Reviews

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 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!

The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014

The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014

Some years of theology publications are better than others, and to be honest the crop has not been so plentiful this year. But the books that have come out are pretty fantastic, and well worth a read.

The Second Letter to the Corinthians by Mark Seifrid. This is not your normal commentary! Rather than retreading ad nauseum all of usual topics commentaries cover like authorship, dating, provenance, Greek parsings etc., Seifrid’s main purpose is to explicate Paul’s theological logic throughout the book. The Paul that emerges is one of real theological breadth and profound commitment to the grace of God in…

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Fury at the Cross(roads): The Gospel in the Violence of History

Fury at the Cross(roads): The Gospel in the Violence of History

Another great contribution from Michael W. Nicholson, this reflection on the film Fury’s religious dimension first appeared on his blog, Tides of God.

The most religious film many moviegoers will see this year will not be an inspirational story from a faith-based production company; it will be writer-director David Ayer’s WWII tank combat epic Fury. And in some ways Fury is also a more compelling narrative about redemption than many of the sermons preached from Church pulpits on any given Sunday.

Fury is a slice-of-combat-life story that follows a few days’ action of a Sherman tank crew during the final campaign against Germany in…

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The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

In one of the final chapters of Lena Dunham’s new memoir Not That Kind of Girl, entitled “Therapy & Me”, Lena describes her first anxiety-ridden experience of sitting down as a germophobic, obsessive-compulsive nine-year-old with a prospective shrink. It is a “quirky, self-destructive Lena” moment, like so many moments in her book, and her show Girls, and so it would be nearly unremarkable if it weren’t for the subtext:

The first doctor, a violet-haired grandma-aged woman with a German surname, asks me a few simple questions and then invites me to play with the toys scattered across her floor. She sits…

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The Hill and Wood Lets a Good Thing Grow

With an icy breeze blowing through the East Coast, what say we warm up with a glimpse at the charming video for “Let a Good Thing Grow”, the main single off The Hill and Wood’s excellent, new Opener EP. Everyone is giving birth to something, indeed:

LET A GOOD THING GROW from Charlotte Hornsby on Vimeo.

The rest of the EP is just as breath-taking and exquisitely crafted, packed with beautiful harmonies and gorgeously unwinding melodies. Even after 100-plus listens, “Oil Spill” still gives goose bumps. And the second half of “The First Time” may be the most rapturous music these two have committed to tape (which is saying something).

Full disclosure: The Hill and Wood is led by the ueber-talented Sam Bush, a name you may have seen on here before. Fortunately for us, Sam has also just recorded a side project with bluegrass singer Kathryn Caine, A Very Love and Mercy Christmas. I know it’s too early to bust out the carols, but when you do, this is our pick of the season.

David Bazan’s Latest, Bazan Monthly Vol. 1

David Bazan’s Latest, Bazan Monthly Vol. 1

Back in September, I finally attended one of David Bazan’s living room shows, after years of missing out. He did not disappoint. Lit by flickering candles, with a cool fall breeze blowing through the room, the erstwhile Pedro the Lion entertained not just with great music, but with his trademark self-deprecation and unflinching honesty as he fielded questions from the audience. While, outside of a few side projects, Bazan hasn’t released new music since 2011’s Strange Negotiations, earlier this year he began recording two songs per month, dubbing this collection Bazan Monthly Vol. 1. A few weeks before the living…

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Ben Howard’s Latest: Bad Catholicism

Ben Howard’s Latest: Bad Catholicism

For a number of reasons, I’m really glad I used Amazon Prime and pre-ordered Ben Howard’s latest album, I Forget Where We Were. Reason 1: I basked in Christmas-like joy when I got home Tuesday afternoon to find the album ready and waiting on my doorstep. Reason 2: The so-beautiful lyrics, which would otherwise elude me for all his British slurring, are printed inside the front cover.

If you’re not yet a Ben Howard groupie like myself, it’s possible you’ve heard of him from this rad song featured in Season 4 of The Walking Dead. And if still, somehow, he has…

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Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

1. It’s a little too easy, but Barry Ritholtz over at Bloomberg helpfully reminds us that Ebola is no threat to the personal health of 99.99% of Americans, which goes into a broader point:

We fear the awesome predatory perfection of the great white shark, and have made the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” “the longest-running cable television programming event in history.” This seems somewhat disproportionate, given that 10 people a year die from shark attacks — out of more than 7 billion people. If you want to fear a living creature, than logic suggests it’s the mosquito — they kill more human…

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Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Love and Logos in the Dying of the Light

Reviewing Sons of Bill’s new record.

A couple of years ago, The New Yorker asked “Whatever happened to movies for grownups?” It’s an important question, and one that has only become more pronounced since David Denby posed it, and not just at the multiplex. In fact, nowhere does it apply more than to the carcass that passes for commercial rock and roll these days. There may have been a time when literacy and restraint didn’t automatically throw you into a niche market, but that time seems to have gone, for better or worse. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong…

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God Helped The Girl

God Helped The Girl

I guess it’s impossible to write about God Help the Girl, the new musical film written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, without weighing in on the larger aesthetic it embodies, what some have even called a movement: Twee. But I’m going to try, as we’ve tread that ground a number of times already. Suffice it to say, if ice cream cones (with pirouette cookies), Left Banke singles, and coonskin caps turn your stomach, you probably won’t be able to get beyond the window-dressing on this one. As the opening line of The Vulture review put it,…

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U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

That didn’t take long! This review comes to us from Nathan Hart:

The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.

It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed…

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