And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12; KJV)
In its best moments, Monarch, by Zach Winters, effortlessly creates silence. That music can create silence is one of many paradoxes you are going to have to get used to if you want to get to know this record. In the violence and foment of our instantaneous age, there are few things more alien than quality silence and intentional waiting. In all the hot noise of our weird, wired, wide, webbed world—noise which we often mistake for information and connectedness—our inner ears have become accustomed to ignoring the still small voice of God.
The Bad Plus, the Minnesotan progressive jazz trio, just performed in Atlanta for the first time in eleven years,[1. Not counting one intervening time which bassist Reid Anderson said he didn’t count because it was rather “abstract,” though he added, “If you enjoyed it, I’m not trying to take anything away from you.”] and I can tell you it was worth the wait.
My friend Rusty and I arrived in Little Five Points around 7:10 pm, only twenty minutes before the show was supposed to begin. We hadn’t eaten before we got our tickets, but we were prepared to wait until after the show to get food. The ticket office lady at the Variety Playhouse told us there was no reason to rush. Apparently very few people had shown up yet.
First, I want to be honest. I have never liked Mumford & Sons. I wish I could tell you that without sounding pretentious. It’s not because I’m too hipster for the hipsters. There are a number of reasons why their music rubs me the wrong way: the guy’s impassioned “English Dave Matthews” voice annoys me. And I feel like all of their songs sound the same: How many times can you listen to the same banjo arpeggiating, kick drum stroking, guitar hyper-strumming, generic lyric moaning redundancy? I really don’t care how well it’s produced or how polished it has become. It just doesn’t hold my interest. Mumford & Sons is to indie folk what Jack Johnson is to surf pop. And if you like both of these music-by-numbers artists, well, I’m sorry—you probably also think Thomas Kinkade beats out Rembrandt as the “painter of light.”
Redundant consistency has been the mainstay of pop movements for quite some time. But that isn’t what really irks me about Mumford & Sons. What annoys me is that Mumford & Sons and many of the other mainstreaming “indie” bands seem to be selling sincerity without being sincere. And people buy it because it looks sincere. The popularity of Mumford & Sons and bands like them originates from the fact that the general population is tired of cynicism and the ironic distance. But I hate to see what will happen to people when they find out that yet another “authentic” voice turns out to be nothing more than a hollow receptacle for their own longings.
Warning: Possible spoilers. Also, I don’t mean to indicate by this review that I recommend anyone see the Harry Potter movies or read the books. If you don’t think it’s right to watch/read, then don’t watch/read (Rom. 14:23). This review is for those who have already read/watched and want to discuss it, or for those who are wondering whether or not these narratives can be enjoyed in good conscience.
What Kind of Sorcery and Witchcraft?
The first issue most conscientious Christians come up against when it comes to Harry Potter concerns its use of “witchcraft.” When the series first started becoming popular, many conservative Christian groups immediately bewailed what they considered to be the promotion of practices that the Bible strictly forbids. If Harry Potter does in fact promote the very same witchcraft that the Bible condemns, it would seem like a no-brainer that the series should be entirely avoided by the wary Christian. What needs to be addressed is whether or not Harry Potter and the Bible are referring to the same things when they use the words “witchcraft” and “sorcery.” What does the Bible mean when it speaks of these things?
For hipsters and Indie-listeners everywhere (and other people too complicated to be labeled), the question is heavy in the Yuletide air: What the heck is going on in Sufjan’s massive new Christmas album? Heads still ringing from Age of Adz, many fans almost want to give up hope on their favorite banjo-strumming story-teller of the more simple times… before handlebar mustaches were cool again.
Well, friend, I feel your pain. Mostly in my ears. For the first two weeks of listening to the album, I hated it. I thought Sufjan had succumbed to the fate of many who receive sudden acclaim: his pride swelled, his standard became himself, and his music sucked forevermore. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes, but instead it’s Sufjan’s new disjointed guitar solos and miserably performed home recordings of songs too stupid to use words to describe.