Music I’ve Enjoyed in 2014


We listen to a lot of music in our house. Rare is the time when none is playing, even in the background. But often the music is in the foreground and I will listen to albums all the way through over and over and over. But it’s rarely about what is new. Maybe new to us. I am often late to the party. Sometimes years late. More, it’s about what is right for the time. I’m not sure I listened to enough new albums this year to make a “Best of 2014” list. So, how about a more modest list of “Music I’ve Enjoyed in 2014” in no particular order?

In the comment section tell what music you’ve loved in 2014.

1. NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers in the Wasteland. I resisted listening to them for a long time due to their awful name. And I have a rule about not listening to music that might be heard in Lifeway. But this album is rare phenomena. Great lyrics, vocals and melodies in the world of CCM. Highlight: “Wasteland”

2. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream. I didn’t even listen to this one till the Tuesday before Christmas. I’ve now listened to it 22 23 times. The more I listen, the more I hear and the more I enjoy this strange album. Could be my favorite of the year. Highlight: “Burning”

3. U2 – Songs of Innocence. The only thing more surprising than how they released their newest album was the quality of the album. It may end up being one of their top albums. The lyrics are as powerful as any album they’ve put out. Not since Aching Baby have they been so brilliant. Highlight: “Iris”

4. BRMC – Live in London. When I saw them live in 2013, I felt as if I had seen something really special. Heard something that strummed the electric nerves of reality in a way, I had not experienced previously. This DVD/CD captures it well. I’ve watched it so many times it plays in my head regularly. Highlight: “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”

5. Bill Mallonee – Winnowing. I’ve been listening to his songs for so many years, I don’t even know where nostalgia ends and just plain good americana music begins. I’m pretty sure, though, this is one of his best. He should be more famous than he is, but if he was, we may not have these hurting songs. Highlight: “Tap Your Heart On It’s Shoulder”

6. John Fullbright – Songs. I’m very new to this guy. But his music is the kind that makes you believe you’ve been listening to these songs for years. Incredible vocals. great songwriting. And when he gets on the piano, it all gets as wondrous as the night sky. Highlight: “Happy”

7. Steve Earle – El Corazon. This album is almost 20 years old. But it’s fairly new to me. And it’s an almost perfect album. The songs are varied. They range from standard Texas country to folk to near grunge followed by a song you will swear was one of Hank’s. Highlight: “Fort Worth Blues”

8. The Violet Burning – The Story of Our Lives. This 3 CD epic concept album has been around for a couple of years but I’ve never put in the effort to sit down and listen straight through. It takes some commitment. But it was so worth it and after doing so I made it a priority to do it again. And then again. It’s brilliant, and dark and then beautiful. Highlight: “br0ther part 1”

9. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams. I buy everything by David Ryan Adams. And I have about 60 bootlegs and unreleased albums. He’s just a genius and almost everything he does is at the very least interesting. Highlight: “Shadows”

10. Jack White – Lazaretto. This is such an odd mixture of songs. But it works in a way only Jack White could make it do so. And it may be my favorite album he has ever done. So infectious and full of little ear worms. Highlight: “Temporary Ground”

11. Corey Nolen – Drive Down South. I love country music. Not modern pop country. The real deal. And Corey delivers on this album produced by Brian Murphy of the Lone Bellow. Corey is also my neighbor and doing a house show at my place on Jan 10th with Ashley Spurling, who sang on all the Red Mountain Church albums. Highlight: “Haunt Me”

12. Thad Cockrell – To Be Loved. A voice that will blow you over the first time you hear it. I’d heard his name for years but had never really sat down and listened to him. But then we heard him do a few songs live with Andrew Peterson and I immediately went and bought his album and have not regretted that purchase one bit. Highlight: “To Be Loved”

13. Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil Goliath. I’ve been waiting 20 years for this album. Seriously, it’s been over 20 years since Steve Taylor released an album. And this does not disappoint. It’s clever and brilliant punk rock and it was worth the wait. Highlight: “Comedian”

Random Thoughts Before Christmas


1) Someone asked me recently about some good Christian books to buy as presents. And by “good” they meant well-written. There are some. The problem? There is so little. Most is written by pastors who are writing like Piper or Warren. They aren’t looking to Hemingway or even Buechner. And instead of words bleeding onto the page money falls from stiff spines.

