26 July 2013

Music Day

So now that I told you all about the awesomeness of Crumbächer's Incandescent in a different post, thereby leaving nothing to add to any further posts, now they release the album on the Frontline Records website. Thanks guys... you couldn't do this a month ago when I had a good promotion post all ready to go...


So it's not on iTunes (not in Canada anyway, because apparently it's dangerous to give Canadians good music), but you can still download it from a legal place, so I'm going to tell you about it anyway.
(EDIT: It's now on iTunes Canada!)

The label's website doesn't appear to have an 'individual song' option, but really, six bucks for an LP is nothing to sneeze at. And it's a solid LP -- there's really only one track that one could take out of the album (lyrically). So I'm going to do a full album review on it, just because I can, and also because the site doesn't let you download individual tracks (at least it doesn't appear to) so it'd be kind of pointless to just focus on one song here.
(EDIT: The Frontline webstore is currently under construction, so this is currently not available on their site. Refer to the iTunes link if you want to buy it.)

Before I start, a couple of things you should know -- this is eighties. This is keyboard heavy. And it's not exactly deep, theologically. Don't expect John Piper. Don't expect big intense guitar solos.

Song titles link to YouTube videos.

Understudy -- I love the interlude in this one -- the high-pitched keyboard line. I like the echo on the vocal in this one. In fact, I like how Stephen Crumbächer's voice isn't real spectacular (unlike a certain White Heart vocalist...), but it's still so endearing. I don't know how he pulls it off.

Infrared X-Ray Eyes -- This is probably the most pop-fluffy song on the album, lyrically (not to mention a little creepy-sounding to modern ears), but it's got a good funky sound to it and Dawn's backing vocal in the choruses are nice.

Glowing In The Dark -- This is the song I got the album for. I'd heard it on classicchristian247.com and loved it, mostly for the drum hits at the beginning of the verses and the syncopated keyboard riff after said drum hits. And the keyboard motif employed throughout. Only after the album was mine did I pick up on the huge words this song employs (when was the last time you heard the word phosphorescence in a song?). Being a writer/English nerd, that alone scored this song a few points.

So Strange -- My sister's favourite. This song kicks up into full throttle right out of the gate, with that rapid-fire drum/cymbal intro. The more-prominent electric guitar beefs up the song too. I particularly like the key change and higher vocal dynamics in the pre-choruses (And oh; What is this I'm feeling down inside...). The little kind of 'rock-out' after the false ending is cool too, if a little odd.

It Don't Matter -- A nice perky opening leads into some nice fuzzy guitar chords and then an intriguing staccato vocal -- it's almost a rap, it's fast enough (actually I've heard rappers slower than this). I really like that vocal interplay that starts at the end of the second chorus -- Stephen and Dawn layering the line never fall away. The harmony through the choruses is nice too.

Jamie -- I've talked about the music video for this one before, but I didn't really mention the song. This one starts out relatively slowly (in relation to the rest of the album), but never fear -- after a few dramatic-key-chord seconds to build things up a little, the drumsticks go 'one two three four' and the song kicks up into its groove. It doesn't sound as finessed as some of the other tracks, but its drive makes up for it. That and the keyboard motif... *swoons* Having watched the music video makes the lyrics so much more poignant. Probably the deepest and most beautiful lyrics on the album.

Sweet By & By -- I love this mostly because it bucks the trend so intensely. I mean, the lyrics are straight out a church hymnal (literally -- I looked in an actual hymnal). Any Baptist worth their salt knows the harmonies and parts of this song so they can sing it at funerals (yes, I know the ladies' part and have since I was a child). The hymnal version is quite nice and I do like it, but it's just so cool to watch this eighties keyboard band take it and absolutely turn it on its head. The rhythm, the melody, the mood -- all of that is completely different from what you hear in the churches. All that remains of the actual hymn are the lyrics. I like what they did with this though. He sings almost an alto-type part as the lead vocal. The 'flat' vocal and the shimmering key chords give the verses almost a haunting sound. It seems an odd style choice, actually, since the lyrics are supposed to be rather hope-filled.

