorite things to do after Christmas. 2010 may be best remembered as the year of the iPad and Justin Bieber. It was a year of political battlegrounds encompassing healthcare and a historic midterm election. In the media, it was the year Larry King ended his CNN show after 25 years and it was when we found out Steve Carell was leaving ‘The Office.’ It was the year of Twitter and social media. It was the year of the Nashville flood.  And in Christian music, it was the year of Charmaine, tobyMac, and the weird announcement of the 2011 Dove’s being held in…Atlanta.

But as we look back on such a big year, what can we really say about it? What did we, as Christians, as ambassadors of Christ, do to impact this world? Did we change someone’s life? Bring someone to know the love of Jesus? It’s a question we all should reflect on. Not just at the end of the year, no, but rather in our daily walk with God: What am I doing to save this dying world?

So as we enter 2011, as we make our resolutions that we’ll never keep and promise ourselves a “fresh start,” try something new. Make 2011 the year that you make an impact on someone’s life. It could be as simple as paying for the person’s meal behind you in the drive-thru at McDonald’s. It could be as easy talking to that person everyone seems to ignore and making them feel loved. Whatever it is, resolve yourself to make 2011 a year where the love of God impacts the distant people in this world; help the lost become found.

-- Logan Leasure

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Indie Albums of 2010

If you're an avid reader of Jesusfreakhideout.com and all it has to offer, then you know we have two different classifications for the artists we cover: major label artists and independent artists.  For a little over a year, I've been the main "writing guy" for the indie section (aka, the State of Independents - a nice little name I came up with....okay it was actually John who came up with it, but I liked it).  Ahem.

Earlier in the month, we posted our top ten albums and songs for 2010.  This year, I thought I'd get with some of the other staffers who listen to a lot of independent music and post our lists of the top indie albums we got to hear this year.  Some had big lists, some only picked a few.

Now, it's obviously not possible to have heard every stinkin' indie album put out, so if you don't see an album in any of our lists, it's not necessarily because we didn't like it.  It may just be because we didn't get a chance to check it out - though there is the possibility that we have heard it and none of us liked it ;).  With that being said, I'll kindly ask those who read this: please do not post comments getting angry at us, berating us or threatening our mothers because we didn't list an album or artist.  On the other hand, I do encourage anyone to post their own lists if you so desire.  I'd love to hear what you guys have been listening to this year.  When you do post your comment, keep a few things in mind:

1) the artist has to be an independent artist.  This includes any artist that does not have major/national distribution of their album, regardless of whether they're signed to a label or not (for instance, labels like Come&Live!, Eden Records, Much Luvv Records, etc., despite being legitimate record labels, are considered indie labels due to the fact that they don't have nationwide distribution).  In other words, if you wouldn't find the album in retail chains like Best Buy, Lifeway, WalMart, etc., they are indie. (NOTE: artists like Showbread and Playdough made this list because, despite having been previously signed to major labels, they released albums independently this year)
2) the album has to have been released in 2010 (or late December 2009) to qualify for the list.
3) I know a lot of readers aren't exclusively Christian music listeners, myself included, please keep the lists to Christian artists.  Thanks:)

I know this is getting ridiculously long, and you're just wanting to read the lists.  So I apologize.  Without further ado, here are a few of Jesusfreakhideout's top indie albums of 2010!

Scott Fryberger:
Abel - Lesser Men
-A very strong, and surprising, indie rock record.  Going the independent route didn't seem to hurt them one bit.

Bella Vita - Flight Patterns EP
-Not a perfect album, but good for fans of folk/indie music.  Keep an eye on these guys.

Blood and Water - In Character
-Blood and Water's sophomore album is a fun mixture of pop punk and ska.  With a little more refining, they could easily fit in with the bigger names of the genre.

Bradley Hathaway - A Thousand Angry Panthers
-Deeper and darker (and shorter) than previous Hathaway releases, this may be some of his best work yet.  Very heartfelt and emotional.

dropsci.GIANTS - littleONES
-Four fairly underground emcees come together to create a pretty decent debut EP.  A good offering for fans of Tunnel Rats style hip hop.

The Ember Days - Finger Painting EP
-A gorgeous instrumental landscape, with honest and profound worshipful lyrics mixed in perfectly.

I Am Alpha and Omega - The Roar and the Whisper
-It was a long wait, but this album's arrival was refreshing.  IAAAO gets better with each release.

Listener - Wooden Heart
-Beautiful, passionate, intense - there's almost nothing I don't like about this album (not too fond of the fact that it ended).

Manchild & Jaq - You Don't Know Jaq EP
A short EP showcasing the newfound chemistry of DS5/Mars ILL emcee Manchild and Scribbling Idiots producer Jaq.  Nice little intro to the duo.

Playdough and For Beats' Sake - Writer Dye
-The Dallas, TX, emcee is always at the top of his game, as proven by this generous free offering.  His mic skills and For Beats' Sake's beats will keep you coming back for more.

Preson Phillips - Weep...He Loves The Mourner's Tears
-Skilled with the acoustic guitar and holding nothing back lyrically, this is a worship album to keep on repeat.

Showbread - Who Can Know It?
-Completely different than anything we've ever heard from the raw rock geniuses, but oh so fulfilling and amazing.  Is there anything Dies and company can't do?

Sons of God - The Genesis Prologue EP
-Only three songs, but so so good.  Their very first full length next year is one of my most anticipated.

Your Heart - Autumn
-Some of his best material to date.  Ten songs that capture the overall feel of autumn, and make you want to listen to the album all over again as soon as you're finished.

Sam Schaumberg:
Blood and Water - In Character
By adding an excellent variety of influences to the pop punk sound, Blood and Water presents an impressive album with both fun and thoughtful messages.

Listener - Wooden Heart
When you first listen to Wooden Heart, you catch yourself falling into a period of deep thought. Expect to feel like life is suddenly moving in slow motion.

Playdough – Bible Bus Mixtape
With great flow and tight lyrics, Bible Bus Mixtape further establishes Playdough’s hip-hop talent.

Playdough – Writer Dye
Of his two independent offerings this year, Playdough’s Writer Dye is a great collection with excellent beats and an interesting concept.

Quiet Science - [With/Without]
[With/Without] is a stellar album with a unique sound and a slight techno influence. Multiple listens only improves its quality.

The Wedding – Distance EP
The Wedding has already clearly established their sound, and this year’s independent release further recognizes their ability to create quality rock music.

Willet - Teeth of a Lion, Fangs of a Lioness
Willet has been consistently putting out quality worship music with a soft rock edge for a while now, and this year’s release is one of their finest.

Garrett DeRossett:
Bradley Hathaway - A Thousand Angry Panthers
On Bradley Hathaway’s newest offering, the bar has been raised on every level. Only comprised of four songs but containing the heart of many more, A Thousand Angry Panthers will have you singing, crying, and shouting along with the words before the closing notes are through.

Christie DuPree - EP
Attempting to make it in the independent music world is tough enough without having to follow in the footsteps of your family, especially if your family happens to be in a band called Eisley. In all honesty, though, Christie DuPree’s lovingly handmade EP is a piece of pure gold; simple, airy, and charming, if you can track down this recording at a live show, you won’t be disappointed.

Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett
Damien Jurado’s newest has been a sleeper favorite for many fans of the indie folk scene, as well as for myself. Picking up Saint Bartlett was a smart move, to say the least; the textures and melodies contained within its twelve tracks are some of the most beautiful I've heard in a while.

The Farewell Drifters - Yellow Tag Mondays
In a world where the bluegrass genre is being left to the old men in overalls, it's refreshing to see the “young folks” picking up their mandolins and banjos and strumming their hearts out with fervor. Yellow Tag Mondays will make you smile the entire way through with an appeal that only a group of extremely excited twenty-somethings with fun instruments can bring.

Fort Christmas - Fort Christmas
As a multi-instrumentalist from my hometown with a hand in projects ranging from Sleeping At Last to MuteMath to an official Switchfoot remix, Jeremy Larson is one of my very favorite artists. His newest side venture, Fort Christmas, documents the story of his recent engagement and will fill your headphones with the catchiest pop sounds this side of the Beach Boys.

Olympians - You Were My Inspiration
It takes quite a bit to compel me to invest in an album by an artist I’ve only seen live, but after attending each of Olympians’ daily performances at Cornerstone, I knew this was a wise purchase. Full of post-rock goodness and a flair for the dramatic, You Were My Inspiration will suit fans of nearly any genre.

Ryan Barbee:
Dustin Ruth – Learn How to Love Someone
Probably one of the more overlooked artists but Dustin Ruth is masterful minstrel of melody.  While not everyone’s taste, the album is truly a treat for simple yet sweet love songs.

The Ember Days - Finger Painting EP
Hands down one of the most methodical offering of music put out for all to hear. From the well thought out instrumentation to the almost liquid flow of vocals, this is the album to get!

Showbread – Who Can Know It?
Controversial and convicting! With a lower tone and softer sound the fellas in Showbread have not dulled the message of the love of Christ; they’ve embraced the Gospel’s double-edged sharpness. Some might get offended...but that’s okay – so were the Pharisees.


Now it's your turn!  Tell us what independent albums you loved in 2010!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

If I could change one thing about you, I wouldn't.

If there is one point my dad tried to hammer into me when I was younger, it's that you can't change anybody.

People can change their own behaviors, and God can change their hearts, but you are responsible for you. It's the great struggle. The inevitable inner-turmoil we all stare down at some point: You can't change anyone.

So it goes without saying that you can't change your wife. But it should be said anyway: You can't change your wife.

And of course you always hear this, but once you're married, you understand why God found it good and right to make sure you heard it so often growing up. It's hard. And it doesn't matter how great of a wife you have (Or whether or not you're still in your "honeymoon stage" of the marriage), at some point you sit back, evaluate, and decide there's about a million "Well if she would just..."

It's the ultimate guise because it almost seems noble. At its supposed root, you feel like you're just trying to help them live a better life (And all the benefits you yourself would reap from this change are just happy accidents.).

Of course, the real root is selfishness. It's this unconscious "if she would change, I'd be happy." And it's all wrong. It's this idea that things have to be right to be good. And it's wrong.

I look back on Kelli's and my short three months of marriage so far (And years of being together), and the times I cherish the most are the ones we were growing by leaps and bounds through adversity. Throughout our relationship, it's been hard, and it's been slow goings, but on our wedding day when I could honestly say I wasn't the least bit nervous, but actually peaceful, it was totally worth it.

Because we'd tried to change each other. And we found it doesn't work.

This is what I've found, instead: For every one annoying, I-honestly-can't-believe-she-does-this that I can find, there's about one hundred How-is-it-God-blessed-me-with-such-a-perfect-mate?s to be found, and I am a fool to focus on the plank in my best friend's eye. So instead, I praise her for all of her incredible attributes (Be they actions, or identity. It's important to praise her simply for who God made her!)

And y'know what? Eventually, the things she does that annoy me, either stop bothering me or she simply stops doing them.

It's like the opening to my favorite radio show, Adventures in Odyssey: "Oh hi there! I was just working on one of my inventions here! ...This is Odyssey! Hey! Let's see if this thing works!" (Clattering and chaos) "Woah woah, hold it! Okay... so, it needs a little more work! But that's the exciting part, because you never know what you'll discover along the way."

The things you learn when you surrender yourself and die to the flesh make it seem silly to even get annoyed by annoyances in the first place.

I'm thankful for the things about Kelli that drive me crazy. It's an invitation to fall deeper in love with her, and to love her because she's simply...her. It's an invitation to die to self. I can't say I'm even close to getting good at it, but I rejoice in the knowledge that there is joy in adversity, and wisdom in struggle.

If I could change one thing about Kelli, I wouldn't! Can you imagine the mess I'd make if I could? Praise Yahweh!

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pros and cons and pros and cons and proooooos

There's my Jimmy Fallon reference for the day.

There's this new thing called "digital music."  It's odd...nowadays, you can just get online, pay some money with your credit card (or PayPal....but that's another blog in itself), and instantly have music on your computer.  Yes, full songs!  Full albums, even!

Anyways, facetiousness aside (was that facetious?  I feel like it was facetious, but maybe I'm misconstruing the definition of "facetious" unknowingly).  Nothing I'll say here is groundbreaking or anything.  I was just thinking about the era of digital distribution, and wondering what other people thought.  For me:

Pro - It's possible to have wonderful sites like Guvera, Noise Trade and Come&Live! that can give away free music legally.  Bands have such an easier time getting their name out there by giving away free downloads of whatever single they're promoting at the time, and bands that want to bless others with albums (like the Come&Live! artists) don't have to worry about losing money by giving people free physical copies.  It's also made it easy for sites like ours to operate.  Record labels don't have to send us physical copies anymore; they can just send us the song files and we can get started instantly listening and writing about the album.

Con - I know for me, ometimes when something is so easy to attain, I feel like I don't appreciate it as much as I should.  It's like I got a prize for putting absolutely zero effort into getting it.  I buy an iTunes card, go to the iTunes store, and click a couple buttons and I have ten new songs at my disposal.  I still prefer going to the store, paying an actual person, and walking out holding the music in my hands.  Then there's the awesome anticipation I feel when I'm walking to the car and I actually have to wait a time - albeit a relatively short time - till I unwrap it and pop it into my stereo.  Then there's the album artwork and booklet and the feeling of actually owning a physical thing that you spent your money on.  I feel so much more appreciative of my music when I can hold it and, I don't know, smell it, I guess.

What do you guys think?  Obviously not everyone will agree with me, and I do have more pros and cons, but I wanted to just put one, and see what you guys have to say.  Have at it!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where I Act Like a Wife and She Acts Like a Husband

Anyone who knows Kelli and I knows that I'm the talker and she's the quiet one. Not by definition, but if you had to decide which of those title went to which, I'd be the talker and she'd be the quiet one. I'm a little more outgoing, a little more willing to put myself out there, and she's more reserved, more introspective, more pensive.

So I don't really know why I came into our marriage believing all those marriage books and everything I'd ever heard about communication within marriage were going to apply to us. The general understanding is that wives love to chat about their days, and their husbands need to hang on their every word, all the time, because we're getting glimpses into their soul. Communication, communication, communication. The lack of it is the number one cause of divorce, or something.

I understood this, and I was so ready. When I got home from work, I'd devote as much time as Kelli wanted to just chatting it up, as she revealed her soul to me through conversation. I was pumped. I was going to be the best husband ever. I was going to listen to her even if she talked my ear off for five hours and then it was time for bed.

So understand my confusion when Kelli just didn't really want to talk. I'd try and broach subjects. I'd try and open those lines of communication. But sometimes she just didn't want to throw me a bone, or at least as much of a bone as I was hoping for.

Nope, sometimes I'd get home and she'd just want to put on a movie and lie on the couch with me. I didn't get it. Why didn't she want to talk to me? Was I being a good enough husband? Was I bad at conversation? Did she feel she could relate things to me? Wives are supposed to want to talk... right? Why am I the one that wants to communicate?

What I was failing to realize was that lying on the couch and watching a movie is communicating to Kelli. It speaks to her soul just to spend some quality time together with our brains turned off and the safety that comes from marriage. She needs that.

A lot of it has to do with how we grew up. While her siblings and her were spending quiet evenings watching movies, my siblings and I were making them with home camcorders. One isn't better than the other, they're just different.

So it's the opposite of the social norm, but now, I recognize her need for the occasional quiet evening, and she recognizes my need for conversation. It's taken some getting used to, but I love loving my wife in that way.

File it under "Things You Couldn't Have Planned For." The roles are reversed, and it took some time and patience, but we were able to adapt for each other. And that's good communication.  

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things

Kelli and I love grocery shopping together. Maybe it's the fact we were both initially so nervous about being the sole shoppers for our new home, with no experienced mothers in the mix to keep things on the rails. Or maybe it's just that we're enjoying getting good at it. Or maybe it's getting to pick out our "one treat" each. Whatever it is, we love going together. We make it fun.

So it was a bummer yesterday when Kelli made a restock trip while I was working. We both expressed a little remorse that it'd worked out that way, but we had some old friends coming over that night, and we wouldn't have time to go after I got home. It really wasn't a big deal, just one of those "well, darn" kind of things. But that was the first time it really struck me that I really enjoy doing that with my wife. It's a little thing, but we treasure doing it together.

Over the weekend, Kelli and I watched a movie where one of the rules was to always "Enjoy the little things" (Even in a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world where the "little things" include trashing an abandoned gift shop to release some pent up anxiety. Also, Twinkies.). And sure, it's a pretty basic idea, but in the context of this particular film, it was an ironic juxtaposition. You should always be enjoying the little things! It ought to be a rule.

I think it's important to stop every once and a while and completely remove yourself from the moment you're living, and just think about everything that led up to that particular moment. So many little, mundane things become meaningful.

We had a blast with our old friends last night. And it was great to think back on our history with all of these particular people. So much has happened over the years, and it was truly a blessing to have all of them together, goofing off and carrying on in one room, having a great time. It would have been easy to just think of it as another fun game night, but, for me, it was the accumulation of years of history together leading to one great evening. We didn't really talked about it last night, but Kelli touched on my sentiments when she pulled me aside in the kitchen and simply whispered, "I like this." Me too, Keener!

So it may be a simple thing, but it's really and honestly a form of worship, to sit across the table from your wife, laughing about something stupid, and then removing yourself just long enough to think about everything that went into creating this one moment. Your only response is to tip your hat to the Big Man and give him a heartfelt, "Thank You for this. It's wonderful."

(Taken from my blog Taylorville)

The Little Things

Every now and then I need a wake-up call. Life is busy. My schedule is usually filled with everything except for time with God. I work. I go to school. I have a social life. I get consumed with these things and lose my focus. Today I was randomly clicking around on some of the websites in my bookmarks, one of which is the Owl City blog. Being that Adam Young is a role model in my life, and knowing of his faith, I always find it uplifting to read his posts. Like his music, his blog is profound. Today’s post was deeper than ever. Adam had posted a cover of the worship song “In Christ Alone.” And as I sat there reading his post about it and listening to his cover, I couldn’t help but smile and silently thank God for bringing me to his blog. I needed to hear that song. I needed that time to sit there and listen and feel His presence. This is life, and these are the little things.   ~ Logan

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That Our Home May Be a Praise

I absolutely love my parents' home.

It was mine too for eighteen or so years. Let me tell you a little about it.

The home actually starts on the front lawn. Back in the day, that's where all the neighborhood kids knew the best game of touch football could be found most every summer day.

As long as there's someone awake in the house, the door is always unlocked, and friends knew they never had to knock. Who wants to be greeted at the door anyway. Come on in, plop down, and tell me about your day. There's always someone at the house. Usually multiple someones. I think I can count the number of times I was alone in that home on two hands. In eighteen years.

If there's something good on TV, everyone knew where the party would be. "The Office Season Premiere" and "The Taylor House" became synonymous for a long time. The house was so packed one year that multiple rooms with different TVs turned on were filled to capacity to accommodate.

