Friday, December 24, 2010

Joy to the world

Tomorrow is Christmas. Yeah, I know you had no idea. I'm definitely no Isaiah when it comes to being prophetic. Alas, it is not my spiritual gift. But let's not forget that over 2,000 years ago the greatest spiritual gift the Earth has ever received was born. That gift being Jesus. Truly, there has never been a more apt occasion to proclaim Joy to the world! Keeping that in mind, I want to offer up a Christmas greeting that stays true to that spirit. Peace on earth is something everybody throws around as ideal, but I think that during the Christmas season it's taken a little more seriously. Ultimately, however, I think that the real message of the season is one of love and grace. God's love for us, and the grace he showed by sending his son, Jesus. As Dustin Kensrue of Thrice puts it "Can you see now that everything’s grace after all?" In that spirit...

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends! I hope that you have a joyous Christmas, and that you find peace and hope this year. For those struggling, I can't promise that things will improve, but putting your trust and faith in God to turn things around is the best place to start. Friends: if you have a problem and want someone to listen--I'm here for you. Thank you to those who have been there to listen to me and lend advice. My apologies to those I've offended, let down, and turned my back on. I will do my best to no longer pass judgment without first examining myself and my own faults. I'm thankful for you all, and that God has allowed me to come into contact with so many great people. When you feel disheartened remember that "greater things have yet to come." The fact that we celebrate Christmas as the day "the Lord is come" beckons to a greater day when the Lord will come again! But until that day, we continue to celebrate the joy of Christmas with family and friends who share in the promise fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 10 albums of 2010.

A yearly tradition, here are my picks for my 10 favorite (not necessarily best) albums of the year. Also, feel free to comment on this or post your own top 10.

10.Plastic Beach-Gorillaz
Although not as strong as Demon Days, Gorillaz deliver a solid album here. And as always it's kind of strange. Songs to check out: Stylo, Superfast Jellyfish

9.American Ghetto-Portugal. The Man
Another great album from the Wasilla, Alaska (yes, Sarah Palin's home) based band. These guys put on an amazing live show, and they performed a generous amount of songs from this album (since it had just been released) back in March. Psychedelic and textured, every song seems to float on its own. Tracks to download: The Dead Dog, 60 Years, The Pushers Party

8.Year of the Black Rainbow-Coheed and Cambria
Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV will probably always be my favorite, but this one grew on me. The guitars weave in and out, and the drums thud and crash with appropriate intensity. Claudio Sanchez once again proves himself to be one of the most unique voices in all of music. Featured cuts: The Broken, Guns of Summer

7.Sea of Cowards-The Dead Weather
After the rushed Horehound, Jack White and company return with the more complete Sea of Cowards. White's drums crack, while Alison Mosshart's voice slithers around sharp riffs from Dean Fertita. The songs are heavy and some of the best blues of White's career. Standout songs: Blue Blood Blues, Gasoline, No Horse

6.Brothers-The Black Keys
Everyone's favorite garage rock duo is back with another standout album. Brothers is a bit of a change from standard Keys fare, but it remains tight and bluesy. The interplay between guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney is fantastic throughout. Killer jams: Tighten Up, Sinister Kid, Next Girl

5.Omni-Minus the Bear
Following 2007's Planet of Ice, MTB returns with Omni. A more keyboard driven record, Omni is textured and even more laid back than a typical Minus the Bear album. Still, the guitar interplay remains the band's strength. Buy on I-tunes: Secret Country, Excuses, Into the Mirror

4.Dark is the Way, Light is a Place-Anberlin
Stephen Christian and company deliver another stellar record. Christian's lyrics once again are engaging and deeply profound. Slightly darker than New Surrender, the album tackles familiar lyrical themes with Anberlin's trademark sound and fury. Choice cuts: Impossible, We Owe This to Ourselves, Art of War

3.Diamond Eyes-Deftones
After scrapping their finished album once their original bassist was put into a coma after a car accident, Chino and crew released this as a tribute. The songs are layered and muscular with Chino's throaty screams still very much present. With this album the Deftones are definitely on top of their game. Tracks to check out: Diamond Eyes, You've Seen the Butcher, Rocket Skates, and Sextape...really the whole album

2.Empty Room Philosophies-You the Symphony
I have Callan to thank for introducing me to these guys, as they're his friends and now some of mine. Regardless, this album is stellar and warrants immediate listen. The influence of several artists on the list is evident, but these songs definitely speak for themselves. At 6 songs every track comes highly recommended. Go buy it...NOW.

