monthly guides, music

May 2010 Monthly Music Guide #3

Looking for something new? Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately…

Artist: Timbre
Album: Little Flowers (May 2010)
Style: Beautiful harp music dipped in a collection of lovely voices and instruments

From the opening notes of the harmonizing choir, you know you’re in for a treat. Timbre and her harp give us another round of lofty lullabies, but she finds a few more major chords this time around. Here she invites us to join her and her family and friends in a chorus of celebration complete with bells, toy pianos, strings, and a variety of percussion that occasionally shift into moving grooves more reminiscent of her friends mewithoutYou. The “little flowers” are a metaphor for our own fragile but slowly strengthening selves, and this is a garden you’ll want to visit this summer.
Standout Lyric: But pain can be beautiful, my dear / Roots that are deep do not fear winter / And spring has more joy when you’ve felt / The remnants of cold sorrows melt
Standout Lyric II: Watching the frail stems / Put forth their brand new leaves / And I find a love for them / In their honest weakness / And maybe you feel the same for me too
In Case It Interests You: Timbre is known as a Christian.

As I Lay Dying
Album: The Powerless Rise (May 11, 2010)
Style: Powerful charges and challenges from modern metalcore’s finest

They’re not the only ones that rock the double-bass, the harmonic guitar riffs, or the screaming/singing combo, but these musicians fuse into a tight sound that’s simply intense, from the solo-worthy guitar action that hides under the verses to the diverse styles and emotions of Tim Lambesis’s vocal gruffs. Meanwhile, Tim’s lyrics continue to powerfully express his worldview in a way that is evident to anyone paying attention, yet without bashing it over anyone’s head. Whether it’s a perspective of suffering, a challenge against apathy, or a caution that freedom to one’s impulses is really slavery, this band is practically theological philosophy set to pounding metalcore. Nothing disappointing here.
Standout Lyric: We’ve focused so long on ideals of freedom / That it is this very belief that oppresses us / We all want to be free / Yet we find ways to forfeit liberty / To our own impulses / To our own consumption
Standout Lyric II: Simplicity is not a curse where strength is humbled / And the powerless rise / This is a kingdom born upside-down / This is a kingdom where the broken are crowned
In Case It Interests You: The members of As I Lay Dying are known as Christians.

Deas Vail
Album: Birds & Cages (October 23, 2009)
Style: Piano pop and pretty vocals maturing into its own complete sound

The charming quintet builds upon their successes while stretching even farther, adding more of Laura’s touching harmonies to Wes’s “soaring vocals,” and even throwing in some background strings that don’t crowd out the other musicians. The songwriting also improves, and their lyrics have never felt stronger or more purposeful in their soft presentations of hope and freedom. Deas Vail continues to hit that dynamic sweet spot with songs that are light and lovingly catchy on the surface while springing from complex, talented compositions underneath… they weave in and out of offbeat time signatures so smoothly that if you don’t watch out you’ll simply be swept away as this beautiful bird takes flight.
Standout Lyric: What is life kept to ourselves? / Careful words composed / It’s a book upon the shelf / A story never told
Standout Lyric II: How can it be that we’re saved / Just to live with such shame / It’s all in my head / So follow the hope that is there if you’ll listen / Take your place under the hands / Of the the great physician
In Case It Interests You: The members of Deas Vail are known as Christians.

Band of Horses
Album: Infinite Arms (May 18, 2010)
Style: Lazy back-porch atmospheric sonnets

I haven’t listened to a lot of Band of Horses, but they’re pretty unmistakeable: the invariable lilting harmonies, the lush delayed guitar notes, the album covers of celestial objects in the outdoors at night… Some include “country” in their label, in a folky late-night back-porch kind of way, but for the most part these guys are all about soothing simplicity – although it’s not all slow dances, either. But there’s not really much else to say: To some it’s a beautiful thing, and to others it’s a campsite that gets pretty old pretty fast. Take your pick…
Standout Lyric: The elevator in the hotel lobby has a lazy door / The man inside is going to a hotel room… / It’s temporary, this place I’m in / I permanently won’t do this again

Album: Disappearing World (February 9, 2010)
Style: Peppy clean rock.

Aaron Sprinkle is an icon as far as Christian album producers go, but he likes to throw himself into the mix of regular musicians from time to time. His band here is a throwback to the clean rock of a decade ago with today’s cleaner production, and it feels like a cross between the poppier side of pre-worship-craze CCM radio and the peppy little Christian rock bands that made it into the Extreme Days soundtrack but are practically forgotten today, all seasoned with some Anberlin-esque lyrical angst. Starring the piano and electronic keyboards, sometimes it’s old Newsboys meets the Myriad and sometimes it’s a male version of A Fine Frenzy, but I can’t really remember how any of the songs went once it’s over.
Standout Lyric: If I’m happy / There’s a good chance I’m lying through my teeth
In Case It Interests You: Aaron Sprinkle is known as a Christian.

Album: The Death of Day (May 5, 2009)
Style: Dirty deliberate grooves with earnest and unclear expression

What do you get when you combine the grunginess of Thrice, the subtle emotion of As Cities Burn, the rhythmic grooves of mewithoutYou, and the atmosphere of Explosions In the Sky? Throw in some bells and strings and you’ve got an engaging mold that’s just begging to be played live in a small, seedy venue, although the passion is not totally lost on the recordings. I haven’t seen them yet, but they’ve toured with Thrice, are touring with Deas Vail, and are good friends of Timbre – and when they’re associated with some of my favorite artists from a variety of genres, you know they must be striking a proverbial chord somewhere. Some of their lyrics are mysteriously obscure, or even possibly irreverent (think Manchester Orchestra), but there’s plenty of potential poetry here too. Is there a full album in the works?
Standout Lyric: If pride is a kingly crown / Then on my head it’s overturned / I hear the simple swells of grace / Falling down like rain
In Case It Interests You: The band O’Brother seems to associate with a lot of Christian musicians but I do not know what the members profess to believe.

Previous Installments
#1. March 2010
Flobots, Poema, Flatfoot 56, She & Him, Demon Hunter, Portugal. The Man
#2. April 2010
Matisyahu, Imogen Heap, Sent By Ravens, Bleach, Aqualung, MONO