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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Nicsperiment's Top Nine Albums of 2013

9. Twenty One Pilots -- Vessel
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Vessel is about as assured and confident a debut album as you're going to hear, and that is about as lazy a description as you are going to read.  Twenty One Pilots are a very modern sounding, high energy duo of drummer and vocalist/mostly keyboardist, Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph. Most pop rock albums, especially debuts, feature three singles surrounded by filler. On Vessel, every song is the single. Joseph's pop instincts are perfect, and his lyrics are shockingly clever and introspective considering how catchy the music is. Also, he raps half the time. On paper, this should be horrible, but on first, second, and thirtieth listen, Vessel had me saying, "Man, this is good." Earlier this year, I predicted this band would be huge, and since I am not so humbly composing a list of things for other people to read and assuming they will listen to me, I'll toot my own horn and mention that Twenty One Pilots first four videos have amassed over ten million combined views this year, and they are now touring with Fall Out Boy. You're welcome, dudes. Yet another band made by the Nicsperiment.


8. Hillsong United -- Zion
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I'm as shocked as anyone that this is on my list, but for the first time ever, Hillsong United are ahead of the trends instead of following them. The spiritual content is still there for those of us who want it, but for once, the music, forward-thinking, electronic driven work with traditional instruments around the perimeter, should be enough to keep everyone else happy, too. If you are new to The Nicsperiment, thanks for visiting, and enjoy the run-on sentences.


7. Basick Records 2013 Output (Various Artists)
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In a near decade of Nicsperiment lists, here's the first top album of the year that isn't an album. I couldn't decide on which of Basick Records excellent 2013 output to include, so I'm just going to praise the whole label in this spot. Basick's stable consists mostly of heavy bands, and since Solid State records fell from glory over the last decade, Basick has become my go to for good heavy music. Much like with turn of the century Solid State, one can pick any new Basick release blindly, and almost always be satisfied with the purchase. 2013 has been a particularly banner year for the label. Personally, I have really enjoyed Circle's Infinitas (Some strange alchemy of djent and nu-metal that somehow works awesomely), Bear's Noumenon (Just a mean, dirty little album), No Consequence's Io (a humanistic concept album I don't quite agree with in theory, but wholeheartedly endorse musically. Plus, the album closing, chill-inducing outro of "Break out these chains/We are one" is the most powerful moment of any music I've heard this year), and Uneven Structure's (short, sweet, and terrifying) re-recording of their 8 EP.

6. Five Iron Frenzy -- Engine of a Million Pilots
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Over the last few years, I've enjoyed "comeback" albums from Further Seems Forever, The Dismemberment Plan, Face to Face, and several other bands to varying degrees, but Five Iron Frenzy's Engine of a Million Pilots is the first to make me think that's why they got back together! Engine of a Million Pilots provides all of the passion of Five Iron's previous music with a maturity and wisdom that only age can bring. If you can't enjoy this album because it's "rock with horns" instead of ska, maybe you need to throw away your Doc Martens, and chunk out all those cases of Surge you've been hoarding since 1997.

6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- Push the Sky Away
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I have thought of ways to articulate the mood of this album more eloquently than this. I'm sorry, but I can't think of a more apt description. Push the Sky Away is the sound of walking through the apocalypse with a boner. Nick Cave has lost 0% of his edge, sounding more sophisticated, alien, and...sexually observant than ever. I think, in many ways, this is his most minimalist album, and while it isn't as spare as The Boatman's Call, it somehow sounds more restrained than anything he has done. That said, he gets more done here with a little than he did back when he was wailing like a banshee with a chainsaw at his back.

I just realized I have two number "6"'s. Instead of breaking tradition and calling this a "top ten" list, let's leave that to Letterman, and just call number six a tie.

5. Norma Jean -- Wrongdoers
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Norma Jean have been in existence under a variety of different monikers for the last sixteen years. One original member remains. Vocalist, Cory Brandan Putman, and guitarist, Chris Day, have been the only constant members during the band's last four albums of output. The duo have enlisted three new members for Wrongdoers, and that fresh blood energizes Norma Jean to such an extent, they sound like a new band...one to rival the incarnation that performed on their landmark debut, Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child. Wrongdoers is the culmination and perfection of everything Putman has brought to the band since his 2005 succession of Josh Scogin. I've waited eleven years to say that Norma Jean have matched their debut. I've enjoyed, but also been critical of the work they've released since then. There is nothing to criticize here. Wrongdoers is a beautiful, beastly, thought-provoking, space-shuttle crashing into the sun of an album. Here's to many more.


