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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

What’s special about Christmas and Country Music?

Posted by Chance on July 4, 2011

Some of this stuff I’ve touched on before, in this post, but I wanted to explore it a little bit more.

In mainstream music, there seems to be a strong divide between secular and Christian music.  There’s the Christian category in music, then there’s everything else.  There’s a few artists, like Switchfoot and P.O.D. that started out in the Christian genre but now have their feet in both sectors of the music industry, or other groups that play secular music but have Christian members, such as U2 and Lifehouse, but they seem to differ from the norm.  For the artists that do exist in both spheres, they are constantly analyzed to determine whether or not they are truly “Christian”.

Such a distinction does not seem to exist in country and Christmas music realms.  Artists like Carrie Underwood sing unabashedly about their faith, but there seems to be much less debate about whether Underwood is a Christian or secular artist.  It’s quite normal for any country artist to sing about their faith or put God in a song, and it’s not a huge deal.  Why does such a huge divide not exist.

A similar thing exists with Christmas music.  It is not unusual for a Christian station to play secular Christmas songs, or a secular Christmas song to sing  an overwhelmingly spiritual Christmas song.

I’m not sure why such a heavy distinction exists in mainstream pop/rock, but not in country.  The only theory I have is that perhaps country music is composed primarily of middle America culturally conservative type people where faith is a big part of their lives, and there’s no separation between their faith and the rest of their life.  But I know the same has to be true for some rock groups as well.  Is there something different about Nashville, and that where a person records (i.e. Nashville vs. L.A.) that makes such a huge difference?  Is it that most rock groups come from big cities, which tend to be more culturally liberal and less involved in faith/religion?

Even then, these theories discuss why the secular stays away from the religious in rock, but why does the religious stay away from the secular?  Do groups that are composed of Christians feel pressure to focus on “Christian” music?  Is this an effect of the “Christian Bubble” in which sometimes Christians want to stay?

Anyway, just thinking out loud.  Brant Hansen, formerly of the Way-FM radio station – I don’t know what he’s doing these days – has some interesting thoughts on the distinction of sacred vs. secular in music, and how these lines are “blurry”.

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Posted in Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

Why I listen to the music I do

Posted by Chance on March 8, 2010

I strongly base my listening habits on the way music makes me feel.  This is why I listen Collective Soul instead of Radiohead.  Radiohead is very innovate and constantly pushes the envelope.  Collective Soul is a middle-of-the-road rock band that you may hear in your dentist’s office.  Radiohead has made their mark on the music scene; Collective Soul not so much.  However, listening to Radiohead puts me in a gloomy mood, whereas Collective Soul is much more uplifting.  Simply put, I like the way I feel after listening to Collective Soul.

In a similar way, U2 will always be a preferable band to The Beatles.  I enjoy the Beatles music very much, but they are like musical carbohydrates.  It is enjoyable, but I don’t feel like I get much out of it.  On the other hand, I feel that U2 touches me on a spiritual level; they hit a spot that the Beatles can’t reach.

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Various thoughts on masculinity, Christian music, God’s glory

Posted by Chance on February 15, 2010

One thing that the Christian music industry needs more of is excitement.  It needs more artists willing to push the envelope in a musical fashion.  For some reason, many artists of “Christian music” don’t do this too often.  For yet another unknown reason, the artists who “happen to be Christian” often do, such as U2, The Fray, Mat Kearney, and Switchfoot.  When I say “push the envelope”, I don’t mean thrash metal, or anything like Radiohead who goes off the deep end frequently ( I personally sort of like Radiohead, although I don’t like the mood I get from listening to them).  I just mean, not only have something to say with your lyrics, but have something to say with the music itself.  U2’s sound is always changing, The Fray brought back piano rock, Mat Kearney mixes folk and hip hop.

Switchfoot is another one of the innovative bands.  Whether they are even considered “Christian music” or not I don’t even know, but they are one of the few bands associated with Christianity who are willing to experiment and do different things with their music.  I did a review of their album Oh! Gravity a while back.   They have another album out called Hello Hurricane.  I don’t think I like it quite as much as Oh! Gravity, but it is still a really good album.  I may do a more in-depth review later.  Their single “Mess of Me”, I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan, but at the very least, it is an exciting, edgy song.

