Favorite Albums of 2013

With each new year I love to look back and identify favorite music from the previous year.  I associate music with memories.  So here is the list of music and memories from 2013.

1.  The 1975 - The 1975
An NPR music review introduced me to The 1975 and their self-titled debut album.  The sound of the music fascinated me instantly.  Lead singer Matt Healy's description of the album in the review caught my attention.  They are a talented young band with a good grip on what music can be.

Healy explained the band's preference for groove allowed them to bypass the indie genre for mainstream pop.  The songs Settle Down and Girls exemplify their aim at wide appeal.  They also harken back to a sound from the 1980s.  That sound is reminiscent and yet envelope pushing.  Sign me up to buy their follow-up!

2.  Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
I have been skeptical of Justin Timberlake for a long time.  He has seemed talented.  He impressed me with Rock Your Body years ago.  His last album, the one with Sexy Back, turned me off because of his lyrics.

Then came his song Suit And Tie.  He sounded more mature.  He sang about monogamy.....What?!  It was like Kanye West's career in reverse!  Plus Suit And Tie had a creative sound.  He fused a Big Band/Art Deco sound with modern Hip Hop.

Friends started raving about the album on Facebook.  After giving it a couple listens he had me hooked.  The album is visionary.  He takes a song, and then flips it on it's head.  It is a big budget production that justifies itself.

3.  Washed Out - Paracosm
This was my album of the summer.  I recently moved to San Diego.  San Diego is a great place to enjoy a summer.  This Washed Out Album is a perfect soundtrack for summertime drives.  I drove all over SD with this album on loop.

Songs like Don't Give Up and All I Know define musical chill.

4.  Amy Grant - How Mercy Looks From Here
I am biased towards Amy Grant.  For almost my first two decades Amy was a huge musical influence in my life.  (It's neither good nor bad.  It just is.)

Her newest release is mature.  She's more thoughtful than in her 1990s queen of pop days.  Her encouraging lyrics in Don't Try So Hard and Not Giving Up resemble therapeutic wisdom.

I will associate this album with a couple trips to Imperial Beach when I felt burdened.  The album and beach comforted me tremendously.  Thanks Amy!

5.  John Mayer - Paradise Valley
I thought John Mayer would have taken this year off.  He steered his music in a new and western direction in 2012 with Born And Raised.  Then he released Paradise Valley in 2013.  Paradise Valley builds off Born and Raised's success.

His duet with Katy Perry in Who You Loves shines as the best track on the album.  His honesty in Dear Marie endears listeners.

6.  St. Lucia - When The Night
This album exemplified the surge of synth rock in 2013.  Synth rock has been picking up steam.  We've seen the dance genre go synth for years and the Killers helped make strides in the rock genre.  St. Lucia is really just one guy with a computer doing a terrific job of making exciting music.

St. Lucia puts a fresh spin on the sound of 80's groups like Genesis.  Songs like Closer Than This and All Eyes On You get me smiling.

7.  Phoenix - Bankrupt!
It's fun to enjoy a band from France.  Plus Phoenix! just knows how to make good sounding music.  They exemplify the synth rock surge of 2013.  Songs like Trying To Be Cool and Drakkar Noir keep my foot tapping and head bopping.

2012 Leftovers

I admit I was late to the party on a couple great albums from 2012.

Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox
This album came out late in 2012.  The song that got me hooked was Locked Out Of Heaven.  I’m a sucker for a good groove and that song has it.  My friend clued me in on the song Treasure which kept Bruno's tunes pumping through my car stereo a couple more months.

Fun. - Some Nights
This album was big in 2012.  I was late to the party but spent much of early 2013 listening to it.

What were your favorite albums from 2013?

My Top Albums From 2012

Each January I enjoying asking "What musical releases were significant last year?  Here are my favorite albums from 2012.

1.  Bethel Live - For The Sake of the World

Many describe this cd as mesmerizing. It's true. The layered instrumentation is unique, electric and brilliant. The songs are great and performances significant. The songs are intended for churches to use in their services. It's the most groundbreaking cd of the genre since at least Hillsong's A Beautiful Exchange (2010) album.

2.  John Mayer - Born and Raised

John Mayer is an artist and his 2011 release Born And Raised continued to showcase his talent. This time he turned heads by showcasing a western vibe that really works. I love the pedal steel. His lyrics showed someone owning up to his flaws.