2) The anticipation of Advent has been supplanted by waiting for one of us to get sick.

3) Nothing has helped me get perspective this Christmas season more than Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. And wine.

4) Jesus was born into a world of far more injustice than we may ever see in our lives. And yet he came. And the government is upon his shoulders.

5) My first gift this year was a huge box of bacon, setting the tone for the rest of all gift-giving.

6) When it comes to Christmas, the wonder over the lesson.

7) There is a part of me wanting to outgrow my desire to get presents at Christmas. but then there is part of me really, really wanting a record player.

8) This is my first orphan Christmas. My parents have gone on ahead to experience what is “not yet” of the incarnation for the rest of us.

9) If my five year old is still singing the wrong “words” to “Arf, the Erald Angels Sing” when Christmas is over, then the season will have been a success.

10) Serious. My favorite part of Christmas is buying gifts for Bethany. Buying gifts I cannot afford. Because she’d be happy with the smallest bit of thoughtfulness. But she is so much of a gift I cannot help but overspend.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

1) If we make everything about gender and race, everything will be about gender and race and we will lose it all.

2) The internet has made it possible for us to respond to someone’s written words instantaneously without having to think about them. Before, the written word of a book or magazine, could be responded to, but never with immediacy. Now, a writer can craft ideas and sentences over days or weeks and someone can read those words and express their disagreement with two minutes of thought.

3) Christmas is for broken families.

4) The Holy Scriptures do not allow us to attack racism in another without understanding the call is to love others. You can hate racism and still be an unloving person toward the uncultured or overweight.

5) I’m not sure I’m doing a great job at loving my neighbor. And by neighbor, I mean my middle child.

6) There is a place of growth in the Christian, where you are able to see your sin rise up in you yet again and almost laugh at yourself because it got you again. Its a holy recognition. And it’s grace because you can laugh at the irony of your recognition after the fact. I don’t know what to call it. Humble recognition? I don’t know. But when it happens it feels like freedom.

7) I am glad to be associated with the “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.”

8) I’ve been listening to some of the Christian artists I grew up listening to. A lot of the music is bad. A lot is good too. But the words are different from today. These days Christian music is either worship music or the lyrics are so “poetic” you cannot make out the meaning without a decoder ring. They mean anything and everything. It would be nice to have a prophetic voice show up on the scene who wasn’t trying to be Dylan so much as John the Revelator.

9) If we do not listen to people, we will not know the hurts and pains into which we would fling our pious platitudes had we not listened.

10) Don’t help your kids be cool. There is no call for cool in the Scriptures. There is a call for kindness, though. Help them with that.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts


1. I have gone back through the letters to the churches and even though Paul and the other Apostles had ample opportunity to complain about a government far more unjust than our own, and yet… nothing.

2. It is very easy to let the hope of a good thing kill contentment.

3. I don’t care who you are and how cool you are, the newest needtobreathe album is a really great album.

4. Young people need to know that one day they may be very good at their job and still feel like you are missing out. There is no way of figuring this out. There are no answers. But there is a God who is faithful when life is not what you thought it would be. When vocational fulfillment is not. And all the motivational posters have let you down.

5. Christians should be the last people in the world to be excited about a coming year. None of us knows what is coming. Your year may be full of death and tragedy and disappointment. Only wealthy, healthy westerners assume the best. Those who have stared into the eyes of death and walked gingerly through the valley of the shadow of his land know this. Assume only this, the One who has defeated death is faithful unto death.

6. You do know that the journalists are making a killing off your outrage, don’t you?

7. I’m tired of not eating fried chicken.

8. You are probably more worried about your kids saying a cuss word than you are about whether they are kind to the awkward, uncool kids.

9. All of Paul’s outrage seems to be reserved for the Judaizers. Not Roman politicians. Not soldiers.

10. I would rather eat my wife’s cooking than the fare of any 5 star restaurant.