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Doing The Blah Blah is hard. Sure, there’s the sometimes overwhelming amount of e-mails, the work it takes to give an insightful opinion, the weeding through mediocre or bad music, etc. but that’s all pretty normal.
What makes it hardest is that I want to showcase artists who are Christians and are making above-average music, especially those in the indie music world, but definitely not limited to them. What’s so hard about this is that most Christians in the indie music world don’t want to be identified as Christians, for various reasons, and most that want to be identified are not making above-average music. You can debate the ethics of either side all you want, but the truth remains that most good independent Christian artists don’t want to be pigeon-holed as “Christian artists.”
So it’s hard to find out who’s a Christian and who isn’t.
This makes me think that maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it would be better just to write about music that I like and forget the whole faith issue. This would be OK and might work for a while, but I really do want someone to do a site that is mostly devoted to good music made by Christians, because there’s a lot of people who want that. There’s a ton of Christians burned-out from a CCM-infused market who don’t know there’s anything better out there and feel like the only option is secular music that promotes a humanist worldview. I listen to plenty of music made by non-Christians, and I still think there are more non-Christian artists making great music than Christians, but I think the world needs to know that you don’t have to make CCM records if you love God. And the church needs to know it.
The church needs to know there’s good music out there. It needs to know Peter Hicks, Page France, or Solomon Jabby aren’t heretics for not being on major Christian labels. Some of them may be heretics, but it’s not for their choice of record labels. The world needs to know God is a creative God open to all forms of music, even if it doesn’t come from Nashville. And the indie Christian hipsters need to know God might even be open to someone as uncool and CCM as Shane and Shane.
I think someone needs to do a site like The Blah Blah, but I just wish it were easier. I wish people were more open about what they believed, and more open to accepting others for their opposing beliefs. In a world that prides itself on being open, understanding, and politically-correct, independent artists get a lot of flack if they even mention they go to church or they grew up in a Christian environment. And Christians get a lot of flack if they’re on a secular label, perform with secular bands, and play at, heaven forbid, bars or college parties, where people actually need to hear about God. Maybe someday we’ll be past all this judging a band for what their faith is, but it sucks right now.
I’m not even sure what I can possibly say about Josh Garrels, other than the fact that he brings some of the most authentic and unique music to the Christian indie scene. He writes songs that would be considered overtly Christian, but most likely so Christian that you would never hear them on any contemporary Christian station or like avenues.
The music is a mixture of classic beats with a modern folk twist. I saw him for the first time when I was at a conference in California, and I honestly think people didn’t know what to do with him. He was using some old school beats, like from the 40’s and 50’s, mixed with his masterful guitar playing and amazing voice. I left that night at that coffeehouse greatly encouraged, and very surprised that someone this good has been under the radar for so long.
The sad things is that Josh Garrels most likely will never rise to Christian stardom, but he is more talented than most Christian rock stars. He sounds like Jack Johnson meeting classic Simon and Garfunkel, but even better! He has a few albums, at this point, and just released his latest full-length titled Jacaranda.
Josh is an Indianapolis/Muncie Indiana native and now currently resides in North Carolina. I am not sure what else to really say about him, other than the fact that he is one gifted individual, and he uses his talent not for his glory, but to be an authentic and real voice in a Christian world that thrives on the exterior. He brings deep insight and challenges the listener with his call to be real.
Check out his website. I’m pretty sure there are a few downloads on there, but here are some songs that he wanted me to pass along:
Note: All MP3s will be removed after one week
If you read my post on Anadara over here, you know I’m picky about female vocalists. I’ve got nothing against women – I just am getting tired of the over-populated female singer-songwriter market, especially within Christian music, and I think it’s time we start to be more willing to critique music that is good (or just OK) but not great.
In this world of female vocalists that all sound the same, Joy Ike is doing things differently enough to be really refreshing.
She’s not way out there and weird in her musical style. In fact, it’s a pretty “normal” sounding style. And while her sound can definitely be polished a little more in some areas, listening to her album Good Morning has been an overall really good experience for me.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I really like Joy Ike, and I think you will too.
Don Chaffer is a pretty recognizable name in certain circles of the music industry. Whether it’s his solo projects, his years with Waterdeep, or his new project The Khrusty Brothers, the guy deserves the attention he gets.
The first time I heard of The Khrusty Brothers, I thought, “Who the heck would name their new band that?!” It’s a weird name. Relax, the music is weird too, so it fits.
With that, the first time I heard their self-titled album, I didn’t like it. It was weird, but not quite weird enough; normal, but not quite normal enough. It felt stuck somewhere between really weird, trippy, cool alt-folk… and more normal, well-written, expertly-played classic folk. Read the rest of this entry »
I haven’t checked my Blah Blah e-mail in a few months (sorry, if you’ve tried to get ahold of me), and now I’m scared to check it.