And there's always something delicious going on in the kitchen. My mom is always cooking something tasty for anyone at the house, and she knows everyone's favorite meals. She'll bribe you with her world famous quesadillas if it means you'll come over to the house. She loves having people over.

And it shows. That place has always felt like home to a whole lot of people. If ever anyone was in need of a place to crash for a day or a week or a month, my parents were always more than willing to oblige. There's always someone staying the night.

You always walk out of that house feeling better than when you walked into it- I guess that's the main point. I always loved that. I always loved how safe everyone- my family, my friends, and anyone else who happened to enter- felt there. We grew up wondering why so many neighborhood kids wanted to spend so much time at our house. When we entered the world outside our doorstep for ourselves, we understood.

Some good friends got married this past weekend, and among the many promises they made that day was this gem: "...that our home may be a praise to Him." What a beautiful way to illustrate that point!

My parents' home is praise. Ask anyone who has been there. Go ahead, ask! It's not presumptive- It's a fact! My parents' home is praise to Yahweh.

One of the first things I told Kelli about our new home was that I want everyone to feel at home here. I want the door to always be opened for anyone in need of an open door. I want this place to be a safe house- a Trust. Anyone entering our door is to feel completely wrapped in love, and when they leave, I want them to feel better than when they arrived.

Just last night we had three of our dearest friends over (two of whom happened to be my siblings), and already I see this place being praise. Obviously it takes time to establish a trust in a new place, but I believe the groundwork has been laid by the hard work of my parents at their home. They taught us well.

So, here's to the prayer that as long as Kelli and I occupy this place, that it may be a praise to Him.

(Taken from my blog Taylorville.)

Help Sons of God

So another Come&Live! band has started a Kickstarter project, and they need your help.  The band is Sons of God, and they make some terrific music.  It ends on November 8, and they need a total of $7,000.  As of the time I posted this, they were sitting at $2,214.  If you have some money you can give them on November 8, or you can save some for then (if you're unfamiliar with Kickstarter, you can make your pledge anytime before November 8, but your credit/debit card won't be charged anything at all until November 8, and that's IF the project is completely funded), then definitely consider and pray about helping them out.  This album has been a long long time coming, and I'm ready for it to be made.  If you're not familiar with the band, you can read my review of their EP, The Genesis Prologue HERE, and you can download their EP for free HERE.  Check them out.  It won't cost you anything more than some of your time.  And if you like what you hear, help them out.  It will be an amazing album.  (As an incentive, if you do pledge, you'll get some cool prizes based on the amount of your pledge, like free copies of their albums, a phone call, exclusive shirts and hoodies, etc.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I don't provide for my wife.

It was 5:45PM, and I wasn't happy. Friday had been stressful.

I was pulled into another department for most of the day at work, and by the time I was done with my duties there, I had about three hours of my work left to do, and two hours to get it all done. I kept thinking I was making good time as I feverishly worked through it all, only to keep remembering different things I hadn't gotten to that week, that had to be done before the weekend started. The day moved so quickly, with so many duties to attend to, that I hadn't even been able to eat lunch.

Somehow I managed to get out of there only 45 minutes late. Frustrated, I drove home, contemplating how my job had stolen 45 minutes from my much cherished weekend, and I'd never get them back. To top it all off, I had been nervous ever since I found out that a large package I had been expecting from UPS would be arriving that day. I was hoping I'd be able to get home before they showed up, because Kelli was working that day and evening, and no one would be there to receive it. I knew my chances were slim from the get go, but arriving home after 6, my chances went from slim to none. So who knew where my huge, expensive package was going to end up.

It wasn't even my job's fault that I was frustrated with my job. But I was frustrated nonetheless. I was just tired of being stressed out there. Feeling like I had to do a good job so I could provide for my wife. I was just tired of it that day. And now work had taken away from my weekend, if only a little bit, and in turn, its return would arrive even sooner. I was annoyed, stressed, and tired. What was the point?

I was nearly home when it hit me... I'm not supposed to provide for my wife.

It's almost like Yahweh reached down and said "You think I have you there to make money? I'm providing for you guys. You are responsible only to be where I have you and to act in Love."

That changes your whole outlook. In the Kingdom of Heaven, a man doesn't go to work so he can make money and keep a roof over his wife's head. A man lives in the world of men, but subscribes to the principles of the Kingdom. If you work, you work to serve. Not to make money. Not to provide for your wife. Yahweh provides. He calls His to love.

And there isn't a corny way for me to say that the last part of the story is about how I looked in my rear view mirror, and there was a UPS truck right behind me, but that's what happened.

(Taken from my blog Taylorville. Follow me and I'll return the favor!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Christian indie rock rawks!

Over the years my music tastes have skewed away from CCM (contemporary Christian music) and mainstream music, and delved more into the realm of indie rock.  It’s a pity really, because now I just think that radio singles are (with the exception of a few really good songs) rubbish.

As it is, I have highlighted for your attention two very brilliant Christian indie rock artists.  First is Kevin Max (of former DC Talk fame) with his new release Cotes d’Armor (True Rebels).  It’s a brilliant mix of catchy pop-rock and electronic songs, which prove to be rewarding to those who try to appreciate it.

Another good indie rock artist is Starflyer 59.  Chances are you’ve never heard of them, but they’ve been signed to Tooth & Nail Records since 1993.  Their new release The Changing Of The Guard is a very pleasant blend of acoustic and classic rock, with a bit of Starflyer 59’s signature “shoegazer” sound thrown in (don’t ask me what it means, but that’s the primary genre that they’ve defined themselves as).

Some of these indie rock artists CAN be a little bit vague about their faith (it doesn't mean they're not Christians), but don't let it put you off.  In my opinion, someone has to balance out the lack of imagination in contemporary Christian music these days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Find Your Antarctica

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” –Job 13:15.

 

Chronic pain, whether internal or external, has a way of changing a person. It is hard to believe God is good when one’s body or mind becomes a prison. Sometimes when I’m in pain, I can think about it theologically, knowing that pain is a result of the fall of man and that one day, everything will be made right. Most of the time though, the best I can do is repeat the phrase, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”

 

I am not a big “theme verse” kind of person, but something about these words that Job wrote so many years ago resonates with me. Six years ago, I started having health problems, and my life completely changed. I had to abandon many of the plans and dreams I once had and instead learn about medications, insurance coverage, and alternative treatments.

 

I try to take the bad things in life and learn from them, and my illness is no exception. I am more aware of the suffering of others, and I am a more compassionate person now than I was before I got sick. I’ve learned that life is less about what you do and more about who you do it with. Sometimes things get hard and nothing makes sense. However, more and more I am realizing that God is the most real when He seems the most impossible.

 

Hope is a small word with huge implications. For followers of Christ, it is the single ray of light in the deepest of darkness. It is important in the midst of pain and suffering to hold on to hope and to continue to dream. One dream that has never left me is a desire to go to Antarctica. When I was a child, my mother gave me a copy of the book Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a book her mother read to her when she was a child. Ever since I read that book, I have imagined exploring the icy continent and walking amongst the penguins. Almost three years ago, I met a man who did not think my dream was crazy, and I was lucky enough to marry him. He promised me that one day we would walk hand in hand in Antarctica, and I believe him.

 

Like Job, we will all experience varying degrees of suffering before we trade this world for a better one. There is no formula or theological concept I can give that will make suffering easier. I do not know if I will ever get better and be able to do the things I once did or accomplish the goals I set for myself. What I do know is, dreams are worth dreaming, and hope is worth holding on to. Even when He seems the furthest away, God is with us and will not abandon us. I hope, dear readers, that whatever pain you are going through, you never give up hope and that you find your Antarctica.

 

*You can help my dream of visiting Antarctica come true by voting for an essay I wrote. Go to http://www.adventurewithjulie.com/blogs/view/235 and register to vote. You will receive a confirmation email with a link that you must click on in order for your vote to count. Thank you for your help.

 

-- Laura (Nunnery) Love

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fact or Fiction: How Good Is House of Heroes?

In celebration of the release of House of Heroes' Suburba today, and in marveling at what a fantastic release it is, I wanted to dedicate this post to them. I've been browsing the web, and I can't really find a negative word about it yet. In fact, most music critics so far have been more positive about it than I was in my review (More a testament to their level of enthsiasm rather than a lack of my own).

It's no secret that I'm an avid fan of the band. They've come a long way since the What You Want Is Now days, and I'm loving watching the journey. And I'm pleased as punch about that VINYL that should be at my door today! YES!

I want to present a thesis statement, and then let you guys run with it.

Fact or Fiction: Suburba solidifies House of Heroes as the best thing Christian music has going for it.

Go!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

All the Relient K CDs, RANKED by Readers

This is a continuation of my last post where I ranked all the Relient K CDs in order of my favorites. Reading through all the comments that post received, it's pretty obvious I'm not the only one that holds Relient K in a place close to my heart. I had a lot of fun reading through all the reasons for the different rankings you guys put together to show me up, and tallying up the votes. Hearing all your memories of certain songs or CDs, and buying their CDs on release day, etc was great! Anyway, here we go:

 READER'S CHOICE

6. Relient K (2000)

No real complains here, just an understanding that it was their carefree beginning. Though, a few of the rankers admitted to actually having never heard this one. To which I say, do yourself a favor. If you didn't hear it when it first released, a lot of the appeal is probably lost, since this one exists best in that nostalgia section of the brain, but even still. Songs like "Wake Up Call" are as catchy now as they were in 2000.

5. Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)

 A common criticism was that the subject matter was simply too depressing. I can't really jive with that argument, I mean, yeah the subject matter lends itself to melancholy, but this record is so hopeful. Another criticism I saw a couple of times was that it is the least spiritual of all of their releases, to which I say "on the contrary," because it's the most spiritually mature album to come out of CCM in a long while, but I guess I'm just trying to defend my favorite CD, huh. And that's not really fair to this list, haha. You guys ranked this one at number five, and that's where it is. This one appeared in first place about the same number of times it appeared in last place on your lists, a testament to the diversity in opinion.

4. Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

This one got high marks (And I want to state that numbers 5, 4, 3, and 2 were all within 8 marker points of each other on this list...it was close) because it's a fun record. I enjoyed reading the comments that basically said "Look, it's not their best work, but I had a girlfriend at the time it was released and..." It was great. That's part of what makes Relient K music so great, because it's so easy to connect with a certain time in your life. No shame, no shame. Oh, and tons of people called me out on my negativity towards "Deathbed." I'll have you all know I heeded your words and went back and listened to it again to see if I could change my own mind. I tried. I did. I'm sorry...

3. The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek (2001)

 This one recieved high and low marks for being corney and goofy. I guess it just depends on what kind of music you enjoy, and what part of your life you were living out when you first heard it. It was noted that this one blends spirituality and goofiness in a very fun and entertaining way, and I couldn't agree more. I also agree with the comments that mentioned that they were in the process of defining themselves. Honestly, many of the kids listening to this one when it released were in the process of defining themselves as well. I know I was. Lots of good memories associated with this release for all those who ranked it high on their lists, I'm pretty sure.

2. Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do (2003)

 This one got ranked highly on most lists, but without any real clarification. A few things I read were that it had classic written all over it, and that they really came into their own on this one. I think this one ranked as high as it did because Relient K was maturing along with their audience. Their first CD was fun, their second one was spent defining their sound, and their third one was where they finally settled down and said "This is who we are." I think of lot of kids were able to relate to that maturation over the course of three years. That's why in my rankings, I said this one just had that X-factor. I think a lot of people relate to that idea too, hence why this one just happened to be atop many of the lists without much of an explination.

1. mmhmm (2004)

It was a runaway. It appeared at the top of just under a third of the lists, and is the only one that holds the distinction of not being ranked last. Once Relient K had decided who they were on their last release, they began defining and tuning their sound, and this is the first one that displayed what we now know as Relient K. A lot of people think of their CDs as the front half (their first three) and the back half (their last three) in terms of their overall sound, and this one marked that transition. I know a lot of people that also, sadly, think of this as the last good Relient K CD. Even though I'm no huge fan of the one that followed this one, I couldn't disagree more. While it appeared in third on my list, I whole heartedly approve of this one sitting atop this particular list. It earned it. There was nothing more exciting than Relient K when this one released, and boy, did they deliver.

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A couple of people suggested putting together a list of my favorite RK songs of all time, and then I'd ask you guys to do the same, and we could see how the lists compared (Something tells me EVERYONE's lists would be a lot different...) What do you guys think?

 

Friday, July 09, 2010

The WOW Series - A Consumer's Friend... or Foe?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... there was a brand of music compilations called "WOW" that served as the ultimate mix of what's hot in the Christian music world. While most samplers showcasing new tunes were a mere two to five dollars a pop to get a taste of what was up and coming, the WOW series were full price, but they would also consist of two full discs, offering 30 tracks of music (Sometimes including more, actually). In addition to the hottest songs at radio, a few future hits would often appear on the WOW compilations - songs that were on new releases from some of the hottest CCM bands before that album was even out yet. These were the kinds of compilations that did a pretty good job of representing the best of the industry... At least, that's how they started out.

Now, over fifteen years after the first WOW release, the annual installments of WOW are going Gold (WOW 2010) and Platinum (WOW 2009), a truly impressive feat in this economic climate.

But over the past couple years, the WOW brand has tried a bit too ambitiously to cash in on its success, (not to mention that with the ailing economy and music business, the structure of the industry has also greatly changed). In 2008, the WOW brand announced that they would cut the WOW releases from 2 discs to one disc (which was 16 songs plus 3 "bonus" tracks from newcomers) and release them three times a year, starting with the title "WOW Hits 1." To make matters worse, they were going to charge full price for the now one-disc release. It was such a bad idea that "WOW Hits 2" never even saw the light of day and the WOW brand returned to the annual release idea. (And besides... when would you know which ones were released what year?)

We get the idea of WOW Worship, WOW Christmas (which is actually a really fun idea), and WOW Gospel -- even the marketing aim of doing the whole "WOW New & Next" sampler of up-and-coming fresh talent (and at $2.99 by itself or FREE with another WOW purchase is actually a great idea). But what we don't get here, is this "Best Of" annual re-release thing (that was announced earlier this week). Doing a "WOW Best of 2004" in 2010 truly makes little to no sense. Not only are a majority of music buyers [sadly] not interested in the music any older than two or three years, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many music buyers interested in a collection of what was popular six years ago. On top of that, who would want to pay $9.99 for a one-disc release of old music when they can, say, hop on Amazon.com and buy the 2-disc version brand new from a market seller for $9.80 or used for as low as 84 cents? To make matters worse, these one-disc releases are a trim 12 songs, as opposed to the 32, 33, or 34 tracks that the original release offered (depending on the year). It just doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Also, the 2-disc versions are $12.99 digitally... why would you pay 3.00 less for 20 less songs? Sure the WOW folks are proud about the reissues... but why, really?


The "Best Of" marketing strategy just seems nearly as insulting to the intelligence of the consumer as the "WOW Hits 1" did two years ago. Here's to hoping someone re-thinks this and begins to give music buyers just a smidgen of more credit than this.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

All six Relient K CDs, ranked.

All of Relient K's CDs RANKED
(Excluding every time they re-released that Christmas CD) (And EPs)

 

6. Five Score and Seven Years Ago (2007)

Now, granted, when I did my initial write up for this CD back in '07, I gave it a glowing review. But even in those paragraphs, a nagging discomfort with the album as a whole was apparent. Well, "One Forget and Not Slow Down, and Three Years Later," hindsight proves this one to be a quick detour for an otherwise stellar career. At least even when Matthew Thiessen is writing his least-great CD, he's clear about his intentions. With lyrics like "Why don't you come right out and say it?" and "And I know that it's so cliche..." we're made aware of the fact that this is Relient K's most direct, simplistic CD- not that we really needed to be told. But at least he warns us. Half the songs are about this girl he was crazy about. Good for him, bad for us. The whole thing just sounds kind of off. There are some good tracks mixed in with the bunch ("Faking My Own Suicide," "Give, and "Up and Up,"), but Five Score... just sounds off balance and haphazard. It's something they would have gotten away with earlier in the decade, but not by 2007. Some of the lyrics are signature Thiessen and stand their ground against some of his best writing, and some of it is literally awful, particularly anything relating to how in love he is with his girl. And then there's that over indulgent, eleven minute "Deathbed" song that had everyone in a tizzy because FINALLY Relient K got back to their Christian roots! What? What band had these people been listening to for seven years? Did anyone actually listen to this song? It was boring. So was this CD.

5. Relient K (2000) Does anyone remember what it was like when Relient K showed up? It was exciting. There was cool Christian rock music to listen to. It wasn't too heavy, it wasn't too weird, it was just fun. It was some kind of pop/punk rock that hadn't really touched Christian music yet at that point- at least not with the impact that Relient K was threatening to bring. "Hello McFly," "My Girlfriend," "Wake Up Call,"... Christian music was finally cool. And the dark, stellar "Softer to Me" was a glimpse of the honest, reflective writing that would become Thiessen's trademark. Not much substance; mostly fun and goofy, but still one of my favorite CDs to listen to when I'm feeling nostalgic.

4. The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek (2001) The excitement and anticipation surrounding this CD was unmatched at the time. And Relient K delivered. The songs were still goofy and fun, but Thiessen started developing his real songwriting chops on this one. The songs became more spiritual in nature, not just in name. Definitely as the album title describes, this one contains probably the most pop culture references of any Relient K CD to date (Thundercats, Mr. Ed, etc.), but songs like "For the Moment, I Feel Faint," were honest, sincere looks at faith and God. Thiessen has always had a knack for taking a tough personal issue and resolving it by song's end.

3. mmhmm (2004) Definitely their darkest album to date, mmhmm is hard to stick in third, but, really there are two others I enjoy more, somehow. So here it finds itself. Thiessen continued to mature as writer and wordsmith on this, their fourth CD. This was also the first CD of theirs not to include some sort of goofy, throw away track (Not even a hidden track!). Relient K meant business, this time. The lyrical maturity is all over it, and the music never sounded better. So many classic tracks came off of this one... I started to list them, but erased it when it just became a track listing. Really, the only drawback is (surprise, surprise) the one track devoted to whoever he was dating at this point ("My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend") which just sort of sounds bland and out of place on an otherwise dark, earthy release. Oh, and the fact that "More Than Useless" and "Who I am hates Who I've Been" sound pretty much identical. But I'm being picky.

2. Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do (2003) This one is the perfect blend of fun and heart. Again, so many classic songs came off Relient K's third release. It's hard to sum this one up in words. It just has that X factor to it that makes it stellar. And it just hit at the perfect time. For me, it kind of marks the end of the "glory days" of Tooth & Nail and the like. Maybe it's just because I was 15 at the time it released, and it was just perfect for that time in my life. But nostalgia aside, this is the release that brought us the popular answer for "best Relient K song ever" in the form of "I Am Understood?" Really, Thiessen was unmatched in his ability to craft a song at this point. Only he could pull off a song with an opening lyric as simple and honest as "Sometimes it's embarrassing to talk to You" and then bring it home with a chorus so resounding, so heartbreakingly truthful, that seven years later, it still brings a tear to the eye. Aside from the rich spiritual themes found throughout, this was the last time Relient K played the goof-off card, and it was a fitting farewell.

