New and Recommended Music – Jan 24 2014 edition

Thus starts a new tradition.

I’m a devoted reader of Entertainment Weekly. It’s one of the few magazines I keep up with on a regular basis. I went a spell not getting it because I couldn’t keep up, but yippee! here I am a subscriber again. (Thanks, little bro!) Part of what I love is that it keeps me up-to-date on what’s happening in the larger media world, and the writers are smart, educated people with (largely) balanced opinions. As our household doesn’t have cable and I’m a stay-at-home mom, there aren’t a ton of fresh new ideas coming our way on a regular basis – and here’s where EWeekly comes in. I mean, they’re the ones that told me “Blurred Lines” was a song way back in October of 2013 (…and it turned out to be the “Song of the Summer” nine months later…). I showed my in-laws the video for “Thrift Shop” ages before Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis won their Grammys (though, admittedly, after my hipster brother-in-law knew about it).

Also, from a theological standpoint, I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world. It’s where God has put us to thrive and exist for these few decades. If we can’t talk to anybody about what’s going on in the common world we inhabit, how will we reach non-believers? Besides, a lot of this is quality. God made music. It should be excellent. So I’m not saying the devil has all the best music, but a lot of the great stuff isn’t made by Christians or has anything to do with God… but it can still reflect his brilliance because it’s excellent. I believe heaven will be full of music, and maybe we’ll get to contribute to it, and maybe we’ll borrow hooks from Beyonce.

(With all that, I have to say, it’s not all going to be PG. The above link for “Thrift Shop” is the official video, and I believe in giving the original artists the traffic, but at the same time, Ryan Lewis’s channel doesn’t offer any edited videos. I’ll put warnings by the links to offensive content, and at times I could omit especially offensive ones altogether. But largely, it’ll come from Rdio sans video, and they do offer clean versions.)

And so, with a proper drumroll (meaning fingers on a bare wooden tabletop), from henceforth, I’ll be posting the weekly singles that EWeekly lists in their music section. Sometimes it’ll be a couple singles. Sometimes (like this week) it’ll be two pages of staff picks. They’ll be labeled with the date of the issue, and I encourage you to go check out the rest of what the magazine has to offer! I’ll also end with a personal selection each week. My tastes don’t always align with those of the pros, and I can’t even guarantee it’ll be within the last 5 years. But I promise you’ll always want to listen to that one… 😉


“Staff Playlist: 15 New Songs We Love”

Broken Bells: “After the Disco”  —  It is, in fact, a modern disco. I could imagine it playing over the credits of “Breakfast Club.”

Burial: “Hiders”  —  So, the Rdio description says it’s their “most emotional and story-like output.” I appreciate the slow build (Imma sucka for that slow build), but then it veers off again. Wasn’t even sure when it changed to the next song. But I can see how story-like that could be within a larger album.

Angel Haze: “Deep Sea Diver”  —  I’ve liked other Angel Haze (as inappropriate as she is, this is my style). She sounds like Nicki Minaj, but less distinct or POW emphasis, with Lil Wayne’s dress style, and refrains like Sevyn Streeter.

MO: “Never Wanna Know”  —  The voice sounds like Lana del Ray to me, but with more range. Echoey vocals with a tambourine jam.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: “Houston Hades”  —  His voice is clear and ironic. The sound is late 90s. It’s not entirely appropriate, but he’s having fun and you can tell.

Hospitality: “I Miss Your Bones”  —  One of my favorites on this list. It’s fun! The published description is “Peppy, dark, punky, jammy,” but it’s largely upbeat and fun.

James Vincent: “Cavalier” – Ambient, airy, beautiful voice. My favorite part is the end falsetto part – sounds like John Legend.

Phantogram: “Fall in Love”  —  I think you’d call this genre “shoe gazers”. I can’t actually speak to their live performance style, but it fits that Foster the People synthy upbeat faze.

St. Vincent: “Digital Witness”  —  Fun! Throwback kind of style to the early ’00s (my favorite era).

Sevyn Streeter: “Sex on the Ceiling”  —  Eh. It’s in my R&B genre, but I really like when you can hear the lyrics better. It’s a lot of way-up-there vocals. And I mean, the refrain is, “Baby we goin have sex on the ceiling.” Not deep or original or even sounds that great. I’ve heard Sevyn Streeter I do like, this just isn’t so much it.

Warpaint: “Love Is to Die”  —  Sounds a little like Metric – EWeekly calls it “liquid groove.” Ambient female voices.

Black Lips: “Boys in the Wood”  —  If you like the Black Lips… (which I do!)  It’s similar to White Stripes in that driving, pounding, certain lyrics.

Lou Reed: “Solsbury Hill”  —  Grungy and older. On an album with Bon Iver and Paul Simon, if that gives you an idea.

Dum Dum Girls: “Lost Boys and Girls Club”  —  Full electric and synth sound.

Mogwai: “Remurdered”  —  Orchestral synth metal.

New Singles

Shakira feat. Rihanna: “Can’t Remember to Forget You”  —  Shakira: calypso upbeat style. Rihanna: heavier guitar. Expect Shakira-typical voice lilts during the chorus. I like the mix of their different styles.

Neon Trees: “Sleeping with a Friend”  —  80s-tastic background, complete with hyper synth keyboard strokes. But mixed well so you can hear the modern lyrics.