1.High Violet-The National
With my apologies to all those that think this should be The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, High Violet was my favorite of the year. Not much to say here, if you haven't heard it go get it. It doesn't beat Boxer, but the first 6 tracks come pretty close.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One more (last) time

As I took my last final of the semester today, the reality of the coming end fully dawned on me. I'm a senior with one final semester left. College is quickly drawing to a close. Suddenly, the real world is next year--not down the road. Graduation is in view, not merely on the horizon, and time will not being standing still anytime soon. There are people I may have seen for the last time, because of graduation, study abroad, etc. "I'll see you next year" is no longer a sure thing. I get that I'm not alone in this, but the finality of the situation is sobering. In a sense, I've never come to terms with the disaster that was my senior year of high school. For that reason, growing up seems like a prison sentence rather than some measure of liberation. Cool, I get to pay bills, be alone, and struggle to get by! Maybe that's a tad cynical, but I didn't get rewarded with free tuition from Pitt like some people, and my parents aren't wealthy and able to fund never ending educational endeavors. Keeping that in mind, this semester feels like my last chance to do pretty much everything. Factoring in decisions over the past two years I've definitely missed some opportunities and been way too stubborn at times. However, to all those that read this--which I know is about 2 people--fear not I'm ready to give things a shot.

Given that I have roughly 4 months to be as flexible and open-minded as possible, time is extremely precious. I recognize this, so I want to maximize what I'm able to do and try. With that framework, now I have something to ask of all of you. Challenge me. If I've ever told you I dislike something, ask me if I've tried it. And if I haven't get me to try it, and if I have get me to try it again. Don't let me criticize things without a retort, and force me to admit I judge things irrationally. If you invite me to something, and I give you a crappy excuse call me out on it. Unless I have class, or a prior commitment, then I have free time. Refuse to let me make excuses, demand accountability from me. Push me to be more responsible, to move outside my comfort zone, and not hold things back. Make suggestions to me, invite me to things you don't think I'd enjoy, and if I question it remind me of what I've said. I know it isn't easy, I know that I'm going to struggle too. But, I don't want to stand there on May 1 and think about all the things I never tried and missed out on in the name of pride. Besides, I know God has it in his hands--so I'm not afraid to fall before I fly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the season

Last Monday I experienced something I never have before: complete mental overload. I had so much stress on me that it felt like the world was caving in. It was a strange and scary realization, and for the first time in my life I felt completely powerless. Ultimately, I ended up going home on Tuesday for the entire week to rest, recharge, and calm down. I believe that had I not I would have ended up in the hospital. Since Thanksgiving happened roughly two weeks ago, and with Christmas on the way, I want to take the time to offer up gratitude and appreciation for everything that I'm thankful for. I think had I done this before, instead of worrying and putting unneeded expectations on myself, that I could have prevented the stress shutdown that occurred.

First of all--the reason for the season--Jesus. To all those out there not down with the J.C., consider receiving the one gift, the promise of salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus, this season that won't cost you money or force you to wait in line. Not a sermon, just something for the skeptics to consider.

My family--especially my mom, dad, and brother. In this world it's hard to find loving support and compassion, but I definitely get it from my family. For those of you out there that aren't on good terms with your family, I hope that you will be able to turn things around. Also, I've got some really great friends that have been there when I needed them. Yeah, I know it sounds sappy. But, life is a lonely place without meaningful relationships which family and friends often provide. I encourage everyone to forgive those that have hurt them during the past year, or before, and repair those broken relationships. It's often difficult to do, but I don't think anyone wants to spend the rest of their life asking: what if?

Those were serious, now for some more light-hearted things I was thankful for this year...
Good health (alright that's serious too), all those hot days during the summer, Snowpocalypse, free meals and home cooking, cookies, the times I got up early enough to see the sunrise, going to the D.R. and all those who gave money, prayed, etc, getting closer to new friends and reconnecting with old friends, roadtrips, when things turned out better than expected (and sometimes when they turned out worse), music: live and recorded, Thursday night frisbee, unexpected conversations, the absurd moments, events that were too perfect to be coincidence, getting answers for unasked questions, cornerstone, new jokes and ones that got old, all the beers I tried (even the ones that sucked), slow nights, encouragement when I needed it and criticism too, growing up but not growing old, grace, getting to the bus stop at the same time as the bus, watching hard work pay off, racquetball, meals with friends, and all the moments that let me know I'm alive and God loves me.

And I'm glad that 2011 provides an opportunity for me to be thankful for new things while cherishing the old.