Archive for the ‘ music ’ Category

Christian Music Part 1: What Makes Good Music?

My friend Tim and I are co-writing a blog series together about the woes of the Christian music industry… me from the perspective of someone in the industry, he from the perspective of a consumer and fellow musician. I invite you to check out the rant, give us your thoughts, and share hateful comments. Here’s an excerpt from the first post…

“… We need to remember that it’s ultimately God who leads people to Him, and it’s with the interaction and relationships of people that He generally uses to bring people towards Him. Music is a tool and a gift for us to use in aiding this process, but it it dangerous to view it as the means. God is the means, and we are often His method – the things we have influence over are merely devices at our disposal… There are undoubtedly people that have become Christians via songs like “Blindman” or “Humble Thyself” or even “Days of Elijah”… but that in itself doesn’t deem those good songs. One thing we’re tiring of is Christian artists being given an excuse not to write innovative or pioneering songs….”

Check out more here….

onethousand & 1 albums

As much as I love music, I’m ashamed to say that I am a very uneducated music lover. I’ve kind of found that niche thing that I really like, and now try to find other artists that fit into that niche. It’s a very closed minded way to experience music. As a result, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never actually listened to a Doors, Ray Charles, or Stevie Wonder album the whole way through from start to finish. Yeah… sad isn’t it?

I’m going to venture to change that over the next year. I’m blessed, so to speak, with a job that involves sitting at a desk for 8+ hours per day, which is a perfect opportunity to expand my musical horizons and deepen my education. As any good student I will have a textbook. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery will be my text. I will study perhaps 2-3 albums, every work day, until I have completed. I will study chronologically, beginning in the 1950’s with Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours”. I will end with the 2005 release of The White Stripes album “Get Behind Me Satan”.

Most of this music I probably won’t like…. Somehow I’ll suffer through the 80’s and get through Cyndi Lauper and ABBA. But I’m looking forward to a lot of it… hey, a list with 4 U2 records and 5 Bruce Springsteen records can’t be that bad.

In the meantime, enjoy the new Kings Of Leon record. I’m a fan…. (by the way, these song recommendations that I give are free, full length previews through Rhapsody – you should check it out).

Today you should listen to…
Kings Of Leon “On Call”

this post only to fill space

I haven’t felt like blogging much lately. Sorry to all faithful readers and blog-wanderers for leaving you hanging. All is well, I’m still alive. Check out this band I just discovered… pretty awesome:

Today you should listen to…
Four Day Hombre Three Years

eye phone

On Tuesday our favorite company whose name begins with Apple announced the debut of their highly anticpated iPhone, a “trademarked” name which has since come under fire in a lawsuit filed by Cisco yesterday… but I digress.

So the iPhone. Say what you want about Apple, Macs, and such, but this is one heck of a beautiful product they have created. It’s an iPod, a cell-phone, and internet communication device all in one. It’s widescreen. It’s wireless. It’s thin. It’s about as small as you could make it with all of the things it is capable of. A modified version of OS X is actually built into the thing. It automatically shifts from portrait to landscape mode based on the way you hold it. It automatically shuts off the buttons when you hold it to your ear so you don’t accidently hit a key while you’re talking to someone. It’s all touch-screen… I’m pretty sure there is only one actual “button” on the whole thing. It’s web-capable like no other phone before it. It will change the landscape of music devices, cell phones, and PDAs from this day forward.

A $600 price tag and two-year Cingular Wireless contract aside, you gotta just admire the sheer genius of it. Spend some time on the website (also one of the most beautiful websites I’ve ever seen) and check this thing out – if you’re a fan of iPods and electronic gadgets, the iPhone will blow your mind. Seriously.

Today you should listen to…
La Rocca “Goodnight
(while a little disjointed, this is such a good album… hard to choose one song)


I feel it is nothing less than my duty to offer my thoughts about the lastest MP3 player to pop up on the market. With the Christmas season in full swing, some of you may be considering what MP3 player to buy for your mom, or brother, or dog this year, so you can consider this insight. Being that it is my job to work with the digital music accounts on behalf of my company, I guess I have some sense of authority on the subject… or something…. I doubt it’s worth too much…


Anyways, good ol’ Microsoft. I almost feel guilty dedicating a blog to them, but since they have burst into the market this year with the self proclaimed “iPod Killer”… well, they’ve brought this upon themselves.

So the brains in Redmond, WA all sat around a table one afternoon and said to themselves, gosh, we need to get into this digital music business. Forget the fact that they already had a digital music store called MSN Music that failed miserably… it pretty much sucked.