1. Forget and Not Slow Down (2009) It was hard not to rank Two Lefts... number one, and harder still to rank a CD that hasn't even been out for a year yet higher than all the rest, but that is a testament to the treat that is Forget and Not Slow Down. In a nutshell, the girl Thiessen spend half of his last album ranting and raving about dumped him, and then he wrote his whole next album about it. Popular wisdom would say that the former release would be a lot better than the latter. But a breakup apparently made Thiessen a lot more reflective than did relationship bliss. It's a little bittersweet that it took a breakup to get him to write his best record of his career, but hey, it's the truth. Of all the Relient K CDs, this is the most honest, most heartbreaking, most hopeful, most spiritual, most conceptual, and most sincere. Somewhere in every Relient K record, Thiessen likes to state his intentions. This one is simply therapy. Without even trying, Thiessen wears his heart on his sleeve with an album that is written like a fifteen-track prayer. For those experiencing this kind of loss, it is therapy too. And for those in happy relationships, it provides perspective with lyrics like "I don't need a soul to hold. Without you, I'm still whole. You and life remain beautiful." The contrast between Five Score... and Forget... is so stark, so drastic, it's hard to believe they sit next to each other on the discography shelf. It took a poor outing to give us all the details about his self-proclaimed "Best Thing," but we find out he's "Over It" on his best one to date.

That's my list... where would you guys rank them?

- Josh

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Out of print downloads

Question:  Is it illegal to download music that is out-of-print?  I've been wondering the past few days, and I haven't been able to find any proof one way or the other (the RIAA only had a phone number as a contact, and I really didn't feel like calling them haha).  So, does anybody have any idea?  If so, let me know.

It makes sense that it wouldn't be illegal.  I mean, if you can't buy it anywhere, the artist/record label isn't making any money on it.  So what's the harm in downloading it if they aren't making money?  Even if you buy a used copy on Amazon or something, someone else is making money on it, but not the creators and owners of it.

But, if it's still illegal, no matter how ridiculous it may be that it is, it's probably better to not do it.

I don't know, it doesn't seem like a big deal to me to do it, but I will be respectful of the record companies and artists if it's illegal.  I just sorta hope that it isn't.

Any good websites to look at for answers?  (Legitimate websites, not random blogs that have opinions on it or something).  Thanks to anyone who helps!

Friday, May 28, 2010

ComeandLive! is funded!!!

So, just a couple days after posting about helping Come&Live! on its Kickstarter project, I read the news that their project had gotten fully funded!  They passed the $8,000 mark and now have the money to take their bands to summer festivals.  I talked with Jason Belcher from The Ember Days a couple weeks ago, and he was telling me a little about C&L!'s plans for the festivals, and he said something along the lines of normal shows like all other bands, but also, after midnight each night, they would just have worship and prayer for anyone who needed prayer.  Though the majority of Christian music festivals' audiences are followers of Christ, there are also those who attend that are not, and this makes for an amazing opportunity for C&L! to reach out to people who haven't heard the gospel and hopefully bring them into the family.

Let's keep the C&L! bands in prayer for their mission this summer.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Support ComeandLive!

I've found myself growing in Christ a little more as of late.  And with that growth has led me to: 1) a hesitance toward riches in my own personal life, and 2) a desire to support independent musicians (ones I feel led to support, that is).  I fell in love with the ministry of Come&Live! Records.  If you're not familiar, go to their website (www.comeandlive.com) to not only download some incredible music (as a free gift from the bands and record label), but to also get a glimpse of why that organization exists.

Come&Live! is doing an incredible thing, something that resonates within my spirit, and I want to support them as much as possible.  And that's why I wrote this blog.  As of today, Monday, May 24, 2010, Come&Live! has 7 days left to raise all the funds they need through their Kickstarter project:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/comeandlive/help-comeandlive-spread-the-gospel-this-summer

They're a bit short, last I checked, and that's bad for them, because all the money that's pledged from the project's backers has not been collected from the pledgers (pledgers?), and no money will change hands unless their goal is met.  They need approximately $3,000.  Got a few bucks?  The minimum pledge is one of those bucks, so you don't even have to pledge all that much if you don't have the funds to do so.

If you got the time, and the dollars (and the friends or the church or any other organization that you feel may want to give some money to this wonderful community of musicianaries), check out the link above.  I don't usually prod for money, but this is something noble and completely worthwhile, and it would be a beautiful thing to invest a little in, even just this once.  Thanks guys!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Praying For Nashville

Being in Pennsylvania, I do feel pretty removed from most of what happens down in Music City, USA - aka Nashville, TN. But it's no secret that the heart of Christian music is based out of the city. While much of the US has been kept in the loop as to what's going on with the insane amount of rain Nashville has been receiving, I have only heard murmurs of it here and there over the past couple of days (and, honestly, I don't watch the news).

Recent photos of a completely flooded Grand Ole Opry or houses under water up to the rooftops have been really startling. My wife and I were just in town for the Doves two weeks ago and to see roads we were traveling completely submerged is unreal. I can't even imagine what life is like there right now.

Our good friends in Me In Motion do a weekly "Movie Monday" on their YouTube, and I stumbled upon their latest entry tonight via their Facebook update. It's definitely worth a watch. Brian (AKA "Dexter") who you see blog here pretty often walked around Nashville and captured some overwhelming footage of the tragedy.

Please keep the city and our brothers and sisters in Christ in your prayers!

- john

 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LIVE 2010 Dove Awards Coverage!

 

Hey all! JFH's own John DiBiase blogged live from the 41st Annual GMA Dove Awards press room (on April 21, 2010). The transcript below counts down backwards the events of the night as we blogged moment by moment. So if you want to read it in chronological order, please start at the bottom of the page.

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10:58PM CST -- That's it! It's all over! Thanks for all your comments and for following along with us! I'll be posting Dove press room photos soon! I'm out for the night. Love you all! --- John

10:53PM CST -- Casting Crowns was just back here and now Natalie Grant is up at the mic... admitting she fell on her face back stage (why she's telling us, I don't know :) ). /// Thanks all for the kind words and reading!

10:36PM CST -- Franny Battistelli is back here talking about her singles success. ... And she's hiding her pregnancy very well! :)

10:33PM CST -- You're welcome, Maria! :)  /// The grand finale just ended. The press room will keep going for a bit, but the show is over! I'll keep blogging as long as we have artists coming in.

10:32PM CST -- Replying to you Mike, it's all good bro. :) Glad you agreed with the other winner high points :)

10:30PM CST -- To answer Catherine's blog comment... agreed!

10:27PM CST -- The grand finale performance is on stage now: Matt Maher, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Wynonna, Francesca, Natalie Grant, Melinda Doolittle, and a lot, lot more...

10:26PM CST -- David Crowder is back here now. Focusing on the evening's highlights, I'm so glad they won for "Church Music."

10:23PM CST -- Oh, right. It's the Doves.... Casting Crowns is Artist of the Year. And that's how we end the night?

10:22PM CST -- Artist of the Year time! Go Jars or Skillet or Toby!

10:06PM CST -- MercyMe is up to perform "All of Creation" now with David Crowder to do a medley with "How He Loves"

10:04PM CST -- Man, we're still reeling about NEEDTOBREATHE winning Group of the Year... amazing. So awesome. Great, great band!

9:57PM CST -- Group of the Year next... Go JARS! or NEEDTOBREATHE or Skillet! Dude!!! NEEDTOBREATHE GOT IT!!!!!

9:54PM CST -- Ricky Skaggs is performing now. Still waiting for more awards!

9:34PM CST -- And to answer your comment, Mike -- Agreed!

9:32PM CST -- To answer your blog comment, Allyson - I agree!!

9:30PM CST-- The lovely Amy Grant is back here talking to us while Casting Crowns is setting up on stage getting ready to perform.

9:24PM CST -- And for some reason, Sidewalk Prophets gets it?! Weird. Very weird.

9:22PM CST -- And now Natalie will announce New Artist of the Year. I'll be honest. I'm not super excited about anyone on the list (sorry!). I'm guessing Kari will get it though.

9:17PM CST -- TobyMac and the Diverse City band are now performing "Funky Jesus Music" and ROCKIN the stage!

9:09PM CST -- ...And all of them joined the Booth Brothers for a finale.

9:04PM CST -- It's a southern gospel quartet tribute of performances... The Blackwood Brothers, The Perrys, and The Crabb Family

9:01PM CST -- Performer Donald Lawrence is now back here talking to us about his songs. Amy's acoustic performance was a nice little addition to the live performances.

8:56PM CST -- Natalie and Bart are introducing Amy Grant who is performing her new song "Better Than a Hallelujah."

8:52PM CST -- Bebe and CeCe are now back here already talking with us. It's cool to see them back together again :)

8:43PM CST -- Natalie is gushingly announcing BeBe and CeCe Winans who are performing next. :)  (Natalie's so cute!)

8:31PM CST -- Bart just blew an intro and it was priceless! (he followed it with "Christmas Time is Here"). RED is now performing "The Fight Inside" with Brian "Head" Welch and producer Bernie Herms.

8:22PM CST -- Franny is now performing "Beautiful, Beautiful" (btw - she announced she's expecting a child this October!) and Tenth Ave North, Jason Ingram, and Philip LaRue are her in the press room talking to us.

8:13PM CST -- Female Vocalist of the Year is up now............ Francesca Battistelli just won!! Congrats Franny! You deserve it for those pipes!

8:06PM CST -- The working title for Brandon Heath's new record is "Leaving Eden." One of the new song titles is "Your Love," which he wrote with Jason Ingram. Jason Crabb just came back here after Brandon left...

8:03PM CST -- Brandon Heath is back here now talking to us, and how he's hard at work on a new album. Meanwhile, Tenth Avenue North is performing at the Doves show (I think it's "By Your Side").

7:57PM CST -- And Song of the Year is ........ what?! "By Your Side" by Tenth Ave. North?! Kind of an old one to win... but congrats to the guys anyway.

7:56PM CST -- Song of the Year nominees are being announced now...

7:54PM CST -- To the recent blog comments -- Davy - thanks for the www.gmclife.com stream clarification. :) And Micah -- I honestly would love to see Skillet get it too, but it's kind of unlikely. But I'm pretty much hoping for anyone but CC :)  (Go JARS too! ;) )

7:52PM CST -- Natalie Grant just introduced (and re-did it) Donald Lawrence and Jason Crabb who are honoring Andrae Crouch, singing "To God Be The Glory"!

7:41PM CST -- Jars of Clay is performing "Two Hands" with Brandon Heath!

7:38PM CST -- To answer another Blog Comment -- Arielle, I know it will air on TV Sunday, but am not sure about it being online or not. I'm sorry! :( /// Back to the Doves... PCD is chatting back here, reflecting on their song "Revelation Song" and reflecting on their 19-year career!

7:34PM CST -- To answer a Blog Comment -- Keren, Jordin is a Christian and actually wrote the song "Human" for Natalie to sing. Kinda cool! /// Back to the Doves... Brandon gave a great thank-you speech. His father is actually in the hospital tonight! :(  Please remember him in your prayers.

7:32PM CST -- PCD and Jobe got a standing ovation. Millard is now announcing Male Vocalist of the Year. I'd like to see Bebo Norman get it. :) The Dove Award goes to..... Brandon Heath for the second year in a row!

7:28PM CST -- They're performing now. Jordin Sparks just got back here. She's talking about her upcoming first headlining tour.

7:25PM CST -- Aaaand forget the performance... They're making Natalie and Bart redo their intro... weird.

7:20PM CST -- Natalie and Bart Millard of MercyMe are tonight's hosts. They're now chatting it up before launching the festivities. They just said there's more of a focus on performers this year because of the artists' common message. Kari Jobe and Phillips Craig & Dean are opening up with "Revelation Song"

7:12PM CST -- Natalie Grant and Jordin Sparks are performing a song right now ("Human?")

7:06PM CST -- They're taping clap and laugh tracks to be on the show?!?! We're seeing footage of the whole audience of artists going completely nuts! haha They keep showing random artists... Skillet's looking pretty snazzy! ;)

7:03PM CST -- The adorable Melinda Doolittle is back here. So cute to hear her talk! She announced a new book coming out real soon. Meanwhile, there's the opening prayer for the main event of the Dove Awards ceremony!

6:37PM CST -- Jaci and Nic were just back here briefly. Anyway, back to my awards thoughts.... Would have loved to have seen the Third Day live video get an award. Well deserved to see Crowder win with "Church Music." and pretty cool to see Switchfoot get one for their single "Mess Of Me." I'm anxious to see where the big awards will go... would love to see Jars of Clay score some more of the biggie awards. Maybe Skillet? Maybe Toby? Guess we'll see...

6:27PM CST -- Pre-show is over! Break time before the last few awards during the main Dove Awards show. Looking back on the pre-show... I'm quite happy to see Jars of Clay score Packaging and Pop/Contemporary Album with "Long Fall Back To Earth." JFH readers know we dug the record quite a bit. So we can't be happier! Also, NEEDTOBREATHE grabbed two Doves for their new album "The Outsiders." That's stinkin' awesome. Now we're getting ready for more artists to come back here and talk to us...

6:22PM CST -- Now, lastly (for the preshow) is Songwriter of the Year... Jennie Lee Riddle!

6:19PM CST -- Jaci and Nic just introduced Point of Grace who will announce the last two Dove Awards for the pre-show. Producer of the Year is up next. I'm really surpised this isn't in the main show! Producer of the Year is... Jason Ingram & Rusty Varenkamp!

6:17PM CST -- Long Form Video of the Year is now being announced. Would be cool to see Third Day get this! .... dangit. Congrats to the Oak Ridge Boys who take home the Dove instead!

6:15PM CST -- Short Form Video of the Year is on stage now (while the adorable Kari Jobe is back here) -- Francesca Battistelli's "Free To Be Me" wins Short Form Video!

6:07PM CST -- Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year is also up now.... The Dove goes to... NEEDTOBREATHE's "Lay 'Em Down"! Yeah baby! Great pick!

6:05PM CST -- Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year is up now... Go Toby!! ... The Dove Award goes to TobyMac's "City On Our Knees!" Congrats brother!

6:02PM CST -- Country Recorded Song of the Year goes to "Somebody Like Me" by Jason Crabb

6:00PM CST -- Bebo and the boys of Selah are presenting now. Contemporary Gospel Record Song of the Year is "The Power of One" by Israel Houghton

5:57PM CST -- Sorry for the delay! We were listening to Jars of Clay talk to us back here. Mike Farris just won something (ha, sorry, we missed what!). Country Album of the Year is up now -- rock band Abandon is presenting -- "The Reason" by Diamond Rio!

5:44PM CST -- Now they're singing the song in the style of Praise & Worship. The Worship Song of the Year is "Revelation Song"!

5:41PM CST -- The Sisters are now singing "Blessed Be The Ties That Bind" before they announce the Bluegrass Song of the Year nominees. The winner is... "When We Fly"

5:39PM CST -- Sherri Easter is giving a tearful and appreciative thank-you to her writing collaborators for the album. It's a sweet moment. Apparently the song was inspired by the struggling with - and victory over - cancer.

5:35PM CST -- Sisters are on stage now... who want to sing the next list on nominees? That's different! Southern Gospel Song of the Year nominees are up. The Dove Award goes toooo... "Born To Climb" by Jeff and Sherri Easter

5:31PM CST -- Radio Station of the Year just went to Joy FM in Winston Salem, NC. RED is back here talking to us.

5:27PM CST -- Nominees for Best Children Music Album of the Year... And the winner is: VeggieTales' "Here I Am To Worship"! Haha awesome!

5:25PM CST -- Karen just asked Jaci for help for the Spanish Album of the Year names. Haha. Nice. "La Conta" wins by Kari Jobe

5:23PM CST -- J.R, Karen Peck, and Laura Story are up as presenters to introduce Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year. The Dove Award goes to... "Love Unstoppable" by Fred Hammond

5:17PM CST -- Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year ---- THE OUTSIDERS by NEEDTOBREATHE!! Omigoodness! Congrats guys! KJ just came back here. And RED just won Rock Album of the Year for "Innocence & Instinct" (one of the guys shook the award to see if the bottom fell off. haha)

5:15PM CST -- The bottom of Crowder's award just popped right off while he was doing his acceptance speech!! Talk about cutbacks! Daaaang. :) And the winner of Christmas Album of the Year is Big Daddy Weave's "Christ Has Come"

5:14PM CST -- MIKESCHAIR is now announcing the Praise & Worship Album. The Dove Award goes to... David Crowder's "Church Music!" There is JUSTICE in the music world! 5:11PM CST -- Jaci and Nic just introduced MIKESCHAIR who are introducing Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year... The Dove Award goes to: KJ-52 with "Five-Two Television!" Congrats Jonah!

5:09PM CST -- Phillips Craig & Dean just won Inspirational Song of the Year for "Revelation Song" (I'm still stoked Jars won Pop album!)

5:04PM CST -- Group 1 Crew is coming back here as well. Byron Chambers is with Manuel. Jarsof Clay's "Long Fall Back to Earth" just won Pop Album of the Year! SO happy about this! They deserve it. :)

5:01PM CST -- On stage, they're honoring Eva Mae LeFevre, who recently passed away. They're announcing the nominees for Southern Gospel Album of the Year. The Dove goes to... The Gaither Vocal Band with "Reunited." A shaggy-haired Michael English came up to accept it. Blue Grass Album of the Year is up next as well. The Dove Award goes to... The Isaacs, "Naturally."

5:00PM CST -- Bebo is still back here. He's talking about the song he won for and told us he's working on a brand new record!

4:56PM CST -- Bebo Norman is about to come back here in the press room to speak to us. This was his second Dove Award of all time.

4:54PM CST -- And now up to perform is Karen Peck with "Why Can't All God's Children Get Along".

4:52PM CST -- Urban Recorded Song of the Year is up now. Jonny and Crystal are still announcing winners. The Dove Award goes to.... "Close To You" by Bebe and CeCe Winans AND Israel Houghton's "Just Wanna Say" ... Two Winners?!

4:50PM CST -- Inspirational Song of the Year goes to... "The Only Hope" by Bebo Norman! Congrats Bebo!

4:48PM CST -- Rock Recorded Song of the Year is up now... The Dove goes tooooo... (Skillet or Switchfoot would be sweet!) .... The winner is "Mess of Me" by SWITCHFOOT! Nice!

4:46PM CST -- Jaci is announcing our next presenters - Jonny Diaz and Crystal Aikin to announce Rap/Hip Hop Song of the Year. The Dove Award goes to.... "Movin" by Group 1 Crew! Awesome, guys! :)

4:44PM CST -- "Musical of the Year" goes to... "A Baby Changes Everything."

4:43PM CST -- Hawk is now Youth/Children's Musical of the Year. The winner is.... "Christmas Hang Ups." The Hawk guys brought their mascot "Murphy" on stage with the too. Pretty hilarious.