4. Polyenso -- One Big Particular Loop
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I've been waiting for this album since the band posted the first song...almost three years ago. After a loooong wait and a Kickstarter, Polyenso released One Big Particular Loop against my one big particular expectation...and they are number four on my favorite albums of the year list, so they obviously met them. One Big Particular Loop is tough to describe. I'll just do it abstractly. One Big Particular Loop sounds as if someone took the vibe from early '90s adult contemporary music, then added a drummer who could keep rhythm under heavy mortar fire with both hands behind his back, a singer who grew up listening to a lot of Radiohead and Tracy Chapman, a bassist who likes Dredg only less than he likes getting funky, a trumpet player who likes to stand on top of tall buildings, and a guitar player who sounds like he really, really likes to paint. All of this in a complete package that literally loops back into itself. What's not to like?


3. Jars of Clay -- Inland
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I published a review for Inland a few weeks ago. This band just gets better with age. I am scared about the music they are going to be making in their 50's. Future listeners will have to place some kind of awesome funnel into their cochleas to ensure that their brains do not explode from too much awesomeness at once.


2. Everything In Slow Motion -- Phoenix
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In this cynical age where irony seems to be valued more than honest emotion, and bloggers vent about good old days that most likely never existed, Shane Ochsner's music stands alone. Well, not really alone, but in the company of few. "Stands alone" just sounds cooler. Anyway, Ochsner's new one-man project, Everything in Slow Motion, picks up where Hands, his previous project, left off. Hard rock music with a lot of atmosphere, and even more real, honest, difficult emotion. While Phoenix's more specified topic of addiction is not quite as universal as the bigger picture themes of Hands' 2011 opus, Give Me Rest, it is still identifiable to anyone with a pulse and working ears. Plus, the album jams.

1. Sadistik -- Flowers For My Father
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I'm not going to lie. This was, mentally, quite a dark year for me. I'd go so far as to say, outside of one moment of extreme darkness shortly after my 18th birthday, several moments I had earlier this year were the darkest I've ever had. With that said, I firmly believe the best music is that which does the greatest job of helping you to not kill yourself. By that rule, my favorite album this year was Sadistik's Flowers For My Father. The album deals with the rapper's dark feelings after the death of the titular figure, as well as that of his mentor, Michael Larsen. As Sadistik struggles through bad relationships, loneliness, substance abuse, and depression, he creates some excellent poetry, employing literary references, dark imagery, and some all out beautiful wordplay. He also finds real hope, and reasons to go on, and he expresses those in a way that makes them more appealing than the darkness. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. Of course, a dude just saying a bunch of awesome stuff is only one half of a great album, but thankfully, Flowers For My Father's musical backdrops are just as deep and enveloping. The mix of producers Sadistik pooled together tapestry an atmospheric...tapestry...man, sentence failure...start over. The mix of producers Sadistik pooled together for this album do an excellent job of meshing synths and strings into a cinematically cohesive whole. The beats get the job done and never overpower Sadistik's voice. Special credit needs to go to the myriad of female vocalists who lent their talents to Flowers for My Father, as well, particularly, Lotte Kestner. Her melancholy vocals only serve to increase the album's already impressive scope.

Man, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really loved Skillet and Paramore's new albums, respectively. In Skillet's case, they had gone so far down the generic radio rock rabbit hole, I never thought I would see them again. Instead, they've returned with their best work in a decade. Granted, it's radio rock for teens, but it's an incredibly well done representation of leaving loneliness and fear for peace in faith. Most importantly, they sound like they mean it, which puts them leagues ahead of their genre peers. Also, I've never liked a Paramore album, despite the facts that I love a handful of their songs and Hayley Williams' brings me to tears. Their new self-titled album fuses 80's sounds with modern trends in a complete, 17-song package that I haven't been able to get enough of. Hope for the Dying's Aletheia was also quite good.
Finally, though I missed it in 2012, I've really enjoyed Katatonia's Dead End Kings this year. It served a similar function to Sadistik's album for me, just on a slightly smaller scale. Oh, and Decortica's 11811. Awesome!
And that's it! I tried to keep it brief this time!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Nicsperiment's Top Nine Songs of 2013 (Not Found on The Nicsperiment's Top Nine Albums of 2013)

9. Love and Death -- Whip It
My wife used to be a huge fan of Korn. She quickly scooped up Brian Head Welch's new band's album and made me listen to it a lot. You know what else I used to have to listen to a lot? Devo's "Whip It." False River Academy played that song at every single pep-rally for my entire 12-year stay. In fact, one of the reason's I scheduled a half-day for my senior year was to miss pep-rally's so I wouldn't have to hear Devo's "Whip It." Love and Death's ridiculously heavy cover of "Whip It" rights all wrongs.