Track You Down -- Possibly my favourite from this album. So. Catchy. It's fast, driving, and technically excellent. I really like Dawn's vocals on this one -- gives the song a completely different, 'lighter' dimension. The song would be flat and forgettable without those backing vocals. I also find it funny thinking about how creepy this song sounds to people today who have never heard it before. This song would never have been conceived in today's age of Facebook, Internet privacy concerns, texting/sexting, and the constant fear of being stalked. Since I tend to keep a more level head about these things than most (mostly because I tend to avoid being an idiot on the Internet), I get to enjoy this song without being all creeped out.

Album title: Incandescent
Artist: Crumbächer
Year: 1985
Label: Originally released on Broken Records, re-release on Frontline.
iTunes here.

24 July 2013

EVEN MORE DA Awesomeness!

And you all thought my White Heart obsession was bad. (Don't worry. The White Heart obsession will return once they release that EP.)

Anyway, for those of you who read my review of Daniel Amos' new album Dig Here Said The Angel who didn't get the advance download (though I wouldn't be surprised if everybody who read it was also a Kickstarter backer), you can now pre-order the album on their website here.

And, if you scroll just a little farther down on that same store page, you can also find another real treat -- the ¡Alarma! album on CD. Oh, but not just that -- two CDs (deluxe remastered ones), plus photos and booklets and bonus tracks and enough goodies to satisfy this Daniel Amos nerd in training for... well, let's give it about a week before I've memorised it. Lyrically, this is a genius album (really though, which one isn't?). Sarcasm at its finest.

I don't have a real ending for this post, so I'm just going to steal a quote from Terry Scott Taylor (from one of the live bootleg shows, I forget which) (EDIT: I finally found it -- it's the Cornerstone 2000 show): "I'm not trying to plug anything. I'm really not... but I am."

19 July 2013

Music Day

A little something I found on some music blog somewhere... more awesomely eighties. This is the kind of stuff that makes me think of being a high school kid with the big hair and the legwarmers, doing homework sprawled on the floor beside their record player. (Yes, I have a very romanticised view of the eighties...)

Title: Run
Artist: Glen Allen Green
Album: A Living Fire
Year: 1985
iTunes here; YouTube here.

15 July 2013

This Just In...

For once in my life I'm speechless. I am seriously jumping up and down and screaming in delight (silently, but screaming nonetheless)...

14 July 2013


A belated welcome to all the DA fans! (Now that they've probably all read the post, left, and forgotten this blog exists...) Nothing like a little diehard-fan scrutiny to freak me out a bit... seriously though, welcome.
And now for our regularly scheduled post (I heard that snicker)...

The other day, while looking at the window at the rain falling outside, it randomly struck me that I'm almost always filtering my experiences through Facebook.

I don't post every little tiny detail of my life on Facebook ('going to work,' 'eating [insert food here] then going to bed,' etc.), but I do spend a rather disproportionate amount of time thinking about it. In actuality I only post a status three or four times a week (depending what's going on in my life and how much music awesomeness is coming from the DA and White Heart pages), but I tend to look at every experience I have, no matter how mundane or ridiculous or simply beautiful through the lens of 'how would I write this on Facebook?'

Being a writer, a bit of a loner, a perfectionist, and a master of the cynical one-liner (just ask my relatives -- not that regular readers of this blog really need proof), my Facebook posts are very carefully crafted. I have literally spent forty-five minutes reading over and tweaking a single Facebook status at times, replacing one word, then checking for clarity, rhythm, and 'comedic' timing, and making subtle adjustments accordingly. If I spent a quarter of that kind of effort on revising my novels, I would be a bestselling author by now.

I'm not proud of that.

It scared me a little, this realisation that I couldn't remember the last time I experienced anything without starting to plan in my head how I would word the Facebook post about it.