I’m scared that I’ll open it up and I’ll have thousands of unread e-mails… most of them from angry Medieval dwarves with axes… riding on skateboards… and singing about spandex.
It’s irrational, I know, but it haunts me all the same.
And I don’t even get that much e-mail coming through really, just enough to get really clogged up if I don’t check it in a few months. Not like these guys who declared e-mail bankruptcy last year.
I think I’m less bankrupt and more anti-social when it comes to my e-mail. It’s not on purpose, though… It’s just how it has worked out lately.
All this e-mail stuff reminds me of Brother Andrew, the famous God Smuggler, who refused to even have a phone in his office because he didn’t want to be distracted. Sometimes I think that’d be nice. Until I try to order pizza with my telegraph.
Jon Foreman didn’t leave the “h” out of his name because he can’t spell. He didn’t forget the rules of Wheel of Fortune and think he had to buy consonants, finding himself only able to afford two for his first name. No, he leaves the “h” out just because he can.
That’s how cool he is.
You probably know Jon Foreman from the band Switchfoot, which has been around since 1996, but he’s got some great solo stuff that you should check out.
I actually only own a few of his songs, because most of his solo stuff isn’t available on e-music, and since I’m danged near broke, I don’t like to pay $1 per download. So until e-music gets more Jon Foreman up, I’ll have to listen to my three songs of his over and over again. Life is so cruel sometimes…
Ever since I first heard about Cold War Kids, I’ve been listening to them non-stop. The edgy vocals, the soulful rock and roll music, the great writing… these guys are great.
If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, go get their new album Loyalty to Loyalty that was released today. I’ve read mixed reviews on-line, some good and some bad, but so far I really like it. It’s similar enough to Robbers and Cowards but different enough to show some new sides to the band.
I’ll try to do a full review with sample tracks sometime soon, but for now, go and grab it up if you want some awesome new music. The best place (in my opinion) to get it is by signing up at e-music here, but if you insist on paying more for your downloads, here’s a link to Amazon.
I was thinking of doing a full review right now, but it didn’t seem right to offer late-breaking news at a reasonable time. I’ve got a reputation to uphold after all.
Well, I finally did get the internet working, after I killed it a week or so ago, so I can post again.
Last week, I had another one of my usual “I’ve got way too many downloads to burn through and not enough music I want” episodes. I had 250 free downloads from e-music, and, honestly, I was already overwhelmed with the music I had and wasn’t really excited about the idea of downloading another 20 new albums I’d have to grow to like.
But it drove me nuts just sitting on those downloads, so I went searching for new (or “new old”) stuff, and one of the artists I found was Annie Clark, who performs as the group St. Vincent.
I found her through her connections to Sufjan Stevens. Apparently, she toured with his band beginning in 2006. I’m not sure what part she played, but according to Wikipedia she knows guitar, bass, and keyboard, so I would assume she did one of those.
Anyway, the music is fun, quirky, jazzy, poppy, and smooth, all at once. She’s got an eclectic mixture of a sound that harkens back to classic jazz vocalists without remaining trapped there – the sound of thrift stores.
I first posted about the band Colour Revolt way back here, but they’ve come a long way since then. Through concerts, practice sessions, and gear getting swiped, the guys have managed to create a full-length album that is phenomenal. If you liked what they did on the EP, you’ll love the new (that’s a relative word) album Plunder, Beg, and Curse.
Colour Revolt is Jimmy Cajoleas, Len Clark, Jesse Coppenbarger, Sean Kirkpatrick, and Patrick Addison. Together they create a masterful soundscape of heavy-edged, high-energy music that is like nothing else out there. Screaming guitars, intense vocals, smooth bass lines, and some hard-pounding drums bring everything together for a sound that is much bigger and more polished than they had on their EP.
I loved the EP, but this album makes it sound almost boring.
I downloaded Katie Herzig’s album Apple Tree from NoiseTrade, and I loved it instantly. Her music is a little quirky, but not overly weird, so I think you’ll probably like her.
Quick sidenote here, but if you haven’t tried out NoiseTrade, you really oughtta. I talk about it more over here, but the basic idea is that artists can offer an album for free download to anyone who will promote their music. Or, if you don’t wanna bug your friends, then you can opt out of the free option and instead just pay whatever you think the album is worth. Either way, it’s a great idea and a cool way to 1) get new music, 2) find out about artists you may not know about, and 3) help promote some really great stuff.
I don’t know if all the artists on NoiseTrade are Christian, but a good portion of them are. At any rate, whether you’re looking for music by Christians or not, it’s all good indie stuff.