8. The Dismemberment Plan -- Invisible
I may be alone in this, but I always thought The Plan were at their best when they sang about the lonely, isolated, and socially rejected. "Invisible," track three on The Plan's comeback album, Uncanny Valley, continues this legacy. "Snow on the window of the taxi back home/I just sit back and I turn off my phone/The streets are glittering without a care/And I just vanish into thin air"

7. Rosetta -- Hara/The Center
Rosetta's A Determinism of Morality is one of my favorite albums of the last two decades. Its follow-up, The Anaesthete, seems as if it was purposely written to be difficult, and had me struggling for aural landmarks. Fittingly, my favorite Anaesthete song by far is the crushing and beautiful "Hara/The Center," which sounds like it could have come directly from A Determinism of Morality.

6. The Civil Wars -- Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins Cover)
A band in a genre I don't like covering one of my favorite songs from my favorite genre. It's magic. I don't know what these two people were going through when they recorded this song, but you can feel it, and it is intense.

5. Night Verses -- Parasomnia
After last year's debut EP, I had some really high hopes for Night Verses debut LP. It is a good album, but it is also the musical equivalent of eating 600 chocolate bars. The awesomeness just keeps going and going until you want to throw up. Because of that, my favorite track is a respite from the rest of the album's raucous cacophony. "Parasomnia" is a mesmerizing conjuring of its title.

4. Nine Inch Nails -- Various Methods of Escape
I'll be honest. I didn't think a clean, happy, well-adjusted Trent Reznor could make a good album. I was very wrong. Hesitation Marks was one album away from making my end of the year list. It's proof that despite having a life lacking in drama, Reznor has lost none of his musical curiosity. Just because you kill your demons doesn't mean you aren't still haunted by them.

3. Alice In Chains - Stone
Score another one for bands I loved in the '90s. Jerry Cantrell sang on far more Alice In Chains' songs than most people realize, and his voice and sludgy riff take "Stone" to heights few younger bands could reach.

2. Chvrches -- Night Sky
At the age of 17, upon hearing Kelly Macdonald ask Ewan McGregor "What's wrong, boy? Cat got your tongue?," I decided that the Scottish accent was the greatest of all female accents. I then promptly married an Iranian woman with a Southern accent, so maybe I am fickle. Alas, I still have Chvrches, singing lines like, "And I want you, now and for all time," while using vowel sounds I've not only never heard before, but am not sure I actually am hearing. I don't even care if that sentence made sense.

1. Karnivool -- We Are
Few songs have fired me up like "We Are." I am not sure why. It has that strange fortune of subconscious power behind it. Something about the broken, yet driving rhythm of the song, Ian Kenny's vague, yet inspiring lyrics, and the beautiful, yet harsh bursts of guitar come together to create the kind of song one can listen to over and over again, yet never fail to feel better afterward.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Joanna Newsom -- Have One on Me

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7/10

It is hard enough to sustain a listener's attention across an entire album, especially if every song has a similar sound. A double album is even tougher, but the rare triple album is nearly impossible to pull off well. For some reason, after releasing one of the best albums of this now not quite as new century, Joanna Newsom decided it was time to try her hand at the triple album. Have One on Me is at once an admirable attempt and a maddening one. These 18 songs, despite more diverse instrumentation, are by far the least dynamic Newsom has ever recorded. They are slow, quiet, and somehow both meticulous and unlabored. Most of the lyrics read like a section from Finnegan's Wake, and just reading through them all in the provided booklet takes quite an investment. This lyrical opacity lends the more sparse songs (about half are only Newsom's voice accompanied by harp or piano) an even more aloof and distant quality, which is ironic, considering the warmth the album title and artwork invoke.
I've had three years to make up my mind about Have One On Me, but my initial response has not changed. Listening to Have One on Me is like taking a two-hour nature-cruise down a labyrinthian river, banked with few landmarks, where all you see is a couple of birds. There might be more beyond the brush, but whatever is there, it isn't clear. Those landmarks I mentioned are a handful of great songs, "Good Intentions Paving Company" chief among them.

