Friday, December 24, 2010

Snow and Stars


I meant to have this up earlier, but just in time for Christmas Eve works, I suppose! Merry Christmas, to you out there.


My habit of creating playlists for every adventure and most seasons has grown over the past year. I think I hit every season this year, from my "Getting Warmer" soundtrack in the spring, to a Summer party playlist, "Make Time for Trouble," to my Fall mix, "The Road is Long" and I'm finishing out the year with a Christmas-ish mix of wintery and Christmas tunes. 

Snow and Stars Soundtrack--December 2010


1. What’s This?—Fall Out Boy
I love the movie "Nightmare Before Christmas" especially because of the beautiful metaphor of Halloween attempting to make sense of Christmas--a cultural clash of ideals.This song came from a special-edition soundtrack for the film. This is the only Fallout Boy track in my library. Incidentally, the only Marilyn Manson song in my library comes from this soundtrack, too.

2. Winter Winds—Mumford & Sons
Of course Mumford & Sons have been a huge influence this year. Their album Sigh No More tops many, many lists, and they were recently Grammy-nominated. It's not a hopeless song, but it is about letting go gracefully, a theme that has hit home hard for me recently.


3. Love Rescue Me—U2
Coming out of the letting-go theme of Mumford, U2's bluesy ballad is about hope and redemption:



"Love, rescue me/Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow/Yet I will fear no evil/I have cursed thy rod and staff, they no longer comfort me/Love, rescue me!"


4. It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!—Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan's Christmas music is a delightful and well-worthwhile investment. A collection of 6 short EPs all packaged in a collection, it never gets old with quirky lyrics like these and his trademark innovative instrumentation:



"Sing a carol to your mom/cause she knows what's goin' on/and she knows if you've been bad or good/and if you get what you deserve/to be graded on a curve/oh, you got a lot of nerve/ lalalala..."


5. Tomorrow’s Fool—King Charles
King Charles opened for Mumford & Sons at the Vancouver concert, and I predict he'll take the world by storm next year. He's currently in the studio  recording his first full album(and tweeting delightfully about it, by the way), but this song, from a two-song ep available on itunes, was an immediate favorite with its rising, psalmic anthem at the end (I'll leave that for you to discover), and words straight from the Love chapter of Corinthians:



I will be a fool today/I'm scared of what tomorrow brings/Tears will flow, I'll beat myself/but I'm too proud to weather change/


Lord, give me the strength to be a man who could never be loved/Fearful, reckless, lazy, thoughtless, charmless traits betide my mind/money buys that easy life, the easy life ain't easy at all/


No sound of love will deafen me/No sound of love will deafen me/
No resounding gong will echo here/no resounding gong will echo here.


While this song isn't exactly Christmas, it does echo the longing of the world for Christ, and the peace His presence brings.

6. While Men Are Dreaming—Jenny and Johnny
The title of this song reminded me of the shepherds in the fields on the night of Christ's birth, and the dreamy waltz tempo of the song made it a perfect fit here.


7. Follow the Shepherd Home—Mindy Smith

Mindy Smith's holiday album has been a favorite of mine for a few years, and this is easily my favorite song on it. Her voice is so authentic and comforting.
When my paper heart’s in a frantic wind/and I feel I’m all alone/my whisper is heard when I call out to Him, and I follow the Shepherd home./All the burdens weighing on my back aren’t so heavy after all/faith is knowing you can always ask/ you can follow the Shepherd home."

8. Troubles Will Be Gone—The Tallest Man on Earth
My brother likes making mixes, too, and his summer playlist introduced me to this Swedish artist's new album. While most of the folksy, sweet album is a good fit for summer, this song is reminiscent of winter's reflectiveness. Maybe the snow and cold just comes through in his music.



There's a question somewhere asked with all the answers inside/but i'll never find the kid before she's gone/well the day is never done but there's a light on where you're sleepin'/so I hope somewhere that troubles will be gone.

9. Something in the Water—Brooke Fraser
Now, this song could definitely be on a summer or fall mix, but I just loved it so much, and I felt that we needed a little lift, a hopeful, joyful, fun prelude, a reminder.


10. Too Many Miracles—Badly Drawn Boy
Like many Americans, I got introduced to Badly Drawn Boy via their soundtrack to the movie About A Boy, which I wrote about last year at Silhouette. This new song is sweet and fun and talks about "photographing snowflakes" so I thought it fit.



Photographing snowflakes lately and slowly losing my mind/so many different kinds/and falling all of the time.../too many miracles happening here/same old story, different year/I'm so glad you were here.

11. Snow Day—Rosie Thomas
Rosie Thomas released a great Christmas album for free a few years ago. Lighthearted and fun, this is another album that never gets old. This instrumental track continues to slow the tempo.


