Gretchen Peters, “Jubilee”

This (beautiful) song seems fitting for a day dedicated to remembering our mortality.


(The whole album’s very good, by the way.)

Favorite music of 2015

I listen to a lot of older music and am by no means a new-music maven. There’s undoubtedly a lot of great stuff that came out this year that wasn’t even on my radar. That said, here are ten albums I really enjoyed. The list is heavy on 80’s-esque synth-pop and country/Americana, for whatever that’s worth.

Chvrches, “Every Open Eye”

Ashley Monroe, “The Blade”

Florence + The Machine, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”

Sufjan Stevens, “Carrie and Lowell”

Tamaryn, “Cranekiss”

Superhumanoids, “Do You Feel OK?”

Brandi Carlile, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter”

Various, “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”

Dwight Yoakam, “Second Hand Heart”

Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”

Odds and ends for a Friday

I realize I’m exactly the type of person you’d expect to like a Sufjan Stevens album, but nonetheless–the new album is really good!

Evangelical Christian groups are working on a statement of theological concern regarding factory farming. I’m no longer a vegetarian (and feel vaguely guilty about it), but I’m all for any efforts to reform how we treat the animals we raise for food.

There’s been some good stuff published to mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Some pieces I found of particular interest were this on why we should mark the surrender of the Confederacy with a national holiday, this one on how the issues that split the country still drive our politics and this one on the surprising divergence of Grant’s and Lee’s reputations after the war.

Yesterday was also the 70th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death at the hands of the Nazis. Bonhoeffer continues to inspire Christians of every stripe, who often jostle to claim him as one of their own. But Bonhoeffer was far from a plaster saint and clearly recognized his own complicity in evil. Which, if anything, makes him more relevant for us.

Ready for Hillary?

Free De La Soul albums for Valentine’s Day

Legendary hip-hop group De La Soul is offering free downloads of some of their classic albums today. See here:

I’m not nearly as familiar with their catalog as I should be, so I’m taking this opportunity to fix that. 🙂

Best of the week

I end up sharing a lot of links on Twitter, so I thought it might be worth collecting what I think were the stand-out pieces of the week. (“Stand-out” doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with every word, just that these were the most interesting or thought-provoking items I came across).

Anyway, here goes:

–Elizabeth Stoker, “The Christian case for raising the minimum wage”

–Mary Charlotte Ella, “Gladiators of the gridiron” (the moral case against football)

–Isaiah Berlin, “Roosevelt through European eyes” (from the Atlantic, July 1955)

–Eric Reitan, “Civil Marriage vs Civil Union: Why NOT Leave Marriage to Churches?”

–David A. Graham, “Peter Seeger’s All-American Communism”

–Michelle Goldberg, “Feminism’s toxic Twitter wars”

–William Saletan “The Work Ethic” (on the economic philosophy underpinning President Obama’s State of the Union address)

–Claude S. Fischer, “Libertarianism is very strange”

And for fun, Miley Cyrus (yes, that Miley Cyrus) doing a surprisingly good cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

Mazzy Star, “Blue Flower”

Amazon was having an MP3 sale, and I went back and scooped up the rest of the Mazzy Star catalog. This is a great cut from their debut album, She Hangs Brightly.

Favorite music of 2013

I didn’t listen to a ton of new music this year, and probably listened to as much old music (old country, old jazz, old punk, lots of Elvis) as new. But there were a few 2013 releases I really liked. Here, in no particular order, are the albums I found myself returning to repeatedly.

Queens of the Stone Age,  . . . Like Clockwork

Arcade Fire, Reflektor

Paramore (self-titled album)

Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day

Camera Obscura, Desire Lines

Wilie Nelson and Family, Let’s Face the Music and Dance

Robbie Fulks, Gone Away Backward

Shearwater, Fellow Travelers

Long-time readers may notice the absence of any heavy metal on this list. For whatever reason, 2013 was the year I almost completely lost interest in new metal. Particularly “extreme” metal. Maybe I’m getting old (maybe?), but I’ve gotten really tired of the cliched, cookie-cutter Cookie Monster vocals and the dearth of melody and effective songwriting that characterizes so much extreme metal.

“Lost” Johnny Cash album to be released next year

This is great news:

There’s new never-before-heard music coming from Johnny Cash.

Cash’s estate is releasing “Out Among the Stars,” an album he recorded with Billy Sherrill in the early 1980s that was never released by Columbia Records, then disappeared when the company dropped Cash in 1986. Turns out Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, stashed the tapes — along with just about everything else that came into their possession.

This period was possibly the low ebb of Cash’s career.


The 12 tracks include a duet with Waylon Jennings and two with June Carter Cash.

“We were so excited when we discovered this,” [son John Carter] Cash said. “We were like, my goodness this is a beautiful record that nobody has ever heard. Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his lifetime. He’s pitch perfect. It’s seldom where there’s more than one vocal take. They’re a live take and they’re perfect.”

John Carter Cash doesn’t think Columbia executives realized what they had in hand. Even though his father had been a major star, tastes would soon turn to Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.

Biographer Robert Hilburn, who recently released “Johnny Cash: The Life,” said the music fans are about to hear was recorded during some of the most difficult years of Cash’s life. He felt like he’d lost his legacy and he was still dealing with the fallout from personal problems including infidelity and drug addiction.

He soon met producer Rick Rubin, though, and wrote a coda to his career that gave his life something of a mythic quality.

“Out Among the Stars” is slated to be released next March. I’m very excited to hear it.

Johnny Cash, “One of These Days I’m Gonna Sit Down and Talk to Paul”

I sometimes wonder what the people who were first exposed to Johnny Cash via his angsty late-90s output (the “Hurt” video, etc.) think of his super-earnest religious songs.

Personally, I love it all.

Emmylou Harris, “Wayfaring Stranger”