It may have to do with masculinity.  I have a feeling I may be getting into controversial territory, but bear with me.  The book Wild at Heart by John Elderidge talks about how the man yearns for excitement and adventure (He asserts that women do as well although in a different manner).  Now, this search for excitement and adventure can take on different forms.  It doesn’t mean we all have to be in extreme sports or get tattoos or even like a particular type of music.  For me personally, I’m not athletic, I don’t get inked, and I work in an office with AC, but I like my music to not be boring.  I like music with a sense of adventure, and to me personally, a lot of that is lacking in Christian music today.

I think an idea that gets looked over is that God can be glorified through art itself, not just what the art is about.  If a beautiful painting is done, can God only be glorified because that painting happens to be of a church, or of Jesus?  Sometimes I wonder if Christian artists think God can only be glorified through explicit Christian lyrics, and not through simply beautiful music.

Posted in Christianity, Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

Sometimes Christian songs don’t have a happy ending

Posted by Chance on May 13, 2009

Apparently there was a big to do about the Fray’s (somewhat) new song “You Found Me.”  It’s basically about a person talking to God wondering where he’s been, and where God was all this time before He “found” him.  I wasn’t sure what I thought of the song at first, because the song sounded somewhat bitter.  But Wally, a DJ on the national Christian Rock radio show Total Axxess, mentioned that this song is in the same vein as many of the Psalms.  He brought up Psalm 88, which closes with v. 18

“You have taken my companions and loved ones from me;
the darkness is my closest friend.”

Wow, how’s that for inspirational verse of the day?

As we see in the Psalms, I don’t think there is anything wrong with questioning God sometimes.  Isaac Slade of The Fray is doing the same thing here, I think.  The song title is “You Found Me”, it’s not, “You Never Found Me.”  I think as long as questioning God doesn’t turn into bitterness, I think it’s okay.

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Top 10 Most Played in my iTunes library

Posted by Chance on May 6, 2009

Song  –           Artist

That’s What You Get – Paramore  (nice catchy rock song)

If Looks Could Kill  – Camera Obscura  (flashback to the 60s, reminds me of the Tempations in a way)

Magnificent – U2  (from their newest album and their next single)

Lovers in Japan – Coldplay  (Coldplay at their finest)

Let’s Go Back – Everyday Sunday (nice little Christian rock group)

Lost!  – Coldplay

Tell Me You’ll Be There – Everyday Sunday

Moment of Surrender – U2 (also from the newest album)

Vertigo – U2  ( I didn’t realize how often I listened to this song)

Wake Up! Wake Up!  – Everyday Sunday

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Album review: Relient K

Posted by Chance on April 18, 2009

Relient K is one of the more popular bands in Christian rock, both today, and probably ever.  They make regular appearances on Christian radio and on the WOW albums (an annual compilation of the top Christian songs of the year).   They are sort of a pop punk band; think Blink-182 without the vulgarity (I always hate describing a Christian band as “the Christian version of this band), but it fits.

For me personally, my favorite Relient K work comes from their first album.  This is not to dismiss any of their later work, its just that their self-titled album appeals to me the most.  Musically, it is the most interesting; it has elements that remind me of more driven punk music.  Their guitar drives harder than later albums.

This album also has a great blend of seriousness and silliness.  The seriousness comes with songs such as “Softer to Me” that focuses on the difficulties of life but knowing they pale into comparison to the life Christ had.  The silliness comes with just about every other song.  “Hello McFly” has the lead singer wishing he could go back in time and fix his mistakes.  “My Girlfriend” talks about Marilyn Manson taking over his girlfriends life and causing him to “despite beautiful people.”

One of my favorites is “Staples”, in which the singer recalls a friends accident.

All you could hear
was kachunk, kachunk, kachunk.
All you could hear
was the doctor putting staples in this punk.

Totally out of character for a Christian band, which makes it great.  Other tongue-in-cheek songs are “17 Magazine” in which a guys sister says “My 17 Magazine tells me you’re in love” and “Nancy Drew” in which the singer confesses his love for the fictional character.