4:39PM CST -- Hawk Nelson is now up to introduce Instrumental Project of the Year. The winner is... "Joy Comes In The Morning"

4:37PM CST -- Nic and Jaci are announcing Voices of Glory as the evening's first performance of the night, singing "God Bless America"...

4:34PM CST-- Travis Cottrell has won the Choral Project award for "Jesus Saves Live". A whopping 36 awards will be given out in this preshow. And the Packaging of the Year

is up now... Go Jars! .... The Dove goes to............ Jars of Clay's "Long Fall Back To Earth" Limited Edition project! Yeah, boys! 

4:33PM CST -- And the pre-show is off to a cutesy start as Jaci Velasquez and co-host (and husband) Nic Gonzalez of Salvador are kicking things off, introducing presenters Sidewalk Prophets...

4:20PM CST -- Hey friends! Thanks to all who have answered our Tweet with who they hope is going to win their respective awards! We're still waiting for things to get started back here. Keep telling us who you hope wins!

3:33PM CST -- Hey all! Just settling into the Doves press room. The room is a flurry of activity at the minute. Looks like the pre-show starts around 4PM CST and that's where they will give away the majority of the evening's awards. So we'll keep you in the loop!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

FIF vs OCS

So, I miss ska music.  Who's with me?  You?  Yes?  Yes.

The acquiring of The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy (review coming soon, I promise) has put me in a ska mood as of late.  It's mostly been FIF, but I've also grooved to the O.C. Supertones lately, too.  Now, I myself, am partial to FIF over the Supertones, but I started wondering how many people would take that side with me if I were to pose the question.  So, which band does everyone prefer?  (On a tangent, I'm deciding on these two because they're the top two Christian ska bands.  There have been other good ones too, like The Insyderz, Nifty Tom 50, Freeto Boat, Buck Enterprises and more, but FIF and the Supertones top them all, hands down).

My other question is, personal preferences aside, which band crafted better songs?  They both have decent-sized discographies, so it may be a tall order, but who do you think was just overall a better band (if you can even say one was better than the other)?  Again, I want this second question to be answered objectively (disregard favorites for this one).

I would say FIF for both questions.  I prefer them, and I do think they wrote better songs.  Granted, they wrote a lot of silly songs, but their serious ones were gorgeous.  No offense to the Supertones, cause they were great too, but there's my answer.  Your turn!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back on 2009 - YOUR top 10 of the Year

This Friday marks the beginning of a new year - 2010. As we get ready to ring in a new year (and a new decade!), let's look back over the past year of music for 2009.

Recently, the JFH staff announced their personal Top 10 Christian albums of 2009 . So with our sharing of our top 10 lists, it seems only fair for you all to get a chance to list your Top 10 Favorite Christian Albums that were released between this year in 2009 too! Without explanations for each one, feel free to list your Top 10 in the comment field below and share with everyone which records YOU would pick as your Top 10 of the past decade! Just list them as Artist, Album and (year). Like this:

1. Jars Of Clay - "The Long Fall Back To Earth"

Remember -- this is for 2009 Christian market releases only... this is not the blog of your picks for the past decade. :)

Cool? Happy listing!

~ JFH

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Memories

Christmas has always been a huge holiday for me and my family. Even  before I was a believer, my family made a big deal out of the holiday. Christmas has always been the time for us to shower a loved one with gifts. Ha - even if that meant going into debt to do it (which I later found out, was usually the case too)! And as a Christian, it's been difficult to consider conducting Christmas any other way. But it's still easy, in the hustle and bustle of the season, to forget the original purpose and intentions of Christmas. The devotional I read today was a nice reminder of Jesus' birth in Luke chapter 2, and it's quiet times like that that are helpful in refocusing our thoughts and hearts on what (and Who) really matters most.

I've been wanting to write a blog about Christmas -- more than likely a retrospective, specifically. I'm still a kid at heart when it comes to Christmas. My favorite memories as a child are centered around surprise gifts or sneaking downstairs after everyone's gone to bed to check out the bountiful spread underneath the Christmas tree. And there's part of me today that still wants to feel those little joys again -- to get lost in the "Christmas feeling" of my childhood. If I try to look at it through those tiny eyes, the favorite Christmas memories involve surprise presents -- like our Grandparents getting us the original NES (Nintendo) and a GameBoy! Or waking up to find a non-wrapped G.I. Joe figure in our stocking for several years in a row (meaning we can play with it before the parents get up, when we can then open the rest of the goodies). Even as a young teen (and baby Christian), my favorite memory was getting PFR's Great Lengths on Christmas Day in 1994, when it wasn't supposed to release for another day or two AFTER Christmas (the local Christian bookstore just happened to put it out early, so my parents stumbled upon it and made both my brother's and my day with the unexpected surprise!). As I've gotten older and have come to learn about Jesus, the things that matter most obviously have changed. I've found myself wanting to just sit back in a corner by the Christmas tree at our big extended family Christmas get-together and sort of just soak in the frenzy of everyone exchanging presents and smiles and laughs. Because of how I was raised (and because I'm hopelessly sentimental), it's difficult to imagine Christmas without exchanging gifts, but even if there were just a couple items under the tree, I realize it's the family time we spend together that is the real gift. And remembering God's amazing gift of His only Son to us that night in that stinky, smelly, drafty stable outside of the Inn should really be enough for us.

So I guess reflecting on the past and focusing on what matters most is really a continued reminder for myself. But I wanted to take this opportunity to invite you all to share a Christmas memory here on this blog. It could be about a favorite gift you received or gave to someone... or maybe it's just a favorite family moment.

What is one of YOUR favorite Christmas memories?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some classic Christmas tunes before we have to rush out to see family for a Christmas Eve dinner! :)

Merry Christmas, everyone! From all of us at Jesusfreakhideout.com

- John DiBiase
President / Founder / Editor

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Give Us YOUR Top 10 Of 2000 - 2009!

This week, the JFH staff announced their personal Top 10 Christian albums of the decade: 2000-2009 . So with our sharing of our top 10 lists, it seems only fair for you all to get a chance to list your Top 10 Favorite Christian Albums that were released between the year 2000 and 2009 too! Without explanations for each one, feel free to list your Top 10 in the comment field below and share with everyone which records YOU would pick as your Top 10 of the past decade! Just list them as Artist, Album and (year). Like this:

1. Switchfoot - "The Beautiful Letdown" (2003)

Cool? Happy listing!

~ JFH

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matters of Love and the Heart

I’ve been thinking about love today, and I haven’t gotten anywhere. This past week has been really dramatic and even terrifying for me, as I gave my heart—once again—too quickly to a girl. The problem is that she didn’t love me back, maybe because at times I neglected the “game” this world plays and chose to show her how I truly felt instead. So cast your stone if I’m wrong in this, but I still want to believe that it is better to love unconditionally and lose like a fool than to be a fake in your character and win the girl in the end. Maybe I’m just a romantic, or maybe it’s God’s nature in me. Whatever else I’ve learned about love over the years, I’ve realized that when it comes down to it, only two things remain that should leave you without regrets:

1)      Walking with God

2)      Following your heart

Obviously, you can’t only follow your heart, because your heart can be foolish and unwise at times. So if we must guard our hearts as well, then we also need someone to make the path for our hearts. You see, I didn’t fail in loving the girl; I failed in asking God exactly how he wanted me to handle the situation. Love is never the mistake, readers. Following your heart is a good thing. It is the only thing that is true for us to do, and it is the only thing that will satisfy us. Another question immediately comes into play, however: “How do I know if the person even deserves my love, or when do I stop?”

That’s where walking with God is highly necessary.

God can tell you to fight for that person’s heart, or to move on, or anything else he thinks is best. It sort of goes hand-in-hand, because that deep confirmation from God will somehow alter the desires of your heart and you’ll know more clearly what is right to do.

I don’t know a lot about love, it is way too complex of a thing to understand fully. One thing I know for certain, though, is that loving someone never promises they’ll love you in return, and if it is to be authentic—as it is your choice—you keep your Teacher close and love them unconditionally anyway, seeking nothing—Nothing—in return.. And God will leave the choice to you, the same way he left the choice to Adam and Eve in the garden, because real love, in its brilliance, must be left untamed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Skelanimals

Long have I been dreading the day.  The day when I would discover a new trend and think, "Kids these days!"  Methinks this day has come.

Now, look, I'm only 25.  25 = not old.  I realize that.  But I just can't help but feel that way sometimes.  or at least feel like I'm gradually stumbling my way there.

I caught wind of this new Family Force 5 single that was releasing exclusively through Target called "Keep The Party Alive."  So I went to Target and sought it out.  I was dismayed (and irritated) that it was an EP of six FF5 songs for $5.99, three of which are on Dance or Die and two of which are on Dance or Die With A Vengeance.  So basically, since I already have BOTH of these albums, buying that EP would be a waste of six bucks (as it most likely also would be for anyone who likes Family Force 5 enough to care about one new song).  Needless to say, I put it back on the shelf and bought a bag of chips instead.

Some of that is irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make.  Possibly all of it.  Sorry.  But in case you're wondering, it's this new brand called PopChips.  They're delicious.

I wondered why they had a single releasing already.  John Reuben is releasing a new single per month for four months, but that's because he has a new album coming out.  But FF5 is still on the heels of a remix album, and they have a Christmas album coming out soon.  I like FF5, but I don't think I can handle this much of them.  But come to find out, "Keep The Party Alive" is all part of this big Halloween ad campaign for Target and these things called Skelanimals.

Now I had heard the name "Skelanimals" before in association with FF5, but never put any research into it to see what it was.  Well, JfH had a News Short with the promo video in it, so I watched it.  And, unless I'm missing something, Skelanimals are just little cartoon animals that have all black bodies except for the skeleton of the animal.  That's it.  Don't get me wrong, they're freakin' adorable.  But yeah, that's all they are.  And they've somehow become a sensation with emo kids, young kids (two ten-year-old-looking girls passed me by at Target wearing Skelanimal apparel while talking about their Skelanimal clothing and frantically searching for the Skelanimal section...no exaggeration) and they even have Skelanimal bands on their website.  FF5 is included in that section, along with bands like Meg & Dia, Silverstein, Chiodos, and even As I Lay Dying (which may be the weirdest one to me.  I mean, why would a metal band be all about some cutesy little animals?)

I'm not trying to sound angry, or be a jerk or anything.  If you like these guys, that's perfectly okay.  I just would like someone to explain to me if there's some validity in this, or if it's just another passing fad like Trolls, Pogs and slap bracelets?

Or am I just getting old?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Music, Moods and Emotions

It just occurred to me recently about how centered my life is on music. If everyone sat down and thought about it, I'm sure a lot of people would feel the same way. I mean, I have a song to play for every mood or emotion that I deal with.  A few days ago I was going through a lonely period, and the first songs that came to mind were "All Around" by The Glorious Unseen and "By Your Side" by Tenth Avenue North. So I played them, and something just connected. It's kind of funny how it works.

In a way, playing songs that relate to how we're feeling can really help put things in perspective. With all the distractions in the world (Twitter, Facebook, obsessive BlackBerry use, etc.), it's a daily struggle for me to find God time, but I can always fix this problem with a really deep worship song ("How He Loves" from the upcoming David Crowder Band release has been doing the trick recently).

Then there's my nightly ritual of listening to music before I go to sleep. Jon Foreman and The Fray have really been my heroes in this category. Raw and real music like that really helps end the day on a good note.

Music and emotions can go a lot further than just speaking to how we feel though. There have been more than enough times where I've turned on a song in relativity to my mood and have found the lyrics not only addressing my situation, but really saying something to me. I've found that music is one of the best ways that God can really communicate with us. So many times I find myself wondering "what is God trying to tell me through these lyrics?"

Just dwelling on such a trivial topic like this and really giving it some thought have really brought things to light - and all in all, I've learned that music isn't something to be taken for granted. It's there for a reason. We just have to listen.   ~ Logan

Monday, September 07, 2009

Attack of the EP!

It's kind of funny. As I sit here reading over staff reviews for the latest  EP releases, it reminds me just how many dang EP's are being released these days (Roger's going to eat this blog up!)! I know that the music industry is in a weird state right now - and the economy isn't helping! - but as the labels try not to lose their shirt on debuting new artists, the safest way it seems to go may be to release an EP. However, I've often had mixed feelings about EP's myself.

I remember the mid-90's or so, when labels would take a chance on new artists and release a full-length debut album. It gives artists a chance to really show listeners what they can do. Imagine, for example, if Jars Of Clay's debut album was an EP. What would their self-titled record be without "Worlds Apart" or "Boy On A String?" I suppose you can try that little exercise with any of your favorite bands -- If Thousand Foot Krutch's Phenomenon was just 6 songs or Hawk Nelson's Letters To The President ? Or if Third Day's self-titled album was without "Thief" or "Blackbird?" However, on the other hand, a debut EP does give us the listener less of a financial risk. "Well, I only had to shell out 4 or 5 bucks on this EP and it's just 'OK.'" ... but that proposes yet another thought... does a full album place more stress on an artist or label to make it a solid debut? Does an EP leave room for error? ("We'll save some of the best tracks for when our full-length comes out"... what if that was their thought process?). In this day and age when a lot of new artists are putting EP's out first -- do you the consumer and music fan prefer that? Does it leave you wanting more? Or do you feel a little cheated afterwards?

I do like the EP when an artist I already enjoy decides to put out something new to tide us over with. Rock N Roll Worship Circus' The Listening EP is one of my favorite EP's of all-time and a solid collection of songs from start to finish. Would it have been a stronger release with 4 more songs? I don't really know. But it was certainly a satisfying EP at six songs. I enjoyed last year's Closer EP from Jars of Clay. It gave a glimpse at their upcoming release plus added two redone classics and a rare song - three tracks you could only get on that EP. That kind of an approach seems like an ideal EP format. But what about how Forefront Records handled new artists Abandon and Philmont? They both released digital EP's last Summer, then both of those EPs released in CD form this year with 1 bonus track on each one. On the same day as the release of Abandon's EP on CD this past April, they released a SECOND digital EP, this time of all new tracks. Then, selections from both EP's made it onto Abandon's recently released full-length album Searchlights, with the addition of about 3 or 4 new songs. Is this kind of approach to debuting a new artist a little goofy, or something you think makes sense?

One last thought I wanted to add... in the 90's, with some of these aforementioned debut full-length albums, there was no way to buy tracks by themselves... now there is a way -- between AmazonMP3 and iTunes especially, we can just download single songs instead of the full album. So isn't there less stress on the consumer already if they just want to buy half the full-length album instead of the full thing. So why bother with an EP as a debut if listeners don't want to commit to a full album? They can just buy the tracks off the full-length that they want!

Just some 4am musings here. What do you guys think of the notorious debut-album-EP and the way labels are releasing them at an increased frequency these days (or not even the debut EP's but the more frequent release of multiple EP's from your favorite artists in place of a full-length album?, like the Future Of Forestry Travel EP's, for example)?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jesus Freak VS Supernatural

OK, so this won't be the conventional blog you normally see here, but it's one I'm curious what you old school CCM fans would say about. While at Purple Door Festival over the weekend, some friends and I got into a late night diner discussion over which dc Talk album was truly better -- 1995's Jesus Freak or 1998's Supernatural. (For the new kids -- DC Talk is TobyMac's original band. Good stuff! Check 'em out) Now, while some might assume that I hold Jesus Freak as the best record ever created due to this site's very name, I definitely wouldn't say that's the case. While I think it's a very important record for Christian rock music and still a very solid album, I don't think it's my favorite album -- however, I do think it's my favorite dc Talk album of all of their releases. As far as an album as a whole, I think it's stronger and flows better than Supernatural. It seems Supernatural tried too hard to be a big follow-up to Jesus Freak. There were one too many quirky songs (and by that I mean... not quite the caliber and quality you'd expect from dc Talk even if they are decent pop songs in their own right) - like "My Friend So Long" and "Since I Met You" (which was kind of pop-punk-ish in the process), and you even had the song "Jesus Freak" referenced in "My Friend So Long," which just seemed to make the record feel too much like it was riding the cotails of such an iconic record. But at the same time, you have killer tracks like "Supernatural," "Dive," "It's Killing Me," and even the uber-catchy although debatably corny "Into Jesus." So it's still a great album. I guess it just has a couple missteps on it in my eyes (yes, Jesus Freak could have done without "Mrs. Morgan" or especially "Jesus Freak (Reprise)" to give it a more serious tone overall).

So anyway... let's carry on the diner conversation my friends and I had that night. Let's hear your honest casual opinions (no mud-slinging, we're all friends here, right?). Give me your opinion and WHY.

                       

Which is better: DC Talk's Jesus Freak or Supernatural? Discuss!

 

 

Monday, July 13, 2009

What are You doing, God?

Let's rewind to late 2008/early 2009.  I lived in Topeka, KS.  My girlfriend, Sharie (pronounced Shawr-ee, not Share-ee) lived in Cuero, TX.  I wanted to be with Sharie.  She wanted to be with me.  We prayed a lot, and I ended up moving to Texas to be with her.  As of now, I've been in Texas for about four and a half months.  Recently, her and I came into a tight situation where we needed to depend on God's provision in a way we never had to before.  Saying that it's an easy thing to do would be a lie.  It's hard.  It's freaking hard.  So we've been praying and having our friends and members of the body of Christ pray for us, and we've come to what seems to be the conclusion: I'm moving back to Topeka, and she's coming with me.  Though it's obvious that I'm excited about getting to go back home and see my friends and family again, I'm also a little torn.  1) I've grown attached to Sharie's friends, and it's hard to leave them.  2) I know what it's like to leave everything behind and move 700-something miles away, and I'm afraid for her to feel the effects of that.  Sometimes I feel bad about doing it, like I'm being selfish, but my pastor told me that's just Satan trying to make me feel bad about listening to God and doing what He wants me to do.  3) I don't understand it.  Why would God tell me that it's okay if I move down here, only to send me back after five months (it'll be almost five by the time we roll out of here).  I just don't get it.  It makes me realize that I don't know everything, and that I don't have to know everything, and that, really, I wasn't designed to know everything.  If I did, faith would be an impossibility for me.  I'm only human.  But still, I wish I did understand what God's doing.  I guess I'll just wait for Him to reveal what He wants to reveal to me, and try to be content with that.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Creation East 2009 Highlights

Hey all! Just got back from Creation East in Middle-of-nowheresville, PA! After my one hundreth cup of coffee this week, I'm ready to write you guys a quick little update on how this year transpired for us! As with past years, a full review of our personal experience of this year's Creation Festival East will be posted, but unlike previous years, I have 6,000+ photos to weed through, so it will take a bit longer to get the review and photo gallery up. However, here are some quick thoughts to tide you over...

