How I’ve Come to Love the Library

Growing up I wasn’t a fan of reading. Sometimes I would go to the local library and look at books, but I would end up checking out a few issues of Popular Mechanics magazine instead, only to look at the pictures.

Things didn’t change much as I got older. The only time I read was when it was required for school and even then I found ways to cut corners. By the time I graduated high school I’d probably only read a handful of books beginning to end.

In college I still wasn’t reading much and only went to the library for research. I didn’t mind the library at my college, but I started to rack up fines and found it difficult to find books on my own. This is when I started to hate the library. The card cataluge and dewy decimal system was a a joke and computers didn’t make it much easier. The fines were annoying, the librarians were mean and where did they get all those books anyway?

As my hatred of libraries increased, ironically my love for books did also. One of my problems was I didn’t know what I liked to read. Then I read Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz the first non-fiction book I’d ever read on my own. I loved it and realized I loved non-fiction. This was just shortly after I graduated from college and I began to start reading more and more non-fiction. I also realized I enjoyed buying books, going to book stores and starting my own book collection. A collection of books kind of tells it’s own story, people can see what you’ve read and what you’re into. Plus, it’s nice to have those books if ever you want to reread them or loan them out.

Now nearly 8 years out of college I read constantly and my tastes have expanded to include fiction as well. I still love buying books, but in the past year things have changed. We’ve been trying to save money and pay off debt, which makes it harder to justify buying new books. We buy used when we can, but that can still add up. Then I discovered something. The library.

It started a few months back when I was trying to find a book we were to read for our book club. I didn’t want to buy it since I wasn’t sure if it was a book I’d want to keep, so I broke down and went to the library. To my surprise I found the book easily and as I was browsing I noticed a graphic novel section. I started getting into graphic novels a couple years ago, but found them to be very expensive. Now here I was at the library staring at a whole shelf of them. Over the next week or so I got onto the website for our county library system and learned how easy it is to request books online. They email you when the book is in and you go pick it up and check it out in a mater of minutes.

So over the past few weeks I’ve been requesting books like crazy (mostly graphic novels) and not only that but music and movies as well. And that is how I’ve come to love the library. I still enjoy buying books and probably always will, but the library provides an easy way to get books and media that I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend money on.


New Tumblr and Old Blog

I recently set up a tumblr page which you can see here. It’s not meant to replace this blog, but be an extension of it. I want to use this blog  more for writing longer blog posts, but I don’t always have time to do that. Where as my tumblr will be more a place where I can just post just quick little things here and there, particularly media. It’s kind of pain to post media on WordPress, but it’s really easy on tumblr. In addition I’ve also imported my old blog (The Wood Between the Worlds) into this one. So if you’re interested you can check out the archives and see what I was posting a few years ago.

I’m going to try and post more here this winter, I just haven’t had much time with a new baby and all.


Summer Things I’m Looking Forward To

Green, warmth, eating outside, grilling, biking, running, Aquatennial fireworks, outdoor concerts, free concerts, farms, pizza farm, gardening, camping, cabins, mowing the lawn, thunderstorms, outdoor baseball, summer party at the north house, farmers market, sunsets, lakes, the many bike/walking paths/trails in our fair city, picnics, ice cream, fish tacos, summer blockbusters (iron man 2 specifically), roasting marshmallows, enjoying all the aforementioned items with my wife and good friends.

The NUMBER ONE album of the Decade!

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand New

Brand New’s second album Deja Entendu put them on the map and some would argue is their best album.  As a result the band felt a lot of pressure and took over three years to release a follow up.  Usually when a band takes that long to put out an album the outcome is mediocre at best.  To make matters worse Brand New had also signed to major record label and during the recording process they fought the label for artist control.  Also during that time a number of the songs they had been working on were leaked online, much to the band’s dismay and although I never heard any of those leaked tracks, most people’s response wasn’t positive.  The odds were stacked against Brand New and yet there was still an ever growing sense of anticipation.  Then in the fall of 2006 after a couple of missed release dates, after the album artwork had been revealed and the first single released, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me hit stores.  Some artists best work comes out of great adversity and with Brand New that couldn’t have been more true, The Devil and God was and is a masterpiece.  From the very first listen I was blown away and couldn’t get enough.  In terms of structure and execution it was unlike anything I’ve heard or have heard since.

My wife pointed out something recently I found really interesting.  She was commenting on another band, saying they were too predictable and she wished they were more unpredictable like Brand New.  As soon as she said that a light bulb went off and I knew that is the reason Brand New and this album in particular as so good.  For example, when the first single Sowing Season was released I read a comment in which someone was complaining about how they didn’t like the way the song was mixed and how it wasn’t very polished.  You’d expect them especially on a major label release, to be polished, but they  they did the unexpected and gave the song a stripped low-fi sound, which is totally what makes the song.  It ebbs and flows from quite refrains to loud choruses with reverbing guitars.  Effectively Brand New have created a musical experience not unlike being on a rollercoaster blind folded.

