Music


Launching a Book (and Squirting Reddi-Whip Into Brian Wilson’s Mouth)

An extremely heartfelt thank you to all who helped put on the launch party for A Mess of Help this past Saturday at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, especially Dusty Brown, Melina Smith, and William Brafford. It was a blast, from start to finish. If you weren’t able to make it (and/or are currently trapped by snow), the audio is available! You can listen below in fact:

I was also gratified to see a couple of reviews crop up on outlets that I greatly respect. Perhaps it’s gauche for the author to publicly thank his critics, but who cares–it’s a rare thing to feel so deeply understood by anyone, let alone people you admire. First, there was John J Thompson’s flattering and supremely articulate write-up for ThinkChristian. The opening remark mirrors how I felt after reading his review:

“I would say that books like David Zahl’s A Mess of Help make me feel less alone in the world, if there were any other books like David Zahl’s A Mess Of Help to be found. The fact is, there are not… With great humor, candor and spiritual insight – and an insanely passionate musical vocabulary – Zahl crafts rant after rant that would be equally at home in the film High Fidelity as in a Bible study. It’s like he’s having a long, funny, interesting and rambling conversation with all of the voices in his head. That some of those voices seem also to be the ones in my head is overwhelmingly comforting.”

That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to keep writing. Prost, Herr Thompson! Second, Curator Magazine published a full-length treatment by William Brafford, who conducted the interview on Saturday. I always knew I liked him…! There are any number of paragraphs I could excerpt. Here’s one:

IMG_6822“Humor and passion practically drip from the pages of A Mess of Help. Love of paradox is said to be Lutheran trait. You’ll find it here, especially in an amazing essay that rediscovers the bizarre Elvis movie Change of Habit in all its kitschy glory. Dave writes, “Elvis Presley was not ridiculous, then amazing. He was both at the same time.” Dave’s collection of bizarre Elvis anecdotes is rivaled only by his collection of bizarre Brian Wilson anecdotes, like the one where Wilson tells a reporter something amazing and profound about God’s love as the power behind the universe, and then totters off into the kitchen to squirt Reddi-Whip into his mouth.”

Thanks again to everyone who came, don’t forget to stay tuned to the Olmsted page for future events, and please, for the love of God, keep on chooglin!

Mining Netflix: Performancism and The School of Rock

Mining Netflix: Performancism and The School of Rock

Did you watch the Golden Globes on Sunday? One of the biggest stories from this year was the accolades given to Boyhood, an epic-of-the-ordinary that took 12 years to film. We wrote about Boyhood back when it came out, and if you read that post you’ll get a sense of why its director, Richard Linklater, won top honors on Sunday. Oddly enough, though, as Linklater was bestowed his award, my twitter feed was not filled with applause for Boyhood, but for another project of his: 2003’s School of Rock.

Why in the world would School of Rock be so well remembered over a…

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Lucinda Williams and All the Forgettable Epiphanies

Lucinda Williams and All the Forgettable Epiphanies

Tuesday was the Feast of the Epiphany, the day in which we celebrate the Christ child revealed to the Magi, the rulers of the East, the Word of God made plain to the Gentiles. It brings to a close the twelve days of Christmas, and what a way to do it–with the showcasing of God’s Son to the whole pagan world, not just the choicest cuts.

And what was Lucinda Williams doing? Besides preparing for a short tour along the Gulf of Mexico, she was mourning the death of her father, Miller Williams, the acclaimed poet whose lyrics actually open the…

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Why I Spent Last Year Writing a Book About Pop Music

Why I Spent Last Year Writing a Book About Pop Music

Thought I’d kick off the new year with the introduction from A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll (minus the footnotes), something of a personal essay and one which spells out a bit of the thinking behind this whole Mockingbird project.

It was the kind of question that sticks with a person, especially when they’re seventeen. My father asked me one day, out of the blue, “What do you think matters more to people your age—music or movies? Which has more influence?” Even then, I knew enough not to speak for ‘people my age’. But my…

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January Playlist

We’re experimenting with a new format for our playlists. Hope you dig and Happy New Year!