So when I put the advance download of Dig Here Said The Angel on my iPod, I decided to wait before listening to it... it was two o'clock in the morning by then, and I had to be up early the next day. But I was determined to wait. Last time DA released an album I was under ten years old and my only knowledge of Daniel Amos was the image in my memory of the cover art of their self-titled debut. And with a White Heart album still not announced, this was my next best chance to get to hear a record from a band I love for the first time -- at the same time as everybody else. I've always wondered what it would have been like to have heard Doppelgänger for the first time in 1983, when everyone else was also hearing it (and being shocked) for the first time. So too with ¡Alarma! in 1981, and with White Heart's Freedom or Powerhouse in 1989 and 1990.

So I waited until I had a chunk of time where I knew I would be undisturbed.

Since I don't get to listen to amazing albums for the first time often, I'm not entirely sure how to go about it. I'm sure many people who were around in the seventies and eighties had a special sort of 'ritual' -- taking the record home from the store, opening it, setting the vinyl on the player for the first time, dropping the needle, and then examining every square centimetre of the artwork or reading the lyrics on the sleeve as they got to hear fantastic music from a pristine yet warm and inviting record.

A download wouldn't have the same visual and tactile experience, but at least I knew the music would be good. So I sat on my bedroom floor (where I always imagine people listening to records for the first time), put in my earbuds, adjusted the volume, and touched the title of the first song.

Within a few seconds, a now-familiar voice envelops me and begins to lead me away, into the world where everything is questioned and yet answered, where melancholy and humour collide.

I found a haystack in a needle
I caught an angel in a lie...

As the album played on, I consciously pushed the thought of reviewing it out of my mind. The blog, Facebook, even future choreography I might get out of this was not important right now. I was to listen to it as a fan, not a critic. I was to listen with the wonder of Lucy first seeing the lamp-post. It would be unfair to try to boil it down in my mind to a crass inadequate review while the album was still trying to show me all the beauty and texture it had to offer. And even though I fully expect to wind up choreographing at least a few of the songs at some point, this was not the time... it was not the time to be microanalysing the movements of the dancers in my head when I was supposed to be letting the music and the songwriting show me what treasures it had to offer even by itself. Imagining dance at this point wouldn't strengthen it, it would only deafen my ears to the music.

It took some conscious effort, but by the end of the second song I had settled in. And I listened to the music for an hour without once thinking of Facebook, and only having to push the blog out of my mind two or three times. I didn't work at imagining dance either, I only allowed myself to see what my subconscious pushed to the forefront. But the majority of my intellectual faculties were focused on the music texturing and the songwriting.

It wasn't until the next day that I realised just how much I had enjoyed that -- that piece of time where I managed to completely forget about the existence of Facebook. It isn't until you taste freedom that you realise how deeply entrenched you are in bondage. Four years I've let this thing -- this elaborate chunk of HTML -- dictate my thought patterns. Why?

I could go onto a psychological exposition on this, but we've all heard it before anyway, and it doesn't really answer anything. All I have is... why? Why do we seem to think it's so essential -- essential enough that we automatically think in Facebook text bites? What kind of creative freedom would we have if distilling our daily 'accomplishments' into a Facebook status that only three people will read wasn't a part of our natural thought process?

13 July 2013

I Have Seen The Future...

...And the future includes a rock star named Jacob.

Last week our church hosted their Vacation Bible School. I was working most of the week so couldn't volunteer, but I got to see the closing program on Friday, when the kids get to sing the songs they learnt for their parents/friends/family.

So there's fifty-some kids piled on the platform at the front of the church, singing and doing actions to a truly annoying and rather insipid song that's still in my head, and in the front row, there's a kid in a yellow shirt with dark hair named Jacob.

Seriously, this kid is Rick Florian all over again.

He's what, six? and he's running along the front of the platform in front of the group of kids, working the crowd. That was the moment I turned to my mother standing beside me and said, "He's going to grow up to be a rock star." I'd seen that move on YouTube from both John Schlitt (Petra) and Rick Florian and this kid pulled it off like a pro.

Then he took up residence in the centre front of the platform (downstage centre for those of you who know what I'm talking about) and did some fast footwork that brought me back to the official video for Independence Day. He joined what the others were doing for all of five seconds, then branched off into his own interpretation of the song again.

The thing was, he was not only completely in time with the music, he also managed (somehow) to make it work with the lyrical interpretation of the song (such as it was).

