November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor

November 21, 2007

Christmas Albums









I have almost completed my 1993 post, but I am going to take a break from it and do one short post about Christmas albums. I LOVE Christmas music, but it's hard to find unique, good Christmas music. Here is a list of a few I enjoy:

Mindy Smith- My Holiday
I just got this with an iTunes gift card today, it is awesome. Many great original songs, a few traditional ones, all in folk style with Mindy's beautiful voice. Best song on the album is one Mindy wrote, "Follow the Shepherd Home." Alison Krauss also contributes BGVs. I have only listened to the album twice, but I love it already.

Sufjan Stevens- Songs for Christmas (available on emusic)
Incredibly thorough and diverse, actually made up of 5 EPs spanning 5 years. A variety of Christmas classics and new songs written by Sufjan is various styles. Buy the box set, you get 5 CDs and tons of extras like chords, lyrics, stickers, a poster and a nice cardboard box. 42 songs in all. If you get this, definitely buy the box, don't just buy the mp3s.

Jars of Clay- Christmas Songs (on emusic)
Newest album on the list, very good. A nice mix of hymns, Christmas classics, and originals all arranged in folk-rock style.

Over the Rhine- Snow Angels
Over the Rhine's newest Christmas album, consisting of all original songs. Outstanding, one of their better albums. Was released last year independently, this year I think it should be available in stores.

Over the Rhine- Darkest Night of the Year (on emusic)
Over the Rhine's more traditional Christmas album, released a decade ago. Album is surprisingly about half instrumental. Not thier strongest work, but definitely worth getting cheaply off emusic.

Low- Christmas (on emusic)
I am not really that much of a fan of Low, but I love this album. Easily my favorite thing they have ever done. A few hymns, but highlighted by two songs they wrote- "If you were born today" (covered recently by Jimmy Eat World, you can buy their version on iTunes) and "Long way around the sea" (covered a few years ago by Pedro the Lion on one of their many Christmas 7" records).

Noel (out of print, but you can download it for free right here)
Probably my favorite Christmas album, because I have been listening to it for so long. Recorded by various artists, but cohesively, not each artist recording a seperate song. This was probably the precursor of the City on a Hill albums (brainchild of Derri Daughery and Steve Hindalong of the Choir). Featuring Michael Pritzl, Riki Michele, Jenny Gullen, Buddy & Julie Miller, etc.

Leigh Nash- Wishing for This (on emusic)
Great EP of originals, covers, and classics.

A Winter's Night (on emusic)
A mostly folk album with lots of nice songs from Nickel Creek, the Weepies, Sixpence, Hem, the Be Good Tanyas, Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavinge, etc. I have gotten most of the tracks off emusic, but not all of them yet.

Even though I am not a fan of the band, I am considering getting the new Relient K Christmas album. Matthew Thiessen (lead singer) has written one of my favorite Christmas songs that was on a Tooth and Nail sampler years ago, called "I Hate Christmas Parties."

November 8, 2007

Best of 1992

It has been about six weeks since my last top-10 list, the best of 1991. My original intention was to do one of these every few days, and if I am going to finish before the end of the year, I am going to have to. Probably unrealistic, but I do have a lot of time off from work coming up soon. Anyway, here we go with 1992. Just like my 1991 list, only one of these albums did I hear at the time, the R.E.M. The other albums I didn't discover until at least couple years later.

1. Mortal-Lusis
The first of three masterpieces by Jyro (Please make more music!) and Jerome (how the heck did he end up in Switchfoot?). What originally attracted me to the album was the Star Trek samples (yep I was a Trekkie, maybe I still am?), but eventually fell in love with everything about this techno-industrial release. At the time I had never heard anything like it. I am pretty sure I bought this in 1994, after I bought "Fathom". Heard initially on the A-Zone. Best song: "Mytho-X"

