Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To read

Being Christmas break, apparently I'm supposed to have time to read, both "for fun" and "for school". And do all the normal Christmas related things. Ha.

Anyway, I am trying to squeeze in some "for fun" reading into my break in some sort of half-hearted attempt at living a balanced lifestyle that includes leisurely activities like "pleasure reading". This endeavor has come in the shape of A.J. Jacobs's book, The Year of Living Biblically. The dude is a secular Jew who writes for Esquire magazine and lives in New York City's Upper West Side (yeah, he's quite the cliche).

The book details a year in which he attempts to follow every rule of the Bible (hence, his beard pictures above). While a little gimmicky in nature, I've enjoyed his reflections on the book I say I surround my life around. In general, there's always something pretty interesting about hearing an outsider's comments on one's lifestyle (religiously narcissistic?) when done in a relatively objective manner. An atheist guy did something sort of similar a few years back when he sold his soul on ebay and then visited a number of churches, only to get a book deal out of it. A.J.'s book is better written and is a little more comprehensive ("ebay guy" had some fascination with evangelical church's excellent public speakers). It also reads like someone writing from NYC - what I believe The New Yorker would read like even though I don't actually read The New Yorker. I'm only a third of the way through the book but I enjoy A.J.'s humor and candidness concerning Christianity and I suppose I think it's important that, as a Christian, I remain somewhat aware of perceptions held towards whatever subgroup I may fall into.

All this to say, I'd recommend the book if you're looking. I got a few other books for Xmas that will hopefully be read before 2nd semester (that Bonhoeffer book and some mentoring book I always allude to in my class papers but haven't actually read). Alright, have a splendid New Year's. Keep reading, it's good for you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas thoughts

As a semi-well educated, hip twenty-something, I'm fairly good at complaining. One such occurrence happens frequently whenever I hear someone (typically a pastor or a "Christian by trade") call the listener to remember the "reason for the season" and to "get back" to the true meaning of Christmas. My initial response, as a whiny young person, is to explain to everyone around me that Jesus' real birth most likely didn't happen anytime around December and that a call back to the meaning of Christmas would bring us back to some sort of Roman (or is it Greek?) pagan holiday which really has nothing to do with Jesus' birth.

I know, I annoy myself.

The next step in the conversation (one I rarely get to) should be about the redemption that can happen with holidays like Christmas. And hopefully, we can be reminded of the redemption that Christ can bring to all of life. That's something I can celebrate. So it is at this time of year that I would like to call everyone to remember not the true meaning of the holiday (I am neither Roman nor Greek and don't necessarily care to celebrate their pagan holidays), but rather to embrace the redeeming love brought through our lord Jesus that extends through our whole lives, even to our holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top 11 of 2010

On what could have been the "Top10 of 2010" (numeric alliteration, if you will), I chose to include 11 albums on my "best of" list for the year. I know, it could have been awesome, but I simply could not exclude any of these albums. It literally would have been a personal insult to the artist.

Now to the (usual) preface:
For me, Top10 lists are 100% subjective. Unlike the responsibilities magazines, websites, or "real" bloggers hold in being "objective", this is a list of personal favorites. Case in point: Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is certainly one of the best albums of the year yet I feel zero responsibility on including them in my Top10 when I didn't listen to or enjoy the album as much as my other choices. I feel especially inclined to include this caveat of an intro as a number of great indie rockstar albums came out this year yet they didn't make my list.

Anyhow, a ton of great music has come out this year and being out of school for the majority of it allowed me to listen to a lot of it. Here are my top picks and a brief reason why. Enjoy and, if I know you, link to your Top10 list in the comment section... I'm always looking for new music and new lists.

11. Beach House - Teen Dream
Dreamy. Swirly. Non-distinct. An album I had to include simply because of the number of times I ended up listening to it. I never got excited about it. I rarely even felt like listening to it. It just always found its way into being played. It's kind of like a crappy apartment that isn't really special in many ways but it finds a way into your heart because of its familiarity.

10. The National - High Violet
This band is just great at crafting songs filled with melancholy. I chalk it up to their lead singer's baritone vocals. Again, this isn't a band I get excited about. Rather, as with this album, I hit play and am instantly overwhelmed with well crafted songs and lyrics filled with fantastic imagery.

9. Tokyo Police Club - Champ
This was my first foray into TPC's music. Taking it back a couple of years, I get the same feeling from this band as I did from the Christian garage-rock band, Bleach (any takers on that comparison?). What I mean is that this band is great at making catchy jams that are easy to rock out to.

8. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Loved their first album. Love this album. A few more blips and beeps this time around. Catchy pop songs. Needlessly intelligent lyrics but that's besides the point, I'm not listening to VW for their lyrics. Sidenote: the fiancée bought us tickets to their show earlier this year and we grooved for a solid hour.

7. Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
It's about time. After waiting for a solid five years for a significant new album, Suf delivers the jams. And I mean jams. Leave it to the indie-king to change a lot of the instrumentation but keep what we all love about him. While most artists would most likely flub up, Sufjan creates sounds and atmospheres that will keep me listening for a long while.

6. The Drums - The Drums
I kind of started listening to this band as a joke. My little bro showed me a song called "Let's Go Surfing" which, as the name suggests, is pretty awesome. Little did I know that I would love the rest of the overly dramatic album as well. This one's perfect for a trip to the beach ... or wishing you were at the beach.

5. Sleigh Bells - Treats
Pretty voice. Distorted guitar. Heavy beats. It's like a mash-up created from scratch. I love the intensity of this band and the fact that it's the perfect album to throw on when in the car with a group of friends.

4. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Man, this guy came to Taylor my senior year and I missed the show ... then again, I really had no idea who he was so I can't really kick myself. I'm pretty sure he's not actually that tall but this album is great. Guitar and a fantastic voice. That's pretty much all it is. And it's perfect for background noise, for driving by yourself at dusk, for studying, for listening to.

3. Jonsi - Go
I was a little hesitant where this one was going to go. Jonsi's departure from Sigur Ros with Riceboy Sleeps had me literally sleeping so I didn't know what to expect from this release. I was pleasantly surprised. This album is large, joyful, exciting, fun, and an experience all around.

2. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
This new band consists of some young college kids from Florida. To a certain degree, that's all you need to know. The music is young, fun, and a good time - kind of like college. It also kind of makes you feel like Florida.

1. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
I was initially hesitant of listening to this band. For some reason, they just sounded too generic. After I got over myself, I absolutely loved this band and this album. I attended a show of theirs earlier this year and it may have been the best concert experience of my life. So much energy and it's all matched with a level of depth not always found in your usual album.

Honorable Mentions :: Yeasayer, Odd Blood :: Broken Bells, Broken Bells :: Best Coast :: Crazy for You :: The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme :: LCD Soundsystem, This Is It :: Spoon, Transference :: Drake, Thank Me Later :: Phantogram, Eyelid Movies :: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs