Tim and His Thoughts

Musings, Reflections, Reviews, Opinions, and More



Raps, Psalms, Stories, and Emotional Behavior

Ok, I’ll try to keep this as short and making as much sense as possible, but here goes with some random musings.

I’m not a big fan of rap music. Some of this has to do with repetitive musicality, but moreover a lot of it I just don’t find that pleasant lyrically. I did, however, have a roommate for a few years who was a big rap fan. Listening to his music didn’t turn me around on the genre, but I was at least exposed to to more of it. Simultaneously, I was taking a class in which we were studying Psalms. There are some psalms that are theologically challenging because they talk about how God has abandoned the psalmist and brought different calamities upon him. We were taught that these psalms, as Hebrew poetry, were better understood as reflecting how a particular situation felt to the psalmist rather than how things actually were. And it struck me one day: I bet we can see a lot of rap music in the same way. It helped me gain a lot of respect for the genre, even if it still isn’t usually my go-to music.

And I was thinking today: that’s really true with a lot of art, specifically, with a lot of stories. The stories we tell are rarely objective, rational accounts of things that happen. There’s plenty to suggest that such objectivity is humanly impossible. Stories, therefore, represent a person’s interpretation of events as much as they represent the events themselves. Often, a story can talk about the way an event felt to a character.

Then I got to thinking: You know how a lot of people blame popular media, especially movies, for giving people unrealistic ideas of the way things work? Love stories get blamed for this a lot. I’m not suggesting we completely absolve Hollywood for a lot of the ridiculousness that goes on, but we do tell the stories we tell for a reason. What if some of these artificially accelerated and intense love stories are told the way they are because that’s a reflection of how these things feel? I mean, we eat them up. There has to be something in them that resonates at true to real life. We just too often confuse it as the way these things actually occur.


Music Review: Emery – We Do What We Want

(This post was originally written 3/31/2011)

With Emery’s fifth studio album comes a new phase in the life of the band. Co-frontman Devin Shelton has departed indefinately, leaving Toby Morrell handling nearly all the vocals (except for screams). While “We Do What We Want” is a good album that still feels, in most respects, like Emery, it’s clear that the band is still figuring out how to cope with Shelton’s absence.

One of my favorite aspects of Emery’s past work is the give and take and layered vocal sound that came with having essentially two lead singers. Stylistically, much of this is preserved on this album. Lines still run one into another, like poetic conversation, and harmonies still permeate the tracks. However, while this was once true interplay between Shelton and Morrell, recording trickery now allows Morrell to accompany himself. It sounds fine, and first time listeners to Emery probably won’t notice a thing, but Shelton and Morrell’s voices complimented each other so well. The tonal differences which added so much depth to Emery’s sound are now replaced with Morrell’s voice just singing two different parts, layered on top of one another in post- production. Morrell is a good singer, and while he doesn’t struggle carrying the vocal load on his own, I just can’t shake the feeling that something that made the band so special is missing in this album.

With the lack of another true singer, the band has tried to compensate some by including more screaming. I’m not a fan of pure screaming (as opposed to some occasionally edgy singing), so this comes as a negative to me, but even beyond that it feels almost as though the band was just using the screams as filler. More than anything “We Do What We Want” just feels a little too raw. Shelton’s absence unquestionably affected the creative process as Emery put this album together, and they’re figuring out how to work without his influence as they go.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5

If you’re an Emery fan, this is still a pretty automatic buy. It’s good music, just don’t expect Emery’s best. “We Do What We Want” represents some growing pains as Emery moves into a post- Devin Shelton future. The flaws that come from missing the tonal depth of another singer probably won’t be keyed on by a somone new to Emery, but the band just doesn’t sound as good overall without Shelton. And if you’re coming to Emery having never heard anything of theirs before, go buy one of their other albums instead. They’re better.

Music of 2009 in Review

(This post was originally written 12/7/2009)

2009 was a great year for music…for the bands I listen to at least. I’m not professing to have an inclusive review of the year’s music here. But nine of my favorite bands came out with new albums, which was very exciting. Maybe some of these bands you’ve heard of. Maybe some you haven’t. But for your consideration, I have reflected on and ranked these albums, and I humbly submit…..


10) Honorable mention for most anticipated album of next year: The Classic Crime
I don’t think they even have a title yet, but they have been in studio. The Classic Crime blew my mind when I discovered them about a year ago. I immetiatly acquired their studio releases: Albatross, The Silver Cord, and The Seattle Sessions: Acoustic EP. They are all phenomenal, and I would highly reccomend that you check them out if you like some of the other bands on this list (or even if you don’t). I can’t wait to see what the Seattle quintet has in store on their 3rd full length release from Tooth & Nail Records!

9) Skillet – Awake
“Awake” was a bit of a dissapointment in my book. Yes, I have a better appreciation of some of the songs after seeing them performed in the Chicago House of Blues this fall. But Skillet has always put on a great live show, so really no surprises there. “Hero”, the opening track has grown on me, as has “Awake and Alive”. “Monster” is fun enough, but essentially the same sentiments are expressed in far better songs (like “Confession” by Red – see below). Skillet just didn’t live up to the heights it achieved in Collide and Comatose in this most recent effort.