There are 18 songs here, though, and these great ones should have been culled into a concise, at least translucent statement. They don't mean much stuffed into this opaque mass. The apocalyptic noises at the end of album closer, "Does Not Suffice," seem to signify the death of something hugely important, but when the CD rolls back to track one, and the songs play through again, nothing has been illuminated.

Yet, this is still the work of a hugely talented artist--perhaps that of a genius. I think this is her worst work, but I also think it is far better than many other artists' attempts. Better to be lost in a brilliant mind, than to be familiar with a dullard's? I am optimistic that whatever Ms. Newsom (soon to be Mrs.) follows Have One on Me with will be well worth the time.

2010 Drag City

Disc One
1. Easy 6:04
2. Have One On Me 11:02
3. '81 3:51
4. Good Intentions Paving Company 7:02
5. No Provenance 6:25
6. Baby Birch 9:30

Disc 2
1. On a Good Day 1:48
2. You and Me, Bess 7:12
3. In California 8:41
4. Jackrabbits 4:23
5. Go Long 8:02
6. Occident 5:37

Disc 3
1. Soft as Chalk 6:29
2. Esme 7:56
3. Autumn 8:01
4. Ribbon Bows 6:10
5. Kingfisher 9:11
6. Does Not Suffice 6:44

Monday, December 23, 2013

Joanna Newsom -- Ys

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10/10

I've gone on at length about my need for a Björk successor. Many artists have tricked me into thinking they are the chosen one, only to later show themselves as something only...ordinary. I need an unconventionally beautiful weirdo with an unconventionally beautiful voice and unconventionally beautiful music and lyrics to take up the mantle. Björk is old enough to be a grandmother now, and someone has to follow her. I have been listening to Joanna Newsom for nearly a decade, and yet I have somehow failed to notice that she has been carrying the torch for the last seven years.
Newsom is a harpist and pianist with a squeeky, scratchy, yet intensely emotional voice. On her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender, she showed a knack for lyrical excellence few posses. The Milk-Eyed Mender was a pretty minimalist album, with Newsom and her harp or piano very rarely backed by anything or anyone over the course of its 12 three-minute-ish tracks. If The Milk-Eyed Mender is analogous to dipping one's feet in the water, its follow-up, Ys, is jumping off a cliff in California and surfacing off a moonlit beach in Japan.
Ys' five songs average eleven minutes a piece. For four out of five, Newsom is backed by a full orchestra, among other instruments. The lyric sheets are so long, the CD booklet looks like a novella. Most importantly, Newsom's skills as a songwriter have gone from good to unparalleled.
I find it far more difficult to review an album I love dearly than one I don't. What do I say to convince the reader that this album really is worth their investment? After all, Newsom's voice is an acquired taste, harp-playing isn't exactly in-vogue, and the average 2013 person's attention-span lasts less than five minutes, let alone fifty-five.
Instead of attempting to convince, I will let Joanna speak for herself. If you think you would enjoy a song that climaxes with the lyrics:
We could stand for a century,
staring,
with our heads cocked,
in the broad daylight, at this thing:
Joy,
landlocked in bodies that don’t keep —
dumbstruck with the sweetness of being,
till we don’t be.

...if you think you would enjoy something like that, give Ys a listen.

2006 Drag City
1. Emily 12:07
2. Monkey & Bear 9:29
3. Sawdust & Diamonds 9:54
4. Only Skin 16:53
5. Cosmia 7:15

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joanna Newsom -- The Milk-Eyed Mender

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8/10

Near the end of 2004, shortly before my first college graduation, I was making my nightly commute home from Baton Rouge. The radio station I DJ'ed for played Joanna Newsom's "Peach, Plum, Pear," and for some reason it made me think of my wife. The next night, we were in the DJ booth together, and I played the song for her on a break. Of course, she wasn't my wife then, and she had a boyfriend at the time, but that's the way I roll. Joanna Newsom's debut album, Milk-Eyed Mender also does whatever it wants, rules be damned.
First off, Joanna Newsom's singing voice sounds like this person. Secondly, her chief instrument is the harp, with the piano and harpsichord functioning as her secondary tools. A friend shows up to sing and play acoustic guitar on a couple of tracks. That's it. That's all you get.
For most of the album, the only sounds are Newsom's beautifully unique, at times abrasive, singing voice, and a harp. Somehow, the combination of these elements creates a strangely personal and comforting album. Newsom has great wit and humor as a lyricist. Wikipedia shows she was born only a month after me, and was 22 when this album was released, but she was a lot wiser at 22 then I was. You should never say the word "was" in a sentence four times.
Before this review, I hadn't listened to The Milk-Eyed Mender in a while, and I had mixed recollections of how I initially received it. After a rough day last week, a late night drive home to The Milk-Eyed Mentor was quite the calming experience. There are two or three jarring moments where Newsom pushes her voice a bit too far (the opening word of "Sadie," for instance), but overall, The Milk-Eyed Mender is a remarkably assured and enjoyable debut.


