A little sample of the soundtrack of my year. Songs that meant something to me, or that I couldn't get out of my head.
"Still Fighting It", Ben Folds
Everybody knows/It sucks to grow up/But everybody does/So weird to be back here
I liked this song from the moment I heard it; but what made me love it even more this year is not just the obvious lyrical meaning, but the fact that Ben is singing it to his son; that he got through the growing up, and now can share his life with his family, including his son. And that's a really hopeful thing, in my view.
"Amazing Grace", Jars of Clay
I hitched a ride, I was a beggar/I had murder on my hands
The latest JoC album was a departure from their steady progression into radio-friendly rockdom. The album is heavily influenced by what's popularly called "roots music", and definitely has a "little-country-church" feel to it. This song is no different. It's almost a reimagining of the hymn, carrying the same concept but using vivid imagery and soulful melodies.
"When I Fall", Barenaked Ladies
I wish I could fly/From this building, from this wall/And if i should try/Would you catch me if I fall?
This song is on BNL's live album, "Rock Spectacle." I just loved the vibe of it, not to mention the fact that it's an entire song about a window washer. Does make you think about how each person you meet has thoughts, hopes, and dreams.
"I Wish I Felt Nothin", The Wallflowers
And I wish I felt nothin'/Then it might be easy for me/Like it is for you
Definitely a song for melancholy days, it's also quite a lovely song, with nice slide guitar work.
"Lover", Derek Webb
I am my beloved's and my beloved's mine/So you bring all your history, I'll bring the bread and wine
A powerful statement about the love of Christ for his Bride, the Church. Derek incorporates quite a bit of imagery from the Gospels, to illustrate that even though we are the unfaithful lover and the prodigal son, we can find forgiveness and love, and we can be set free.
"Wire", Third Day
Oh, makes me wonder/What if I slip/Will they catch me or watch me fall?
Mac Powell described this song as an image of our lives as Christians, trying to balance the "in, but not of" problem. "They", in this instance, would be other believers; the singer wonders whether his fellow believers would come to his aid or just enjoy the show. But I think that this song can be related to any difficult journey or process where each step could be disastrous. In the end, the singer decides to step out on the wire anyway, saying that he's "never looking down."
"Freedom to Feel", John Reuben
Shout for joy, little boys and girls/Your brokenness ain't welcome here
That's right, Dave's breaking out the Christian rap. This was, I think, the most honest Christian song I heard all year. The artist is upfront about his disgust with trying to put up the "happy Christian" image, when he's struggling to make sense of his life. Instead of going along with everyone else and presenting a peaches-and-cream faith, he challenges those who want to cover up their doubt and hurt. Good food for thought for the CCM crowd.
"Lover, You Should Have Come Over", Jeff Buckley
It's never over/My kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
This became my favorite Jeff Buckley song this year. He knew how to hit the right chords (no pun intended) of heartache, and in this song he fleshed out the desperation and longing of love quite vividly. I ache when I hear this song, and I don't even have a particular "her" attached to it.
"Mona Lisa", Grant-Lee Phillips
It's just that burgundy smile you wore yesterday/Say you won't ever lose
The beginning of my secret love affair with music from the WB tv shows began with this lovely GLP track. The whole album is beautiful, but this is the jewel in the crown. And it's the gateway album that opened me up to a new appreciation for roots/Americana music.
"Such Great Heights", Iron and Wine
I think that it's a sign/That the freckles in our eyes are mirror images/And when we kiss/They're perfectly aligned
Yes, I've heard the original version by the Postal Service. I'm hip, too. But this exquisite acoustic version from the "Garden State" soundtrack is quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I've said it before--this song will go on the first mix CD I make for the future Mrs. Teacherdave.
"Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes", Beck
I need your lovin'/Like the sunshine
This cover song was a perfect choice for the ending credits of "Eternal Sunshine..." You get that sense of wintery blues and greys in the music. The first verse of the song is stripped bare like iced-over trees, leaving only Beck and a keyboard, until the small swell at the chorus. I don't get tired of this song. And I have to say, I almost prefer the sad emo Beck to the snarky hipster Beck.
"Everyone's Changing", Keane
I try to stay awake and remember my name/But everyone's changing and I don't feel the same
I'm trying so hard to take Keane seriously, even though the lead singer is a chubby-faced kid who's probably younger than I am. Nevertheless, this song has a fun little beat. Good times.
"Dalit Hymn", Caedmon's Call
Caste is a lie, caste is a lie/Prime minister, caste is a lie
Thank God for bands like Caedmon's Call, who are devoted to shining light on social injustice, and who seek to stir up the Church to do something about it. The album "Share the Well" is a moving and convicting collection of songs about peoples and cultures that spoiled and satiated Westerners like myself sometimes forget about. This song, along with other related tracks, serves a moving finale--though called a hymn, it's really a protest song against the type of injustice and discrimination that I had thought was abandoned by our "modern" world a long time ago.
"Changes Come", Over the Rhine
I have my father's hands, I have my mother's tongue/I look for redemption in everyone
Oh boy do they. When forced to confront the 'injustice' of time passing, and the tricky inaccuracy of memory when compared to reality, it was songs like this one that reminded me that changes aren't the end, they're the next beginning. Over the Rhine is a great band, and this song is my favorite on "Ohio."
Take this heart/And make it break
My prayer for the new year, you might say. Renewal. Hope. And most of all, surrender to the redemptive power of God. There's no better way to face the future.
(Hat tip: I've done a list like this before, but never in this particular format. For that, I give credit where it's due.)