First off, Creation 2009 got off to an insane start with great performances from Remedy Drive and then total stage domination from Skillet. They were unbelievable this year, and this is from someone who's seen them live many years since their start. Amazing show! I suppose the pyro helped, but they just really have nailed it (and they played two new songs from their upcoming album Awake). On Thursday, our highlight was finally getting to see AA Talks -- an intimate session involving original Audio Adrenaline members Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss as they share about the late band's triumphs and failures, mixing in some classic AudioA tunes in the process. Fantastic stuff -- for AA fans and non alike. Friday featured incredible performances from House Of Heroes, TFK, John Reuben (one of the most underrated entertainers), David Crowder, and Third Day, and Saturday featured an absolutely fantastic show from Family Force 5 (completely donned in football gear), and the delicious NEEDTOBREATHE. Some great performances this year indeed, even if the overall line-up wasn't their strongest I've seen. We missed Creation Fest last year, so coming back felt much like a family reunion (a good one!).

Now, for us -- who also live in Eastern Pennsylvania -- Creation Fest still serves as a mini-road trip... and every good road trip needs great music to ride along to, correct? So some tunes you would have heard blaring from my beloved ride were:  Project 86's Picket Fence Cartel, a homemade Project mix disc, House Of Heroes' The End Is Not The End, All Star United's The Good Album, Hawk Nelson's Summer EP, NEEDTOBREATHE's The Heat, Remedy Drive's Daylight Is Coming, Audio Adrenaline's Until My Heart Caves In and bloOm albums, The Listening's Transmission #1 EP and The Listening EP, Grammatrain's Kneeling Between Shields EP, Dead Poetic's Vices, and Guardian's House Of Guardian.

So, until the full rundown is done..... it's good to be home, but some great memories were made this year, so I guess it's a little bittersweet for it to be over. We hope to be back again next year!

~ John

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Don't Listen To The Words, Just The Music

Ever hear (or use?) the phrase "I don't listen to the words, just the music" when defending listening to music with less than admirable lyrics? It's a proven fact that what we watch, hear, and do really does affect us. The Scriptures even encourage us to guard our hearts and minds in Philippians 4:7-9 -- "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

I realize, to a degree, some people's minds and hearts are more impressionable than others. But take a moment to realize how much your friends affect your decision-making, your entertainment, even your humor. We pass around catch-phrases, word choice, favorite movies and music. We like to share our interests and personalities with others, but that does affect us, and more deeply than we like to acknowledge.

The thing that hit me with this subject was actually something that happened today. I was working at my desk, deeply involved in the task at hand, with my iTunes music library on shuffle playing as background music. I got the hunger itch and reasoned that it was a good time to get some coffee from the kitchen as well and I instinctively paused my iTunes and went downstairs. The entire time I brewed my coffee and readied a toasted bagel, the song "I Have Nothing" by Plumb repeated over and over in my head. I love Plumb and think her music's great, so that's not the issue... but when I went upstairs to my desk, sat down, and went to press play on my iTunes, I saw that the song was only THREE SECONDS into it. Somehow three seconds of a song was enough to trigger it for repeat play in my mind? It's kind of a scary thought... how much what we ingest really affects us - good AND bad.

So just a little food for thought for you guys. I know I myself still need to be more selective about how much time I spend absorbing entertainment versus time learning about and getting to know God. If you're struggling with that too a bit, try starting up a personal Bible study that goes through a book a little bit each day. A Bible study I attend just recently went through John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Life." Fantastic book and study. So check that out if you need a suggestion to help you to dig a little deeper.

Love you guys! -- John

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ode to Joy

Well, it’s been quite a day. Quite a week or two or three, actually.
 
I work in a small bakery. I was filling in for my manager as she took a well-deserved vacation, and along with the responsibility for my department came the stress, grumbles, “ooops-es”, and concerns that go along with management. She’s been away for three weeks, so that was three weeks of getting up at 5 am to be at work for 6 (bakers start early, as you can imagine). My poor family… missing me… needing me… getting by with more-than-usual take out food, limited clean clothes, and dust you could write your name in…
 
Today was the last day of covering for her, and I was (am) excited about that. As much as I’ve enjoyed the new responsibility, it’s time to get back on track and back to a regular sleeping pattern. My constant prayer was that God would hold me up and give me strength, because I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. Every day, I asked Him to lead me, guide me, instruct me. It was a lesson in humility, actually, as I leaned on Him completely.
 
Anyway, as I said, today was the last day. It was still early and I was taking a tray of freshly-baked pies out of the oven. Mmm, they smelled so good and they were the perfect shade of golden-brownness. As I turned with the tray, I clipped the side of the oven door and the whole tray fell to the floor in a sticky, gooey, fruity, steaming mess. Honestly, I stared down at them for a moment, saying nothing…. then it came. No, not tears… the sound that came from my throat was laughter. As I looked down at the carnage wondering if I could save any of them, I delighted in the fact that Jesus is still my Savior, that this had no eternal significance, and mostly that the Bible says we are to count it all as joy. Joy. JOY! My heart was sad because I had dropped these lovely pies, but honestly, I was still joyful.
 
Happiness is dependant on circumstance. Joy is not dependant on circumstance. Regardless of our situation - and we absolutely do have sorrowful and difficult times in life - if you know and love Jesus, the joy is always there.
 
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”
Philippians 4:4 NLT
 
(Oh, and by the way… my co-workers were happy to dig into the mess with plastic spoons.  Apparently, teenaged boys will eat anything!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LIVE From The 40th Annual GMA Dove Awards

Hey everybody! It's that time again. The 40th Annual GMA Dove Awards are tonight! We're reporting live from the press room at the Grand Ole Opry to give you moment by moment coverage of the GMA Dove Awards!

 

4:45 EST -- John DiBiase here! Getting settled in the press room. The ceremony's going thru some dress rehearsals and such. Artists and press are still arriving, so it'll be awhile before the festivities really get going. But we'll keep you posted!

5:33 EST - Just talked to Chris Sligh. He has an idea for some articles to write for JFH about the state of CCM. Hmmm... looks to be some really good stuff too... Anyway, grabbed some munchies and going to chill at the table for a bit...

5:46 EST - Starting off awards with the Childrens projects. The emcee for the pre-show is kinda painful to listen to -- bad, bad, bad jokes), but for this non-televised portion, it's not a huge deal.... And "An Island Christmas" wins the award.

5:48 EST - Children Music Album of the Year is next... "Absolute Modern Worship For Kids 4" wins it! Chance Scoggins came up to accept the award and thanked everyone he HOPES to work with instead of those he has. Pretty dang funny, actually.

5:51 EST - Musical of the Year is next... And the Dove Award goes to "God bless the USA"

5:54 EST - Instrumental Project is up now. (Presenters made a waldrobe malfunction joke about pants. Hopefully it's the only reference to that...). The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian score gets it! (That was a good score, too-- better than the first)

5:55 EST - Music Packagin is up!  "Hawk Nelson is My Friend" deserves it.... and the Dove Award goes to?..... Third Day's "Revelation" wins it! Not bad, not bad.

5:58 EST - "I'll Say Yes" by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir just won for Choral Collection. One of the Word Music guys is up to accept the award. Kind of funny none of the Disney people were here to accept for Prince Caspian...

5:59 EST - Children 18:3 and Paul Williams are presenting the next award. Wow. This is hilarious! Award is for Bluegrass Recorded Song: And the Dove Award goes to "They're Holding Up the Ladder" by Jeff & Sheri Easter.

6:01 EST - Rock Album of the Year is up now! Go Remedy Drive! Winner is....... "Never Going Back To OK" by The Afters! Don't worry, we love you TOO, guys! A lot of great albums in that category.

6:05 EST - Rock Record Song now.... Phillip LaRue is up as one of the presenters. Here's hoping for "The Hunger" by Fireflight. But the winner is?? ... "Lost" by RED! Why such an old song?! (So far I'm off on each one I hope for, ha! ;) )

6:07 EST - Phil's now actually announcing "Inspirational Song"... Dove Award goes to "A New Hallelujah" by Michael W. Smith! Integrity Music came up to accept the award for him.

6:08 EST - The Afters are now back here to talk about winning their Dove. They just dedicated it to their manager who recently passed away from cancer. We love these guys!

6:11 EST - As The Afters are back here talking to us, Meredith Andrews is performing "You're Not Alone" on the stage...

6:16 EST - After Edmund and Living Waters Trio are announcing together now. Worship Song Of the Year is being presented. And the Dove Award goes to.... (I'm gonna guess Tomlin, eh?) Ha! It's "Mighty To Save" by Hillsong! Wow. Tomlin's been upset by the Aussies! :)

6:18 EST - Traditional Gospel Song Of The Year... Blind Boys of Alabama's "Free At Last" takes it!

6:21 EST - Traditional Gospel Album Of The Year...  Blind Boys of Alabama's Down In New Orleans! These guys are SO cute!

6:24 EST - Hillsong just came back here and is talking about their new album Faith Hope and Love coming out this July... Rock Album is up on the screen! It's tough competition this year! The Winner is DECEMERADIO with "Satisfied!" Congrats, brothers!

6:26 EST - Inspiration Album of the Year... Great God Who Saves by Laura Story wins it!

6:28 EST - Brandon Heath's "Give Me Your Eyes" just one Pop/Contemporary Record Song of the Year -- beating SCC, Natalie Grant, Switchfoot and Francesca...

6:30 EST - NOT COOL! The pre-show's lame emcee just made a joke about it being a major upset against "heavyweight" Steven Curtis Chapman. If he only knew what "Cinderella" means to him... This may sound harmless, but you'd have to hear how it was delivered. Poor, poor taste.

6:31 EST - Blind Boys are back here! Christmas Album is up now. Praise & Worship Album just was announced but the winner wasn't here and we have no sound, so we're not sure who scored that one. For the Christmas album... the win was obvious. Casting Crowns just won it for Peace On Earth. I knew they won it when they announced they were recording one last year... Would have liked to have seen Sara Groves or the Barlow sisters get it, to be honest.

6:34 EST - Aline Barlos just won an International Award (the monitor sound just kicked back in as they announced her)

6:37 EST - J.R. is now performing... wearing one white glove in true Michael Jackson fashion, too...

6:39 EST - DecembeRadio just came back here to talk to the press. Congrats, guys! They're talking with us about their award-winning album, Satisfied... J.R. is still performing on the monitor.

6:43 EST - KJ, Stephanie Smith, and Ayiesha just announced Country Recorded Song and handed it out to Point Of Grace and Cindy Morgan for "I Wish"

6:45 EST - Rap/Hip Hop Album is up. Go Group 1 Crew!! Ayiesha is announcing.... Dove Award goes to Ordinary Dreamers by Group 1 Crew!!! (Our pick finally wins! Ha) Congrats, guys!

6:47 EST - Bluegrass Album is up now (who orders these categories?!?!). The Dove Award goes to... We Are Family by Jeff & Sheri Easter! KJ just joke-accepted it. Fantastic. :) Now he is announcing Long Form Video -- GO TOBY!!!! And the Dove Award goes to... TOBYMAC!! Congrats, brother!!

6:49 EST - There were going to skip someone accepting the awards but those behind the production just came up at the last moment... Now the next three presenters are Producers: Bernie Herms, Ian Eskelin, and Ed Cash. Group 1 Crew just got back here. The Producers are announcing the Spanish Language Album on the monitor.

6:53 EST - And Rescatme by Seventh Day Slumber just one for their Spanish record!

6:54 EST - Moving along swiftly... Urban Album of the Year is up. Ed Cash is announcing... The Fight Of My Life by Kirk Franklin wins!

6:55 EST - Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song is up now. Group1 is even nominated! Tough competition. NEEDTOBREATHE, BABY!!! "Washed By The Water" is an amazing song. Congrats, guys!

6:59 EST - Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song is on stage now... G1C is still here, talking about their next project, and turning dreams into reality... No sound on the monitor, but I think it was LaRue Howard for her cover of "How Great Is God." Dove for Country Album is Around the Bend by Randy Travis.

7:03 EST - Revive and Laura Story are now presenting. They're busting on each other (albeit scripted), which is pretty funny... Rap/Hip Hop Recorded song is next. And the Dove Award goes to our boy KJ-52 for "Do Yo Thang!" Congrats bro! Haha he just took video of the audience saying "Hi Jacob" for his son. :) Classy

7:06 EST - Contemporary Gospel Album is next. And the Dove Award goes to Martha Munizzi for Change The World.

7:11 EST - Downhere is performing right now on stage... no sound back here of course.

7:14 EST - Songwriters are presenting now... Cindy Morgan is reading off Songwriter of the Year... (GO STEVEN CURTIS!!...) And the Dove Award goes to?...... Steven Curtis Chapman!! We love you buddy! ...That's so awesome! VERY emotional speech from Steven... reeeally hard not to cry along...

7:18EST - Seventh Day Slumber just came back here as they're announcing Producer of the Year. We're guessing it's Bernie Herms... since we don't recognize him. :)

7:20 EST - Special Event Album is up now... no surprise, but Passion: God Of This City takes it! Martha Munizzi is on her way back here to talk to us...

7:30 EST - Pre-show is over. It's half-time. Artists are filtering through here faster. LaRue Howard was back here, now Laura Story...

7:37 EST - Aline Barlos is back here... complete with translator! The International Award looks pretty sharp, too! Never saw one before...

7:38 EST - If you're curious at all why I have this all in EST while we're in Nashville which is an hour earlier... The simple and silly reason is that we're from EST, my laptop is on PA time and I don't feel like messing with even just the hour time difference, ha. Lazy, probably, but I rather focus on what's going on here instead of the time. :)

7:41 EST - Two of the Downhere guys are back here and the monitor is rudely showing a woman being suited up for the show. Yikes...

7:47 EST - Producer of the Year Bernie Herms is back here now... and that woman I mentioned who's a victim of backstage camerwork was Rebecca St. James (poor girl!)... prepping for the live broadcast tonight. Point Of Grace is coming back here next... Amy just asked them about their new Daddy song, "King of the World". :o)

7:50 EST - Amy just asked Cindy Morgan about the inspiration for it. Cindy says she wrote it to her husband as a birthday gift! Sweet! ..... RE:Blog comment-- Paul, basically, we have a live feed for the event in here, even when it's not broadcast on TV. So there was a camera showing someone adjusting the back of RSJ's warddrobe and it was just REALLY weird and awkward. Nothing bad was seen, but it was just like... why are you showing this on the camera????.... back to the press room:  Point Of Grace's Denise Jones just said she got into a car accident on the way to the Doves and missed accepting the award! That stinks....

8:04 EST - Back from a potty break. Ha. Mary Mary is kicking off the actual Dove broadcast! I swear this song reminds me of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough"

8:08 EST - They just announced the performers -- long list! Now the Munizzi sisters are announcing Male Vocalist of the Year... GO JON FOREMAN! But I think Tomlin will get it (perhaps MAYBE... Heath or Camp might have it).... Dove goes to Brandon Heath! Congrats man.

8:10 EST - RSJ and former Out of Eden member Lisa Kimmey are the backstage hosts. Now they're talking to Mr. Toby McKeehan (aka TobyMac)

8:12 EST - Yeah baby! Third Day's now performing the song "Revelation." This song's freakin' awesome.

8:19 EST - Our boy TobyMac is back here talking to us about his Dove win.

8:22 EST - I just asked Toby about his upcoming record and he kept it kind of vague, but just said the label's been cooperative with letting him take his time with it. Group of the Year is up on the monitor. GO SKILLET or THIRD DAY! :)  ... please? .... Oh come on!! Casting Crowns? Sad, sad, sad....It's their fifth year in a row! Skillet and Third Day had banner years last year and 3D made an impact with the Music Builds Tour. Would love to see more variety for this award, people. CC only released a Christmas album last year and will have a new album this October. Just would like to see things get changed up a bit. Give rock a chance, GMA!

8:25 EST - To make matters WORSE we're missing Remedy Drive's performance of "Daylight Is Coming"!!! Ugh  Looks cool at least...

8:26 EST - And now we can't hear the lovely Francesca Battistelli play :(

8:28 EST - We just caught the tail end of Chris Sligh's performance and now we have the audio as Jonathan Nelson plays.

8:29 EST - Tenth Avenue North is now up. We would love to see Remedy Drive, Francesca or Chris win this one especially!

8:36 EST - And now Casting Crowns is back here after winning for their Christmas album and for winning Group of the Year for the fifth time in a row. On the monitor, Fireflight is announcing Urban Recorded Song.

8:38 EST - And Mary Mary wins for "Get Up."

8:41 EST - Crowns just left. Chris Tomlin's been performing on stage....

8:48 EST - Lisa Kimmey and Rebecca St. James just talked to Mary Mary and now just announced Canton Jones, Tye Tribbett, and DecembeRadio are presenting Female Vocalist of the Year... go Francesca!

8:51 EST - And the Dove goes to.... NATALIE GRANT! Congrats, Natalie!

8:52 EST - Marty and Mark from 4Him and Wayne Watson are announcing the Angel Award and recognizing Jars Of Clay for Blood:Water Mission! Congratulations, brothers! We love you!

8:54 EST - Marty Magehee just announced an honor to Pop Winans after his recent passing.

8:55 EST - The guys are now announcing Sandi Patty for her performance, and gave her a standing ovation!

8:59 EST - They're now honoring Dottie Rambo, who also has passed, with a string of tribute performances.

9:08 EST - Very nice Southern Gospel tribute to Dottie. Mary Mary are back here now. Commercial break for the broadcast...

9:15 EST - Brandon Heath is rocking "Give Me Your Eyes" on the stage now.

9:16 EST - Whoa! He's got dancers too? Hahaha.  The Dottie Rambo tribute singers are back here in the press room now.

9:19 EST - No sound again here, but they're announcing Song Of The Year! ... And the Dove Award goes to....BRANDON HEATH for "Give Me Your Eyes!" Man, Heath is cleaning up!

9:27 EST - New Artist of the Year, folks!! And the winner is........... Tenth Avenue North. Dang it!  ...I called it though. :) Sorry, 10th, but Remedy and Francesca.... yeah. Sorry! I guess it does say something that these guys were the top selling new artist of 2008, though, huh?

9:31 EST - Jars of Clay just announced Natalie Grant to perform. It opened with her sitting on a park bench. Now she's singing with Group 1 Crew dancing beside her. Manwell's slick!

9:33 EST - And now Brandon Heath's about to step back here, carrying his three Dove Awards won tonight, including Male Vocalist and Song of the Year!

9:35 EST - Commercial break. They're going to announce Short Form Video soon. Brandon's not back here just yet...

9:41 EST - Grits is one of the presenters right now. The category is Short Form Video! Go Remedy Drive and House of Heroes! But I fear the worst......... OH COME ON!!!! Casting Crowns for "Slow Fade"??? Shouldn't this award go to an artist for the video itself not for just the artist? Why even bother nominating artists based on their videos then? But, alas, that is probably another blog topic altogether...

9:45 EST - Aww... Amy just complimented Brandon Heath on his song for "Give Me Your Eyes." He was greatly encouraged by it. Heath just insisted he wished he thanked Dan Muckala. his producer. for working with him and helping him. ... MercyMe is peforming on stage right now... and I'm still upset about the Short Form Video debacle. It shouldn't be a popularity contest, folks... but it is. That House of Heroes video is fantastic.