2004 Drag City
1. Bridges and Balloons 3:42
2. Sprout and the Bean 4:32
3. The Book of Right-On 4:29
4. Sadie 6:02
5. Inflammatory Writ 2:50
6. This Side of the Blue 5:21
7. 'En Gallop' 5:07
8. Cassiopeia 3:20
9. Peach, Plum, Pear 3:34
10. Swansea 5:05
11. Three Little Babes (traditional) 3:42
12. Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie 4:21

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jesse Eubanks -- Meditation, Contemplation, and Prayer

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8/10

My music collection contains several wild-cards, and Jesse Eubanks Meditation, Contemplation, and Prayer is certainly one of the most prominent. By "wild-card," I mean a rare album that hardly anyone has ever heard of (If it was all "wild cards," I guess I would be a hipster). I came across Meditation, Contemplation, and Prayer about a decade ago, after reaching a worship music wall. I wasn't enjoying any of the worship songs I heard in church, nor on the radio, or...anywhere. At the time, just about everything was either too adult contemporary sounding to me, or too "wannabe U2." The thing is, if I want to listen to good U2, I am going to listen to my good U2 albums, not other bands' poor knock offs. I need something different. Well, Meditation, Contemplation, and Prayer is something different. It's drone worship.
Drone is sort of like a guitar-based equivalent to Eastern meditation music. It is often one greatly distorted note, held out for the entirety of the song. Eubanks combines this with ambient noise (rain falling, distant conversations), Eastern percussion, and at times, his pleasant, small, singing voice. It's safe to say, if you are looking for an album that sounds like this AND is directed toward worshiping Jesus Christ, this is about your only bet. Thankfully, it is an excellent effort. This dude not only knows what he is doing, but is also clearly passionate about this project. He also had some friends help out quite a bit, and that kind, collaborative spirit is clear throughout the album. I recommend that anyone with an interest outside of CCM check this out. Even if you don't care about the worship aspect, there's still a lot to like here, and most of the songs are instrumental, anyway.
Now that Hillsong isn't trying to be Bono: Australia Edition anymore, good worship music is a lot less difficult to find, but to find something this different, you'd have to search the world over. BUT WAIT--THE FUTURE IS HERE! I had to special order this from Eubanks himself back in the day (the packaging is printed on paper from India), but all you future people can download it in seconds and name your own price at Eubanks' Bandcamp page. You lucky astronauts!

2002 Self-Released
1. Creation Cries Out 06:47
2. Rain 06:37
3. In Praise of God 05:13
4. Matthew 11:28 05:27
5. Obscurity 03:48
6. Consolation 05:01
7. Nothing Can Separate Us 05:19
8. A Certain Part of the Soul 04:51
9. Alleluia 02:01
10. Natural 03:40
11. Even to the End of the Age 06:05

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Just Can't Study Anymore

So this instead.


In exactly that order.

Jeff Buckley -- Grace

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8/10

Jeff Buckley died at the age of 30, three years after releasing Grace, his first album. Buckley was rightly heralded for having the voice of an angel, and the skill to do pretty much anything on the guitar he wanted. Grace features these two strongest elements of his craft in spades. It's important to mention, though, that Grace is a debut album. It isn't perfectly formed, and in some places, Buckley's songwriting leaves a little to be desired. "So Real" and "Lover, You Should've Come Over" both have their moments, but not much direction. The album's weakest moments sound like college jam-band material. Still, the mix of 90's alternative rock with some pretty dreamy tones hits far more than misses. Considering this and the posthumously released, incomplete Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk are all we have of Buckley's once-burgeoning creative output, Grace should be regarded as a flawed classic.

I originally picked up Grace some time around (my first trip through) college because a friend assured me it was what "adults listened to." She cracked me up with that one, but I'm glad she made me buy this. Also, a Grace CD booklet photo featuring one of the band members drinking coffee like it is the coolest activity ever conceived by humans makes me miss the 90's more than any of the 90's nostalgia stuff marketing experts have been coming up with lately.

