New Website at www.TheStrangerSong.com

Like!

New Website!

Hello faithful readers and sock-monkeys of my imagination,

Just to let you know, my site has put on her big girl shoes and is taking her first steps in them over at this new beauty of a website (that I only spent a few sleepless nights on…):

www.TheStrangerSong.com


I Saw Sinners Making Music

As a student of the Bible, it is hard for me to miss biblical references and religious themes in music. Such language carries a certain amount of weight for me as I listen. If I am unfamiliar with the artist’s story, I might wonder if he too is a Christian. I normally know better, though, and find myself wondering what he was thinking while referencing these stories and what other listeners might find in the meaning.

It seems that biblical stories have become a kind of folklore for our generation–a common language to reference for impact in art and conversation. I suspect that the decline of reading and family time with fairy tales and classic novels have led to a more compact set of language, thus driving some to what they can recall from childhood Sunday school lessons and Bible-thumping friends. The artist knows that the overall meaning might be open to interpretation, but the basic meaning or background story he wants to get across can be said quickly and poetically with one quick reference.

In an NPR interview, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine said, “I could say, ‘Joe and Bob, where one is jealous and cruel and one is innocent and everything we want to be, they represent the duality that lives in each of us.’ Or you could say ‘Cain and Abel went to McDonald’s and smoked a bag of weed.’ It creates an economy of language.”   You can see his latest use of Christian language in the narratives throughout Iron & Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean.  It is most blatantly weaved through “Me and Lazarus,” Godless Brother in Love,” “Your Fake Name” and definitely in “Walking Far From Home.”

In an interview with Drowned in Sound, Beam says that he would not call himself a religious person: “..but I’m definitely fascinated by religion, and the way it works and the approach it takes. Christianity’s a big deal here, but mostly I like to use aspects of it just because it’s such a big part of our culture.” How incredibly ironic that churches are fighting to be more culturally relevant by avoiding Christian language while agnostics are naturally relevant by embracing such language!

In an interview following their 2010 album The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Scottish band Frightened Rabbit explains some of the themes found in their music. Frontman Scott Hutchison said, “Religious imagery is a very easy way to express ideas because it’s kind of universal, whether you are Christian or not. I just enjoy using the imagery; it’s there to be messed with.” In a radio interview about their 2008 The Midnight Organ Flight, Hutchison said that he uses the “quasi-resurrection” themes because ” there is something powerful in that imagery for things other than praising.” In working through the dark circumstances that humans face in life, such a theme, “helps make sense of the world,” he says.

What should I think when I am reminded that what I know to be absolutely true is being treated as a common fairy tale by the culture around me–by musicians that I dearly appreciate? Do I burn my CD’s and run for the hills? Goodness, no. Do I ignore those parts that I know may be skewed? Nope.

When it comes to my favorite artists, I listen to all of the lyrics with sensitivity, taking in the intended and the open meaning  of the words (these artists write with both in mind). I think about it more, sometimes even reading or watching interviews for background stories (oh, how I love people stories!!).  I might end up appreciating the biblical themes according to my Christian theology, which gives their music even more weight as I listen and experience it.  Or I might conclude that their use of the languages is so flippant and skewed that I would rather skip the song instead of grit my teeth through it, as unfortunate as that might be. No matter what, though, I am hearing what they are saying and listening as they process life and write poems about the simplicity of love as they imagine it should be. And it all tells me about the human heart and the music that accompanies it–in the most beautiful and hideous ways.

 

 

 

 


hometown glory

Home. Glory.

Those two words belong together. I long for them deeply, yet must continue to wait and hope for both. In my longing for home and eternity with God, I always think of Hebrews 11…But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them …and remember that I am a stranger, a wandering exile here. I don’t even have a home to call my own on this earth (ah, the vagabond years of our youth). So while I greatly anticipate home in the kingdom of Heaven and remember home in between family moves, I like to listen to music. It makes me feel like I can quit wandering and rest for a little while.

Last week I was really feelin’ that musical-induced rest with City & Colour’s cover of Adele’s “Hometown Glory”for all kinds of obvious reasons. (I may or may not have murdered the replay button on this video ). So I wanted to post of that hometown goodness (and lovely study music) for you.