3.  The Killers - Battle Born

The Killers surprised me. They had taken time off as a band after a disappointing previous release. Their new cd is their strongest ever. The lead singer wrote some incredibly vulnerable lyrics that endear listeners. I'm proud of them and consider Battle Born the most under-appreciated release of 2012. 

4.  Phil Wickham - Singalong 2

Phil Wickham released a free live CD of him playing many of his well known worship songs.  The recording features him on acoustic guitar singing along with a room full of people that know his songs well.  They sing out confidently and inject so much life into this CD.  It was free and inspirational.  I find myself continually referring back to this recording.

5.  Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

I purchased this as my first Foo Fighters CD knowing they are a great band worth listening to.  These guys practically define Rock and Roll.  The songs are great and so fun to turn up loud.  The band's creativity and passion continues to stand out.

Honorable Mentions go to:  Maroon 5 - Overexposed and Owl City - The Midsummer Station.

What were your favorite albums of 2012?

Book Review: Surfing For God

"Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God." - G.K. Chesterton

In today's world many men have exchanged brothels for websites. Author Michael John Cusink believes that many men today are surfing for God.

In his book Surfing For God Cusink likens the brain to a field of tall grass. Our habits blaze trails through the grass that are easier to retrace later. Poor habits often become paths of least resistance we repeatedly tread. Cusink points out the importance of creating new habits and "letting grass regrow" in areas we want to avoid. 

He encourages men to embrace silence and solitude. Cusink also advocates working-out and hiking as ways of renewing our minds. 

I first heard about this book from Relevant Magazine when they posted an excerpt on their website. I so appreciated the excerpt that I acquired the book. 

I was profoundly encouraged by the book. It opened up opportunities to share Cusinks ideas with other men. 

I applaud Cusink for addressing an often taboo topic with directness. His ideas help me better respond to the temptations I encounter in our world.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

MusicTechSkills - Creating Negative Bars In ProTools

When it comes to music and technology I have learned some things that others may find useful.  So I want to begin a series of videos highlighting handy tricks that I have picked up over my years using ProTools.  Here is one such handy skill.

Book Review: The Voice Bible

The Voice is a new Bible translation that aims to update Biblical language and maintain the authors original intent. Contributors to the translation consisted of a team of 120 scholars, authors and artists. I was fortunate to review the New Testament portion of The Voice and have since been enjoying the Old Testament portion too. 

The translation features italicized text that brings out the original points the authors were making. The italicized text flows seamlessly with the standard text and I I found it helpful. The translation also includes sidebars with cultural, historical and devotional thoughts related to the surrounding text.

I definitely recommend this Bible to anyone looking for a modern Bible that they can easy understand. I  greatly enjoy using this Bible for daily devotions. The language is discernible and easy to understand.  The italicized text is still my favorite part of this translation. 

I received an ebook copy of The Voice and it has a poor system of navigating between books. I hope that in future editions they will find a faster way to navigate through the different books of the Bible.

I plan on continuing to use The Voice translation for my daily Bible readings. I enjoy reading familiar passages in it's contemporary language. I am glad to have both the Old and New Testaments in The Voice. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: The Voice New Testament

The Voice is a new Bible translation from the Ecclesia Bible Society that connects more readers to the Bible through contemporary language.  Formatted as a daily reading Bible, The Voice features italicized text explaining ideas the original readers would have intuitively known.  The Voice also features a screenplay format for dialog-heavy portions that eliminates the redundant "he said" or "she said" throughout dialog.  Lastly the Voice also features in-text commentary notes and book introductions.

I greatly enjoyed reading The Voice translation.  The language reads easily as if it was written in 2012.  One of my favorite examples of that is Ephesians 4:28a which says "If you have been stealing, stop."  The Voice is contemporary like The Message translation but more succinct.  It feels like a cross between The New King James Version and The Message.
The italicized information that sheds light on what the original readers would have known intuitively is my favorite feature.  It is threaded seamlessly with the text and helps bring the words to life.

I plan on using The Voice as my primary New Testament because the updated language refreshes my perspective.  I enjoyed the ebook format.  I recommend this book for those who have had difficulty understanding the Bible in the past and want a more contemporary translation that doesn't read like a kids Bible.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”