Friday, March 14, 2008

Desert Island Discs: Sixpence None the Richer

A big turning point for me in musical taste happened when I was in high school. Through some weird connection, my dad got a pre-release version of Sixpence None the Richer’s selftitled album. I fell in love with it. The band quickly replaced my previous favorite musical group: Point of Grace (for the uninitiated, this is your typical CCM highly-produced soccermom pop. You know – with the synth strings and the modulation for the last chorus).

Loving Sixpence opened my musical world to all kinds of new, cool, artsy-folk-pop like my next (and continuing) favorite: Over the Rhine. I also got to see the band a few times in cool venues, like the Calvin FAC and Dimnet Chapel at Hope College before they hit it big with their uncharacteristic pop song, “Kiss Me. I still wonder what would have happened if they followed up with one of the moodier songs from the album instead of the fluffy cover of “There She Goes” which got added to later editions of the album. In fact, in college I was annoyed that my copy had “There She Goes” tacked on to the end instead of letting the album close with strings and the lyrics “I will not let them ruin me again.”

Anyway, all that was to say that I would love this album forever because of what it got me as a fan of music – expanding my tastes to new and interesting music. But as an album, I think it holds together as quality regardless of my history with it. The combination of Leigh Nash’s sweet soprano vocals with minor chords and driving guitar and string riffs creates a pleasant rockiness, and unexpected moments of beauty and intensity. (Come to think of it, the heavy use of strings probably influenced my love of this album).

Most of the lyrical content on the album is about artistic frustration – it reflects the frustration the band had (and continued to have after their success) with record companies. Although as a teenager I couldn’t relate to the pressures of the CCM market, I could get angst, and some of the songs (“Easy to Ignore” for example) even have romantic angst. I mean, I was 15 when this album came out. The images and musical intensity of these songs still resonate with my older, somewhat less angsty ears.

The album isn’t just a big angst-fest, though, it features complex theological questions (like “The Waiting Room”) and an occasional journey into the fanciful (like “Kiss Me” and “I Can’t Catch You”). It reflects influence from central American poets, not only in “Puedo Escribir” – directly influenced by a Pablo Neruda poem, but also in other lyrical moments and references to the body, like “The Lines of My Earth.” Matt Slocum’s writing about an “artistic womb” and “Flames of knowing kissing me” weirdly resonates with some of the chicana literature I’m reading for class this week, actually. Regardless, the lyrics are rich and complex, with surprising images and pleasing rhythms. All things I still appreciate in a good song. I’m glad this album that mattered so much to me has held up over time.

Past Reviews:

Neon Bible

Why Should the Fire Die

Achtung Baby


Sunday, March 09, 2008

More Than Watchmen Wait for Morning

Today’s church service was filled with more lament than a usual fifth Sunday in lent. This week the state of Georgia was touched by the murder of two college women, one at UNC, and one at Auburn. The father of one of these women is a member of my church. While I have never met Eve Carson, others in our congregation knew her, and were especially yearning for the resurrection of the dead today. It is amazing the ways that God prepares for our needs before we even know them. The lectionary readings were all about God bringing life when there isn’t any hope – Ezekiel and the dry bones, the resurrection of Lazarus, a Romans passage that ends “he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

I have my public speaking students report on the news in every class. I forgot to do it in my later class this Friday, so we put it at the end of class instead, and as my student listed these killings among death and war elsewhere in the world, we all felt stunned and saddened, even though our eagerness for spring break made the class open with a sense of excitement. We generally have time for discussion after the news report, and a student remarked that she feels guilty for the way she reacts to these tragedies briefly, and then returns almost immediately to her life – homework, friends, etc. We talked about that difficulty – we all want to be compassionate, sincere people, but if you truly felt every tragedy in the news, you would be paralyzed with sadness. I wish that I could have told them about the gifts of the Christian tradition – that it gives us a way to respond. We lament and hope. We cry out from the depths, like the Psalm 130 writer, but we also say, with him, “My soul waits for the Lord, in his word I hope. My soul waits more than watchmen wait for the morning.” This pattern of tears, prayers and hope are built into the life of the church. Lent is when we wait and pray. But sadness is always around us, demanding that we remember to wait for the Lord.