I have to admit, I was kind of in awe watching him. I work on a piece of choreography for months and it's only half as vibrant and well-done as what this six-year-old is making up off the top of his head in front of 200 people.

What got me the most, though, was his style. I'm telling you, it's Rick Florian. No back handspring (though I wouldn't bat an eye if I saw him do one next year), but that was the trademark Florian style.

So in twenty years when Jacob is headlining a rock tour, just remember you read it here first.

05 July 2013

Music Day

I had this guy's music in my head all day at work... I Want To Be A Clone, On The Fritz, Meltdown... so we're making the small leap from the sarcastic Terry Taylor to the sarcastic (and cynical) Steve Taylor. (I may or may not be a sarcastic person...)

It continues to puzzle me that for as much as I like Steve Taylor's solo material, I only own four of his songs and that's been the number for a long, long time. Why only four? I have no clue. I like quite a bit of his stuff (as heard to YouTube) and iTunes does carry I Predict 1990 and a greatest-hits compilation that actually gives you a decent cross-section of his career to date. Plus, I saw both I Want To Be A Clone and Meltdown on vinyl at the record shop the other day (I didn't have enough cash on me, or I totally would have bought them. Along with the Vital Signs LP (White Heart), the Run From The Darkness LP (Daniel Band), and that Barnabas LP I saw that I can't remember the name of right now).

I like the mood of this song. It makes you think, possibly more than the lyrics do. There's a melancholy hollow-ness in the sound, even as it races past. The sonic story of so many 9-to-5 drones -- once-wonderful and amazing people caught up in the song of little dollar signs floating just out of reach, just beyond 'a little more overtime'...

Title: What Is The Measure Of Your Success?
Artist: Steve Taylor
Album: I Predict 1990
Year: 1987
Label: Sparrow
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Brooding sound, heart-piercing story, haunting question. As for the video, I thought it odd at first, but I just watched it again and it feels like genius now. There's all this big set-up and seriousness, and for what? You'll have to watch the video to find out exactly what, but even the absurdity of it makes a point -- 'you think this is ridiculous? What about wasting your entire life in the pursuit of little pieces of paper?'

Well put, Steve. Very well put.

I know better
Still I run...

03 July 2013

Bonus Music Day!

Okay, so this is kind of a cheater Music Day post because I can't post any links yet (not even YouTube -- this is so hot off the press YouTube doesn't have it yet). But it's too exciting to not talk about.

Yes, folks -- I have heard the new Daniel Amos album.

Literally two hours after my 'official' Music Day post last week Friday (the 21st), Daniel Amos posted on Facebook that the download link for the Kickstarter supporters was coming soon. I was going to leave it till the next day, but then I saw someone in the comments say that had downloaded it already.

No way... It couldn't be...

I checked my email. Sure enough, there was a download link. Cue the suppressed screaming (it was one in the morning, after all...).

Before I begin, it's worth noting that (for those who missed it), I'm a DA fan as of February of this year. I've had to cram their entire thirty-plus year career into the last five months. Therefore, I don't know everything there is to know about them and their songs (yet). I'm fairly well-acquainted with their eighties stuff, but once we get into the nineties my knowledge drops to almost nothing. I haven't heard Mr Buechner's Dream (their previous album) in its entirety, but I've taken a cursory listening of... probably about half of the songs on it.

I'm dithering. Can you tell I'm dithering? Reviewing something so fantastic is psyching me out because there's no way I'll ever be able to do it justice (to read reviews by better-versed music fans, see the links at the bottom of this post).

*deep breath*

Overall -- this thing is amazing and I love it. It sounds like nothing else I've ever heard. Ever. Timeless stuff -- the best there is.

Also, keyboards! Pretty keyboards! Oh man, some of the keyboard work is gorgeous... I'll get into that more when I talk about the specific songs (I'm definitely going to run out of adjectives). In fact, every instrument is spectacular here. One could probably take lessons from these guys just by listening to this album on repeat.

