ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger


Now playing

Now playing…15 August 2013

It has been over a year since the last ‘now playing’ blog post. And since I’m fairly predictable, you can guess most of the playlist. Here are some links to songs on YouTube, in case you need your fix, too:

* This concert was at Wild Goose last week. I wish I had been there!

But the music I’m playing most right now?

Yes – just like I arrived late to the Bon Iver party last year, I’m a little late to this one, as well.

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life


Now playing… 19 May 2012

Bon Iver

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Sometime in the last couple years, some of my cool Facebook friends* started talking about this new artist – Bon Iver. And I (wishing to be cool, as well) went over to YouTube to listen hear the group’s music**. I wasn’t impressed. End of story for the next year or so…

* I use ‘cool’ in a sort of “liberal, college town” sense – which therefore might mean exactly the opposite of how one would generally define ‘cool’. There is an entire era of my life that I could unpack… How have my six years in Ann Arbor shaped who I am today? We’ll leave that for another time.

** As far as I can tell, it turns out that although Bon Iver is officially a band, it gets creative and artistic direction from one person – Justin Vernon.

It wasn’t until earlier this year, just before the Grammys in February, that I listened again. Occasionally, I like to see which musicians (current or past) have received positive reviews from critics. (This is why I have Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone“.) I noticed that Bon Iver, who was nominated for Best New Artist, was receiving a lot of praise.

So one night when I was working late at the synchrotron, I returned to YouTube and found that you could listen to the entire self-titled album online. That night, I was completely pulled into the music. I think I must have heard the album six or seven times.

IMHO, this is a great album, but it’s also complex. There are a couple of songs that might stand on their own, but it’s really an album that should be enjoyed as a whole.

And it turns out that ‘enjoy’ may not be the proper word to use. The music creates an emotional atmosphere that’s hard to describe. It is certainly not upbeat, but it’s not exactly sad, either. It’s mellow; introspective, perhaps; and perfect for a late night at the synchrotron. To me, the music is an honest evaluation of our place in this world: humble and grand at the same time.

I find the lyrics to be a bit of a conundrum. For a long time, I couldn’t understand anything that Justin was singing. Eventually, I read the lyrics, and I still can’t understand them. Now I just allow them to interact with the rest of music to create the complete sound.

The music video below is for the song “Holocene” – one of the songs that could stand on its own. And it contains one of those lines that I do understand:

At once I knew I was not magnificent…

This is an example of the “honest evaluation” I mentioned above. And yet when I listen to the music and watch the video, I get the sense that even though I’m not “magnificent”, I’m part of something that is very magnificent.

Now playing… August 14, 2010

Nothing. Nothing is playing.

Actually, it’s not quite that bad. But nothing is playing in our van, because something fried the CD player. The control panel doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the CD player any more. You can push any of the buttons – nothing happens. And there’s a little problem…

It has a six CD changer…

With six CDs inside.

Therefore, this post is not about what is playing, but rather what would be playing if I could get my new CD out of the CD player.

I have previously gushed about Carrie Newcomer’s music. She stops, takes a look around, sees what others miss, and writes a story about it. Her latest album, “Before & After”, is no different. On it, we hear about ghost trains, pebbles in streams, Indiana county fairs (with reference to the MCC Relief Sale!), and coyote-dog mixed breeds. We also learn that a group of rhinoceros is called a “crash”.

However, what I really love about her lyrics is the way in which they shed new light on what is holy:

  • Before and After – Moments that initially seemed to hold little significance become the markers that define our lives
  • I Do Not Know Its Name – Ultimately, our attempts to name God always fail
  • If Not Now – The will to live well in the time that we have
  • Do No Harm – What if we really believed that the Peaceable Kingdom could exist here and now?

As usual, the folk melodies and arrangements are beautiful and well-suited to her message. So take a little jaunt to her website – – and listen to some samples. Or enjoy the video below.

Miracles still happen every shining now and then
If not now, if not now, tell me when

Now Playing… February 18, 2010

(Also known as “Getting Caught Up, Part II”)

No matter how busy my work schedule is, I at least have an hour to myself in the car every day.  Usually, I fill it with music, and in the last two weeks, that music has been by the Indigo Girls.

“Become You” by The Indigo Girls

“Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” by The Indigo Girls

Both albums contain a lot of stuff about the complexity of human relationships.  Of course, they have been singing about that since the beginning.  Here are some lines from two of the songs that I really like…

They’re sending soldiers to distant places
X’s and O’s on someone’s drawing board
Like green and plastic but with human faces
And they want to tell you it’s a merciful sword

But with all the blood newly dried in the desert
Can we not fertilize the land with something else
There is no nation by God exempted
Lay down your weapons and love your neighbor as yourself

“Our Deliverance” (from Become You)

Instead, let’s fight for something else…

All around us, things come apart
Broken pieces, broken hearts
Fix me, oil me, match me with the next best thing

Person to person, nation to nation
Heels dug in, no communication
Wily time sneaks her weathering

We’ve been wanting to be held by binding ties
We’ve been fighting for the love of our lives

“Love of Our Lives” (from Poseidon and the Bitter Bug)

Furry happy monsters

It’s my blog and I’ll post what I want to…

Now playing… 31 July 2009

Middle CycloneNeko Case – Middle Cyclone

Ok – this time I’m not even making any pretense at reviewing the album.  Just go listen to Sound Opinions* or watch the video below.  And if you’d like, here are the wikipedia articles for Neko Case and Middle Cyclone.

* As a bonus, if you listen to Sound Opinions show, you can hear Greg and Jim review U2’s latest album, No Line on the Horizon.  And if you support NPR, you can get warm and fuzzy feelings inside.


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