9:50 EST - Commercial Break. Brandon's still back here. Thanks for all the feedback comments, folks!

9:52 EST - And Natalie Grant is now back here -- the Female Vocalist of the Year

9:54 EST - Comedian Sinbad's on the show now... announcing Radio Show of the Year I believe. Natalie's still back here so we have no sound. RE: Blog Comment: Darren, we didn't have audio for GRITS' comment. What did they say??

9:57 EST - Smitty's up now talking... announcing Steven Curtis Chapman's performance of "Cinderella"...

9:59 EST - Miss California is now in here. Fox News Radio is asking her about the controversy about.... what happened this week. I don't want to get into it here, but we agree wholeheartedly with her and are proud of her.

10:00 EST - This girl's got integrity. God bless her!!

10:02 EST - SCC's getting a much deserved standing ovation. Wish we were there. We decided earlier he's getting one from us when he comes back here :) Amy asked Miss California about music she grew up listening to and she cited RSJ, MercyMe, Chris Tomlin and many others as her favorites. Sounds like a healthy musical diet for the soul.

10:05 EST - Commercial break. Tenth Avenue North's back here now.

10:08 EST - Now Kirk Franklin and one of the Baldwins (not Stephen or Alec, ha) are presenting now. No sound as Tenth Ave is still here. Artist of the Year is up now...

10:10 EST - Artist of the Year is STEVEN CURTIS CHAPMAN!!! Thank God! We love you, Steven!!!

10:12 EST - Steven's giving a great speech. Jars of Clay is coming back here now....

10:14 EST - RE: Blog Comment: It IS a happy ending!

10:16 EST - Blind Boys of Alabama and Mac Powell are peforming on stage.

10:21 EST - Show is officially over. Press will continue back here for awhile. Jars is still here talking about Blood:Water Mission

10:29 EST - Comedian Sinbad and his daughter Paige, who's in the group Press Play, are back here with us now. The monitor is off (went black) now for the ceremony.

10:34 EST - RE: Blog Comment: My pleasure, John H! And I'm really, really glad SCC won too. Just the reception he got and his speech was well, well worth it! He's a hero of the faith for a lot of us.

10:36 EST - Newly signed to Reunion Records, Phil Stacey is now back here. He presented tonight. His new album releases August 25, 2009. It's titled Into The Light

10:42 EST - The legendary Steven Curtis Chapman is back here. Humbly talking about the awards. He's very thankful.

10:55 EST - Whew. Chapmans just left. Great moment back here with them in the press room! (Got some great pics too)

11:05 EST - And that's a wrap! Thanks for all who followed along with us! See you next year at the 41st Annual GMA Dove Awards! We love you guys! God bless!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Sacrifice of the Cross

It's easy to let the true meaning of Easter (much like with Christmas) get lost in the midst of family dinner planning, school time off, images of bunnies, baskets of candy, and eggs. I was reading my daily devotional today -- written by Charles Stanley of InTouch Ministries -- and he chose Mark 15:26-32 to drive home his message about "The Power Of The Cross." Part of the story especially struck me. Particulary the imagery in Mark 15:29-30 NIV:

29Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
30save Yourself, and come down from the cross!"

Can you imagine being there? The very people Jesus was dying for were making fun of Him to save Himself? If they only knew that saving Himself would be the most selfish act any person could ever do as it would rob mankind of the very Freedom that Christ was sent to give! A Bible study I attend shared a list of questions recently to go through when reading a story or teaching in the Bible to dig deeper into the Scriptures. As I went through them, the question, "What would you have done in this situation?" struck me. I really don't know? I supposed if it's the 2009 me in that situation... and perhaps I was one of Jesus' disciples... would I have been like Peter and rejected Him out of fear of what man might do to me, saying "I do not know the man!" I shudder at the thought of it. But if I was not who I am today and was just a common man in Jesus' time... would I have followed Him and have been there by His side until the end? Or would I have mocked Him as I passed by the cross. They're humbling thoughts to consider. And to even go as far as considering all Jesus had to endure to save a bunch of people who just mocked Him and spit on Him, and made fun of Him -- people who would widely use His name in vain as profanity centuries later... I know I could never do what He did. And I think God for Jesus' sacrifice.

Just some thoughts I was thinking today that I thought I might share given the holiday weekend and Good Friday being tomorrow (it seems so odd to call the day that celebrates the events of the cross as "Good Friday"... but it truly is!). Let's not forget His sacrifice... and that He is risen!

So... how would you guys answer those questions?

 

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I know with a music site like this one, it's crucial to keep up with what's new each week when things hit retail and online music stores, etc. But the truth is, there is already lots of fantastic music that can be "new" to you that has been out for years -- even decades! Sometimes it can be tough to find new music that really sparks something in your heart and spirit, but then there are those classics... records you've listened to for five, ten, fifteen years - or more even - that are old faithfuls. Sometimes it's nice just to revisit those.

I fairly regularly keep my iTunes Library on shuffle, so I don't usually listen to full records in one shot unless it's for review purposes. I said in a recent "We Recommend" blog that I had had a day where an Audio Adrenaline song from their 1996 record bloOm came on and it really sounded so good, so I took my iTunes off shuffle and just listened to AudioA record after AudioA record. It was one of the best days I'd had in a long time! There's just something about those records that really hit me in a deeper spot than a lot of current music. It could be the songs, perhaps just because I first listened to them when I was 14 (in 1994... yeah, I'm really dating myself here), or maybe the songs just had a special anointing on them. Or all of the above? Whatever it is, the "oldies" still hit home.

So this week I've been jamming to some "oldies." I think I started with Hoi Polloi's 1995 album Happy Ever After, then I listened to Holy Soldier's 1995 album Promise Man, and just yesterday I picked out Hokus Pick's Brothers From a Different Mother and then their later records Snappy and Super Duper. Oh, and Dakoda Motor Co's Into The Son album. Classic. Speaking of classic, I also jumped to PFR's Great Lengths, then their self-titled and the "new" tracks from Late Great PFR. Then I hopped over to Eric Champion's 1996 rock album Transformation and now? Hahaha. The FIRST Christian band I ever listened to -- yup. Idle Cure! As I'm typing, I'm totally listening to Idle Cure's 1991 album Inside Out. Where will I go from here? Probably another one of their records (yup, as I'm finishing this up, it's their 1988 album Tough Love!).

There's just something about that time in Christian music... maybe it was just the time in MY life?? I don't know. But in some cases, it seemed like the lyrics were deeper and bolder... the spiritual lyrics weren't limited only to worship artists. Rock bands weren't afraid to say "Jesus" in a song. ... Any thoughts on this, guys? I don't know... Just writing this makes me want to go listen to stuff like Poor Old Lu's A Picture Of The Eighth Wonder... Guardian's Buzz... All Star United's self-titled... Common Children's Skywire... Steve Taylor's Squint... Imagine This... Good times.

Any one else got some thoughts on this? Any older records that stir your soul? Think it's just music from a time in your life? Or really the music itself?

Monday, December 01, 2008

God Knows Better Than We Do...

I'm not a parent, so when it comes to learning some of the lessons that parents learn, it's usually through being a pet owner. For those who don't know, my wife and I are the proud caretakers of a little guinea pig named Chewie who's three and a half years old. He's a spunky little spoiled furrball, but more loveable than any pet I've ever had or known before him. My most recent lesson was experienced during the revisitation of a favorite activity of little Chewie's...

I believe it was earlier this year when we began occasionally letting the little guy run around on our carpeted office floor. It's good exercise for him, he has a blast, and it's ridiculously cute to watch him running and skipping around joyfully, all the while chattering to himself about only God knows what. But to keep him out of trouble, we have a small little fence that we use to keep him away from small spaces and wires he could nibble on. The funny thing is, early on in this new world exploration of his, he managed to get behind my desk to where a wealth of random, unorganized wires were well out in the open and free for the chewing. I caught him just in time before he could do any damage to himself or the appliances and returned him to his safe caged-in area. Since this incident, however, Chewie has become completely fascinated with this area of the room -- often trying desperately to find a way outside of his little pen to get back there. Perhaps he thinks it's some kind of magical haven - a guinea pig eutopia (haha!), but he has no idea that it's not the best place for him to venture to. Sadly, it's often the same way with us and God.

Many times in life, we'll be told -- whether by parents, God, superiors, etc -- where we should not go or what we should not do in attempts to keep us out of trouble and/or out of harm's way. However, we either don't believe the intentions are pure, or we just become so fixated by what we cannot have -- this forbidden fruit, so to speak -- that we want it simply because we want to know why we can't have it.  It's a problem that has plagued mankind since the dawn of time.

It's unfortunate, really. God calls us to be holy -- not just because sin goes against everything God IS... hence the reason for His Son dying in our place for our sins so we can commune with Him and eventually each spend eternity with Him -- but because it's for our own good and we were created in His likeness! Just as a parent wants the best for their child and to protect them by asking them to wear a coat in cold or rainy weather, drive safely, buckle up, not run with scissors, eat healthy food (or for a pet owner not to allow a little furrball to run into an area where it could be harmed), God wants to keep us safe... and righteous. He calls us to be obedient first and foremost to His will and instruction (and He's given us an entire book to go on). So... have you been trying desperately to venture into territories God is trying to keep you from for your own good?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I feel like an idiot

Ever hear a new band, only to dismiss it for sounding like another band that you oh-so-badly do not enjoy in the slightest?

I must have been in a bad mood the day I first heard Capital Lights.  It was either that, or I only listened to "Outrage", which is the worst song on This Is An Outrage!.  (Maybe even knowing that they cover Hannah Montana in concert, which is just insulting to me).  I don't really know what it was that made me not like them.  But last weekend, my girlfriend was in town, and she knows I didn't like them (except their Christmas song that I told her about and she liked), but she had the entire album on her iPod, and she asked me to at least listen to their song "Mile Away".  So I did, and I thought, "Well, it's not terrible".  Then it got stuck in my head so I eventually bought the song on iTunes and fell in love with it.  Then I decided to listen to the rest of the album, and decided that, with the exception of "Outrage", it was a very good album.

Before: I hated Capital Lights.
Now: This Is An Outrage! is on my JfH Staff Picks of 2008.

Haha, I feel like an idiot.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Give Us YOUR Top 15 FAVORITE Albums!

This week, the JFH staff announced their personal Top 15 Christian market releases of all time (key word is "favorite" -- some seem to have missed that important part. ). So with our sharing of our top 15 lists, it seems only fair for you all to get a chance to list your Top 15 Favorite Christian albums of all time too! Without explanations for each one, feel free to list your Top 15 in the comment field below and share with everyone which records YOU would pick as your Top 15! Just list them as Artist, Album and (year). Like this:

1. DC Talk - "Jesus Freak" (1995)

Cool? Happy listing!

~ JFH

Sunday, November 16, 2008

1996, here I come!

Ever since I had to sell my Wii (I needed money.....sigh), I've been missing playing video games.  I'm not a huge gamer, but I do enjoy them.  I've always loved many of the games that have been released through Nintendo.  So a week or two ago, I went to my parents' house, and I pulled out our old Nintendo 64, and some of the games (I left the South Park games alone haha), and I brought them back to my apartment.  Unfortunately, some of our games had been lost or stolen, classics like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

But I did pull out some Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, as well as a couple of my all-time favorites from the console, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and Star Fox 64.  Great games.  Now I just need to get ahold of WWF No Mercy (I found a place where I can get a copy for like eight bucks!) and the original Super Smash Bros.  How about all you guys?  Favorite games from the Nintendo 64.....GO!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Why I don't listen to my radio

It's a sad fact, but it's true: 75% of the time, my local Christian radio station never plays anything I consider "good". In a way, it's a bit of a breath of fresh air when they spin Switchfoot or Sanctus Real, but most of the time it's the same old mediocre pop or hip-hop, which is about when I lose intrest.

I've noticed that this malady isn't limited to CCM radio, but is also prevelant in many mainstream stations as well. Mediocre pop, rap, hip-hop, and R&B, with the occasional gem of a song thrown in for good measure. And in the end it begs the question: why? Because it sells, and if it sells, it makes money, and if it makes money, record labels want more of it. So in the end the world's music trends are governed by a group of corporate entities, whose main focus is making money; not a very healthy situation, musically.

Much of the talent exists among the independents, unsigned bands who don't care for impressing the execs at their record label.  Some kudos has to be given to Tooth & Nail for signing on many of these bands (especially just this year), and not trying to fit them into a mold that would destroy who they were. Many other small Christian record labels seem to be catching on over the last three or four years, and good for them.

Now, if only the radio stations would follow suit with their playlists...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smellin' French Fries

Have you ever been driving down the road, your thoughts being neither here nor there, and then it hits you. Instantly you're reminded that you're hungry and what you're hungry for. That's right... It's McDonald's french fries. As you see the golden arches just up ahead you know that those french fries are just what you need, but one look at the clock tells you that you don't have time to consider this little endeavor any further.. and you cruise past. Ten minutes later, you still have that rumble in your stomach but the thought of those fries is gone.

Often it's like that for me and having a clear vision. I can talk about my vision for my ministry in broad, sweeping strokes. However, the nuts and bolts of that vision are fleeting. They'll gently waft into my head (like the smell of french fries), but when the time comes to start putting it down and working it out those specific concepts, dreams, and ideas (the french fries) just aren't there.

It's something that I need to get better at. It's something I'm trying to get better at. It's something a lot of Christians need to get better at. We talk about seeing people come to Christ. We talk about changing culture. We talk about making the world a better place, but how do we do that? Our instincts usually come up with something like "Pray more and try harder."  How... ineffective.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking prayer, but God doesn't want us to just have a seat and pray for Him to take care of it. He wants us to pray for a vision, for a plan, and then go get it. He's a God who has asked us to join Him in His mission.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a video for a book called "The Vision & The Vow." It says "They work as if it all depended on them, and pray because it all depends on God."

... but it's all for not without clear vision and a clear plan. Maybe it's time for us (me) to stop throwing our prayers at lofty abstract dreams and rather pray for God to give us a clear vision and a clear plan... with a side of fries.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

'Spend Time With Me'

It's kind of a mind-blowing concept to realize the God who created the earth and every thing and everyone on it wants to spend time with us... even me?!

As a married man (with no children) who spends a lot of his time alone at a desk, one little guy keeps me company more than any other earthly being -- a little guinea pig named Chewie. My wife and I picked him out and took him home in the Spring of 2005, and he's been wreaking havoc and spreading love from his tiny little caged world ever since. This year, Chewie seems to have developed even more of a personality and even more unique habits than I've ever seen in a small pet, let alone from a guinea pig. Now, when I sit at my desk for the first time each day, he'll often be eating or sleeping (ah, the life!), but after a short while, he will run to a side door of his cage that faces my side of the desk, stand up against it, and wait there for a few moments to see if I'll notice him. I usually do, and when I open the door, he remains standing at it, waiting for some attention and affection from me (photo of Chewie at the open door). Recently, when I opened the door one day to pet the little guy (who purred like a kitten with great contentment), another simple Biblical life lesson slapped me across the face (figuratively, of course) and reminded me -- HE just wants to spend time with me (and... you!).

A devotional by Charles Stanley that I just read on Sunday brought to mind the scripture in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Stanley points out in his writings that in no other religion/belief system does God seek us out. It made me feel rather ashamed that I tend to take that for granted. And sure, a cute furry little guinea pig has grown attached to me enough to stand at his green wire-framed door and wait for me to stop widdling away at JFH responsibilities and show him a little attention... but the God of all creation is doing the same thing? Waiting for us to drop what we're doing, sit at Daddy's feet, and just spend time with Him? Wow.

Even as I've worked harder at spending more time with Him in a little quiet time every day, the amount of time does tend to vary by circumstance and day, and it can be discouraging to feel like I fall short and put Him on the back burner some days when I get too busy or the routine shifts or whatever the case may be. Recently, a dear friend brought up a similar concern to a mentor of ours at Bible study, who kindly reassured her that God will always be there -- will always welcome us back. Like the story of the prodigal son, and in really any real life situation where you have a spouse or friend or child who is too busy for you one day, you'll still welcome their company if and when they try to give it the next day. Rest assured: Jesus will always welcome your time and attention... but we can't take this for granted. We need to make time for Him. Whatever the cost.

Hopefully that will encourage some of you. Go sit at His feet today!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Change And Growth: Two Of My Most Recent Life Experiences

Okay. So I guess I took a little longer than expected to write another blog, and for this I apologize. I'm sure you are all familiar with the concept of change. Sometimes change is good and other times it can be the worst experience ever. I experienced a lot of changeand growththis summer and even now during the start of the school year. A lot of the change dealt with family issues (for instance, my aunt and uncle are finalizing their divorce soon) and even friend issues (I am now unable tosee...

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Healer

Amazing how easy it is to pass judgment on the fallen.  I thought that was something the world was enthralled with?  Celebrity's fall from the spotlight, public gaffes, embarrassment, divorce, infidelity, public intoxication...  The world consumes failure like it's chocolate.

And then I thought about the church as a whole.  And I think we're actually worse about it.  Fans of celebrity in the world actually seem to wish their idols would get themselves back on track.  Christians wish their exalted leaders would just go ahead and die or fade into permanent obscurity the moment their humanity becomes visible.  The veneer drops, and suddenly the image of Christian cool we invest ourselves into is gone like a vapor.

Someone tells you that Christian band you like actually smoked pot on the road.  A popular Christian author believes something politically different than you.  A pastor you used to listen to on the internet teaches something theologically you disagree with.  A champion of abstinence marries someone who isn't a virgin.  They become too popular.  They become too passe'.  One way or another, the people we root for fail us.  And we self-righteously declare their betrayal with reckless abandon- ending our little fit of disappointment with the phrase, "I guess all we can do is just pray for them".

Which brings me to Michael Guglielmucci.

This Australian pastor and musician has been involved with Planetshakers and later, Hillsong.  He wrote a song called "Healer" that appeared on Hillsong's "This is Our God" album.  The song is a truly inspiring, and in my opinion, Spirit-filled worship tune.  Purportedly written in response to Guglielmucci's cancer diagnosis, thousands have been touched by the message of it, coupled with his own story.  A few weeks ago, he came clean.  He never had cancer.  In an interview, he basically stated that the fabricated illness was a diversion, an attempt to hide his rampant pornography addiction behind something bigger.  Thousands around the globe love(d) that song.  Thousands were touched by it.  And now, thousands feel very betrayed.

I can't speak to the man's heart, nor would I even consider trying such a thing.  He and God have a lot of things to work out.  He and his wife and family have a lot of things to work through.  He's come clean, apologized, and is making certain any money he's made off the song doesn't end up in his wallet.  We applaud the confession, sense relief that he's not dying, and tear him to pieces with our ostracizing.  Hillsong has removed the song from the album and DVD it appeared on.  His bank accounts are being audited.  Thousands have written in distant support, and thousands in personal hurt and anger.  I wonder if either approach lines up with Jesus much... not to judge the hurt or the patronizing, just for my own heart.