Lyrically, the album talks about death and dying quite a bit, but one of the first impressions I got of the overall album was how hope-filled it is. There just seems to be an air of hope, of quiet rest in God and His plan. (Also, current CCM 'artists' (and I use the term very loosely) -- note that not once does Terry use the words 'don't you know He loves you?' or 'just lean on Him' as if the listener is a complete idiot (though said listener apparently somehow knows the magnitude of God's love, as it's never explained in those songs).)

Forward In Reverse -- The album starts out with a gentle acoustic guitar and then a pretty flutish sound, and then that familiar voice begins singing... a wonderfully poetic list of clichés, flipped backwards and twisted slightly. In the second verse, a horn of some kind comes in, adding a bit of whimsy. As I listen to it again, it inexplicably makes me think of Dr Seuss (don't even try to understand why -- I don't). And I totally love the whooshing sound effect after the second chorus -- a great sonic interpretation of the title.

Jesus Wept -- Oh man... the keyboard melody in the 'let me out... no not yet' bit. The guitar is wonderfully fuzzy (and not overpowering) and I like the drumming. Gorgeous, gorgeous poetic imagery here: I pound against the walls of my aging skin... Who'll untie the ropes that restrain my wings... They mounted up like eagles; now they're dropping like flies... It's kind of odd, hearing melancholy lyrics in such an upbeat song, but it's not without hope: Before He danced, Jesus wept. Speaking as a young adult whose life is in total upheaval right now, I'm very thankful for that reminder.

Dig Here Said The Angel -- Best. Intro. Ever. I think it's backmasking. Whatever it is, it's awesome. And then the bass (I think) comes growling in over the backmasking (I think it's a guitar going backwards -- or perhaps forward in reverse?*). And then they start humming. I'm a sucker for the humming thing, I don't know why. Maybe because it's so rare. I love that he doesn't start singing until the minute and a half mark -- just lets the intro do its thing first. The guitar here is so so cool... the distortion. And in the chorus, the keyboard -- almost sci-fi like, piping, flutish. You know, all that 'sonic' futuristic stuff everybody did in the mid-eighties and early nineties? It's kind of like that. And the harmony in the last chorus -- so pretty. And then they hum it out with some nice deep rolling drum hits before falling back into the backmasking to end the song. Epic song. I could fly on this song.

Our New Testament Best -- Man, the groove... between the bass and Terry's low vocals, your foot will be tapping. And the keyboards after the second chorus... It's the sound of falling rain. Seriously. My heart stops every time. I wish it would last longer, but the fact that it's so fleeting makes it more beautiful when you get to hear it. And then the guitar comes in over the rain sound and then the song kicks up a bit into the chorus repeats.

Love Grace And Mercy -- This one was an instant favourite, as soon as the vocalising started before the first verse. This sounds more like the Terry I'm used to (in the eighties, with the higher voice). Also, my favourite lyric of the entire album is in here: 'Love grace and mercy; They shake me to the core; Lift me higher than a kite then; Leave me crawling on the floor.' So accurate. The mix of fuzzy guitar and bells in the interlude (and later in the ending) absolutely makes the song.
Bit of a heads-up here: There's this one line -- So to hell with my excuses... I don't know if the word hell in that context is really an issue anymore in the age of Facebook where every other post contains the f-word, but it's something to keep in mind if you happen to have young children living in the house or something.

Now That I've Died -- This one surprised me musically. I wasn't expecting something quite that rock-y. (You'd think I'd know better than to judge a song -- especially one with Terry Scott Taylor's fingerprints on it -- by its title.) It's one of the rockiest songs on the album. At first I thought he was talking about dying to self (the Biblical teaching of turning away from evil desires and instead pursuing the things of God), but on reading the lyrics, it also kind of sounds like he's talking as if he were in Heaven, trying to describe it to someone still on earth. I quite enjoy his delivery of the title line, and the line I'm never cynical (but still a little sarcastic) is perhaps the funniest on the album (especially in the context of Terry's past work, like, say, the ¡Alarma! Chronicles or his solo album The Miracle Faith Telethon). I like the ending, when they get into that I've never been more alive/Now that I've died vocal layering. And I like the keyboards in that part too.

