Music
The Gaslight Anthem Got Hurt

The Gaslight Anthem Got Hurt

In the trend of recent conversation pieces, Blake (B.I.C.) and I bring you a discussion of The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album Get Hurt.

Carl: First off, how do you feel about “break-up” albums? Intense emotional pain and torment have produced classic albums like Blood on the Tracks, but more often than not I find “break-up” records to be less interesting than others. Get Hurt is certainly a “break-up” record, and while that adds an emotional rawness missing from Gaslight Anthem’s earlier work, I felt as if Fallon’s lyrics lost some of the universality they have on Handwritten and The ’59 Sound.

Blake: As far as…

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Agnetha Faltskog Is God? (Mbird Find of the Century)

As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds far-fetched, but the sensation is a spiritual one. In an instant, the impersonal universe evaporates and the existence of God seems like a foregone conclusion. And not just any God but a God that cares about, well, you. It happened when I stumbled across Elvis Presley’s “Let Us Pray”. Same thing when I heard the story behind The Monkees’ “St. Matthew”. But this one may take the cake: the lead off track on Agnetha Faltskog’s second solo album (you know, the girl who put the ‘A’ in ABBA). Written by none other than ELO maestro Jeff Lynne–especially for her!–and produced by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, I’m sure you’ll agree that the circle is now complete:

To quote Elaine Benes, I have no speech. I mean, a Wilbury-written OWL, sung by ‘the girl with the golden hair’, the one who was by all accounts the most damaged by her former group’s astronomical success?! It’s too much. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to repost Paul Zahl’s classic formulation (which Fall Conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian has run with so convincingly and enthusiastically). While PZ clearly takes the phrase in a different direction than Agnetha, by no means does his usage rule out the ‘unrequited’ aspect–it just switches the roles, i.e. Agnetha sings from the God’s-eye point of view, ‘natch:

article-2213169-006FA67000000258-499_468x763Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. It sounds a little 1970s (as in “Have a Nice Day!”). Yet the words are apt.

Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”

PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

Episode 172: Phony Wars

This purports to be an attack of reality in the midst of “phony wars”.

I am always struck by the truth of pop songs. Not all of them, but some of them. Such as “Waterloo” by ABBA. (Mary and I were there, as it were, when ABBA hit, stuck at a “Saturday Dance” (Geoff Goddard) during the spring of 1974 in the parish hall of Holy Trinity, Hounslow. As soon as we heard the song, and watched the girls line-dancing to ABBA, we knew we weren’t stuck any more. We got up ourselves, tho’ I’m no Diamond.)

There was…

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Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:

2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…

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Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Last week the highly-publicized civil war between The Civil Wars came to a not-so-shocking conclusion: They have broken up, for good.

The folk duo went on hiatus in November 2012, cancelling their tour and kicking up a storm of speculation about alleged “internal discord.” The conflict, which remains ambiguous, didn’t prevent the duo from releasing a second and final album last summer. After a year of silence, they once again make headlines only to quash whatever hope remained that they might reconcile and get back on the road. In memoriam: Snafu aside, The Civil Wars made fantastic music.

Although never romantically “together,”…

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New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

“Treat Her Better”, and “Go Easy”: the voice of pleading fights down that of advice in Demarco’s latest release.

Mac Demarco’s Salad Days has been, strangely enough, a joy to listen to. If I were a music critic, I’d try and fail to describe the playful self-awareness, the almost-total coincidence between irony and sincerity, etc. I can’t describe musical form too precisely, but suffice it to say, it’s tailored extremely well to the album’s content. And the content is stunning – or would be, if it didn’t have so many layers of irony and alienation covering it over.

In this case, that’s…

PZ’s Podcast: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

EPISODE 171: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

IMG_3572Guess I never tire of quoting Gerald Heard’s maxim about opting out: “The verb to escape is clear enough — it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

There’s a long back-and-forth within the history of Christian endeavor as to the relative merit of engaging a fallen world in the hope of transforming it; or opting out of it in order to watch, wait and pray. Many dedicated saints have taken the first road. Many others have taken the second. There is obviously room for both.

This podcast examines the second road, and offers another element, too. You could entitle the talk “Feel to Heal”. I believe it, in any event.

Something happened to me on the 26th of July in London, Ontario. I knew it was happening when it was happening. It was even captured “on tape”. You can hear it at the end of this cast, about five minutes into the concluding music. “Good God,” I said to my friend — over the shouting — “he’s really doing it!” Speechless we were. Hope you will be, too, in a good way.

Take Sinead O’Connor to Church

The official video for Sinead’s awesome new anthem dropped over the weekend and needless to say there’s a lot going on in it. Almost feels like a tailor-made response to The Huffington Post piece mentioned below:

New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

On the heels of obsessing over Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, Matthew Linder and I found another target for our obsession in French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait. The band is made from members of We Barbarians and Cold War Kids, and most of the lyrical content comes straight out of the poetry of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and mystic. Here are the results of a conversation surrounding one of the deepest albums we have heard in quite a while.

Matt: So what did you think about “All the Way Down”?

Blake: That track is just so credal. I can’t ignore that…

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Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

1. Buried in a weekender earlier this month, you may have seen the, er, shocking report of a study conducted at UVA (of all places!) that found that “People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone With Their Thoughts.” If you dismissed it as classic social science clickbait, Lord knows you’d have our sympathy. But it would appear the findings were for real. In an article for The NY Times this week, Kate Murphy expanded on them substantially, folding in a number of our hobby horses along the way (compulsive busyness, over-distraction, Romans 7, even male underachievement), while curiously missing a golden opportunity…

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Just One of the Guys?

Just One of the Guys?

Stephanie Phillips on what it means to be a woman (sort of) in Jenny Lewis’s new album, The Voyager.

“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

It was perhaps the best “mid-game entrance” routine in the history of sports. I certainly can’t think of anything that comes close. When Mariano Rivera strolled out of the bullpen in Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, it was game over. The ominous, yet melodic heavy metal tune certainly added to the mystique. It truly stunk to be on the opposing team.

Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
Off to never never land

Rivera not only has the most saves in baseball history, he also has the highest save percentage (89%) among the all-time greats.  (The save statistic is defined for closers as either…

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St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

The past few weeks have offered us a particularly difficult news cycle. A passenger plane was shot down in Ukraine. People continue to die in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And at home in America, children have crossed our borders alone and scared, longing for something less violent than the places they left.

I find myself wanting to do something, anything, to make it better. At this point I have been to all the relief websites. I know I can give money. If we knew Spanish, we could foster a child. And past that, I am basically out of options and stuck feeling…

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The Courage to Be “Weird”

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The internet got a little bit stranger this week with the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s newest album, Mandatory Fun. For close to 40 years now, Weird Al has embraced everything counterculture, playfully mocking the earnestness of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s versions of “cool.” From Michael Jackson to Celine Dion, from Star Wars to the Beverly Hillbillies, there are few pop culture themes and memes that the musical master of parody has left untouched.

Weird Al predates me. I discovered him as a nerdy elementary schooler at a friend’s sleep-over. All we third and fourth graders howled with laughter,…

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The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

I heard Gavin Bryar’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” for the first time in college late one night while perusing the internet for new music. This was during a particularly dark period in my life after a recent breakup where I spent many a night on the internet distracting myself with music blogs, Facebook, or AddictingGames.com. I happened upon a positive review endorsing the piece and intrigued by the concept and backstory, I downloaded it and pressed play. Normally, I would listen to music on my laptop while continuing to browse the internet but minutes after the song started,…

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