See, many many many years ago (I'm old!), I was a liar.  You know those people who just make up impossible stuff for no reason?  Perhaps for attention, or maybe to seem cooler than they think they are?  Yeah.  I was that guy.  I remember telling kids in elementary school that I owned a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 a full 2 years before the game even existed.  I remember telling friends I had played in a Japanese rock band.  I remember telling a family I lived with that I had "ganglio-glioma", a made-up form of nerve cancer.  Yeah.  I was that guy.  Eventually, every lie will trap us.  We will be diminished for it, not exalted.  And if we ever get more popular, or cooler, or get the attention we want- the fall once the truth comes out takes us much lower than we were to start with.  Always.  Guaranteed.  I have no idea why I lied about such random stuff.  I don't see the motivation for it now, years later.  If I was hiding something else in the lie... both have come to light now.  If I was looking for value in being looked at as 'better' than I was... I was looked at worse afterward.  And the big lies cost me big.  It's been almost ten years since, and my closest friends and family from back then still won't talk to me.  It hurts, being a completely different person now, and not being able to reconcile with them.

So I understand a little of what Mr. Guglielmucci has gone through.  The lengths he's gone to protect his lie.  And the long, hard road he'll have to take to be restored from here.  But I can't judge him so harshly.  I can't be angry with his human mistake.  I can't hold him to a higher standard than I am.  That higher standard is the cross, and every single one of us is unworthy of it.  Thank God for His grace- the only thing that will ever measure up.  I'm not speaking for JFH in this- this is only my own opinion- but after the hurt has settled, I think all this will make "Healer" an even more appropriate and anointed song.  One that's meaning has deepened because of this.  One that now speaks to the long-haul, heart-restoration power of God, instead of just the physical.  One that can still be used by the Holy Spirit to touch our lives.  One I still plan to sing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We Are The Branches. He Is Divine.

It's interesting to me how sometimes God can seem to remain so silent through times of adversity, and then just kind of hit you with a simple yet effective revelation that not only reminds you just how dense you can be, but it also tends to make you feel embarrassed that you forget His simple truths.

I'm no stranger to hard times or seasons of spiritual droughts or even times of doubting. And the older I get, I realize it's part of the Christian walk -- part of growing up as a believer and maturing in that process.

For Valentine's Day in 2007, I ventured out on a snowy day to a local grocery store to get my wife a gift. I found a potted bush of baby roses and figured a lasting plant she could enjoy maintaining (she has a green thumb for this kind of stuff), would be a much more worthwhile and meaningful gift than a batch of regular roses that would wilt and die within a couple of days. Over the past year and a half or so, my wife has cared for this plant regularly, even when I forget it's even around. She's been keeping it outside on our back deck this summer so it can enjoy the elements, always worrying about it when a storm comes, quickly jumping to pull it in from bouts of hail or hard rain when the time comes.

Yesterday when I got up, I went downstairs to the kitchen to find her beloved potted plant sitting on the counter, all dried up and wilted. I exclaimed something along the lines of, "Omigosh! You killed the plant!!" in my usual sarcastic sort of way... only this time, I meant it half-jokingly until it suddenly clicked that my statement was erroneous. She assured me that it wasn't dead and that it only needed some pruning and TLC to get it back in tip-top, budding shape again. It was at that moment I felt like God smacked me lovingly upside the head with a brutally obvious and simple illustration to remind me that we all go through these seasons where we feel spiritually dead, but oftentimes God is just working on us... pruning out the junk in our lives, rescuing us from the hail storms and pushing us on to greater things. Our Father lovingly trims off the dead branches in our life, forcing us to give up things that aren't healthy for us; forcing us to grow in our faith. We might feel like we're left out in the rain... we might feel the pain of getting something taken away or being asked to let go of something we desperately want to hold on to or just feel comfortable with but need to give up... but in the end it's all part of His plan for us... and we just need to trust Him cause, well, Father knows best!

Check out John 15:1-17. Below are verses 15:1-11. Hopefully this has brought a little encouragement to you guys today... as God finally penetrates my dense mind - for a few days, at least - as to what it is He's doing in me.

 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Forget the Shift- Paradigms Need Breaking

I don’t rightly know how it happened.

For as long as I can remember, there has been a singular desire- one thing above and beyond all others to which I have devoted my prayer and attention.

Purpose.
Calling.
Function.
Pursuit.
Mission.

Whatever you’d call it.  A vague picture in my mind of the person I’m supposed to be.  More than what I’m meant to do for a job, who I should marry, what my existence should be about… but a full, framed picture of who and what I was created to be in my entirety.  Oh, I may have placed emphasis on one aspect of the picture more than another (during one season of life or the next), sure.  But at it’s essential point- it’s foundation and undercurrent- I’ve sought the same resolution to the same question all of mankind has desired.  I know my searching isn’t a unique pursuit, of course.  Even if I’m looking for the grander purpose- at the basest of levels- it’s the same quest for calling everyone eventually goes through.

The odd and amazing thing recently isn’t a revelation or an epiphany.  No heaven-piercing shaft of light.  No scattered crack of electricity colliding with my soul.  Just a simple, ploddingly slow shift- somewhere deep within.  See, I’m realizing my focal point isn’t the painting on the wall anymore.  That imaginary piece of 'art' which depicts my truest, most complete persona- the 'aspired image'...  Somewhere while growing up, some of us change- the simple Grace given at the cross becomes a starting point, and no longer the home base.  We say (internally, perhaps):  "Thank you, Jesus, for my salvation.  Even though I once simply relished it, simply enjoyed You there... well, Lord...  I think we need to move on, now- let's get cracking on that whole 'perfecting me' thing You do.  Let's work on making me 'better'.

I’ve always been the sort to receive a task or idea or desire or relationship and run with it at a hundred and twnety-six miles per hour until I make my face 'one' with the metaphorical wall.  And this from someone who used to thrive upon spontaneity... sigh.  My mother always reminds me “Nothing in this world is static. Everything moves. Everything changes.

My focus change hasn’t been my own doing, though. Somewhere along the last few years, the frustrations I have wrestled with have exhausted me.  As I have walked around my neighborhood at three in the morning for nights on end, frustrated with God, whining at Him, yelling at Him, irritated and annoyed and completely worn down...  God has done something in me.  My attention has left a little more of the ephemeral behind, in favor of the eternal.  My focus isn’t so wholly devoted to that picture or purpose.  Instead, I’m finding myself putting Jesus Himself in that frame.  And all the temporal, human needs and wants and desired callings have been reduced to moments.  Tiny slivers of time and connection.  The mundane, day-to-day which has for so long felt like an undue plague has become the platform upon which I build a truer relationship with Him.  It’s hard to explain… but that’s about the best I can do.

Instead of looking to God for my purpose, He has Himself become my purpose.  And the fierce fights of my heart have moved from the sweeping valleys of change and the crags of impatience- and have become one step to take.  One wall to climb.  One moment to inhabit.  It’s not easy- making yourself avoid eye contact with that imaginary artwork and instead looking into the eyes of the Savior.  That patient Savior our selfish childishness has long assumed wasn’t there at all.

But it’s so much more worthwhile.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Can't They All Just Say It?

Well, I anticipated doing another blog long before now, but this appears to be a busy Summer for me. After getting home from Creation I've been running. A whole month has passed already! That's crazy. Last weekend I went to a local music fest that featured Seventh Day Slumber and Disciple. Probably like three months from now I'll get around to doing a blog about that, haha. Starting tomorrow night I'm playing bass for our conference's family camp. Ten straight nights can get grueling after awhile, but I'm ready to go.

Enough with the chit=chat, the real purpose of this blog is to discuss something that happened the very first official night (we were there the night before) of Creation. That night featured Flyleaf, Skillet, and Switchfoot. I left Switchfoot desiring a little something more. I don't know what that something was, but it was missing. Skillet were pretty amazing. Tight is the word that we kept using to describe their show. Musically, emotionally, lighting, pyro, etc. were all just very tight. I tell ya, you haven't lived until you've been in a crowd so big that you could pick your feet off the ground and you wouldn't fall because you're stuck in all the people!

However, Flyleaf opened the night. I've got their record and have been enjoying it. I was excited to see what their live show was like, but I guess I wasn't really expecting a lot. For those of you who are unfamilar with Flyleaf, get out from under your rock! Haha, Serously though they're not a band who typically tours with other Christian bands. I know what you're thinking, "Oh... one of those."

"Those" are happening more and more in Christian music. Cries of "sell out" and jeers of "they're just in it for the money now" have been hurled in their direction. Often times when asked in interviews, they seem to skirt around quesitons of faith (or at least in the interviews that everyone seem to gravitate to). Unlike their counterparts, Flyleaf can't claim that they found big success in the Christian market and then jumped over, but I've heard them accused more than one time of using their "so-called faith" to help boost their album sales to a gullible Christian market. Harsh, but I've heard it.

About halfway through their set at Creation, Lacey of Flyleaf started to talk about how awesome this event was because they don't get to play for "you guys" (meaning the Christian market) very much. She then started to share about how their call was to be a light in a dark place, so that's what they're doing. I got to admit, it brought a tear to my eye! There it was. How can you argue with that?

I know that some bands  most likely do it just for their careers. Maybe I'm just not reading the right interviews or the right questions aren't being asked, but it would seem to this humble JfH staffer that if more bands who opted to go the secular route and  felt called to do so would just be open about that fact, there'd be a lot less questions.

Regardless, how about some straight answers. If this helps your career and that's your motivation, that's cool with me. This is what you do for a living. All the same if you're doing it because you feel God has called you to share your message with an audience of people who don't know Him, why not be open about it? Personally, I'm more apt to support a Christian band in the secular market who shares their purpose.

Now let me say this, I know some bands are open about their intentions and purposes. That's cool, but for those who don't... I'm tired of shifty answers that skirt the real issue. I'm tired of reading of a band saying something that completely contradicts something else they said.

Why can't they all just give a straight answer?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Your Heart Needs A Song...

It's no secret that living the Christian life is difficult. Most of us experience dry spells and "why God?" moments in our lives -- some more frequently than others -- and we often find those times where God seems distant or altogether silent.

I was thinking this afternoon about how God speaks differently to everyone -- even how He might use a song to touch my heart when I need it most, but use a completely different song to reach someone else in a similar way. Like, for me, being a guy who got into Christian music as a young teen in the early 90's and was touched greatly by a band's ministry like Audio Adrenaline's, I have often been reached on a different level by their music. So, for me, God's often reached my heart through a song like "Tremble" (from their 2001 album "Lift") in a much deeper way than - quite honestly - anything I've heard from your usual worship leader artists (I don't necessarily fully grasp why that is). So here's the point of this blog -- I enjoy reading every comment made on here and I was wondering today what is a song that you really feel God uses to move your heart and spirit? If you can pick one song and jot it down here with maybe an example of a situation of how God's used it (if you're up for that), I'd love to hear it and I'm sure others would to.

...And if you get a chance, check out "Tremble" by AudioA (although the punks on iTunes made it an "Album Only" track... which is lame. But most of the rest of that record is pretty excellent too if you want to spring for it. "Glory" is probably one of my all-time favorite upbeat worship songs.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Oh! Clarity.

As a guy who tends to need direction when it comes to venturing into the scriptures, I often default to laid-out devotionals for my quiet times with God (I'm a pretty indecisive person). However, the daily devotionals I use are rather lazy... lumping Saturday and Sunday into one thing known as "The Weekend"... cause apparently we only have quiet time with God one of those days (Saturday? Or would it be Sunday... cause that's our "fun day"?). Anyway, all joking aside - in reality, I've been finding a lot of my time from day to day lately -- sitting at a desk, lying in bed trying to fall asleep, driving, blah blah blah -- has involved  relentless ponderings where I've felt  a bit restless with such musings. I've been feeling a lack of clarity in my thoughts.

So on Saturday, I defaulted to opening up the scriptures to a "random" place to just read and soak it in (a point is coming, I promise!). And I have to admit that one of my favorite books in the Bible is James. It's one of those meat n' potatoes books where you're bound to get some real good instruction and thoughts to chew on -- and a good, needed slap in the face from time to time.

I opened to James chapter 1 where I'd previously highlighted verses 2 through... something... but I'd continued reading past the yellow scribbles to verse 8. The whole passage is as follows:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. - James 1:2-8 (NIV)

I love it. The thing that hit me this time, specifically, was "the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault" - and man, I just always feel at "fault" for something. But the fact that I need to pursue petitioning for wisdom in asking perhaps why He's letting my mind be a bit overloaded lately, struck me. I'm not seeking Him enough. He may just be trying to get my attention... or patiently waiting for me to stop trying to figure things out on my own and come to Him for wisdom and guidance. To ask Him not "why" but "what" - what does He want me to learn? Or maybe he's seeing how much I can take before I truly learn to heed his call to "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." It's not easy to do... especially in such a GO - GO - GO society.

Sorry if there isn't a lot of coherence in these thoughts. After all, I am praying for clarity. :o) But I was jazzed by the passage in James and I hope some of you maybe can be encouraged -- if not by my ramblings exactly, but maybe in just the thought of knowing you're not the only one who may be feeling a little lost in the wilderness for a short time. :o)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confessions of a Fest-Going Youth Worker

Well, I leave with my youth group for Creation on Tuesday. I just got done packing yesterday. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "Wow! Packed already?! He must be really excited." I am pretty excited, but there's a lot more to it than just that. You see, I'm packed, but the group? Not so much. The next couple of days for me will be filled with grocery shopping, calling teens to make sure they know what they need to know (because that handy packet I gave them was most likely used as a paper towel substitute in a moment of desparation and haste), finalizing some of the riding arrangements, fretting, counting... everything, making lists, checking things off those lists, making sure all the bases are covered for me at the church while I'm gone, and losing the rest of my hair.

For the youth worker, it's A LOT of work. Why do we do it all? Wouldn't it be much easier if we just went with our own friends? Sure, it would, but we do it because we believe in how God can move in your life at an event like this. We believe that every day God is reaching out his hand to you, waiting to lead you into a deeper relationship with Him and an event like this can be the springboard into this. Above all, we do this because love God and we love YOU.

So if you're going to Creation with your youth group, make sure you say thank you to your youth pastor & leaders. You honestly can't thank them enough. ;) And feel free to look me up if you're there. I'll be the guy looking relieved because the hard part is over!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Where He Leads...

This past couple years has included a lot of changes for my life. From starting at Lancaster Bible College in January 2006, spending the last two years there, and now coming home to figure out God's next step for my life, He's been there through everything.

LBC has been my life for the past couple years, and now coming home is a definite change for me. I've always loved music, and for the past year I've been planning on going into the music industry, working for and with the bands we here at JfH love. It's always been a dream of mine. But is it a worthwhile goal? Is it something that is worth putting time, effort, money, and ultimately, your whole life into? These are some of the questions that have plagued my mind in the past few weeks and months. While music and the industry is definitely rewarding, it's also very demanding. It's not like you can get a degree in something and go right up to working with bands like Relient K or someone else famous. It takes hard work. 

It's things like this that make me go back to the younger days of my life and wonder, how could things be if...say, this happened? If I had taken a few extra classes in high school. If I had dated a certain person for longer. If I hadn't been a Christian, even. I'm sure we all wonder these things. But what we need to remember is that Christ has been there through it all, and even before it all. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cop. Somewhere along the line I gave up on that, and moved on to an astronaut, or moved on to wanting to be a teacher. Through time, I went to LBC and felt God calling me to youth ministry, but my professors saw that it was an impulsive thought, just wanting to be like someone else, to make them happy. As my time ended at LBC this year, I felt my love for music grow stronger, and it pulled me in, as if God's will had changed, saying that my passion was something to build my life upon. But recently, I've felt like if I go into the industry, I'll be working with something I love, and one day that love will turn to hate. I'll get sucked into the wrong side of the industry, and maybe lose my love for music altogether. I know it may sound absurd, but I don't want to take that chance, at times. It's things like this that go through my mind, making me think that maybe I should look into criminal justice, something I really am interested in, and have been since I was a kid.

While this all sounds so empty and like I'm losing my mind (I hope not), it reminds me more and more that wherever He leads, I will follow. For a while that was LBC, now it's coming home and figuring out what step is next. This is just a reminder to all of you, whenever it seems like God's will is far, far from what you can ever imagine, He's still there, willing to take you there, one step at a time. Knowing God's will is never easy, and we need to constantly pray, meditating in His presence, giving Him our lives, and He'll be there. I hope you're encouraged by this, I know it's something I needed to be reminded of, especially recently.

Justin

Friday, June 20, 2008

In the Days to Come, You'll Understand

Hey guys, this is J. M. Farro, JFH's resident devotional author, for those of you who don't know me.  I'm a wife and mother to two (sometimes) grown-up kids, who have since flown the coop.  I can't quite say that my husband, Joe, and I are empty-nesters, though, since we have our hands full raising two very large and active domestic ducks. Right now, our female duck, Lily, is sitting on her nest of eggs.  What she and her mate, Larry, don't realize is that those poor eggs will never hatch.  As soon as they begin to look "ripe," I remove them from her nest and discard them.  Some people think this is cruel, but I've got good reasons for doing things this way.  My husband and I can't provide for a whole family of ducks, but we still want Lily to go through the sitting process.  If we don't allow her to do this, she will continue to lay eggs year 'round, and she'll most likely develop some serious nutritional deficiencies and die.  We know this is so, because we lost our first two female ducks this way.

The weather has been hot, and it's been difficult for me to watch Lily confine herself to her stuffy little house, and go without food or water for many hours at a time--all for nothing.  When I'm tempted to put a halt to this seemingly pointless routine, I force myself to picture our females, Daisy and Katie, and how they died.  I tell myself often, "This is for Lily's own good," and in my heart, I know it's true.  Still, sometimes it hurts to see all the tender care and handling that she gives her beloved eggs.

I can't help thinking about how many times the Lord must watch us struggle with things that cause us hurt and heartache, knowing that in the long run, we will reap some benefit from them.  I have often cried out to God in my confusion and pain and heard Him speak to my heart--"In the days to come you will understand all this." (Jeremiah 30:24 NLT)  The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize how true this is.  Perhaps you are in a difficult place today, and you have questions of your own.  Let me encourage you to put your trust in God--believing His precious promise to cause all things to work for your good!  (Romans 8:28)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hey, check this out!

Hey what's up? I wrote a blog about Tooth and Nail a few weeks ago, but it never went through. Apparently it's because something was wrong with the blog system. Anyway, I just thought about it and realized I hadn't shown the blog any love since then (and that doesn't really count anyway) so I thought I'd hit it up. Basically what I was trying to say in the awesome post that nobody read was that Tooth and Nail is still awesome. Yeah some of their recent signings haven't been all that impressive, but they've improved significantly under the influence of T&N. I won't name any names (not to pick fights or anything), but some of the bands I felt really needed it. Once their CDs came out I liked them more. Maybe not go out on the first day and buy ten copies of their album love them, but I wasn't mad at T&N anymore. I think those guys over there know what they're doing. Now if they would actually get a new website for the first time in 5 years like they promised on the newest podcast; that would be awesome. But whatever.

