Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Been Two Years...

In one of those stars
I shall be living.
In one of them I shall 
be laughing. And so it
will be as if all the stars were laughing,
when you look at the sky at night.
And when your sorrow is comforted
 (time soothes all sorrows),
you will be content that you have known me.
You will always be my friend...
I shall not leave you.

Antoine De Saint-Exupery 
The Little Prince

It's hard to believe it's been two years. It's still fresh, still bittersweet. We miss you Dustin DeFord.

Great Shot!

Remember the 19 Hotshots today, and pray for the families. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Music Monday: Home Review

          As a general rule, after a successful, well received album, music artists tend to try and up their game with a just as good, if not better follow up. This usually translates into "go big or go home" endeavor. Josh Garrels, judging by his scaled back follow-up to successful Love & War & The Sea In Between, disregards this rule entirely. Home is a quieter, simpler, and less lyrically dense successor, and gloriously so. 

          Given that Love & War essentially put Garrels on the map, scaling back on Home is perhaps riskier than attempting to out do his best work. It's a risk that pays off, as Garrels is the type of artist who tends to thrive in the quiet and intimate.

          Home begins with the slow, waltzing rhythm of Born Again, establishing itself as the most explicitly faith-themed of Garrels  releases. As usual, Garrels makes full use of wind and strings in this track and throughout. Born Again is followed by Colours, a contemplative, morning praise song, reminiscent of 70s soul. Garrels sounds more like the same artist behind Love & War in third track A Long Way, which incorporates brooding synth, with beautifully dense lyrics:

Father's hands work the ground
Turns the soil, lays it down
Everything done and said
Lives beyond the quick and the dead
Heritage passed along 
To the sons like a blessed song

This is followed by Leviathan, a hypnotic interpretation of the book of Job: "Yahweh gives and takes away, will you curse or bless the name, trial tests us like the flame." Garrels falsetto voice howls with intensity in the blues rock track The Arrow, demonstrating his versatility in passing through musical genres with ease. This is followed by the gentle romance of Heaven's Knife, in which Garrels croons an intimate serenade to his wife "my heart, my home." In this track Garrels echoes the world first marriage:

"Like the first man,
I was cut so deep by heaven's knife
When I awoke from my sleep
Oh My Lord, she's beautiful..."

Morning Light joyfully looks forward to the believer's future, while Always Be is a commitment of praise. Home At Last and At the Table continue with the theme of home, as Garrels revels in the joys of fellowship in the Body of Christ. Home ends with the quiet whisperings of Benediction, a beautiful lullaby from a father to his children.

     Home is a beautiful album that in all it's simplicity, demonstrates Garrels mastery as a musician and lyricist. It's a subtle and refreshing answer to the usual trappings of mainstream Christian music.

PS: You might still be able to get this album for free on Noisetrade.

PPS: For those of you who follow me on 20 Something Bloggers, I've changed by account. You can access my new account on the link at the bottom of my blog page. 

Happy Monday my peeps!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Little Prince Trailer

Hello blog world! After seeing this I couldn't let the moment pass without blogging. One of the most iconic children's books, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is being made into a film. This film looks stunning, and amazing, and everything that is good and beautiful! Colour me excited!

PS: How fantastic is Gabrielle Aplin's Salvation in this trailer!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Music Monday: Christmas Music Edition 2014

     Well chaps Christmas is almost upon us! I'm sorry that my blog has been all Monday posts lately; December has been crazy for me. For example I'm typing this from a new timezone! That's right, I'm back in Ireland!

      With Christmas in just a few days, I wouldn't feel right not doing a Music Monday without a post on Christmas music. So, I decided to give you some of my favourite Christmas albums this year; some old and new. In no particular order:

1. Snow Angel by Sugar and the Hi Lows

2.  A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him 

3.  Noel by Josh Groban

4. The Oh Hellos Family Christmas Album by The Oh Hellos (available for free on Noisetrade)

5.  Christmas by Michael Buble

6. Vintage Christmas by David Ian

7.  Silver and Gold by Sufjan Stevens 

8. Christmas Collection 2014 by Sleeping at Last (available for free on Noisetrade)

9.  Prepare Him Room by Sovereign Grace 

10. Campfire Christmas Volume 1 by Rend Collective

So there you have it. I love Christmas music and these are definitely some of my go-tos. If you want to check out some more of my favourite Christmas music, I've got a playlist on Spotify:

And here's the video to Rend Collective's Joy to the World, because just look at it!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Monday: Brutal Romance

     Brooke Fraser is an artist that I've loved and respected for a long time. The once Hillsong singer is one of the few artists I know that puts her blood, sweat and tears into her art, and still loves every minute of it, to a ludicrously, giddy degree. Brooke Fraser's last album Flags came out in 2010 and brought a brilliant close to her folk-pop sound. Now, four years later, Brooke has moved on into edgier, synth-pop territory. It's a completely new sound for Fraser, but not completely unforeseen. Even Flags was an artistic stretch for her, and Brutal Romance makes sense. With each of her previous three albums, Fraser seemed to develop and grow, taking bigger and braver strides each time, and this new album is her at her bravest and boldest. It's clear from interviews with the New Zealand artist, that she's extremely proud of her newest work (practically beaming), and presents her new sound with a mixture of excitement and humility.

