08
Nov
07

Jimmy Eat World- Chase This Light

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Well, it’s been nearly three whole years since Jimmy Eat World released their last album, “Futures.” Obviously, when fans have to wait three years from one release to the next, expectations can mount to a pretty high peak. Their new CD, “Chase This Light”,  is good, but it isn’t great. It might have a really cool cover, but the inside content is a little disappointing, not what I was expecting after waiting three years for a new CD. There’s nothing distinctively bad about it, it just doesn’t feel as powerful and well developed as their past CD’s. In other words, it’s not anything too special. It opens with strength with the track “Big Casino”, but unfortunately, nothing great happens again until the title track towards the end of the album, “Chase This Light”. Some of the most meaningful lyrics of the CD are found here, as well: “I’m only here in body, visiting./
My life is yours, in your gifted hands./ I’ve seen the best of love, the best of hate, the best reward is earned, I’ve paid for every single word I’ve ever said.”

Even though I wasn’t totally impressed by this CD, I’d still say it’s worth checking out, especially if you’re already a fan of the bands.

08
Nov
07

Over the Rhine- The Trumpet Child

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Although Over the Rhine isn’t a specifically Christian band, they are Christians and themes of Christianity can be seen throughout many of their songs. The husband and wife duo has a way of creating incredibly beautiful song lyrics and hauntingly spectacular music to go along with them. The Trumpet Child, released this August, has a very jazzy feel to it, especially in the beginning songs. The last few songs aren’t my favorites because they have a country twang to them, but I think the beginning songs of this CD are some of their best yet, both musically and lyrically.

They begin the CD with an outstanding song “I Don’t Want to Waste Your Time” in which they put forth a manifesto of sorts for themselves… “I don’t wanna waste your time /With music you don’t need.” And listening to The Trumpet Child certainly won’t be a waste of your time. One of the greatest things about Over the Rhine is that they strongly feel that they shouldn’t be making music unless it’s great. They won’t settle for less than the best they can give. That motto shines through quite clearly, especially here. It’s also very easy to find Christian themes in there lyrics. The song “The Trumpet Child“, as you might guess, references the Second Coming of Christ, for example.

If you want to learn more about this intriguing band and The Trumpet Child, check out their official website and read the commentary about this CD on overtherhine.com. I’ll leave you with one interesting paragraph from that interview: “We’ve been joking about the music that’s on God’s iPod. I’ve been asking our audiences, What exactly is on God’s iPod? Someone recently yelled back, Over the Rhine. So there’s my self-imposed dream job description: I try to write music for God’s iPod.”

08
Nov
07

The Darjeeling Limited

405px-darjeeling_limited_poster.jpgWes Anderson, one of my favorite film directors, has done it again. He has brought an important message about life and humanity alive on the big screen with his signature style of interesting and colorful storytelling and dry, witty humor. In The Darjeeling Limited, three brothers, Francis, Peter, and Jack, played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman, respectively, embark on a spiritual journey across India. Francis wants them to be close again, as they have presumably drifted apart since their father’s death about a year ago. Francis also wants to turn this trip into a spiritual quest. It seems all the brothers realize that something is missing in their lives, and they are willing to go along with Francis’ often silly plans in hopes of filling this nameless void. They stop at numerous shrines and spiritual places throughout India, trying to pray and get in touch with something bigger than themselves. At one point of time as they are going through an elaborate prayer ritual in one of the temples, one of the brothers says to another “Do you think it’s working?” His brother responds with “I hope so. It’s got to.” There is a sense of desperation in his voice. It’s as if this prayer doesn’t work, all hope is lost.

This brings to light a very important issue that courses through our culture today. So many people are searching for something. They know something is missing in their lives, and they search far and wide to try to fill the hole in their lives. They might turn to material goods, sex, drugs, or spiritual journeys. What they don’t realize is that while all these things might provide them with temporary pleasure and happiness, there is a deeper purpose that they are missing. They need only to turn to Christ to find everything they are searching for and find purpose and meaning in their lives. We, as Christians, need to exemplify Christ’s love to these seekers and let them know that only in Christ can their lives find true meaning and significance.

As the movie goes, the brothers go through many experiences together. They manage to get themselves kicked off of their train, go to visit their estranged mother, and, most importantly, try to save a group of boys from drowning in a river. They gradually begin to learn that maybe life isn’t just about them and their problems, but maybe it has a deeper and more meaningful purpose that doesn’t revolve around them.

09
Oct
07

Lovedrug at Geneva

Last Friday, Jamie and I drove up to Geneva for a concert. The opening act, twelve.o.one, was just okay. Had you passed the lead singer on campus earlier, you never would have guessed he would be up on stage later on that evening. He didn’t quite look the part of a member of a rock band, which would have been okay, but he and his band just didn’t have it together. They weren’t as tight as they should have been and a lot of the things they did musically were very random, like brining up several Geneva instrument players, playing such instruments as the trombone.

The second act was a band called Recession. The lead singer had a great voice and he and the rest of his band member stayed together pretty well. I might not have loved them, but I did like them and they were enjoyable.

The main act of the night was Lovedrug. They formed in Ohio in 2001 and have since released two full length albums, Pretend You’re Alive and Everything Starts Where It Ends. I had listened to most of the Pretend You’re Alive CD before the concert and thought they were really cool. I have to say I was disappointed by the concert, though. It just wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. I enjoyed listening to their CD more than I enjoyed hearing them live. There just wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm from them and it almost felt like they didn’t want to be there. The interaction with the audience wasn’t great. My favorite part of the concert was when the lead band member, Michael Shepard, responded to the audience’s clapping at the concert’s end by coming back out for an encore. He came back alone, and just played his guitar and sang Spiders, one of my favorite songs from their Pretend Your Alive album. He did a really great job with it and it was nice to just be able to listen to him sing and play without the distractions of his other band member banging away loudly on their guitars. Overall, though, it was a pretty good concert, and I would still definitely recommend checking Lovedrug out.

