Youth Lagoon

September 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

I’m a sucker for big pop hooks. Pitchfork just gave Youth Lagoon’s “Year of Hibernation” album 8.4 and put it in the “Best New Music” category so I had to check it out and I’m already hooked. A must for fans of Fanfarlo, Ra Ra Riot and even early Josh Rouse. Here is the official video for “Montana:”

The Parable of the Sea

September 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

The Foursquare video reminded me of one of my favorite short video clips: “The Parable of the Sea:

What If?

September 28, 2011 at 10:11 am

It seems like a lot of churches are recognizing that the way the North American church has traditionally “done church” does not necessarily make disciples. A lot of people are asking if there are other ways we might try things. Here’s a short video from the Foursquare Church a friend forwarded me. It’s encouraging to see so many people from so many walks of life embrace the fact that there might be other ways of “doing church:”

Out Of My Element

September 23, 2011 at 9:32 am

I’m sure you know, I listen to a lot of music. I also listen to a lot of different kinds of music. The two kinds of music I listen to least would probably be “contemporary Country” or whatever you want to call it (I love country music, I just don’t think that much of what is currently billed as country is anything like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or even early Wilco) and current hip hop.

When it comes to hip hop, it’s mostly subject matter and presentation. I love sampling, I love beats, etc. But, I have a hard time with someone telling me how much better they are than others. I’m not one of those people who cringes uncontrollably at every curse word in music, but quite often, hip hop has more than its fair share of expletives. To be honest, for the most part, I see it as a wasted art-form. So much potential and all these guys can do with it is talk about how great they are; how hard-core they are, and objectifying women and glorifying drug use. I’m also particularly put 0ff by so many rappers using the “N-word.” Perhaps it’s because I’m white, I just don’t understand, but to try and use that word as a term of endearment, or to call another rapper by that term just doesn’t make sense to me. Plus, if you have to spend an entire song telling me how great you are, chances are; I’m just going to think you’re insecure.

But every once in a while, I come across an artist who intrigues me even while having some of the same elements that keep me away from most hip hop. I am intrigued by the idea of Odd Future, though I am repulsed by their actual lyrics. One of my favorite hip hop acts was Digable Planets. Their two albums were creative and at the forefront of “jazz rap,” or whatever you want to call it. When I heard that Ishmael from Digable Planets had formed a new act called Shabazz Palaces, I wanted to check them out.

Though many of the elements that keep me away from hip hop are present, I am smitten by this group right now. Yes, they cuss, use the “N-Word” and even use derogatory terms for women, but they are one of the most original acts I’ve come across in a long time. Elements that made Digable Planets so good are present, yet taken farther. Most of the songs are non-linear; they don’t include 12-16 bars followed by a chorus. Instead, they morph and explore. Music often captures me best when an artist succeeds at creating a mood and Shabazz Palaces have emerged with a fully-formed musical world. Yes, there is black pride throughout (Shabazz, according to Nation of Islam doctrine, Shabazz was a scientist who led his tribe into Africa).

After two EPs in 2009, Shabazz Palaces put out their first full-length album Black Up on Sub Pop Records. Based out of Seattle, WA, not known as the mecca for hip hop, the group succeeds in creating a murky environment over which Ishmael seems to ramble in stream-of-consciousness raps. The beats are thick and always intriguing. This is not music that I would normally listen to, but it’s so rare that a band captures such a fully-formed ethos that I’m intrigued, not by the lyrics, but by the mood they create. The closest they come to “traditional” song structure is “Swerve… The Reeping of All That is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)” has become one of my favorite tracks of the year so far.

Is there music you typically steer clear of? What? Why? What draws you to certain music? Do you regularly engage in “intentional listening” (making yourself listen to music that at first seems difficult)?

Here is the band performing a four-song set for KEXP (video is about 18 minutes long):

Here’s the band performing “The King’s New Clothes Were Made By His Own Hands:”

YTGVB: Shabazz Palaces “The King’s New Clothes Were Made By His Own Hands” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Here is “Swerve” – I couldn’t find a good video of this track, so here is the audio:

Shabazz Palaces – Swerve…The Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding) by Hypetrak

Kindling Discovery

September 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

A while ago, I got an iPad for work I do with Church of the Cross. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first but it really has turned out to be quite productive. I can write my sermons on it, take it to meetings and have access to multiple resources all at once.

