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JFH Staff Blog | December 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

We Recommend - House of Heroes, 'Cold Hard Want'

Time to get retrospective with 2012. With our recent year-end staff picks, House of Heroes' latest album Cold Hard Want averaged in at third place amongst the entirety of the staff's individual votes. A couple listens to this alt rock record should reveal just why it connected with so many listeners. The HOH boys stretched themselves a bit, giving a unique and varied look at atlernative pop rock with this album. While it may not be as lyrically engaging as The End Is Not The End, it's still a catchy and intriguing listen; one that begs for many revisits. At a time when it's tempting to keep looking forward to 'the next big thing,' don't overlook this summer 2012 highlight.

- John DiBiase

House of Heroes
Cold Hard Want (2012)

Click here for our review of the album.

Our synopsis: "A pop rock record with alternative leanings and plenty of meat on its bones. It's one of the highlights of 2012's hefty year of music." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Song Highlights: "Out My Way," "Dance (Blow It All Away)," "Comfort Trap," "Touch This Light," "Remember The Empire"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Cold Hard Want? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Power of One

The Power of One
by Jeremy Vanderloop

When I was eighteen I spent some time in Mozambique, Africa living with three hundred orphans. While sitting with some of the poorest people on the planet, I learned about the portion of God’s heart that is about individuality. Christ’s heart is to stop for the one, the proof is in scripture. In Matthew 18:12-14 Jesus tells a parable of a man who has a hundred sheep and one gets lost. He states that the man leaves the ninety-nine in search for the one that went astray. When the man finds the lost sheep, he rejoices over it more than his ninety-nine that had never gone astray.

Some might say that it seems unfair for God to love the one who went astray more than the ninety-nine that stayed faithful. The truth is, we are all the one that went astray. There is none of us that have not strayed from God’s heart. In fact, we are born astray, desperately needing his tender touch to draw us back to His heart.

As a Christian recording artist and minister, it is very easy to get caught up in numbers. To be transparent, I have to make a continually conscious effort to remind myself to stop for the one. The reality is that ninety-eight percent of my ministry is off-stage. The core of ministry is not about playing or speaking in front of thousands of people, but how well we stop for individuals. A common practice with my ministry is to sit and talk with people--whether it is with the front desk attendant at our hotel, the barista at my local Starbucks, people at the merchandise table, or a homeless guy on the street, everyone has a story and everyone is crying and craving for attention and love. We, as people, simply want others to stop and listen, even if we do not know or admit it to ourselves. 

There is a story that comes to mind that is a beautiful example of this in play. I was recently on a tour with some other artists when our bus broke down. We were on an extremely tight schedule, quite frankly, it was a major inconvenience in which we could not afford to lose time. Yet, we were stuck none the less. Instead of complaining, I asked God for the purpose of the bus breaking down. After no response was given, we walked to a BBQ joint to grab some dinner. When we finished eating, another artist and I began to speak with the waitress. It is quite amazing when you lend an ear how people begin to open up and tell you the struggles of their life. We were conversing with the young women for quite some time, then out of curiosity, her manager walked up. 

The manager and I began to have a simple conversation, one thing lead to another and he was spilling his life story to my lent ear. An important fact to take note, when ministering to people, it is more valuable to listen than to speak. This man was what I would describe a manly guy, tatted from wrist to neck, and could clearly hold his own if he were ever threatened or challenged. I quickly perceived that he did not make it a common practice to open up to people, let alone a complete stranger wearing skinny jeans and Toms. But God had a desire to reveal Himself to this manager and to let him know that He was listening.

The condensed version of the story was that his wife had just left him and taken his kids to another state. The man was heartbroken and felt completely helpless. He had just finished praying to God and asking Him if He was even listening, or real. The Holy Spirit gave me the proper words to encourage him with and had me pray for him. After the prayer, he felt God’s indescribable peace and love. I felt an impression from God to tell him that the sole purpose of our bus breaking down was for me to be there at that time to prove to him that God was listening and is in fact real.

Shortly after saying this, we began to walk back inside and were met by the other artist and waitress who had just finished their conversation. Come to find out, God had spoken the same thing about the bus breaking down to my friend who was speaking with the waitress. Consequently, God was glorified, and these two people were intimately touched by God and were met in the middle of their questioning.

The sole purpose of this blog post and the stories within are for you to be inspired and encouraged to live each and every day for the glory of God. Take value in every circumstance and situation in which you have the opportunity to be the light and love of Jesus. I have been blessed to have played and ministered in front of thousands, as well as spent time with broken individuals. Both are rewarding but, in my opinion, you have to learn how to minister to individuals before you can effectively minister to the thousands.

-- Jeremy Vanderloop

Singer/songwriter Jeremy Vanderloop's latest album "All Creation Sings" released October 2, 2012 and is available on Amazon and iTunes


Friday, December 7, 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?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Featured Fan - Patricia Jones

Bebo Norman and Patricia Jones

(Bebo Norman, myself and the lyric art (from his song "Hear it From Me") I made for him as a token of appreciation for his music!)

Favorite Band/Artist: Bebo Norman
Featured Fan: Patricia Jones
Location:  Tulsa, OK
When/Where Was The Above Photo Taken: May 11th, 2012 at the Northwest Arkansas Naturals stadium at the pre-game set.
What About This Artist's Music Speaks To You: Bebo Norman's music has impacted my life more than that of any other musician.  In my 10 years of listening to Bebo, I have been so blessed by this artist who is not afraid to pour his heart and soul into an album whether the songs are accepted as "radio friendly" or not. It seems like there is a perfect, uplifting Bebo Norman album for whatever I am facing. In the recent months I had been really struggling spiritually and Bebo Norman's latest masterpiece (Lights of Distant Cities) ministered to me in such a deep way. I was so moved by this album that it seems like it was written just to give me hope and encouragement. I am so thankful for the hand of God in Bebo Norman's music and I will continue to listen as long as he is making music.
Favorite Album by This Artist: Lights of Distant Cities
Favorite Song by This Artist: "Walk Down This Mountain"
Favorite Live Show Experience: May 11th I traveled to Springdale, AR to see Bebo perform for the first time in 6 years. I was front and center!
Number of Times Seen This Artist Live:  3
Favorite Piece Of Merch/Item You Own From This Artist: The setlist from the May 11th show
Website: Twitter

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

Tuesday, December 4, 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