The brains of Redmond decided to call their new invention Zune. It rhymes with “tune” I guess, which is kinda like iTunes. So, Zune it is. They spent months upon months planning the great “iPod Killer”. Throughout the whole thing I wanted to keep an open mind, because you know competition is good and I wished for them the best. So the Zune was created in top secrecy, utilizing I’m sure absurd amounts of money that has been collecting dust in an aircraft carrier parked in the Pudget Sound.

At first glance, the Zune looks decently cool – it’s got a nice big, color video screen, it’s about the same size as an iPod, yet it has some sense of character that places it on it’s own. It comes with a built in FM radio and has a wireless sharing function.

Then you pick it up.

When I first held the Zune about three months ago, my initial thought was, “my gosh, it feels like a toy.” One of the other guys at my label joked, “yeah, they should just stick a Fisher Price sticker on it”… ouch. But there’s truth in that. I pick it up and it just has this clunky feel to it. I shake it… dear heavens, there’s things rattling in there. Yikes.

I turn it on.

Now here’s one of their biggest mistakes. Obviously they didn’t want to remove themselves to far from the iPod design, so they included a scroll wheel… except the scroll wheel doesn’t scroll. It’s a four directional button in the shape of a circle! They would have been better off putting an old four-arrow Nintendo controller on it.

The big video screen is cool I guess, but the resolution is about the same as the video iPod, which means in terms of quality, the iPod has the better screen. The buttons are so small, spaced so awkwardly at the bottom of the device that it almost forces it to be a two handed player… unlike my iPod which I can simply hold in one hand and operate with my thumb while I drive down the road. On top of the buttons being small, they don’t light up so you can’t see them in the dark, and they’re also difficult to press, so after a while your fingers just get tired.

The thing is really hard to balance – in fact, I would say it is off balance, which means that when holding it in your hands it feels awkward, and you’re more prone to dropping it. At this point, a drop may do it some good. There’s already stuff rattling around inside so it probably won’t hurt anything.

The Zune comes in three colors: white, black, and poop. It comes with a little bag that is so tight at the opening you can hardly get the thing back in there. The wireless sharing function… leaves a lot to be desired. If you want to simply send a song to someone, it stops the music you’re currently playing. Same when you receive a song. And all the potential the wireless function has to be cool is lost because you can’t “request” a neighboring Zune for a song… you have to go physically ask the person for them to send the song, and then you can receive it… that would be like me having to call you on the phone to ask you to send an email.

As I was discussing with my friend the other day – the difference between an iPod and a Zune is this: Apple designed the iPod… Microsoft engineered the Zune. And you can tell. It’s all function OVER form, and I think that’s a mistake when it comes to “social electronics”.

MP3 players are more than just a functional device – the lend insight to your way of life and they are a fashion accessory. They are interwoven into the way you live your life and become integral to the way you experience entertainment. For as much as Zune is promoting the “social” aspect of their new device, I feel they’ve really fallen short on making it something people want to engage in a social setting.

If the Zune is the “iPod killer”, then they’ve gone into battle with nerf guns.

the most stellar youth handbell choir out of southern minnesota (it has a ring to it, don’t you think?)

So I threw on a little Vince Guaraldi Trio today to get in the Christmas mood – that would be music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. You know the song “Skating”? The one that starts out going [start with a high pitched voice and go lower] “da duh da da da, da duh da da da, da duh da da da, duuum… duuumm… duummm….” Yeah, anyways, nothing gets you in the holiday festive spirit more than hearing that song. For me it calls to mind images of being younger, all bundled up in the blue snowpants, going outside in the freezing cold of winter with my orange plastic sled, and those mittens that didn’t quite cover the skin on my wrists at the end of my jacket. I will forever have little stripes of frostbite across my wrists. Not to mention it gets dark at like 2:30 in the afternoon during winter in Minnesota, so I was always racing home to go sledding in the pitch black of night… err, afternoon.

“Skating” also calls to mind other memories, namely, handbell choir in highschool. Ah yes, handbell choir. Looking back on it, it feels so odd that I was actually in a handbell choir – just the sound of it seems so… girly. For some reason it wasn’t though. Everyone who was anyone and could count to 4 was in our youth handbell choir at good ol’ Evangel UMC. Those who could only count to 3 played the bells in the bass cleff, because they only had to ring them once or twice a measure. We were pretty awesome though. We were, in fact, the most stellar youth handbell choir out of Southern Minnesota. We showed up many an adult handbell choirs in our day.

Anyways, to make what should have been a short story long, our senior year in high school we played the song “Skating” in rockin’ handbell style. It was amazing, and hilarious, and one of the oddest things to ever resonate from the tip of a hinged plastic clapper.

the epic song

There is something to be said for the epic song, and so I’m going to say that something. They are those types of songs that you always hear in movies, or towards the end of a really dramatic TV show. They are larger than life. I like to imagine my life with epic songs playing in the background – I like to imagine that you could purchase my soundtrack for $17.95 someday.