2. Seventy Sevens- Pray Naked
Album was actually self-titled due to Christian bookstores deeming the original title "sinful." Apparently one should not pray in the shower? Anyway, they missed the 77s point- 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Probably my second-favorite 77s album behind the first one I owned, "Drowning with Land in Sight." Good mix of styles, from light pop-rock to edgier bluesy rock. Michael Roe took advantage of the addition of the Harmon brothers to the band, and used some of their Strawmen songs. I have many memories listening to this album all summer at beach project in 1996. Best song: "Look"

3. R.E.M.- Automatic for the People*
I heard the radio singles in 1992 ("Drive" & "Everybody Hurts"), but it wasn't until 1995 (when I saw R.E.M. in concert, with Radiohead opening) that I bought the album and fell in love with it. Probably R.E.M.'s most popular album. My favorite song on the album is "Nightswimming", which is definitely in my top-10 favorite songs of all time. I remember the first time I heard the song I was at the Rosenbaum's house in Franklin, TN at their annual Christmas party. This probably would have been December 1994. Chris Martin (Coldplay) has also been heard saying this is "the greatest song ever written."

Also of note, 2007 is the 15th anniversary of this album, and all the albums from 1992 obviously. Stereogum has put together a free tribute to "Automatic for the People" that you can download here. The tribute is mainly by unknown bands, but it is excellent. Bodies of Water's cover of "Everybody Hurts" is outstanding. Best song: "Nightswimming"

4. Adam Again- Dig
Another artist discovered thanks to the A-Zone. I really liked Adam Again all through high school, but I don't think I really appreciated them until I saw them at Cornerstone in 1997. Adam Again never really reached it's potential, partially due to Gene Eugene's tragic death in 2000. Ironically, Gene's vocals are often compared to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. I just this minute learned tons of new stuff about Gene Eugene on his Wikipedia page. Best song: "River on Fire" (The story of the Cuyahoga River actually catching on fire is fascinating.)

5. L.S.U.- The Grape Prophet
1992 was, in a way, the year of Michael Knott. He released what many consider his best solo album and best band album in the same year. They are not my favorites of his, but they are both outstanding. This is is a concept album, and here is a 1992 article explaining the premise. It took me a long time to track down this album in college, because it went out of print very quickly, as with all of the Blonde Vinyl releases. And at the time, if you didn't own a physical copy of an album there was no other way to hear it. Definitely no Michael Knott on the radio, except the A-Zone and my own radio show. At one point I probably could have sold the CD on eBay for $50. Best song: "English Interpreter of English"

6. Poor Old Lu- Star Studded Super Step
This was Poor Old Lu's first full-length, but in 1992 only a cassette demo. It was later independently released on CD in 1995, and then again on CD in 1998 with different artwork and a shorter tracklisting. I have the 1995 CD version, which I got straight from Jesse Sprinkle (drummer for Lu, Demon Hunter, Dead Poetic, etc.). I will never forget getting it because he mailed it to me and a couple of Poor Old Lu t-shirts in a cereal box (Fruity Pebbles, maybe?).
Anyway, about the album, it is rough obviously as it is a demo, but I find it to be terrific. Many of these songs ended up as much better, finalized versions on "Mindsize". However, the best song was never released again. Best song: "A Snowfallen Desert"

7. Lost Dogs- Scenic Routes
I discovered the Lost Dogs upon the release of their next album, but this one is definitely their best. The band was started as a one-time collaboration between Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos), Michael Roe (the 77s), Derri Daughtery (The Choir) and Gene Eugene (Adam Again). However, the band eventually because equally popular as any of the members' original bands, and in recent years has been the primary engine for many of these guys' creativity. Extremely diverse stylistically, ranging from folk, country, rock and blues. Best song: "The Last Testament of Angus Shane" (beautifully sung by Gene Eugene)

8. Michael Knott- Screaming Brittle Siren
Most of Knott's solo releases are more acoustic based, but this one is equally as rocking as any of his L.S.U. albums, including the one on this 1992 list. Another album that was extremely hard to find even only a couple of years after its release. Best song: "Apocalypse Lips"

