This Week’s Good Music

Here’s this week’s playlist, it’s diverse:

1. “Let There Be Raw” by Showbread

This is a unique, somewhat avant-garde, hardcore band. The members of the band prefer to refer to their sound as “raw rock.” While being rather overt Christian band they have often been subject of criticism. The band is intentionally critically of much cultural Christianity and pushes back against perceived legalism. This particular song plays on the Biblical theme of Christ’s call to “die to self.” Lead singer Josh Dies knows “what it means to be somebody and I’d much rather fade away.” He’d rather be a “nobody singing to nobody.” He shouts: This is what it sounds like to embrace the truth; This is what it sounds like when you die. The album, Fear of God, from which this track comes was a unique album for the band. With every new release the band’s sound has had significant alterations. Fear of God combined all those sounds onto one record for the first time. It was truly Showbread. “Let There Be Raw” is not a great song, but it is probably most representative of what the band has in mind by “raw rock.” For all its weaknesses in depth, it’s still a fun song.

2. “In the Sun” by She & Him

After listening to “I’m Gonna Make it Better” last week, I got hooked on this song this week. It maintains that retro feel,  and was a perfect accent to those sunny and slightly warmer days we’ve had this week. Zooey Deschanel’s enchanting voice felt like the bathing glow of warm sun rays. It was a perfect song for a temperature change.

3. “Decisions, Decisions” by The Starting Line

The Starting Line was a pop-punk band from early 2000s, that received some recognition. Their songs appeared on televisions shows, and in movies, and they were a regular on touring circuits with other Drive Thru Records artists (such as New Found Glory, Midtown, and Home Grown), including appearances at Warped Tour. Their debut album, Say It Like You Mean It (2002), is a solid example of their genre and is often cited as one of the top 50 best pop-punk albums of all time. The song itself focuses on losing a girlfriend; specifically reflecting on lead singer Kenny Vasoli’s ex-girlfriend. He pleads with her not to go off with some other guy, to remember that he loves her more. It’s a typical pop song in terms of lyrics, but it’s got such a great sound – the chorus in particular is has a great beat and execution.

4. “Re: Stacks” by Bon Iver

This much acclaimed indie folk band has a truly remarkable sound. Frontman Justin Vernon has recorded the first album (For Emma, Forever Ago), from which this song comes, alone in a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin. This song is hauntingly beautiful. It’s somber sound, accompanied by Vernon’s breathtaking falsetto, creates a truly unique quality. Lyrically, Vernon uses poker as a metaphor for life. He keeps “putting it down,” adding to the “stacks” but he never wins. He speaks of Qumran in the opening lines of the song, a reference to the community where the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered. Vernon believes that these scrolls so dramatically changed Christianity as to make faith dead – as a side note, it’s obvious that he’s not overly familiar with either the scrolls or Christian scholarship on them or he wouldn’t have drawn that conclusion. Qumran becomes a reference, then, to his own “excavation” which has left him hopeless and despairing. The song uses many different analogies and metaphors to drive home this despair. The song is no doubt sad, yet it is gripping and beautiful. I am moved by each listen.

5. “For Now” by Stretch Arm Strong

Stretch Armstrong was the name of a stupid toy from the late 70s early 80s. But in 1992 it became the name of a hardcore punk band. “For Now” was the sixth track on their second album, and first album with Solid State Records, The Rituals of Life (1999). Despite it’s sound, this track is a love song. Lead singer James Miller screams of his love for someone who seems to be going through their own internal crisis. While he says “you are my everything,” she says, “just let me be.” This person seems caught by a “single thought” that is destroying them from the inside out, and Miller is forced to simply watch her spiral downward.  The blending of both tempos and sounds in this song is fascinating. The haunting sound of piano in minor key starts the song off, then as the full band joins in it revs up a standard hardcore punk sound. It shifts partway through the song to a depressive drum and bass line as it turns lyrically from Miller’s love, to this woman’s pain and isolation. Then it turns to yet another sound, a major key with a slowed pace as Miller repeats his affection for the woman. It’s a great song from an amazing album.

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