I’m convinced that U2 is the greatest band of all time. I know everyone says that. I’d like to say that I was a fan before everyone got all hyped up about them again when they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind… all that aside though, U2 are the masters at the epic song. My friend Jon will quickly point out that they did not invent the epic song, but I hold that they certainly popularized it and brought it to a new level. Anyone who has seen them play “Streets” live will agree.

There’s something about bands that come from small islands in the North Atlantic that makes them incredibly good at creating epic songs. I’m speaking of course mainly of England, Scotland, Ireland, and believe it or not, Iceland. Maybe it’s because these small islands are in fact small nations, and being a small nation you’re always getting picked on by the other guys – makes your national history riddled with war and the need to fight to survive (think Braveheart). The epic song captures that spirit I think. The fight, the struggle, followed by victory… sometimes followed by defeat… but there’s this passion indwelt within, and whether victory or defeat is the outcome, you can’t help but recognize that the fight was a good one – it’s motive was pure.

I think I imagine my life set to epic songs because I want my life to resemble one. And so regarding that soundtrack that you can buy for $17.95… if you want your week to be epic, hop on to iTunes and get some of these very epic songs. Many of them are by bands from small island nations. I’ve tried to limit my U2 songs, but it was difficult. There’s this common theme that runs through all of them though: a simple, quiet beginning, but driving – there’s a pulse behind it and you know there is a purpose, you know it’s going somewhere – maybe it’s to fix the world… maybe it’s just to fix yourself.. You gotta close your eyes – you have to imagine this being played in a huge open dark arena, or on top of some great mountain overlooking the ocean. And then there is this moment where the whole thing opens up, the lights stream down, the fog lifts, and then..… epic.

U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name
Embrace – Ashes
Massive Attack – Teardrop
Howie Day – Perfect Time Of Day
Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms
Mat Kearney – All I Need
Switchfoot – Happy Is A Yuppy Word
Sia – Breathe Me
Keane – This Is The Last Time
Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye
Mae – The Everglow
Athlete – Half Light
U2 – With Or Without You
Peter Gabriel – Downside, Up
Kent – 747 (We Ran Out Of Time)
Coldplay – Fix You
Sigur Ros – Saeglopur
Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
U2 – Walk On
Delirious – Obsession
The Normals – The Survivor

who’s brooks and done?

Steph works at a horse hospital. To be technical, an equine hospital. But equine means “of or relating to horses”, so she works at an of or relating to horses hospital. Nevertheless…

Being that Steph works at a horse hospital, she also works around horse people, and horse people in Nashville are more often than not filthy rich. That being the case, she is sometimes privy to certain opportunities us regular people are not privy too. One such opportunity occurred tonight.

Apparently there’s some big horse-type event going on this week in Nashville called the Futurity. I asked all night what futurity means but was not provided any solid answers. Again consulting my friend Webster, it’s a horse race for two year olds in which competitors are nominated at birth. This will become the most educational blog on the web.

So tonight is the big celebration – a big private party for horse lovers hosted by none other than Brooks & Dunn. Believe it or not, I have lived in Nashville for six years and have never had a true country music experience. Tonight was my time.

I learned many things tonight. Too many to name here. For starters, let’s just say that 400 cowboys + open bar = 400 cowboys who should not be riding their horses home.

Steph is quite certain that somebody spiked her Southern Baptist Convention approved Coca-Cola. Who knows. Granted, she is out like a light right now… we’ll find out tomorrow I guess.

And you know those people at concerts who have this otherworldly ability to roll their tongue and whistle really loud? No, I don’t mean really loud… I mean ear piercing shriek, like the Nazgul from Lord Of The Rings. Scary creatures. I do not like you people. I always end up standing in front of you at concerts. I will knock you out next time.

But anyways… Brooks & Dunn. I’m not a fan of country music, and have never claimed to be, but let me be fair and go on record and just say their band was really tight tonight. Amazing good, and really solid. They put on a fine show. Their fiddle player and lead guitarist rocked it. Good times. I knew absolutely none of the songs, but still good times. There were 400 inebriated cowboys at the show who would all concur as well.

Favorite Moment Of The Evening: Definitely observing the security guard at the end of the show who was wearing a polo shirt that read “Rock Solid Security – Polite But Firm”. For reasons unknown he was trying to manage 7 doors at once, and by manage I mean he was frantically running between six of them with arms outstretched, trying to keep people from exiting while ushering them all through the one open door on the far right hand side. And I’m not sure why it mattered because all of the doors just emptied out into the lobby anyways.