Though it has proved to be quite practical, handy and helpful, one of my frustrations with the iPad was that I couldn’t find an easy way to copy and paste text from the Kindle app. I have been hesitant to switch to the e-book format, partly because I like to really interact with books. I highlight, make notes, etc.

Many of you are probably already aware of this, but I recently discovered This site keeps track of your highlights and notes, and allows you to copy and paste the content into your documents. It’s not an ideal fix, but it’s the best one I’ve found.

Have you run into this situation too? Is there an easier fix that I’m missing?

The Habañero What?

September 21, 2011 at 9:29 am

Some of you may be aware that, for several years at greatly irregular intervals, my friend Mark and I did a music/interview podcast called The Habañero Hour. We focused on the often muddy question: “What is or isn’t “Christian” music?” We played music by and interviewed artists who are very open about their Christianity yet who don’t market themselves in the “Christian music” world.

We had a great time doing the podcast and I got to talk to a lot of really thoughtful people. But let’s be honest: we haven’t done a podcast episode since February and there doesn’t seem to be one in the near future. Mark and I are both very busy, but more than that, we think that the podcast has probably run its course. We got to hear challenging thoughts from some great musicians and we also got to introduce people to a lot of great music.

Somewhere along the line, the podcast turned into us hosting house shows. Yes, we have concerts in houses (if you’re not familiar with house shows, read this piece from NPR). The heart behind the podcast was not only to explore the relationship of Christianity to music, but to help keep great art alive.

Mark and I both live in the NW Valley of the Phoenix area. I love Arizona, but I live in the heart of suburban hell. It really is the type of subdivision where all the houses look the same and you can live for years in your box, behind your 6ft. high privacy fence, surrounded by people in other boxes behind other fences and yet feel isolated. Our “culture” primarily consists of a variety of shades of vanilla strip-malls. Over by WalMart, we have TGIF’s, over by Target we have Olive Garden and over by Ross we have Chili’s.

Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of art happening where we live. There is no quality small/mid-sized music venue on our side of town. So, instead of just complaining or moving, Mark and I started having concerts in our homes as a way, not only to help great artists be heard, but foster a sense of community, even in the suburbs.

As the house shows began to progress, emphasis on the podcast lessened and Mark and I were left with the question of what to do with the idea of the Habañero Hour. After all, that was primarily the podcast, which is (most likely) no more. The heart to foster great art and community has only increased.

So, we are moving our activities under the umbrella of the Habañero Collective. This will not only be the banner for the house shows, but we are hoping to expand the idea of the “collective” including all sorts of artists who want to come together and create the culture some long for in the NW Valley of Phoenix. To be honest, we don’t really know yet what this will look like other than (hopefully) uniting artists across platforms with a common vision.

If you’re in the Phoenix area and interested in seeing art of all kinds flourish in the NW Valley, please contact us.

Bill Mallonee House Show

September 21, 2011 at 9:03 am

We are super-excited to welcome Bill Mallonee for another house show. Join us at the Skinner house, Friday, October 14 at 7:00pm. This is a great chance to help support awesome live music. Paste Magazine ranked Mallonee as one of the top 100 living songwriters.

Billboard says:

Dylan-tinged vocal and introspective lyrics that spin out big-picture stories imbued with chilling small details.

Rolling Stone says:

Bill Mallonee… [has] remained fascinated with the shadowy emotional toils and struggles inherent in the American experience, compelling, insightful, [he] continues to probe through Americana rock an roll proving that sometimes the only story worth telling is that of the journey.

After fronting Vigilantes of Love for many years, Mallonee has traveled the world telling his stories through music. If you’re in the Phoenix area, don’t miss this show.

  • Visit Bill Mallonee’s official site
  • RSVP for the house show (via Facebook)

Here is Bill with Vigilantes of Love in England. “Solar System” gone electricy-good:

Here’s a more recent live version of “Skin”