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Andrew Peterson: After All These Years

Christopher Cocca

I was unfamiliar with Andrew Peterson until reading this review by Adele Konyndyk Gallogly.  For some reason, maybe just the word “folk” and the album cover’s aesthetic, I was expecting something closer to Steven Delopoulos when I fired After All These Years up on Spotify. That said, there’s a sort of deftness to the writing, a lot of ideas and images and call backs you don’t typically hear paired with the kind of production Peterson seems to favor. As a writer, I appreciate the lyrical work he’s doing, and “Don’t You Want To Thank Someone” is an all-around standout with a Rich Mullins feel.  Peterson’s penchant for this-is-how-it-was biography aside, “Dancing In the Minefields,” even as a phrase, is a great metaphor for marriage.

After All These Years develops a lived-in feel as it progresses, and the songs starting with “Don’t You Want To Thank Someone” are generally better than the ones before it.  That could be because, on first listen,  it takes that long to warm to concept of Christian pop-folk, or because it takes that long to hear musical traces of Mullins and even Bruce Hornsby.  Still, forgiving cameos by Illinois on three tracks in a row (if you’re an artist working out faith in public, writing about Illinois, and are not Sufjan Stevens, the deck is stacked against you), the lyrics, as images, are interesting and often nuanced.  Mixed with occasionally straightforward Protestant catechesis, their spiritual appeal will, as with anything, come down to the listener.

Production-wise, Peterson would benefit from a fuller band higher in the mix.  I can imagine these songs getting that kind of treatment live to strong effect.

 

 

 

 

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Lord Huron Announces Sophomore Album “Strange Trails” via Facebook and You Tube Teaser Trailer

Nathan Key

After months of subtle hints, Lord Huron announced yesterday that their forthcoming album, Strange Trails, will be released in 2015. The band provided a teaser trailer to coincide with the announcement which showcases short snippets from the new project.

Musically (and visually), it appears that the band will continue to integrate the western motif and 70’s-inspired, narrative storytelling that was the primary appeal of their 2012 LP Lonesome Dreams. Keep an eye out for this offering in the coming months. If Strange Trails packs the punch of  Lonesome Dreams, we could be listening to a preview of one of the best albums of 2015.

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Quick List: 4 Great Alternative Songwriters from the 90s Not Named Billy Corgan

Last month, Billy Corgan said he and Kurt Cobain were “the top two scribes [of the scene] and everyone else was a distant third.”  I’m assuming he was talking about alternative rock in the Seattle/Chicago sense.  Here are 4 other great 90s songwriters not usually lumped into the sub-genre Corgan is talking about.

1. Glen Philips.  The lead singer and primary songwriter for Toad the Wet Sprocket. I got to see the reunited Toad this past summer, and they were excellent.  Pick up their compilation of re-recorded greatest hits, All You Want, and be happy: it will be one of the best music purchases you make this year.

2. Jeff Mangum.  While the Smashing Pumpkins gave us The Aeroplane Flies High in 1996, Mangum’s Neutral Milk Hotel gave us In The Aeroplane Over the Sea and invented indie rock as we know it.

3. Stuart Murdoch.  The leader of Belle & Sebastian.  Pick up Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (which Blender called “25 charming tales of shy girls dabbling in photography and bookish boys dabbling in shy girls“) for an exquisite collection of Murdoch’s mid-to-late 90s oeuvre.

4. Noel Gallagher.  Oasis’ two finest, awesomest, greatest albums where recorded right in the middle of the epic mid-90s.  Bono says Noel’s new record, due March 2,  is amazing.

 

 

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The Search Term School of Political Philosophy: Lightning Round

Someone got here today by searching “politics spirituality soulmate.”

Briefly, what we can tell you is this:  ancient Greek thought in certain schools posited the idea of the soulmate as that broken-off piece of you that, when beheld by you, brought you into wholeness and lifted you and your beloved to a beatific vision of the Divine, or of the Ideal Forms.  Notes Plato in The Symposium:

“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”

 

Recently, I saw a headline that said growing up was basically about realizing three things:  there are no soulmates, there are no grown-ups, and it’s okay to not like jazz.