This is definitely one of the more original albums in Christian rock.

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Album Review: Oh! Gravity

Posted by Chance on April 1, 2009

A problem with much of Christian Contemporary Music and Christian Rock is that it isn’t original enough, there is not enough experimentation, the music is canned, etc…

Switchfoot, whether intentionally or not, set out to remedy all the wrongs of CCM and CR in this underrated album.  This is Switchfoot’s last release back in 2006, and, to my knowledge, only the title track has received a little bit of airplay.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Yet another U2 post: The albums ranked in order

Posted by Chance on March 25, 2009

An article on @U2.com ranks all the U2 albums, putting the most recent No Line on the Horizon dead last.  Interestingly enough, they rank War the #1 album (with songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Years Day”).

If I had to rate them off-hand according to my personal opinion, I would have:

1.  The Joshua Tree

2. Achtung Baby – a close second

3. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

4. All that You Can’t Leave Behind ( in terms of U2’s career, more significant than the previous album, due to hits like “Beautiful Day”, “Stuck in a Moment…”, and “Elevation” that put them back on the map. )

5.  No Line on the Horizon

6. War

7. The Unforgettable Fire

8. Rattle and Hum

From that point they are all tied or I don’t have the album.

The ones I listen to on a regular basis are the last three, 3, 4, and 5.  The albums 6-8 are almost tied.

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The Joshua Tree, a turning point in my music collection and in my life

Posted by Chance on March 25, 2009

When I was in high school, I listened to some bad music, such as Nine Inch Nails and Tool.  I won’t touch that stuff anymore, I don’t really have a desire to listen to it because most of it is angry, and primarily, because they are blasphemous in their lyrics.

About a week or two before I was going off to college, I bought the The Joshua Tree by U2.  This event was significant for a couple of reasons.

For one, this album served as the turning point from listening to dark, angry music to listening to bands that were way more positive.  My music catalog has totally changed, and it really began with U2.  Also, The Joshua Tree served as a soundtrack for a big event in my life – going away to college and embarking on something new.  I listened to this album almost every time I drove home from college and back.

It seems that many times in my life a U2 album comes out during a significant period of my life.  All That You Can’t Leave Behind came out around the time I started dating my wife.  How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb came out near the end of my last semester of school, as I was embarking on another exciting journey from college to the workforce.  No Line on the Horizon came out about a month after my daughter was born.  In many ways, U2 has produced the soundtrack of my life.

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For those who listen to online radio

Posted by Chance on March 18, 2009

I seem to be the only one I know who listens to radio on the internet, but in case anyone else does, I am a fan of Slacker Radio.   There are preset radio stations according to genre that are pretty decent, but you can also customize your station.  You can start with an existing station and ban artists or songs you don’t want to hear and rate certain songs as favorites.  You can also start from scratch, adding your own artists.  If you add as much as 15 you can choose to hear only those artists, or you can choose to hear a little variety beyond the artists you’ve chosen.

Another similar station is Pandora, which I have posted about earlier.  I personally like Slacker a little bit more because of its interface, and I prefer its Christian rock station, but each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Slacker has the nicer interface, an ability to fine tune more parameters, such as recent/class songs, more variety of artists, and popular vs. more obscure songs.

Pandora has the ability to listen to other people’s created stations, and the user can do a mix of multiple stations.  Also, it is superior to Slacker in terms of finding similar songs and artists.  It appears that Pandora looks more at song style, whereas Slacker seems to place the focus on artists in the same genre and year.  Where Slacker is annoying is that when I put U2 as an artists I like, it suggests a bunch of has-been bands from the 80s.

For both these stations, it is nice to save a song as favorite or ban it outright, something that has plagued the radio station for decades.  However, I find sometimes that other people, even a machine, does a better job of song selection than myself.  I like hearing the unexpected variety of an already existing station as opposed to hearing a bunch of artists I have already heard.  The bad thing about custom stations is it prevents you from hearing more new stuff; if I want to hear stuff I already like I typically listen to my iTunes library.

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