P.S. That amazing Nettles song is an Mbird exclusive. Check out their stuff here.

Music for a Turbulent World: Top Ten Albums of the Year

Music for a Turbulent World: Top Ten Albums of the Year

2014, like many of the past few years, found me going through a number of transitions: moving to a new state, making new friends, starting at a new school, etc. As usual, music kept me company on long car rides and helped me persist through the emotional up and downs of starting over again. Alongside these transitions, a number of people in my life had loved ones, young and old, pass away this year, a strong reminder that death, sin, and sadness are yet to be vanquished. Finally, on a national level, the inner turmoil of America bubbled up again…

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Joyce Manor, Father John Misty, and Other 2014 Favorites

Joyce Manor, Father John Misty, and Other 2014 Favorites

As I’ve gotten older (read: lazier), I’ve had seemingly less time to scour the internet for hours for new music.  I think I’ve consumed less and less music each year after college to the point where I always feel the need to play catch-up this time of year when websites start publishing their end of year lists and roundups. I spent a lot of time in 2014 though just trying to enjoy the albums I enjoyed again and again without the need to seek out and explore all the albums that I was “supposed to listen to” (this is not…

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Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

There’s one particularly ‘seasonal’ portion of A Mess of Help, and here it is (minus the copious footnotes). Longtime readers may recognize portions, but this is the published and much-expanded version, which comes in the book’s final chapter, track nine of “Sing Mockingbird Sing: The Alpha and Omega of Annotated Playlists”. Enjoy:

I am quite proud of my office. It has taken a decade or two, but I finally feel like I’ve collected a suitable constellation of mementos to display. There’s the foldout from the ET: Picture Book record, which has Michael Jackson posing for what appears to be a school…

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What Happened at the Debut of Handel’s Messiah

Priceless anecdote from the beginning of The Smithsonian’s rundown of “The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah”, published in 2009, ht PNW:

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah was originally an Easter offering. It burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience swelled to a record 700, as ladies had heeded pleas by management to wear dresses “without Hoops” in order to make “Room for more company.” Handel’s superstar status was not the only draw; many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce.

The men and women in attendance sat mesmerized from the moment the tenor followed the mournful string overture with his piercing opening line: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Soloists alternated with wave upon wave of chorus, until, near the midway point, Cibber intoned: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So moved was the [Anglican clergyman] Rev. Patrick Delany that he leapt to his feet and cried out: “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”

Reflections on America’s Happiest City

Reflections on America’s Happiest City

Four and a half months ago, Charlottesville, VA was named the happiest city in America. As the happiest blogger in the happiest city, I feel like I should do some commenting.

In the original paper for the happiness study, the researchers are careful to note that they’re measuring only “self-reported” happiness, a qualifier lost in some of the news outlets which reported it. To oversimplify things, we could view one’s self-reported level of happiness as consisting of three factors: (1) happiness itself, (2) pressures to lie on the survey, and (3) self-deception about perceived happiness. Since the survey was anonymous and Sandford,…

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A Mockingbird Gift Guide (2014 Edition)

A Mockingbird Gift Guide (2014 Edition)

Last year’s gift guide was so popular that we’ve decided to make it an annual tradition. Apologies in advance for once again not straying too far from our books/movies/music wheelhouse.

For Those About to Host a Christmas Party: A Very Love and Mercy Christmas by Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine

For Your Friend Who Is Always Complaining About How Bad the Sermons Are at Their Church: Sermons of Grace by John Zahl

For Anyone Looking to Spice Up Their Office or Bring Their Inner Child to Work: An assortment of Funko’s “Reaction Figures”. Recommendations include Chunk from The Goonies, Zoe from Firefly, Kane…

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An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

An Imaginative Festival of Lessons and Carols

A yearly Christmas pleasure is King’s College at Cambridge’s famous Festival of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, nine lessons and nine carols with a beautiful choir and traditional music. For those who just can’t wait, here’s a bit of the rationale of the King’s College service, followed by an Mbird-friendly, fresh and down-to-earth spinoff to tide you over:

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who, at the age of thirty-four, had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that…

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