I’ve been walking in the same way as I did
Missing out the cracks in the pavement
And tutting my heel and strutting my feet
“Is there anything I can do for you dear? Is there anyone I can call?”
“No and thank you, please Madam. I ain’t lost, just wandering”

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met
Are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of my world

I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides

Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united
Shows that we ain’t gonna take it
Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit
Shows that we are united

Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met

Are the wonders of my world


Hymns.

Sometimes I am actually grateful that I didn’t grow up in the church world (we’ll save why for another post).There are many other times, though, where I feel like I missed out. For example I had no idea who C.S. Lewis was until almost three years ago! Another example: hymns. What an exquisite treasure to Christianity we have in these profound works of literature! And save for those occasional and random moments when people decide to start singing an old hymn and I am left humming and trying to listen to the words, there are hardly opportunities today for us to really value the depth of hymns together-even in the churches. Tragic.

I’m not going to lie, most of the hymn knowledge I have so far has come from listening to Sufjan Steven’s during the holidays. I think I must have replayed “Come Thou Fount” for three days straight the first time I really listened to it. What better way to be exposed to such humble understandings of our relationship to the Holy God, than by way of banjo?

Have you heard of the Autumn Film? No? Well, you probably haven’t heard of their other musical endeavour then: Page CXVI (yeah C.S. Lewis reference). Basically they are trying to revive the spirit and practice of worshipping with hymns. I rather adore what they are doing.

So I know that “I’ve got the joy, joy, etc” isn’t a typical hymn that you would find someone appreciating for its musical or lyrical depth, but oh. my. word. What they did with it makes me say, “I feel ya, woman. I feel ya.” And then I praise Jesus.

And I can’t understand. And I can’t pretend that this will be alright in the end.
So I’ll try my best and lift up my chest to sing. about this. joy. joy. joy.
So I’ll be happy…


Warped [my dreams]

Paul K and I graced Warped Tour Chicago with our painfully cool presence. It was my first one ever. My assessment goes like this:

Dislike: I ate popcorn and Laffy Taffy to nourish my body. Later I washed it down with a $6 lemonade.
Like: Having a friend to finish the popcorn and lemonade so i don’t throw up. Thanks Paul!
Dislike: People with backpacks in the mosh pit. Really, fools?
Like: Feeling useful in operation: don’t let the crowdsurfers fall!
Dislike: Mike Poser
Like: There were hardly any Tooth and Nail bands that I would normally be stoked about. Instead we checked out bands that I hadn’t experienced too much of/at all. Good thinkin’.
Dislike: People not being concerned over the injured/ill musicians that they seem to care so much about. Maybe they did pay $40 and put up with NeverShoutNever’s screaming female crowd just to see Sum 41. But yelling “F**k you!” at Kevin Lyman, who I am sure was more bummed than you were? – Jerks.
Like: Bryce Avary’s cheer (and ridiculous talent) and Breathe Electric’s catchy dance parties.
Dislike: F**k at every rest and second-hand smoke from kids.
Like: Running around in a circle like a bunch of hooligans, dancing to We The King’s cover of The Middle.

Here’s their recap:

(Don’t worry, concerned citizens: we were not in Every Time I Die’s crawl of death)

After all of that perfectly weathered, healthy-paced craziness, though, I have to say that I am infinitely inspired. Every under-dressed, over-painted young person I saw reminded me of why I am in Bible school and working with youth. Every piece of literature I saw (especially the ones in need of editing) encouraged me to stay on the Print Media track. And the endless hours I’ve spent reading interviews and watching tour blogs gave me this concern for all of the vagabond band members that I know God will let me work with and do something snazzy with one day. Gaahhh the love. I just wanted to hug every person I saw (except for the guy that purposely cut two layered V-necks all the way down to display his chestpiece, his rib cage and his belly button; Ew. no hugs from me).

Poor Paul. The entire day I was rambling and beaming about all of the crazy ideas I have involving youth, media and music: a concert venue (that offers affordable water) and really loves on their guest bands; kids getting to know the band members and writing about them, being all creative and making their own influence…Oh, and me writing features and reviews that are infinitely inspiring…and, and, and…

Thanks for the day of churnin’ churnin’ youthful dreams, Warped Tour. And for carrying around all of that Willy Wonka candy and jumping around like a crazy fool with me, thanks Paul.