09
Oct
07

The Sheperd’s Dog- Iron and Wine


Iron and Wine’s newest CD, The Shepherd’s Dog, hasn’t stopped playing at my house since I got the CD this weekend. This CD retains the dark, melodious sound Iron and Wine is known for while adding a few new instruments and thus new layers of richness to the music.

Iron and Wine is actually made up of just one man…Sam Beam. Beam released his first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, in 2002. He wrote, performed, recorded, and produced every song on this album in his home in Florida. After the success of this first album, he began recording his albums in a studio, changing his sound somewhat.

As much as I enjoyed the simplicity of The Creek Drank the Cradle, I’ve also really been enjoying The Shepherd’s Dog. The overall sound of the album is excellent as is the transition from one song to the next. The album is laid out really well. To fully enjoy and appreciate the album, though, you really need to listen to the words. Sometimes they can be a but muttered and hard to understand, so I would suggest reading through the lyrics online. They manage to be beautiful, thought- provoking, and heart breaking all at the same time.

The images that Beam creates are perhaps the best part of The Shepherd’s Dog. For example, these lyrics from House by the Sea: “There is a house by the sea , and an ocean between it and me, and like the shape of a wave, the jealous sisters will sing on my grave.” There are also some really cool -and true- one liners, such as “Love was a promise made of smoke”, from the song Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car.

If you’re paying enough attention to the words, you will notice some strong political undertones in several of the songs. Beam does not approve of Bush or the war in Iraq, and those sentiments occasionally come out. Nothing is too overtly political, though, and I think that looking back on this album years from now, it will still be a good listen.

A sense of hopelessness tends to pervade Beam’s music. It is hard to determine what exactly his view of God is, but the words he writes leads one to believe he is at best confused. The characters in the song Boy With a Coin lament the fact that God has “left the ground to circle the world.” It’s lyrics like this that should make us grateful for the hope that we do have in Christ.

Overall, I really like this album and would highly recommend checking it out.

Definitely Worth a Listen: House By the Sea, Boy With a Coin, Carousel

29
Sep
07

Welcome to Engage and Discern!

What is culture? Should we, as Christians, approve and take part in it or should we turn away from it? Is all of culture evil? These are real questions that we all have to ask ourselves and deal with. For my senior project, I will be attempting to answer these and other related issues. The topic of my project is Christianity and Culture.

The task of picking this project topic certainly wasn’t an easy one. I haven’t always been interested in culture. It has just been over the past summer that I have become interested in music, movies, and other forms of popular culture. In fact, one of my goals for the summer was to watch as many movies as possible. I managed to watch sixty. As I watched these movies, questions began to arise. What kinds of movies should I be watching? Are there any that should be off-limits for Christians? I realized that these questions could be more broadly applied to lots of different culture issues. I began thinking and formulating my opinions. Here are a few reasons why I want to do this project:

*Everyone engages in the culture around them. Whether you realize it or not, you are engaged in culture. Culture affects your life in a lot more ways than you think. Today’s culture (i.e. movies, music, books, plays, televisions, etc.) shape the way we think and feel about nearly everything. Why are you wearing a pair of jeans? Why did you just answer your cell phone? Because today’s culture likes and promotes those things. That’s a simple example, but it’s just proving the point that we are affected by our culture. You really can’t avoid it.

* Since we are all affected by culture, we have to respond to it. Christians tend to react to culture in one of several ways:

1)They try to ignore it. They pretend they aren’t affected by culture, which they tend to view as a totally negative thing. They only listen to very conservative Christian music and watch only G-rated cartoon movies. They want to stay sheltered from an evil world.

2)They try to totally fit in with it. They don’t use discernment in selecting the things which they watch, read, or listen to. They want to be cool and fit in with everyone around them, especially their secular friends. They don’t view things with a Biblical frame of mind.

3)They engage it in a proper, Godly way. They recognize that just because something is coming from a secular artist/director/author does not mean that it is impossible to enjoy it and appreciate it for what it is, a piece of art. They use discernment.

The view I hold is the third one. Culture is all around us. We can’t avoid it. We have to learn to engage it. We need to have a very solid Biblical foundation and be grounded in the Word so that we can be discerning. There are a lot of things we can learn from our culture, as secular and godless as it may sometimes seem. We don’t need to be reading a Christian novel to learn something. We need to have a Biblical world view and look at everything in that light. Think about that last line again. We need to have a Biblical world view and look at everything in that light. We can’t ignore culture, but we also can’t allow ourselves to get sucked into it, either. Instead, we need to find the middle ground… we need to enjoy culture and also use it as a tool for expressing out faith and glorifying God. And that’s certainly not impossible. As long as we’re looking at everything in the light of the redemptive work of Jesus and seeing that all things point back to Him, we’ll be fine. We can learn to effectively engage our culture.

For the physical part of my project, I will be creating a newsletter for the upper school RTCS students entitled Engage and Discern. The contents of the newsletter will be as the title suggests… learning to engage in culture and do so with discernment. Engage and Discern will include a movie review, one or two music reviews, a play list of recommended music, and one or two sections for current events/issues.This newsletter will also be accompanied by this blog. I plan to post all the contents of the newsletter here as well as post additional content and allow students to respond to what I have to say by leaving comments.

The purpose of all this is to provide a Christian perspective of culture and what’s going on in the world today. By showing students how to look at a few things from a Christian world view, my hope is for them to let this world view spill over into all of their lives so that no matter what type of media they are engaging with throughout their lives, they will always know how to look at it from a Christian perspective.