Lucy Hale: “You Sound Good to Me”  —  Country, but I like it! Happy, solid beats. Like Shania mixed with Sara Bareilles.

Crumkunst’s Pick

Dangerous: “Big Data”  —  If you listen to XM’s AltNation, you know this one. We noticed it because my husband’s company works with data and they had joked about making it their theme song. But it’s just our kind of song. Fun, boppy beats, with a suspended bridge that exists just so it sounds even bigger at the end. Love when they do that.


Joy to the World

I love Christmas. Most kids do.. Whether or not Santa and the elves are involved, it’s a magical time. There’s often snow here in Pennsylvania. We see family we don’t often. We dress up in rich colors and gather in cozy houses with warm drinks. It’s a time we splurge, in many ways, in the name of the holiday.

But there are a lot of people who have a lot of reasons not to be cheerful during Christmas. “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire” sets our sights high, but what if we don’t have a fireplace or even know where to get chestnuts? We can get hung up on little things that “ruin” the big day, but what if this year has to be celebrated without a cherished friend or family member? What if there isn’t money for carol-worthy festivities? Or what if the world just seems like a dark and bitter place compared to what we’re supposed to be experiencing?

I grew up with a particularly enchanting childhood, and Christmas was the epitome of it. My parents love Christmas, and always went (and still go) to great lengths to make it wonderful for everyone. Last year, however, just before the Advent season began, I was brought face-to-face with a grievous sin that had been here in the world all along, and I didn’t know it. Instead of the world I’d come to believe was real, a very different reality presented itself and argued to take its place. Instead of the aforementioned, traditional bliss of the season, I got to realize more of the reality that lots and lots of people know firsthand.

My response – cling even tighter to Advent, the season of waiting. Not waiting for Christmas morning and Christmas dinner and Christmas presents. Waiting for the baby. Looking at the world through the eyes of Jewish shepherds and a young expectant girl, told that the Messiah foretold 700 years earlier in the book of Isaiah, the descendant promised to Abraham hundreds of years before that, was finally coming. And he would change everything.

It took me a long time after becoming a Christian to see the Bible as one story. I thought the Old Testament was about God, the New Testament about Jesus. Actually, the whole thing is about all three persons of God. Jesus is written into everything in the Old Testament – he’s foreshadowed in the system of sacrifices and being clean or unclean, he’s the fulfillment of all the promises, he’s the keeper of the covenants. And once Jesus gets here, every word out of his mouth is about God and the Spirit. So all the promises God made throughout Jewish history, all of them suddenly come true when God is born.

My son was about 10 weeks old when I started studying Advent last year. I knew helpless babe. I knew the grittiness of birth. And I knew expectancy. Knowing it’ll happen one day… soon… and just waiting… My husband and I tried to be constantly well-rested, just in case I’d go into labor at 1 AM, and then we could say, “Good thing we went to bed at 8!” (As it happened, we went to bed uncharacteristically late the night he was born. Thanks, “Dr. Who.”) Now, we’re waiting again for Jesus to come back and finish the work he started. He defeated evil. We’re living in this funny middle time where we know evil and death have been defeated, but we’re still here among it. We’re still fighting, but fighting from victory. We know how it ends. We just have to wait until Jesus finishes his work.

And that’s what people mean when they say Jesus gives them peace and joy. That’s how I could still celebrate Christmas last year, and every day since then. I know how it all ends. Jesus wins, and along with him, everyone on his side. We shouldn’t be shocked when we see evil and its effects – anyone who’s honest with themselves recognizes it in themselves – it’s what we get for being born human. But once that New Earth is here, we get new, perfect bodies, free of anything dark or bitter. For now, we live in the paradox of a created, beautiful world that is marred by sin and evil, knowing that it has been defeated but waiting to see that truth. And in the midst of it, knowing we belong to the victor, the tiny baby of Christmas.

 Download and print these Advent Verses to read during the countdown. They are largely from the Old Testament and include a wide variety of books, with an emphasis in Isaiah. 

Some thoughts borrowed from Steven Estes in “A Better December.” For more on audacious joy, see Ann Voskamp’s blog, “A Holy Experience“. Ann’s sister was crushed by a truck in front of her when she was little, her mother went to a psychiatric ward, and she has since buried two nephews. She is the author of the book, “One Thousand Gifts“.


Win it! – “A Better December”

We live in a tiny town. Itty bitty. People generally only lock their doors if they go out of town, maybe at night. Because of that, one can find little surprises on their kitchen table when they arrive home.

A Better December - Steven Estes

A Better December – Steven Estes

This little gem awaited us recently. A friend had borrowed it from our pastor and was returning it via me. When I previewed the opening lines, it read something like,

“The older I get, the more I like short books.

This is one.”

Well… It took me about 45 minutes to finish it from there. Some of it is general how-to-survive-the-holidays, some of it is heart-warming advice along the been-there-done-that lines. And then the last quarter is surprisingly deep and personal and grabs you, eye-to-eye, the whole time being honest and funny and brazen and witty.

When I returned it to our pastor last night, I asked, “Do you have a way you recommend getting a copy of that?” (As he just wrote a book, he knows avenues outside Amazon, sometimes at a discount.) “As a matter of fact, I’m giving a copy away on my blog.” Score.

This is my entry form. (One of them.) So while I’m obligated to tell you about the contest, I don’t actually want you to enter. Just go borrow the book from your pastor and read it and then go buy a copy.