1994 Columbia
1. Mojo Pin 5:42
2. Grace 5:22
3. Last Goodbye 4:35
4. Lilac Wine 4:32
5. So Real 4:43
6. Hallelujah 6:53
7. Lover, You Should've Come Over 6:43
8. Corpus Christi Carol 2:56
9. Eternal Life 4:52
10. Dream Brother 5:26

Friday, December 06, 2013

Jars of Clay -- Inland

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9/10

They don't believe in oceans; you, you were a sailor
who burned your ship and walked on, far away you walked on;
you keep turning inland, where no man is an island-
it's where you're supposed to be.

You keep heading inland, where no man is an island -
come on home to me.

Afraid of your convictions, they said the land will change you;
steady your confession, your course make no corrections.
When you are a stranger, hold your tongue and wager
that love will set you free...
until it sets you free.

You keep walking inland, where no man is an island - come on home to me

Jars of Clay keep moving forward, while any of their peers who have managed to somehow stay standing lumber about like zombies. Jars' commitment to progression against sedentation continues to pay off transcendentally. They keep moving inland. Their competition is sunburned and stuck on the beach.
It's time for you to listen to Jars of Clay.


2013 Gray Matters
1. After the Fight 4:32
2. Age of Immature Mistakes 3:53
3. Reckless Forgiver 3:52
4. Human Race 3:57
5. Love in Hard Times 4:31
6. Pennsylvania 4:33
7. Loneliness & Alcohol 4:45
8. I Don't Want You to Forget 3:49
9. Fall Asleep 4:41
10. Skin & Bones 3:52
11. Left Undone 3:58
12. Inland 4:13

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Jars of Clay -- The Shelter

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9/10

Striking again when the iron was hot, Jars of Clay released The Shelter barely a year after their previous release, The Long Fall Back to Earth. Never content to do the same thing twice, The Shelter marks another first in Jars of Clay's impressive, extensive catalogue. The Shelter is Jars of Clay's first album to be written directly toward and for The Church. The songs explore the Body of Christ's parts' relationship with each other, while uniting those parts in worship. It's another stunning achievement in a catalogue full of stunning achievements.
Jars of Clay again fuse their excellent songwriting with a new style. The biggest influence on this album sounds like Arcade Fire, with all the group singing and focus on community. There are two slight departures which serve as improvements here, though, and I don't mean to knock Arcade Fire, a pretty good band in their own right. The first departure is that everyone featured on this album can sing. Anyone who has ever listened to an Arcade Fire album knows that singing isn't that band's strong suit, no matter how many people are standing at the mic. Jars of Clay somehow assembled a massive who's who in the Christian music industry to sing along on this album, and every guest leaves their mark. Even tobyMac, who's solo work has not exactly been my cup of tea, wanders through the title track to drop a line, and comes off sounding a bit like Bambi's father. You know, he doesn't come around often, but when he does, he seems so wizened and powerful, you have to listen to him. The Prince of the Forest.
The second departure is that Jars of Clay actually have a cause to rally around. I'm not knocking generalized unity, togetherness, and whatever it is Arcade Fire are yelling about into megaphones, but in the end, I find that to be a bit empty. With a stated common goal of worship, The Shelter is more cohesive and focused than anything put out by the band I've been comparing to this album.
At this point, though, 20 years into their career, Jars of Clay need be compared to no one. They've created nine unique and wonderful albums (well, expect for that one I don't like very much), and they're as high on the music mountain as anyone making it these days.


2010 Gray Matters/Essential Records
1. Small Rebellions (featuring Brandon Heath) 4:48
2. Call My Name (featuring Thad Cockrell, Audrey Assad) 4:08
3. We Will Follow (featuring Gungor) 4:09
4. Eyes Wide Open (featuring Mac Powell (of Third Day), Derek Webb, Burlap to Cashmere) 4:28
5. Shelter (featuring Brandon Heath, Audrey Assad, tobyMac) 4:50
6. Out of My Hands (featuring Leigh Nash, Mike Donehey (of Tenth Avenue North)) 4:14
7. No Greater Love 4:07
8. Run In The Night (Psalm 27) (featuring Thad Cockrell) 5:25
9. Lay It Down (featuring David Crowder, Dawn Michele (of Fireflight)) 4:03
10. Love Will Find Us (featuring Sara Groves, Matt Maher) 5:45
11. Benediction (featuring Amy Grant) 2:52