If this blog isn’t up to my usual standards, I’m going to go ahead and blame the entire month of July.
To be perfectly honest, the last few weeks have been some of the hardest I’ve been through in a long time. First, this happened:
Towards the beginning of the month, I was driving home from work. About ten minutes from my house on an interchange between two highways, I looked up and saw a pickup truck driving across the median, headed straight for me. That’s literally the last clear memory I have for about three days. I don’t even remember taking this picture.
What I was told later is that an 18-wheeler’s trailer started fishtailing, pushing the truck across the median and into me. He hit me just about dead-on in my driver’s side headlight. Somehow, I made it out of the whole thing with a minor concussion and some bumps and bruises, and I was out of the hospital within a couple hours. I’m incredibly thankful that’s all that happened, but thinking back on the whole thing is pretty spooky. I still haven’t been able to take that route home.
And then, about the time I felt fully recovered, we got word of a very sudden and unexpected death in the family. So four days after my accident, we were hastily packing for a week-long trip from Texas to Iowa for the funeral.
When I was finally home and it was time to go back to work, I thought it would be weird to host a radio show where we make bad puns and joke about robots just as much as we talk about Jesus and serious things. But the instant I turned on that microphone, I realized a couple things:
1) Some ugly stuff happens in the world, far worse than what I’ve just been through. I’ve heard all the explanations for it, and while they’re logical, they’re just not emotionally satisfying. In spite of this, I believe that light is more powerful than darkness. I believe that this isn’t how the story ends. Even my July of 2015 will be redeemed someday.
2) There’s something healing in entertainment. Sure, too much of it can turn into a distraction that keeps you from dealing with emotional issues, but the three hours a day I get to spend listening to rock and roll and goofing off into a microphone have meant a lot to me since I got back. When I’m able to get away from the pain and stress for a little bit, I find things aren’t quite as raw when I come back to them, and they’re a little easier to deal with.
Anyway, all that to say this: I wasn’t nearly as thorough in my music listening this week. I still really like the albums I’m highlighting, but if I haven’t included something that you loved, please let me know. More than any other roundup, if I didn’t include something, it could be because I just didn’t get the chance to listen to it.
Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands: Shadows
“But Taylor, didn’t you JUST highlight a Jon Foreman EP, like, two months ago?”
Yes. Yes I did.
But first of all, Mr. Imaginary Critic, this is my roundup and I’ll do whatever I want with it. Second of all, Shadows just might be the best EP Jon Foreman has put out so far. At least in the all important category of Which-One-Taylor-Hohulin-Likes-Best, Shadows is right up there with Fall. The Switchfoot frontman’s latest EP takes the powerful yet subdued melodies of Fall and combines them with the sophisticated and layered instrumentation of Sunlight.
Thematically, the album deals with issues of death and pain, but in a way that shows them as a necessary step towards restoration, as Foreman communicates in “My Coffin.” After musing on the fear and uncertainty surrounding death, he concludes, Resurrection comes / But death comes first / All of our entitlements and rights drive the hearse / Through Maker’s death / Death is unmade / And when I lose myself I’m safe / In my coffin.
Buy The Wonderlands: Shadows on iTunes here
Joshua Luke Smith – Your Beauty
In my June roundup, I mentioned how hesitant I am to write about music in the metal and hardcore scene. I’m not as familiar with that world, and the genre police are out there in full force to make sure you’re using all the right terminology. It’s intimidating. I could probably say similar things about the rap and hip hop scene. The genre police aren’t nearly as strict, but I don’t listen to enough rap to know what’s a ripoff and what’s a genre convention. I haven’t spent enough time with it to know when I’m listening to something if someone else has done the same thing better.
I do know this much: I like Joshua Luke Smith.
He writes like a spoken word poet, but his rapping has a great, rhythmic flow to it. His aggressive lines work well in contrast to the lush tracks he raps over. Add to that some incredibly solid singing ability, and this is a great EP for fans of melodic hip hop. This is my favorite rap/hip hop album I’ve heard all year. I just wish it were longer.
Buy Your Beauty on iTunes here
Owl City – Mobile Orchestra
Somewhere, somebody has figured out how to take emotions and turn them into sound. I know this, because someone apparently did it with happiness, and then named the result Owl City. Since Fireflies put frontman Adam Young on the map, I’ve been a fan of his brand of catchy, happy electro-pop. It’s nothing particularly technical or even original, but his execution is perfect every time. Mobile Orchestra won’t win over anyone who isn’t already a fan of Owl City, but if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard from the one-man electro-band then chances are you’ll dig this project. This is high quality feel-good music.
Also, there’s a good chance that roughly a bazillion schools will be playing Verge at their graduations this year.
Buy Mobile Orchestra on iTunes here
New Wine Worship – Wildfire
As someone who’s been playing with worship bands for over ten years, I sometimes feel a little weird that I don’t enjoy listening to live worship albums. I don’t even know what it is, but they always hit me just wrong. That was not the case with New Wine Worship’s Wildfire. Lyrically, there’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a worship album, but the alt-pop sound has just enough quirkiness to make this album a fun listen. The production quality is very high, and it often doesn’t even sound live, which is a definite plus.
Buy Wildfire on iTunes here
And that’s all I’ve got for you this time around. What are you digging this month?
UPDATE: I put the finishing touches on this blog with one hand, as I managed to break a glass on my wrist and had to get stitches. This has not been my summer.