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Sin and Grace in Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle

Sin and Grace in Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle

This one comes to us from Cody Gainous. 

Julien Baker believes in God. So reads the title of Rachel Syme’s excellent piece on the Memphis, TN native for The New Yorker back in April. When I say that sin and grace are the themes of Julien’s debut Sprained Ankle, I’m not stretching, or even saying anything that Baker would not say herself. This is an album filled with explicitly Christian imagery, and the artist, born and raised in the Bible Belt, unapologetically claims Christianity and apparently attends Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro.

When I saw the New Yorker article, I immediately…

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PZ’s Podcast: Hey, Everybody

PZ’s Podcast: Hey, Everybody


Gosh, I like Tommy Roe!

But why?

Well, partly, because his songs are catchy and sweet, and especially “Everybody” (1963). But “Dizzy” (1969) also makes me… dizzy.

The real reason a person likes a song — or really likes a song — is that it speaks for them. Or speaks to them. Or speaks from them. The song “resonates”, to use the idiom, with you. In other words, it’s not just the song. It’s the part of you that connects to the song.

All these things we like so much (i.e., pop songs, videos, movies, novels, television shows, poems, paintings) draw something out…

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EpiscoDisco: The Documentary – Out Now!

Let’s face it–this is probably the single coolest thing Mockingbird has ever been involved with, or will ever be involved with. I’m talking about the short documentary on DJ JAZ and “The Episco Disco” that VICE (and their electronic music division Thump) filmed at our conference in NYC this year. A culmination of culminations! Of course, if it’s all downhill from here, at least our decline will have a killer soundtrack.

Those in the United States can click on the image below to watch ten of the greatest minutes of the year. Those in other countries will either have to get crafty, or wait til the video hits youtube later this year:


And if by some sad circumstance you missed the session John mentions in the clip, never fear: we got you covered.

July Playlist

The Love You Gave Me, Nothing Else Can Save Me

A stunning cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” appeared this week on Portishead’s Facebook page, in response to the killing of British politician Jo Cox last week. The song transcends context, however, something which the new arrangement makes all too clear. A prayer of epic proportions:

This comes only three weeks after the Swedish megastars occupied the same stage for the first time in almost 30 years. What better opening to post a few paragraphs from the “Crying ABBA” chapter of A Mess of Help:

If there’s a downside to scoring so many number one singles, it’s that [ABBA’s] albums have been overshadowed by their hits. They recorded eight LPs over the course of nine years, and all of them are pretty terrific. But albums are what serious artists make, and up until very recently, ABBA were considered pop stars. Their squeaky clean image—the silly outfits, the disco dance routines, the somewhat loose grasp of English—has not helped their reputation as bubblegum fluff. Of course, you cannot completely blame the public. A song like “Put On Your White Sombrero” doesn’t exactly command respect.

And yet, if we know anything about the group, it’s that appearances can be deceiving. The smiling publicity shots hid the crumbling marriages of both couples in the band: Bjorn & Agnetha and Benny & Frida. (Or, as they’re more commonly known, the Mullet & the Blonde, the Beard & the Redhead.) The ultimate feel-good band of the 70s did not sing about very happy subjects. “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, with its sparkling guitars and upbeat melody, tells a heartbreaking and rather hopeless story of divorce. “S.O.S.” surfs a joyous chorus to relate feelings of genuine desperation. “The Name of the Game” is almost too vulnerable for words. The sexual bluster of “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” is a red herring. Behind the disco gloss, the song reeks of loneliness and depression, a prayer for someone to “chase the shadows away” and “take me through the darkness to the break of the day”. (It’s also about as Christological as they ever got). Perhaps they were more Scandinavian than we thought.

The secret to ABBA’s lasting popularity (or at least ubiquity) is that their relationship songs are more concerned with emotional truth than propriety or correctness. Listen to a later single like “One of Us”—the singer has left her lover, she’s got her own space now, but she is not happy. Late at night, when she can’t sleep, she knows she is lying to herself. If she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t have left. Such an admission may not sound like that of a ‘strong woman’, but it certainly sounds like that of a real one. Or their devastating “The Winner Takes It All”, which presents love in startlingly binary terms, acknowledging that, as one critic read the song, “a person should be able to have it all, but it’s just not possible.” In other words, ‘should’ and ‘is’ collide in the music of ABBA, and the results have enduring power.

Don’t Let Me, Don’t Let Me, Don’t Let Me Down

Don’t Let Me, Don’t Let Me, Don’t Let Me Down

Last weekend, I went on a mini-staycation with some of my dear girlfriends from young adulthood. Between the group of us, we’ve suffered (either directly or indirectly) illness, addiction, money issues, mental health woes, parenting struggles, job uncertainties, and marital difficulties – in a nutshell: life. We spent the day at the pool catching up, and then stayed up late into the night (okay, 9:30 or 10 tops) discussing politics and grooming habits and all manner of subject-matter generally considered taboo at the dinner table. We did what all women do when two or more are gathered and rosé is…

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“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”…and That’s a Good Thing

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”…and That’s a Good Thing

This one comes to us from SM White.

I can’t get no satisfaction…I try and I try and I try and I try…When I’m watchin’ my TV and a man comes on and tells me how white my shirts can be. But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me – The Rolling Stones, 1965

I can’t get no satisfaction. That song was written over 40 years ago, and yet Mick Jagger’s anger at the demands of consumerism still rings true today. “Your life can be improved; it needs to be improved–in fact, you aren’t complete, you haven’t…

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The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago

June Playlist

New feature: See if you can spot the JAZ pick.

Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel, Pt 44

Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music (1975-1985)

Hope you have a shovel handy cause here comes a treasure trove! This session from The Rev DJ JAZ in NYC was truly one of a kind. Legendary perhaps? You tell me:

Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music (1975-1985): An EpiscoDisco Primer – John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Why All Christian Music Sounds the Same (Even When it Doesn’t)

Why All Christian Music Sounds the Same (Even When it Doesn’t)

The other day, my sister (who was visiting from out of town) walked into our kitchen during the chaos that is breakfast prep. Over the usual din (“What cereal do you want? Oh, all three kinds? No, it’s too late for eggs”) she heard the song that we were listening to (it happened to be “Wake Up Sleeper” by Zac Hicks and Coral Ridge Worship) and, after probably three seconds, said, “Is this Christian music?”

I’ve had this conversation many times during my life–why is it that you can always identify “Christian music” within seconds of hearing it?–but I’ve never been…

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