8) Decyfer Down – Crash
Decyfer Down was originally to release Crash, follow up to 2006 debut End Of Grey, in 2008. That didn’t happen due to a change in the band’s lead singer. Caleb Oliver, lead vocal and bass for the quartet, had to quit the band, and was replaced by TJ Harris. The band re-recorded the vocals to Crash with TJ and, Crash finally dropped May of this year. I was initially very unhappy with the change, particularly on re-recorded tracks from the original Crash EP which had been released with Caleb singing. While it still sounds to me like some of the tracks were obviously written for a different vocalist with TJ just covering them, I have gotten used to the new sound of Decyfer Down, and there’s still a lot of good to be had on this album.

7) Paramore – Brand New Eyes
This is the one album I’m writing about which I don’t yet own. Fortunately, Paramore, in a move I appreciate but don’t really understand, streams the entirety of their albums on their website. Brand New Eyes continues the sound that was introduced in All We Know Is Falling and honed in RIOT!. Basically, it’s more of the same. But that’s ok. Brand New Eyes, much like the transition between the first two, reflects the growth of Paramore and is different enough to remain interesting, while still delivering the driving alternative rock that Paramore is known for.

6)FM Static – Dear Diary
I was very intrigued by FM Static’s third studio project, which the band said was a concept album, telling a story from beginning to end. The band even said at one point on their MySpace blog that they were looking for a writer with the idea of turning it into a musical (and by the way, if anyone has a connection to FM Static, I would be indebted to you if you mentioned me as a good option, but I digress). I was unsure about Dear Diary at first. It initially didn’t seem to quite have the same punch as the last two efforts from TFK’s alter ego. This is an album which has grown on me a lot, though. Emotionally powerful, but still fun and catchy, FM Static’s third release is a winner for anyone who has enjoyed them in the past.

5) Red – Innocense & Instinct
Red burst onto the scene in 2006 with their debut album End of Silence. It was great, but Innocense & Instinct is much better. Any of these last five albums had the potential to grab the #1 spot. There’s not a bad song on the album. I could just as easily name any other three songs as standouts, but “Death of Me”, “Confession”, and “Shadows” are phenomenal. Red’s cover of “Ordinary World” is similary excellent. If you like your rock on the heavier side, check out Innocense & Instinct

4) Emery – In Shallow Seas We Sail
Delivering pizzas this summer, I was in my car quite a bit. And when I was, I threw on music to entertain myself. The release of In Shallow Seas We Sail was a breath of fresh air, and I was happy playing nothing but for well over a week. I’ve been a huge fan of Emery for several years now, but they may have reached new heights in this latest release. Emery has an ability like few others to be at once lyric and edgy, with screaming soon replaced by harmonies and interweaving lines made possible by their two excellent lead singers. Emery constantly delivers energy and emotion. Personal favorite tracks are “Butcher’s Mouth” and “Churches are Serial Killers”.

3) Thousand Foot Krutch – Welcome to the Masquerade
Welcome to the Masqurade is TFK at its best on display. Thousand Foot Krutch found its identity in Phenomenon (not that Set It Off wasn’t great, it just has as much in common with FM Static and Manafest as it does TFK), and has been working off of that base since then. Masquerade is powerful from beginning to end, with pump up tracks like “Fire it Up” and “Smack Down” and even through balads like “Forward Motion”. Favorite tracks include “E for Exctinction” and “Bring Me To Life”….and, well, really the entire album.

2) Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down
Relient K’s sixth (or seventh, if you count The Bird and the Bee Sides) full-length album is fantastic. Perhaps I’m a little biased, but whatever. This is my review, I can do what I want. Relient K has long been my favorite band, and while their last couple albums have been good, both Five Score and Seven Years Ago and The Bird and the Bee Sides had several weaker tracks. Forget and Not Slow Down is their best work since Mmhmm. It’s an album that you just want to relax and listen to over and over again, and just barely gets beaten out for the top spot this year.

1) Flyleaf – Memento Mori
Memento Mori is Flyleaf’s much anticipated follow up to their 2005 self-titled debut. I’m among those who were starting to get put out with Flyleaf’s obsessive touring and wanted them to just record another album already. But ladies and gentlemen, it was well worth the wait. Memento Mori is absolutely spectacular. I really don’t know how else to say it. If you have even a passing interest in Flyleaf, you need to give this album a listen. I don’t know how many times I’ve already listened through the whole thing (it came out early November). Suffice to say its been quite a few, and I’m far from tired of it. Its hard to even choose tracks to reccomend. Just listen to them all. Or, you could do this: Flyleaf has this wonderful little habit of producing lots of music videos, so head over to YouTube and watch “Awake” and “Beautiful Bride”. Actually, do both. You’ll be happy you did.

So there you have it. I know there will be disagreements not only with the rankings in this list, but I’m sure many of you will feel that I’ve left someone out. In one sense, I don’t care. This is my list. Write your own. But in another, I really do. What good music am I missing? Let me know! I’m always looking for more great stuff to listen to! Maybe it’ll make it into next year’s list…

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