9. The Violet Burning- Strength
I didn't hear this album until at least 5 years after it's release, if not longer. I discovered the Violet Burning in 1994, as they had one song on a compilation, the original version of "Low". I loved the song, but never really searched for anything else by the band. It wasn't until the Violet Burning's self-titled album was released in 1996 that I fell in love with the band. Then it took me a few years to find this CD, once again out of print and overpriced. By the time I first heard it, it already sounded very dated. The song-writing is great however. I hadn't listened to this album in forever until I saw Michael Pritzl play at Cornerstone this summer. He played a solo acoustic set and many of his songs have never sounded better. Best song: "Undone"

10. Circle of Dust- self-titled
When I first heard Circle of Dust, in 1993, I had never heard anything like it. I didn't even know industrial music existed. It absolutely blew me away. This album is here mainly due to nostalgia, but Klayton Scott Albert Celldweller is one of the best on the planet in this genre. This album was re-released and re-recorded in 1995, and I always get the two confused because they have the same cover and artwork. There was only one other Circle of Dust album, "Disengage", in 1998. Klayton is now releasing music under the "Celldweller" moniker, his 2nd Celldweller album is due in 2008, and it is a a natural progression from where he began with Circle of Dust. And unlike his growling then, he now sings, and sings very well. Celldweller songs have appeared in more movies than I can count, including the Spiderman films. Best song: "Dissolved"

Other 1992 albums of note:
Sixpence None the Richer- The Original Demos (Most songs ended up on "Fatherless & the Widow" in 1993)
The Prayer Chain- Whirlpool EP (Songs were all from the "Neverland Sessions" in 1991)
Bride- Snakes in the Playground (One of the first three CDs I ever bought)
Tori Amos- Little Earthquakes
10,000 Maniacs- Our Time in Eden

You should all use emusic...


Dustin Kensrue of Thrice at the Masquerade in Atlanta

First of all, Tess Wiley's newest album is on emusic now, so you all have no reason not to buy it. And if you don't use emusic you should, it is far and away the best and cheapest way to get music legally. Other recent albums I have gotten on emusic are Zookeeper, the Besnard Lakes, and Bodies of Water. The new Thrice is also on emusic, which I will say once again is my album of the year.

I was going to post more about the New Pornographers, but never got around to it. I am still greatly impressed by their show, one of the best I have ever seen. My wife and I went to the Eisley/Mutemath show last Saturday with 13 students. Eisley, who I love and have seen now 5 times, sounded terrible. Apparently it was due to the venue, the Tabernacle in Atlanta. I have always heard great things about the Tabernacle, but I never want to go back. I can't stand Mutemath's music, but they put on an entertaining live show. I can't take them seriously though, this picture makes me laugh every time I see it.

I haven't listened to much David Bazan or Pedro the Lion in a long time. (Pedro the Lion's entire catalog is on emusic by the way.) However, I did just find a great live bootleg of his from a few days ago. I am optimistic about his first solo LP next year on Barsuk. That blog is a great by the way, tons of good mp3s and info.

Quick sports update: The Redskins are 5-3, but could easily be 3-5 or 7-1 with a few different bounces of the odd-shaped ball. In order to make the playoffs they are going to have to beat the Cowboys at least once and win their second game against the Giants. And continue to beat the teams with losing records, which they have done but barely. The Redskins 3 losses are to teams who are combined 22-3. Two of those games they led at halftime, the third... well, I don't think too much about that third loss.

Auburn is 7-3, which pretty much means nothing. The only thing that matters now is beating Bama. I won't even be that upset if they lose to Georgia this week, although I am excited about watching my first Auburn game in a month (2 games not on TV, missed the LSU game.) This will be the first year since Zambia that I did not make it to an Auburn game. The Pistons are 3-0, easily one of the two best teams in the Easy (the new Celtics are amazing.) I try not to care about the NBA, but I always really get into the Pistons as usual when the season starts.

I am 6-3, 5-4 and 8-1 in my three Fantasy Leagues. The only one that matters though is the 6-3 in the FBC Nashville league, I am currently in 4th and trying to stay there and make the playoffs for the first time. That is the only truly competitive fantasy league I have ever been in, the others are pretty much jokes.