Saturday, December 22, 2007

10 Favorite Albums of '07

Yes, it's that time of year, when I get to indulge one of my greatest passions: listmaking. My top 10 albums list is always one of my favorite things to compile, and as usual, they're only my favorites (not some objective attempt to pick "the best). My favorites are also confined to those albums which I've heard, which is quite limited since I am not much of a downloader, so I rely on my own cd collection and the public library for my listening.

There are three notable albums that I really wish I had gotten to listen to before the end of the year, but haven't, but I think they're worth mentioning: Boxer by The National, Strawberry Jams by Animal Collective and the new Explosions in the Sky album. Some or all might have made it onto the list, but I haven't heard them. Maybe next time. So without further ado:

10. The Shins Wincing the Night Away - Marcie got me the album for Valentine's Day. As always the melodies are tight, but this one meanders a bit at times, and I find myself wanting to skip over a couple tracks when they come on. It's a good album from a really good band.

9. Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha - Andrew Bird has a great first name. He has a unique sound that is instantly recognizable, which is hard to achieve with all the artists out there. I'm not sure yet if it's as good as The Mysterious Production of Eggs but it's dang good.

8. Iron & Wine The Shepherd's Dog - Sam Beam & Company have placed much more emphasis on the & Company this time around, and it makes for a much different I & W sound. It has been hard for me to get used to, but there are some tracks that are absolutely outstanding, and the one throwback (Resurrection Fern) might be one of their best yet.

7. Interpol Our Love to Admire - Marcie got me this one for my birthday. Interpol's guitar parts are the tightest around, the vocals are distinctive, and the lyrics are always interesting. They're a band that's hard to figure out, and I like that.

6. Over the Rhine The Trumpet Child - Amazing album. OtR now has a steady bass player and drummer, and have settled on a more jazzy sound than the past, and are better off for it. The song "Trumpet Child" is absolutely breathtaking and the rest of the album is quite good as well. There is one track that just isn't very good in my estimation, and I'll let those of you who have heard the album guess which one.

5. The White Stripes Icky Thump - They're always amazing. I gave them number one on my '05 list with Get Behind Me, Satan, though Sufjan would take number one if I did it all over again. This time, I'm putting them at 5, even though this album is probably better than Get Behind Me. It rocks hard once again, there are bagpipes and mariachi horns, and the wordplay is sometimes downright hilarious.

4. Arcade Fire Neon Bible - This could easily be number one, as could any of the top 6. Arcade Fire has released two albums, both of which are masterpieces. "Antichrist Television Blues" might be my favorite song of '07, and this album just drives from beginning to end without relent. I might even dare to call this quite a prophetic/apocalyptic album. If you don't know what I mean by that, read David Dark.

3. Over the Rhine Snow Angels - "Snow Angel" is the saddest song of '07 and this album is flawless. Even next to Sufjan's box set, which was recorded a bit haphazardly, I think this is my favorite Christmas album ever. There are no cover songs her, besides a stanza from "O Little Town of Bethlehem," which receives a new melody. OtR outdid themselves in '07. Always beautiful vocals, jazzy arrangements, and even a tribute to Vince Guaraldi.

2. Radiohead In Rainbows - One and two have been an ongoing debate in my head. Both are worthy. Both are in my top 5 artists of all time. Both are a bit of a return to a more relaxed, less experimental sound. Both are smooth as butter from beginning to end. This album is beautiful. Even songs with obtuse titles like "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" are beautiful. And "You're All I Need"? Forget about it. My only wish is that it was longer. And if I bought the $80 box set, it could be. Maybe for Christmas? Unlikely, but maybe.

1. Wilco Sky Blue Sky - I admit that it's not really groundbreaking for Wilco. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot did that for them, and it gives them licence to just relax for an album. This is the most listenable album I own. Over and over I listen to this with Marcie and Addison, and it is soothing at moments, and literally makes us dance (see "Walken") at others. I already used the term smooth as butter, but this is seriously like sticking a stick of butter into your ear, feeling it melt all over your eardrums. Sorry, what was I saying? I'm going to go ahead and say it: Wilco is the best American band right now. Arguments to the contrary are accepted, but they cannot have anything to do with the Jonas Brothers, okay?

Thanks for reading. Happy listening, and Merry Christmas!

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200mcs: One Down, Two To Go

I haven't retired from blogging, I swear.

I finished my first 200 mile commuting semester (henceforth 200mcs) just under a week ago, and I really enjoyed it. The 200 mile commute thing kind of sucks, but in a weird way, it's been really good. A lot of good thoughts swirled in my head this semester, and a lot of my classes interacted in profound ways so that it was an especially meaningful semester.

I wrote papers on the image of God, the incarnation, resurrection and return of Christ, eschatology, eco-theology, sacraments, the Trinity, gospel communication to indie-hipsters, hospitality and the christological basis for ecological preservation and designed a worship service for the first Sunday of Advent. I read some great books (The Way of Jesus Christ by Jurgen Moltmann, Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf, a book on sacraments by Leonard Vander Zee), a lot of good ones (Jesus the Liberator by Jon Sobrino, a couple books by Robert Webber, Whose Religion is Christianity? by Lamin Sanneh, Eyes Wide Open by William Romanowski, Border Crossings by Rodney Clapp, Mosaic of Christian Beliefs by Roger Olson, Selling Out the Church by Kenneson and Street, White Woman's Christ and Black Woman's Jesus by Jacqueline Grant, Luther, Feminism and the Cross by Thompson along with a collection of African christologies), and the occasional forgettable book (...).

I had some great conversations with old friends and made some new ones. I learned a lot about theology, christology, worship, communication and hospitality, and learned the art of sleeping on a six foot couch. I walked the line between guest and mooch, and when I came home I was able to truly be with my family. I got to see Yo La Tengo, Rosie Thomas and Over the Rhine all thanks to my wife's place of employment, Calvin College. Addison got bigger and smarter and more beatiful every day, and I have come to appreciate Marcie more than ever. It's sufficient to say that I don't deserve her and that's a fact.

I didn't blog much because I kept painting myself into a corner, promising to post about something specific, but never feeling inspired to fulfill those promises. From henceforth no more promises will be made on this blog.

You have my word.

And you have my love.

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