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JFH Staff Blog | August 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Featured Fan - Jay Wright

Josiah Warneking, Joshua Miller, Jay Wright, Chad McCutchen, Joel Warneking

Favorite Band/Artist: Sixteen Cities
Featured Fan: Jay Wright
Location: Utica, New York
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken:  Glens Falls, NY on 7.3.11
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: Sixteen Cities is a down-to-earth band, and I love the way that their music speaks to the heart of the listener and glorifies God.
Favorite Album by This Artist: Your Love Is EP
Favorite Song by This Artist: "Ready Now," "Pray You Through," "Moonlight Serenade"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 2, and hopefully many more! :)
Favorite Live Show Experience: Playing a tournament with lead singer Josiah Warneking!
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist:  Autographed t-shirt

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Featured Fan - Breanna Van Egdom

Breanna Van Egdom and the Zach brothers in Remedy Drive

Favorite Band/Artist: Remedy Drive
Featured Fan: Breanna Van Egdom
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken:  LifeLight - Worthing, SD - Sept 3, 2010
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: Almost all of their songs send out the message of hope, that something better is coming. The darkness may come, but the light will follow. Not only is their music amazing, but they are also incredibly personal with fans, sticking around and talking after shows as long as possible
Favorite Album by This Artist: Rip Open the Skies
Favorite Song by This Artist: "Smile Upon Me"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 52 and counting
Favorite Live Show Experience: LifeLight 2009 & 2010 I had backstage passes for their performances and got to stand in front of the barriers and in front of thousands of people.
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist:  Either my camera shirt or track jacket
Website: N/A

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Recommend - Heath McNease, 'Straight Outta Console'

If you looked up "hard-working musician" in the dictionary, and for some reason it was actually in there, you might find Heath McNease's name somewhere in the definition.  When he's not touring, he's working on his next project.  He's dropped two so far this year, and has at least one more planned for release before year's end.  The second album he put out in 2011 is a free mixtape with For Beats' Sake based all on Nintendo games.  Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape features 8-bit NES music converted into modern-style hip hop beats, with McNease's excellent skill on the raps -- not to mention a slew of talented emcees making guest appearances.  The majority of the time, McNease just has fun, rapping about video games teaching your mom how to dougie.  Those looking for spirituality will find a little in "Mmm...Donuts!" but it's really recommended just for enjoying some quality hip hop.  I loved McNease's music before, but this mixtape cemented him as one of my top current emcees.  It also gave me even more appreciation for For Beats' Sake's talent, as he demonstrates his creativity from beginning to end.  Check it've got nothing to lose except about an hour of your time.
- Scott Fryberger

Heath McNease
Straight Outta Console: The Nintendo Thumb Mixtape (2011)

Click here for our review of the album.

Our synopsis: "Hip hop and Nintendo games?  Need I say more?" (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Fun and fans of quality hip hop
Song Highlights: "Tanuki," "Chopstlevania," "Mmm...Donuts!" "Style Points," "LATFH," "Bonesaw's Ready"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Straight Outta Console? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Featured Fan - Isaac D Chandler

Isaac and the Showbread guys

Favorite Band/Artist: Showbread
Featured Fan: Isaac D Chandler
Location: Connecticut
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken:  The Arrows Are Deadly tour in Berlin,CT
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: What about this artist's music DOESN'T speak to me?? They're never afraid to write whatever they want to, they never adhere to any musical rules or try to go along with what's popular, they're always unique and quite weird, which I like 'cause I'm weird. And they're honest about their faith and share Jesus even if it's in ways that some more conservative Christians might condemn them for, and they don't care if people don't like them, they just do their thing.
Favorite Album by This Artist: The Fear Of God
Favorite Song by This Artist: I have several: "Nothing Matters Anymore," "I Think I'm Going To See You," "Dead By Dawn," "Naked Lunch," "Centipede Sisters," "Mouth Like A Magazine," "Precursor," and many many more.
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: Only once, but it was beyond amazing.
Favorite Live Show Experience:  I walk into a church one night to see Showbread, and see Josh and Garrett playing cards in the foyer of the church, I was pretty stinkin' startstruck. After the show everyone was praying together and several people got healed, which was an inspiring experience of God's power, and afterwards I got a picture with the band and met them all and talked with them. One of the best nights of my life
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist:  Autographed copies of The Fear of God and Age of Reptiles

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recording Some Songs

 First, let me answer a few questions we've been getting already:

1 - We don't know the name of the new album yet.

2 - We don't know the release date.

3 - We don't have any samples for you to hear...yet. (we're building anticipation)

Now that we have that out of the way, we can update you on the process so far. :)

As of right now, we have around 15-16 songs we're working through so we can pick the best of the best to record for the new one. That's already more than we've ever had before, which is nice because it's always just better to have more to choose from.  This way, a week after the cd comes out, we won't be saying "man, i just really wish we had a song to replace that song." It's better for you guys too because you get the best of the best instead of what we managed to come up with so we'd have enough songs. haha.

I'm definitely really excited about the new songs.  There are some things we're tackling in this one that we've not touched on yet.  As it is with every writing year, we've had a lot going on, with the trailer theft, personal stuff and just life in general, so God's been giving us TONS of fuel and, more importantly, inspiration for the songs. As always, the inspiration is coming from each and every one of you as well.  You guys and girls are the reason we are out on the road, and we can't say that enough because it's true. God called each member of this band to bring you a message of hope and love, and from your emails and words when we meet you face to face, He's definitely allowing us to do that effectively. We love each one of you, and that's just a fact.

With that said, it's time to get back to work. There are lots of guitars and stuff to record, so I will say goodbye for now. We're working on a video blog or two, so keep an eye out for that as well and we'll see you on the road.



Monday, August 1, 2011

Featured Fan - Dave Esposito

Dave & friends with Blindside

Favorite Band/Artist: Blindside
Featured Fan: Dave Esposito
Location: Philadelphia
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken:  2005 in Philadelphia
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: I love Blindside's music because of their passion. There is passion in their lyrics, in Christian's voice, and in their dedication to making music.
Favorite Album by This Artist: Silence / With Shivering Hearts We Wait
Favorite Song by This Artist: "All of Us"
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live: 5
Favorite Live Show Experience:  This live show was my favorite because I saw them backstage. That's where this picture is from. I won grand prize in a contest for promoting them and got 4 backstage tickets a PSP and signed posters and CDs
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist:  I have pillows, socks, scarves, light up balls, vinyls, a rare japanese cd, necklace, belt buckle, ring. I don't have a favorite.

Submit your photo and reasons why YOU'RE a fan for a chance to be featured here!