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A Review of Jess Thompson’s Everyday Grace

A Review of Jess Thompson’s Everyday Grace

It’s my belief that any book that opens by quoting Janet Jackson is worth reading; Jessica Thompson’s newest book, Everyday Grace, is certainly no exception to that rule. In fact, I’d go so far to say that even without the reference to Janet Jackson the book is worth reading, and not just because Jess is a good friend. As she does in all of her written work, Jess skillfully and clearly communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ—to the doctrine of the justification of sinners—from every page. From her astute insights into the multifaceted brokenness of all our relationships to her heart-felt,…

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New Country, Same Old Sin

New Country, Same Old Sin

This one comes to us from none other than Asher Noble. FTB:

On July 16th, Australian rock band Tame Impala released their highly anticipated new album, Currents. I don’t claim to be a music critic, but I know when I hear music I like. The band released four singles off the record prior to its formal debut, which formed the soundtrack to spring for my friends and me. It’s hard to describe what was so good about these tracks, but they stuck, and we developed a somewhat cultish fandom for Tame Impala. The resulting excitement for the full-length release was new…

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Reviewing True Detective: “The Western Book of the Dead”

Reviewing True Detective: “The Western Book of the Dead”

I welcome judgment.

[Spoilers follow.] The opener of season 2 for HBO’s newest flagship seemed to do everything it could to distance itself from the expectations and tone of its first season. Where once we had the show’s reflective, philosophical voice from the haunted, brilliant, and wise Rustin Cohle, we get comic musings from a fraudish guru: “When we see the universe from God’s eyes” (to paraphrase), “it is meaningless… but God would not create a meaningless universe. Hold these ideas as true and equal.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Farrell’s sad musings – “Astronauts don’t even go to the…

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I Still Believe in Love & Mercy (and Brian Wilson)

I Still Believe in Love & Mercy (and Brian Wilson)

Saw Love & Mercy last night, and wow. As reviewers have been noting, it is not your average biopic, and certainly not much of a summer film, despite the source material. Which makes sense, I guess, since Brian Wilson is not your average bear. It has more in common with I’m Not There, than, say, Ray or Walk the Line, choosing as it does to focus on the two most dramatic periods of Brian’s life, his 1967 breakdown and his 1988 “comeback” (played by separate actors), rather than depict the full arc.

I’d read interviews where Brian himself decried the heaviness…

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When Your Life Inevitably Falls Apart: Watching BBC’s Rev.

When Your Life Inevitably Falls Apart: Watching BBC’s Rev.

I have no idea why people watch Rev. I mean, my husband and I love it. But we are both clergy. So watching a show about an Anglican priest is cathartic. Our lives have been filled with weird churchy moments. We’ve had a Pentecostal Korean congregation secretly use our church at 5am for months without anyone knowing (I found them one morning on my way to spin class, like you do). And we’ve had parishioners walk right into our rectories (church owned housing) without knocking and tell us they didn’t like our paint color choices. Sure, there are moments of…

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Musical Duo Lowland Hum Talks Freedom, Performancism, and Toulouse-Lautrec

Musical Duo Lowland Hum Talks Freedom, Performancism, and Toulouse-Lautrec

“I hope my body is only a shell, a shadow at dusk, the ring of a bell.” So sings Lowland Hum, husband and wife Daniel and Lauren Goans, in their new song “Older, Wiser.” Lyrics like these, both subtle and intense, reflect the substance of their second full-length project, a self-titled album released this past April. As one reviewer put it, “It is a sin to take for granted the lyrics in this album.” Spilling out from one guitar and some incredible vocals, Lowland Hum’s wide-ranging music ultimately serves as a reminder of freedom, and grace, and death, and how all of…

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Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

In the can’t-make-this-up department, someone commented on The Guardian’s review of John Gray’s The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom:

While science is the only game in town in deepening our understanding reality, obviously, philosophers and experts in history are also pretty handy to have around.

Here is a distorted picture of British philosopher/public intellectual John Gray’s ideal of the graceful (because un-self-conscious) marionette: someone likely careening this way and that through life, with no semblance of where he’s going or what it all means. This blindness is typical of triumphalism, and we live in triumphalistic times, times…

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Why Am I Dead? Revisiting The Black Parade

Why Am I Dead? Revisiting The Black Parade

This one comes to us from Caleb Stallings:

Recently, I found myself listening to a favorite band from my adolescence: My Chemical Romance. I know, I know… The certifiable kings of emo rock! I should be embarrassed by this, right? Some people certainly think so. When I mentioned my appreciation for them recently on Facebook, I was met with an immediate and sarcastic reply, “So are you gonna start painting your nails black now?” The response got me thinking about why I used to (and still do) find MCR compelling. I can hardly think of a more vilified band from my…

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Water, Blood and Gasoline: The Full-Throttle Gospel of Mad Max: Fury Road

Water, Blood and Gasoline: The Full-Throttle Gospel of Mad Max: Fury Road

Heads-up: While I do my best to minimize them, if you’re concerned about spoilers, rush out now and see the film.

“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood.” The film’s opening words declare an existence that is already hell, life and death hardly distinguishable under universal wrath. Small pockets of humanity, if not civilization, persist within the wastelands, the scraps of the Before Time (an Edenic memory of our world) savagely contested among desert warlords and their gangs of deranged motorheads. Ordinary folk are complicit, brutalized or both. Max himself, tormented by visions of loved ones whose lives…

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No Human Voice: A Review of Doug Burr’s Pale White Dove

No Human Voice: A Review of Doug Burr’s Pale White Dove

This comes to us from Matt Redmond:

And I stepped out slowly between that sordid throng
Comin’ not a word – soundin’ like a song
While it just kept goin’, I just walked on
A song with no human voice

I don’t know where Doug Burr gets his songs from. But I would assume they come from a similar place as Flannery O’Connor’s stories. You expect Hazel Motes or The Misfit to show up any moment.

The first song I ever heard from Burr came out of nowhere. After stumbling onto a website looking for something else, I found myself listening to…

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New Music: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

New Music: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

Recently while hanging out with some friends, one of our laptops was being passed around as a few of us were selecting favorite Youtube music videos to share. A few days prior, I had watched Father John Misty’s excellent Take Away Show performance of “I Went To The Store One Day” (below) and it was the first video that came to mind when I thought of what to share. After a few minutes of further thought though, I ultimately decided not to show it. Something about sharing it in this setting didn’t feel right. It was too awkward and vulnerable…

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A Mess of Help: Reviews, Recording, and Reddi-Whip

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 few 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.”

Finally, over at LIBERATE, Zac Hicks calls A Mess of Help “A Book on Rock that Both Melts Your Face and Slays Your Soul… Just as it Should”:

It would be much too simplistic, and probably close to an insult, to describe this book as a “Gospel according to [name that band]” volume. Zahl is actually more deep and honest than that. It’s probably more accurate to describe A Mess of Help as teasing out of all the glory and grime of rock n roll history, all of which beg for answers that can only be found in the grace of God in Christ. And the best part is that A Mess of Help doesn’t use the artists as a platform for something else. It operates out of a deep knowledge and love of all the musicians and music at hand, and it journeys through the very questions that those musicians ask in their lives and work… I can’t recommend it highly enough.