We'll All Know Soon Enough -- I'm still microanalysing this song lyrically. Even knowing TST's lyrical bent for sarcasm (but not cynicism, of course...) in all forms, it was quite a shock to my Baptist-raised reformed-theology-nerd-in-training ears to hear the line 'There may be no heaven, no no no; There may be no hell, no...' I think -- I think -- he may be taking the perspective of a person trying to 'use' God to have a comfortable life (á la Angels Tuck You In and New Car!**) and then being disappointed when God doesn't answer his every prayer with a 'yes.' Yet the verses seem so sincere and well-rooted that it's a bit of a stretch to take the chorus (and the line quoted above) as anything less sincere and Biblically accurate. The bass and drum drive of the verses is cool though, and I quite like the effect of the synthesized vocal in the bridge. Listening to that through headphones is so cool -- the vocal comes only through the right speaker, and the sparse instrumentation comes only through the left. Actually, the first time I heard this I found out later I'd had my earbuds mixed up so I heard the vocal through my left ear. I think I now have to switch my earbuds whenever I hear this song because it sounds wrong with the vocal in my right ear.

Waking Up Under Water -- This song doesn't gently ease you into things. It grabs and doesn't let go. It starts with a blasting guitar, and then a driving beat and such an honest lyric -- about trying to escape real life by daydreaming. Lyrically, this could almost have fit on Doppelgänger. The bass is fantastic, just rocks along.

The Uses Of Adversity -- Am I the only one who hears a Newsboys vibe in that guitar bit between the verses? Actually, the Newsboys feel surfaces several times throughout the song. It's a beautiful lyric, though. Very poetic, and lovely, if painful, in its surrender to the supremacy of God (So don't send me rain if I bloom in drought...).

The Ruthless Hum Of Dread -- I think I may forever be calling this one 'The Ruthless Drum of Ed' after that one YouTube video they posted of Ed McTaggert doing drums for this. Very well-orchestrated... sparse instrumentation, soft vocals. It's delivered like a lullaby, only the protagonist can't shake the fears that run through his head as he tries to sleep (...night fears slip in between hissing sheets and springs; And in the folds of my sibilant bed...). The third verse is gorgeous -- the drumming stops, and only the odd piano chord backs the vocals. Some of the imagery in the last verse reminds me of the lyrical content of Terry's solo albums Knowledge & Innocence (1986) and A Briefing For The Ascent (1987). Melancholy but chock-full of wonderful poetic imagery.

The Sun Shines On Everyone -- A bit of an anthem, feeling almost like a reprise more than a closing track. It's already becoming quite a favourite among the DA fans on Facebook, but it drags a bit for me. To be honest I've yet to properly focus on this song from start to finish because of that. The lyrics are nice though. Perhaps it'll grow on me yet.

Honestly, I don't think there's a throwaway lyric on the entire album, and there is nothing, musically, that doesn't feel perfect throughout (though I found the studio applause at the end of the last song cheesy, but that's neither music nor lyric.)

I would have loved to have gone more in-depth with this (I could probably write a thesis on this album), but I will have to click the 'Publish' button in spite of the perfectionist in my mind screaming for me to revise some more, or else this will never get posted. Perhaps at a later date, once I've had more time to listen and memorise and find nuances and simply enjoy it, I'll revisit the album on this blog. But for now, this is what you get, plus a recommendation from yours truly to buy it when it releases later this summer (they gave a tentative date for August). Or at the very least, buy the title track and Love, Grace, And Mercy. After that, the next two you should buy are Jesus Wept and Waking Up Under Water. And after that, you need to just give up and buy the CD.

* I can't even take credit for this pun -- I saw it on the DA Facebook page, though using it to describe backmasking was my idea.

** Both songs from Doppelgänger, 1983.

Other album reviews (as posted by the Daniel Amos Facebook page -- I have no idea what else is on these sites):
More Of Dave
The Phantom Tollbooth
Popdose (includes an interview with Terry Taylor)
Into The Son
Another from Examiner.com
Down The Line Magazine