     The album opens with Fraser's raspy, sultry vocals introducing Psychosocial, a dark, take-no-prisoners number about social media. Thunder is a more upbeat number, but equally fierce. This is followed by Start a War, highly reminicent of a Lana Del Ray track, but Fraser honestly, is the superior vocalist and it shows in this number. Kings and Queens is the most appealing track to the universally, followed by Bloodrush which continues the motivational themes. In case you forgot or were momentarily distracted by the impressive audible aesthetic, Fraser reminds the listener that she's a poet, with the title track Brutal Romance. Fraser has always weaved highly intelligent lyrics in an audibly attractive package, and Brutal Romance is a solemn, grand poem put to slow building horns and piano. The track muses on the "spinning slow dance" of "life and death" the proverbial "brutal romance" we all know. 

"All shapes and colors, rolled and stained in aging hands
Sculpted explosions, histories unfold
Our Jackson Pollocked earth turns
A silent witness.
Lonely asylumed, poets bequeath attempts
Romanticizing the brutality of the ages and of us
Avarice and lust

     Je Suis Prêt, named after Fraser's Scottish family's historic mantra, continues the solemn themes about facing the darkness with courage and faith. Magical Machines use of technology as a metaphor is little derivative, but much stronger tracks  New Histories and New Year's Eve end the album with returned lyrical muscle. 

     Brutal Romance is a complete turn around for Fraser in a genre sense, but it's as calculated and logical as it is daring and audacious. Fraser is spreading her artistic wings a little further, and we reap the sweet benefits.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Monday: My Favourite Faded Fantasy Review

     It is often said that an artist is sometimes undone by his best work. In some ways this was the case with Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice. If you're a fan of his, then you're no doubt familiar with his majestic solo debut O. This album was a beautiful and transcendent piece of Indie perfection, and it was difficult to see how he could do any better. Indeed, his rushed follow-up album 9 was a disappointment (at least for me), and then Rice disappeared all together. Now Damien Rice is back after an eight-year hiatus. 

      His newest work, My Favourite Faded Fantasy (yay for European spelling!), is not an album for the impatient listener. There are no radio-worthy tracks here, no Cannonball or 9 Crimes. These are, on average, 5 minute-long suites, slowly and painstakingly brought to life, and with dramatic crescendo's brought to fruition, and then ending in transcendence. At first, I thought it was better than 9, but in no way lived up to the glorious O. Now, after a week of listening, I know O has been surpassed. 

     Rice, who's comparison to artists like Jeff Buckley is more than earned, approaches his indie folk with the passion, and gusto more in common with the opera performer on opening night, than a folk artist. His voice, which ranges from breathy whisper, to impassioned, gut-wrenching cry, lends itself well to material that touches on heartbreak, severed relationships, and paralyzing self doubt. Rice's own artistic and personal turmoil, has no doubt provided more than enough fodder for Faded Fantasy. 

      Electric/acoustic guitar, full string orchestras, horn section, and delicate piano make each song a thrilling, sorrowful, and sometimes hopeful journey. It is hard sometimes not to miss Lisa Hannigan's backing vocals and cello accompaniment, but Rice is more than enough to carry the album. As mentioned before, it's an album which requires patience on the side of the listener (just as it did to produce it), but speaking from experience, once you finally "get it", you won't want to listen to anything else. 

Thanks for coming back Damien, you were so missed!      

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The John Lewis Christmas Advert 2014

     I know it's not socially acceptable to be talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving in the States, but I'm from Ireland and we don't celebrate Thanksgiving so, sorry. I can't abide by your rules America!!! I want to do a longer post on the greatness that is Christmas in Ireland, until then, I want to talk about a special staple in Anglo/Irish Christmas commercialism; the John Lewis Christmas advert. 

The John Lewis (a UK chain) Christmas advert encompasses all the whimsy and heart that characterizes the season, features covers of famous past tunes sung by upcoming artists (they usually become chart hits during the Christmas season), and are basically little pieces of art. The latest one entitled "Monty the Penguin" came out two weeks ago. The advert is unsurprisingly heartwarming, precious and features a cover of John Lennon's Real Love by Tom Odell. While it's not as good as last year's "The Bear and the Hare" and it was kind of blown out of the water by the Sainsbury Christmas advert (I mean have you seen that!), it's still a solid entry from one of the most highly anticipated Christmas advert of the season. Here's a posting of "Monty the Penguin" and some of John Lewis' best.


"The Bear and the Hare", song is a cover of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know sung by Lily Allen 

"The Journey", song is The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, covered by my girl Gabrielle Aplin 

The 2011 entry, song "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths, covered by Slow Moving Millie  

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