In either case, we’re left to wonder if it’s better to have or to hold in tension, and to make wild guesses about where art comes from.   These things are all related, they all feel informed.

 

 

 

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Noel Gallagher Rocks Little by Little, Bono Says A Lot

This really made me happy, so I wanted to share.

Also, Bono has kind words for Noel (N is Noel) in the New Year’s A to Z.

Speaking of his Central Park accident, Bono says “Edge says I look at my body as an inconvenience…The problem, as I see it, is that I think my head is harder than any other surface.”  That’s called saying a lot with a little.

 

 

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Like It’s 1999

The last few years have been good ones for alternative music, even if the word “indie” has been rendered just about meaningless.  It’s been so good, in fact, that we’re now hearing novelty songs on alternative radio, which is usually the signal that a great artistic cycle is about done running its course.   I heard two in a row today and couldn’t help thinking we might be about ready to repeat 1999.  That means two things: 1) A new slew of The (Nouns) bands are on the horizon that will have either The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, or The White Stripes as their first point of rock n roll reference, and 2) Jack White is about to put out a great album.

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Thinking About Chicago

 

This is an except from something I wrote a few years ago.  Below it is a Spotify link to the song.

It’s possible to encounter O’Connnor’s stories (you never really just read them) without explicitly discerning her deep, abiding belief in literary art as Christian vocation or her mission to show, as she said, “the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.” Clear as day about these motives in her essays and letters, she’s almost never so obvious in her fiction. Perhaps because she uses the evangelical cosmologies of her neighbors as Tolkienesque proxies for her own traditional Catholic systems it’s easy to infer a sort of distance between O’Connor’s art and faith where she in fact saw none. In the same way, it’s possible to listen to Stevens’ biggest hit, “Chicago,” without immediately sensing the plaintive Christian hymn at its core, but “Casimir Pulaski Day,” “Oh God Where Are You Now?,” “The Lord God Bird,” “To Be Alone With You,””God’ll Ne’er Let You Down”… well, these and others comprise a body of work that, like O’Connor’s, raises and answers questions about what makes art “Christian.” Like O’Connor, Stevens operates outside of expectation: his confessional work is among his best, but you’d never call him a Christian artist the way, say, Amy Grant is a Christian artist.

One Does Not Simply Hate The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

I just saw a Freshly Pressed post from a few days ago about hating the RHCP, which does not stand for the Republican House Caucus on some word that starts with P.

I watched The Halftime Show fully realizing the Chili Peppers weren’t necessary.  Bruno Mars and his band are more than talented enough, so I’m not sure why the Peppers were there other than to remind you what kind of shape you won’t be in at 50.  But from “Under The Bridge” on, I’ve been a fan.  And “Give It Away” is about getting off of drugs.  And Anthony Kiedis and Flea were in Back to the Future.  And hey is that Frusciante (no)?  And the drummer is Will Ferrell.  What I’m saying is, what’s not to like?

Here’s something for you.  “Californication” is only 8 years younger than “Under The Bridge,”  but 1999 is still 15 years ago.  I know, right?  And “By The Way,” which is a lot like “Otherside,” is only a few years younger than that.  “Otherside” is basically their “Everlong,” even if it isn’t even half as good (because “Everlong.”)   “Around the World” is a great song.  “Scar Tissue” is everything the summer of ’99 was that wasn’t Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana.  For that alone, we should be thankful.  And hey, I liked that song, but enough was enough already, innit?

Even though we didn’t need them, because Bruno Mars was already reminding us of how awesome James Brown was, don’t pretend them showing up and doing what they do wasn’t pretty great.  Did I need half the stuff I ate last night?  Nahbsolutely.  Did I need to see Cliff Clavin and Hulk Hogan in the same space and time not called 1987?  (Yes).  Was it cool to see Kiedis and Flea being Kiedis and Flea?  Was the moon landing faked?  (Yes, and “that’s not the point.”)