I think sometimes when people think of the forefront of Christian music they think of Tooth and Nail. That's alright because I think that they are publicizing some of the best stuff in the industry today; Christian AND secular. But does the Tooth really stand alone? Is the Tooth the label to end all labels? They've always been my favorite, but I don't think that they're the only label making waves with Christian music. Here's why:

Just look at The Militia Group. Over the years they've been home to The Rocket Summer, Copeland, We Shot the Moon (w/Jonathan Jones of former T&N band Waking Ashland), Lakes (w/Seth Roberts of former T&N band Watashi Wa), Man Alive, and Acceptance. Probably more. And currently, some of the guys from former Floodgate band Transition are rocking it over in The Morning Light on Fearless Records. Tyler Read, another awesome group of guys, were over at Immortal Records until it recently folded. Rise Records even has their own showcase stage at Cornerstone 2008 with bands like Here I Come Falling and Before their Eyes (also the label home to The Devil Wears Prada). Akissforjersey is on Tragic Hero in my hometown Raleigh, The Reign of Kindo is on OneEleven Records, and This Providence is on Fueled by Ramen. While not on the Nail, all of these bands have had an opportunity to reach out to different groups of people that even Tooth and Nail bands may not have come in contact with. They are on different tours, have different managers and different bosses at the end of the day. And they may have even toured with a Tooth and Nail band once or twice before.

Shouldn't we just be excited that there are bands out there still willing to make a stand for Jesus Christ, whether through positive lyrics, lifestyle witnessing, or a clear message? I mean it's easy to talk about T&N all day, but let's give some other labels some cred. Kick back and enjoy the music.

 

Summer Soundtracks

So one of my favorite things about summer is driving down the interstate, windows down, andhaving areally great CD playing in the stereo and pouringout the windows for all the transporting world to hear. There is nothing quite like that. I sometimes believe it is the epitome of freedom that we, as young adults, experience. These are some soundtracks that have defined numerous summers for me. Maybe they have for you as well. Regardless, I'd love for you all to share some of your summer soundtracks....

Read More "Summer Soundtracks"

Men who cook... are OK in my book!

I love to cook and I love to eat. I love trying different kinds of foods, I actually love shopping most of the time, and I definitely love preparing new and interesting dishes in the kitchen. However, sadly I have not been blessed with a husband who feels the same way about it. Granted, I wouldn't change a thing because this is the man God gave me for my life's partner... but his idea of cooking is flipping a few burgers onto the ol' BBQ.  Don't get me wrong, I love a mouth-watering BBQ'd steak with real, honest-to-goodness grill marks! But I find I am somewhat saddened by the fact that I have never had a man cook for me. That "department" is mine.  His is the lawn. You know the drill ;o)

Men.... please... have a few recipes in your repertoire that are easy and delicious; trust me, it melts a woman's heart if you cook for her. Even the effort is appreciated.

Ladies... appreciate the effort and praise him when he tries.

Boys... ask your parents to teach you how to cook when you are young and stay with it all through your life. The more you cook, the more you will probably enjoy it and you will become very good at it. Your girlfriend/wife later in life will love you for it.

Parents... welcome your children into the kitchen. It's the heartbeat of the home, a place where delicious meals and fond memories are created. When your toddler helps you with the chocolate cake batter and has it all over his face, don't grab the wash cloth, grab the camera and capture the precious moment. Trust me, it's a wonderful time in their lives, for all of you.

Husband.... make me a sandwich. :o)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

... And So It Begins

Well, this is my first JfH blog post. I've been on staff here since sometime in 2004. I was at Creation and somewhere along the way picked up a sticker promoting this very website. The rest, as they say, is history. When I'm not expanding my musical mind, I'm the Youth Leader at the local Free Methodist Church. I'm going to school and working towards becoming an ordained pastor. It's pretty exciting times for me. I also play bass guitar and do some landscaping to really pay the bills.

I'm excited about this JfH blog. It'll give you guys an opportunity to get to know some of those people whose reviews you hate love! We're gearing up for a Summer of good tunes too. The bands are gearing up to start the festival circuit. I'll be attending Creation NE with my youth group in tow this year as well as this fest called Found Festival. It's in this little spit of a town called Spartansburg in Northwest PA. Spartansburg is probably more well-known for their amish than anything else, so it's pretty intriguing that a fest would crop up there. They last had it two years ago with primarily local talent, but they're bringing in Disciple and Seventh Day Slumber this go around... did I mention that it's free? Pretty amazing if you ask me.

If you happen to be attending either of those fests, look me up and give me a nod.

Catch ya next time, friends.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I Really Like Brownies

This fish my mom has...it looks like it's always dead.  It doesn't do anything.  Except float.  Stupid fish.

Issues.  Issues a-plenty.  Oh wait...sorry, I meant tissues.  Tissues a-plenty.  Allergy season is upon us. I mean, for me, allergy season is every season.  All the times.  (I'm not a good writer - more specifically, I'm not good at translating what I'm thinking/feeling into words/blogs, so just kinda bear with me, if you would be so kind, good sir/madam).

I hate when people hate a certain style of music because it "sounds like everything else".  It's really dumb.  For instance, I know people that listen to all kinds of music, from classic rock (The Doors, The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughn) to 90s alternative (Fastball, Harvey Danger, Semisonic), to old school heavy metal (Judas Priest and...whoever else falls into that category).  And even a lot of modern stuff (Death Cab For Cutie, James Blunt, etc.).  But when it comes to the modern punk rock/emo and modern hard/metalcore stuff, it all "sounds the same".  Anberlin and Taking Back Sunday "sound the same".  Underoath and Showbread "sound the same".  I could go on and on.

It bothers me because these people say that ignorantly.  I understand where they're coming from.  A lot of today's good bands are similar sounding.  But that's genres.  Those bands are divided into genres, and these genres have specifics.  Punk has specifics, so it's all gonna have similarities.  Emocore has specifics, so all bands that fall under that category are also gonna have similarities.  But if one takes the time to actually listen to each band, and not just write them off as the same thing they've already heard, when they get past the genre-specific similarities, they will hear differences.  Ska is one of the easiest genres to write off, but listen to The O.C. Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy and try to tell me they sound exactly alike.  It's kinda funny sometimes though, because I know if I heard some of the stuff they were listening to, without actually listening to it, there would be a lot of bands I couldn't tell apart.  I wouldn't be able to tell the Electric Light Orchestra apart from the Steve Miller Band.  Or Judas Priest from Ratt.  I'm just being honest.  (Be, be honest, be be be honest)

It also bothers me because they don't give the bands a chance, and therefore miss out on some truly great artists.  Sadly, some of these people will never give Emery and their musical beauty a chance.  And Secret & Whisper will just always take a back seat, because they've "heard it before".

I guess what I want to get across is this: a band doesn't have to create something new or play something different to be good.  I mean, creativity is key in writing truly good songs, but does creativity necessarily equal new or untouched?  Take for example, Children 18:3.  There's a lot of stuff on their debut that's been heard before.  Some punk rock, and a couple times they venture into ska-ish stuff, but it's basically all stuff that's been heard before.  Social Distortion and Sublime come to mind.  But it's still quite a fantastic CD, despite the inevitable sounds-likes.

Sigh.  That's my ranting.  I guess it's not really a rant.  I'm just over-opinionated.  Or I'm bothered by trivial matters?  Call it what you will, but give a band a chance before you go calling it "everything else".

(For the record, I DO believe there are a lot of bands that sound exactly alike.  I admit that I fall into my own area of accusation sometimes, having never actually given some bands a chance, but a lot I have, and they sound the same to me.  For the sake of not starting a riot, I will leave these bands unnamed, so take THAT!)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Corn? Sure. One Ear or Two?

This post really has nothing to do with the fact that Amy made corn with dinner last night. See, I'm a corny guy, I'll admit it -- in fact, I embrace it. As I was lying in bed this morning, for some reason the thoughts of when I used to lie in bed alone as a teenager and listen to music before I fell asleep (and sometimes before I'd start a day of school... I miss PFR) popped into my head. iPods were a thing of the future so back then, I had graduated from my walkman tape player to a delightful Sony Discman (that was a good Christmas!), and I'd keep a couple CD's under my bed when it came time to turn in, for if I was in the mood for a couple different records... but I don't know if it was just the season in my life or what, but I feel like I had a few more albums that I just really loved to lay in bed and soak in back in the mid-to-late-90's.

Now, whether that means albums were more thematically, as a whole, applicable to how I felt at the time of listening than today, I don't know, but I do remember certain CD's that really hit home. Between Thieves' self-titled instantly comes to mind - particularly songs like "Despite The Rain," the prayerful "Kindle," or my (seemingly) life's anthem, "Privately." I remember in my post-college years, Audio Adrenaline's "Lift" had its moments for sure. "Tremble" was always an incredible moment. But there were always records from Bride, Grammatrain, Bleach, Dakoda Motor Co's "Into The Son" (huuuge in my teen years for me), Eric Champion's "Vertical Reality" and later "Transformation" records, Guardian's "Buzz," Church Of Rhythm's "Not Perfect," Code Of Ethics' "Arms Around The World" and "Soulbait"... Man...... Jars of Clay's debut. That was a big, big, big one for me in my freshman-into-sophomore Summer... Ha, I'm totally getting flashbacks while mulling this over.

So my question to you guys -- do any of you find yourselves listening to a specific record in those quiet moments in bed? Or is it more of a playlist these days? For me, when I do plug into a record in bed nowadays, it's probably just a playlist on my iPod - either slow for a lulling-to-sleep, or geared towards a mood I'm in. In some ways, for the purpose that a full album served for me when lying in bed - connecting with Jesus on a more intimate level, or just providing a soundtrack for my thoughts - it feels like CD's were better for that. *Shrug* Perhaps it's just my age.

Thoughts? Any other nighttime listeners out there? If so, which records do it for you?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tooth and Nail.

My previous post posed an admittedly vague question concerning Tooth & Nail Records. Specifically, what has happened to them in recent days. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but hey, I was tired and I guess not thinking straight. So let me climb my way out of this hole I've dug for myself.

Let me start by saying that growing up, I was one of Tooth and Nail's biggest fans. I remember meeting Brandon Ebel the first year I went to Cornerstone, and being that starstruck little kid that had all these things he'd always planned on saying when he met his hero, and then forgetting them all in one brief moment. I think all I actually got out was "thank you." No joke. It was pretty awkward.

I grew up listening to bands like Stavesacre, MxPx, Further Seems Forever, OC Supertones, Slick Shoes, Dogwood, The Juliana Theory, Calibretto 13 (Gimme a high five!), Ace Troubleshooter, twothirtyeight, Too Bad Eugene, Watashia Wa, Bleach, Holland, Hangnail, Mae... all the classics. All the Tooth and Nail bands that occupied the label during their best years.

I'm fixing to be 20 (REAL old, right?), and I'm sure that other Tooth and Nail fans that are in their twenties now probably share similar sentiments. It's not really that I'm attacking my favorite label growing up, not at all! It's just...things are different now. You look at the roster of bands on their lineup, and, YES, there are standout bands for sure, but a lot of it just...I don't know.

But I've gotta look at it from both viewpoints, because if I was a 14..15..16 year old that was pumped about the music scene...  I'd bet good money that I'd be a lot more excited about a lot more of the bands on the current roster than I am now. That's a fact.

So maybe it is just that you get older, and sometimes you grow out of certain genres. Admittedly, I'm more into chill stuff as I head out of my teenage years. Ryan Adams, AA Bondy, Anathallo, Wilco... And I just picked up that Derek Webb/Sandra McCracken "Ampersand EP" and I'm digging it a lot! So maybe it's just me. It just kind of seems like back when I was just heading into my teenage years, Tooth and Nail was the alternative. Now, they're the norm. Is that neccessarily a bad thing? Absolutely not. It's just not how I remember it. And that's my own preogative.

So anyways, that's what I meant by "What happened to Tooth and Nail?" Agree? Disagree? Let's have a discussion about it. And a special thanks to The Watcher for having my back during my last post. Blessings to you kind sir.

Til next time!

-Josh

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Speaking of Which...

Reading Lindsay's blog got me thinking about some things.

I've always wondered why so many people use the term "sell-out" with Christian bands when they sign a big name record label. What's the point? Isn't it every band's dream to make it big? This also brings up a topic of how the mainstream can change bands. I've heard a lot of people saying that bands like Switchfoot, Relient K, and even Anberlin have all sold out because they signed with a major label and now they're dropping all the spiritual parts of their band for money. I'd like to set some things straight and let people know that many of the Christian bands that are out there have really kept their spiritual stance in tact.

Let's start with Relient K. So many people have been disappointed in Relient K because of how popular they've become and how they don't use God or Jesus in thier songs anymore, yet it's obvious that many of these people haven't taken the time to really listen to the band's heart and writing. Go out and listen to "Deathbed" from Five Score and Seven Years Ago, and you'll see they are blatant about their faith, using scripture to get the point across that only Jesus is the right person (and way) to follow.

I've worried about so many bands like Relient K and the others I've mentioned above because I don't want to see the mainstream life take them to a place where the love for money is stronger than their love for God. Yet every time, each one of these bands have gone on to prove me wrong. Relient K was the first, because after the huge success of Mmhmm, they got signed to Capitol Records, and they literally blew me out of the water with the spiritual content of Five Score.... What about Switchfoot, after The Beautiful Letdown? The album got them signed to a mainstream label and they released two very spiritual (and quite entertaining) records through them. But Switchfoot knew what was happening and they knew they couldn't work with Sony Records anymore, so they moved on to an independent level, and the new Switchfoot record at the end of this year is definitely one I'm looking forward to.

Also, let me just say that I have a whole lot of faith in Anberlin, through three records on Tooth and Nail records, the last of which garnered JfH's own Album of the Year. With a title like New Surrender, it seems they might be giving a jolt to the secular and Christian music industries.

I guess all in all, what I'm getting at here is that just because a Christian band gets signed to a mainstream label doesn't necessarily mean they will lose their faith. Bands upon bands have proved me wrong, and I think the future will show that this will continue to be a re-occuring thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summertime: Sun-Kissed Teens, Music, and Tours

To start off-I have to say, I'm quite excited about this JFH Blog. My personal blog actually is what got me working for JFH and writing reviews in the first place! So everything has come full circle in a way.

So it is the summer again! Or at least down in Florida it is full gear! And that means the annual summer festivals and tours are about to start up and make their way across the nation. If you have any chance to check out at least one of these events- I highly recommed you do so. In my opinion, there's not a better time to catch an amazing lineup of artists than in the middle of a stress-free, summer vacation!

Between Cornerstone, Alive, Creation, Purple Door, and the Warped Tour, the opportunities are endless. Just checking out some of the lineups for these shows has got me speechless. I, personally, am attending Warped Tour for the first time this year as a substitute for Cornerstone Florida, which saw its demise earlier this year. This event is huge and seems to get bigger each year! This year's lineup includes an impressive list of rock artists commonly found in the Christian scene (As I Lay Dying, August Burns Red, Between the Trees, Classic Crime, The Devil Wears Prada, Family Force 5, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Norma Jean, Paramore...). Anberlin is one of the headliners and with their new release in August, co-headling the Warped Tour is the most ideal way to promote their new songs and their talent to a new, yet familiar, audience. I'm extremely looking forward to hearing some of the new material (even though I'm not very hopeful for the new album as a whole. But more on that later...). Maybe it'll change my view on this new direction (and record label) they've taken?

Even though Warped tends to carry the whole 'mainstream punk' attitude, it really is a lot more than a punk-rock showcase tour. It is a host to many amazing non-profit organizations and is becoming an extremely active member in these hopeful and helpful communities, which is really encouraging to see brought together in such an atmosphere. It's a great way to enjoy some amazing live performances while playing an active role in your local and/or national community.

All in all, it's going to be a busy summer! I'm pulling out all of my summertime soundtracks, so I'll be sure to share those with you very soon!
Enjoy the rest of your week!
-Lindsay Wiseman

Whats up.

What's up guys? I told John we ought to do this years ago. He denies it. But you guys now know the truth. I'm kind of scatterbrained right now. But I thought I'd put a few thoughts out there since this blog is now up and running:

-KEEP THE CHAPMANS IN YOUR PRAYERS. I cannot even imagine it. Just..pray for them, man. =/

-I finished my summer class today Scooore. Three credit hours in two and a half weeks = well worth the...intensity.

-Though many of my friends are seeing Indy at midnight tonight, I'm seeing it tomorrow night after my sister's high school graduation. I think it'll be well worth the wait.

-I'm slighty bummed that Lovedrug canceled their show on the 31st here in Nashville. A lot.

-What happened to Tooth & Nail Records? I mean...really?

-I hope everyone has an excellent rest of the week. I'll write something more coherant sometime soon. God bless you all. Remember to pray for the Chapmans during this time.

-Josh

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My First Blog Post

Hey guys!! Well here it is...my first blog post.  Not exactly sure what to write about yet but I'm sure lots of things will come to mind as the days go by.  Right now I'm just trying to finish up my junior year of high school (which by the way seems to be dragging on...and on...and on).  I was hoping actually to graduate early but some things have come up that we are looking into, so the plans may change.  I'll update more as decisions are made.  Well, that's all for now! Peace Out!

Wow, it's been 4 years.

First JfH blog, huh? Bet you music fans are going to love getting to know us. Throughout the past four years being a part of this website, I've really felt disconnected from the readers, not being able to know what they're thinking about the music that I come to know and love.

Through this blog, we'll be sharing our loves for music especially, but also hit on the topics that really affect Christians (and non-Christians alike) every day. So it's mostly about music, but not quite 100%! Hope you guys all love that.

Feel free to drop any of us comments or questions you might have. I'll be talking mostly about music here, since not many people are as obsessed with music as I am! Got some reviews on the way... Look for Article One's new one next Monday.

Until next time, Justin

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Serving the Lord while listening to awesome music!

OK, so here I am.  Blogging.  Contributing to cyberspace.  Whatevs.  :) 

Ever contemplate the meaning of life on this big blue and green marble? Ever think, Why am I here?  Could it be to try and leave a mark, to make the world a better place than when we entered it? To find love, happiness, possibly marriage and family? I actually bet it's to savor the coffee bean in its intoxicating liquid form... mmm... coffee....

Having said that, I'm actually excited to be on staff here at JfH. It's a very important aspect of my life and I really enjoy administrating the forums, even on difficult days.  I feel the Lord, in His wisdom (certainly not my own!) has put me in a place where I was needed at a time when I was needed... to serve Him with every breath in my lungs, every thought in my head, every action of my body... to serve our great God while listening to the most awesomest Christian music at the same time! What a concept, and what a job! Woot!

I love Jesus. My daily prayer is that others will see Him before they see me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greetings!

Hello everybody! First staff blog right here -- we'll be taking this spot to talk about everything music-related... and even beyond. And hopefully the occasional artist will be blogging from the road as well. So keep an eye out for that! Until then, hope you enjoy hearing from us and interacting with us more. Love to all! ~ J

 

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