12. Hengilas—J√≥nsi
Jonsi's album is one of the best of the year, in my book. The lead singer of Sigur Ros, Jonsi's album Go is bright and unique, even when he's not singing in English, and this unrushed, reverent track is lovely for Advent reading.


13. I Saw Three Ships—Sufjan Stevens
I recently read a blog post hating on this Christmas carol. "who cares if you saw three ships?" said the author. Well, if you capture imaginations with a good song, people care about it. I have a soft spot for this admittedly obtuse carol about joy on Christmas morning.


14. I’d Rather Have Jesus—Alison Krauss and the Cox Family
Give me Alison Kraus singing any hymn, spiritual, or traditional song, and I'll be happy.


15. Gypsy Girl—Katie Herzig
Katie Herzig's voice just is wintery to me. she's been on several of my winter mixes for the last few years.

You will hear them, you will hear them cry/you will hear them, you will hear them come/I've been sleeping harder than a stone/trying not to wake up till you get home.


16. Here It Is—Over the Rhine
Over the Rhine's Christmas album Snow Angels has a "it's-not-christmas-till-I-hear-this" place in my life. This is a happy-sounding song about tough act of forgiveness at Christmastime.
The deeper the love goes, the deeper the bruisin'/The trouble with talkin'/ is it makes you sound clever/and the trouble with waiting is/ you just wait forever/there's a loop of excuses that runs through your mind/that makes the truth even harder to find/I'm wrappin' up my love this Christmas...and here it is

17. Platform 7—Mt. Desolation
Maybe this band made it onto this mix because I heard them open for Mumford & Sons this fall...but the side project of two members of the band Keane deserves its place. And following Over the Rhine's upswing, the rollicking song about coming home makes for a bit of toe-tapping

Far from home, I may wander on my own/lost and down on luck/I'll return knowing that my heart has grown/just from missing you

18. Pins—Sara Groves

Sara Groves released a set of songs she played at a women's prison for a Christmas concert this fall. Among the carols and traditional Christmas songs, was this one about busyness, and I loved it's simple sweetness and catchiness along with the Nickel Creek-reminiscent mandolin.
It can feel simple/but it's really profound...sing for the beauty that's to be found/setting up the pins for knockin' em down

19. Salvation Song—The Avett Brothers
we came for salvation/we came for family/we came for all that's good, that's how we'll walk away/we came to break the bad/we came to cheer the sad/we came to leave behind the world a better way


20. O Come All Ye Faithful—Branches
A student band out of Biola University, a two song Christmas ep was released Branches on Bandcamp this fall and I picked it up right away because I substitute taught one of the lead singers when I was teaching in California. The sound is unique and creative, and I hear the band is getting great reviews.


21. Here’s To You—Brooke Fraser

Ending on a note of New Year's, Brooke Fraser's memorable lyrics say it all:


Cheers to the furrows on our brows/to each hard-won vict'ry/cheers to the losses that grew us up/killed our pride and filled our cup/


cheers to the friendships well-worn in/that time nor distance alter/here's to the sleepers we'll see again/ find company in memorium/


open your mouth, sing out your song/life is as short as the day is long/can't leave you my body,but I'll leave you a tune/this is my legacy, here's to you

Monday, December 20, 2010

Greatly Troubled

Mary, did you fight? Did you wrestle
With the destiny you found? I know
You wondered, wandered and—
Eventually—accepted, even joyful.
At least most of the time.

That, I understand, but Mary did you
tangle with it every day, every moment
Wondering to understand,
Battling to be won
To that acceptance, so easily written.

Mary, were you restless 
under the burden of grace 
others called blessing, did you wish
For other blessings, if less great, 
still lovely in your eyes?

I'd like to think you understand,
Mother of God, this un-mother
Greatly troubled, who fights
To be won to joyful peace, 
like you--and not like you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Quiet Anxiety

When I wrote the poem from the last entry about three years ago, one of my very best friends was getting married.


There was a fracture, I felt, going on, as with continents shifting. 




I once chaperoned a field trip out to one of the most interesting and visible earthquake faults in the Bay Area, where you can see a fence that once stood in a straight line down the hill. An earthquake occurred, and the fence was shifted; what used to be a straight line flowing down the grassy hillside actually separated by about 6 extra feet of space that weren't there before. Where did the space come from? What happened when millimeters suddenly became yards? The transformation left a break. 


Suddenly, the fence felt silly, useless, superfluous. 


From living in the Bay Area, perhaps I've retained that sense of always being poised on shifting ground. I expect the breaks, now. That quiet anxiety humming just below the surface. But even expecting them, there are always the moments of panic during the quake.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leaving and Left

Now I know where we are;
that faultline which will
leave me standing
where I am while
the earth shifts
taking you
along.

And then, across the canyon left
by the quake, you've waved
and smiled, and turned--
too fast--you're gone.
The grasses whisper
and the broken fence
Marks the place.