Musically this album is dense, but Brand New aren’t the kind of band who uses a wide range of instrumentation they instead get the most out of the standard tools of the rock band trade, guitars, bass and drums.  Each song has layers upon layers of sound, so that with each listen there is something new to be heard.  On the song Degausser there are several vocal tracks layered throughout giving it a chaotic haunting feel.  There aren’t many bands I’ve heard, capable of pulling off a sound like that without it sounding like a muddled mess.

If you haven’t noticed by now I’m a big lyrics guy and singer Jesse Lacey writes some of my favorite.  On The Devil and God he was clearly working through some demons.  Many songs deal with a break up Lacey was going through at the time, expressing both frustration and self doubt.  Lacey has always been known for using Christian imagery in his songs, which is especially true on this album.  On the song Jesus, he clearly seems to have an understanding of the Christian faith, but wrestles with what it means for him in his life.  Here is a line from that song as well as a few other great lines from this album:

“Jesus Christ I’m alone again, so what did you do those three days you were dead?” from Jesus

“before you put my body in the cold ground, take some time and warm it with your hands” from Sowing Season

“Goodbye to sleep, I think this staying up is exactly what I need, take apart your head, take apart the counting and the flock it has bred.” from Degausser

“In the choir, I saw our sad Messiah, he was bored and tired of my laments he said, ‘I died for you one time, but never again.'” from Limousine

In my mind you need a minimum of the following elements to make a great album; creativity, unpredictability, passion, excellent musicianship, strong vocals and well written lyrics.  All the albums I chose for my 25 favorite albums of the decade feature at least some of those elements.  The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me has them all and some.  It is as near perfect as an album can get and is why I chose it as my favorite album of the decade.

My Top 25 Favorite Albums of the Decade – 2!

The Alchemy Index by Thrice

The Alchemy Index is a double concept album consisting of four parts.  Each part is titled for and themed after each of the four elements, Fire, Water, Air and Earth.  In case it isn’t already obvious, this is Thrice’s most ambitious project to date.  Initially it’s also a bit overwhelming with 24 songs in total and musically spans at least four different genres.  But time proves this project works both in its individual parts and as a whole.

On part one, Fire, Thrice return to their post-hardcore roots, but with new found maturity.  They unleash a fury of blazing guitars and crushing vocals, embodying the kind of fire you’d imagine barreling down a mountain side, consuming everything in its path. 

Without missing a beat Thrice transition to their softer side with part two entitled, Water.  They chose to go with an almost completely electronic sound, which is somewhat ironic, but works perfectly.  The music really gives the feeling of floating in a dark, endless sea.

Air probably most represents Thrice at the core of who they are.  It’s the most straightforward of all the parts and musically is the least effective at conveying the characteristics of the element it’s named for.  But for those reasons Air also happens to be one of the stronger parts of The Alchemy Index; it’s simply Thrice doing what they do best.

Singer Dustin Kensrue recorded a country/folk album a couple years ago and was featured earlier on my top 25 countdown.  That album was clearly an influence on part four, Earth.  It has nice organic feel, at times reminiscent of being in the mountains and other times it feels like being in a dirty old saloon.

Kensrue covers a lot of ground lyrically on The Alchemy Index.  He writes about the elements both literally and metaphorically, but none of the songs are about the elements specifically.  There are number of powerful spiritual themes as well as songs about life and a wide range of other topics.  One of the most interesting lyrical aspects to this project is the last song on each part.  Each of those songs was written lyrically as a sonnet and are told from the perspective of the element personified.  Listening to them with that in mind adds a whole new depth to their meaning and demonstrates what an incredible writer Kensrue is.

Although The Alchemy Index didn’t make my top pick I have to say Thrice is by far my favorite band of the decade.  They continue to reinvent themselves putting out one amazing album after another.  I’m also consistently impressed with this band’s level of integrity, especially singer Dustin Kensrue and how open he is about his faith and his struggles.

My Top 25 Favorite Albums of the Decade – 3!

Brother, Sister by mewithoutYou

It took me some time to get used to mewithoutYou, but by the time they released their third album, Brother, Sister I was convinced.  After each release they progressed further and further from their post-hardcore roots establishing themselves as more of an experimental rock band.  Brother, Sister is still plenty guitar heavy, but has a sort of vagabond vibe to it.  Added embellishments such as acoustic guitars, horns and even a harp complete the album’s sound.  It’s the kind of music that would have been made in medieval times had they had electric guitars.  This album is also full of groovy bass and punchy drums, making it surprisingly danceable.  I would be remiss to not mention singer Aaron Weiss.  His spoken word vocal style is anything but traditional and really sets mewithoutYou apart from other bands.  Lyrically Weiss’s words are like poetry and explore a number of spiritual themes.  There hasn’t be a time when I’ve listen to Brother, Sister and not been inspired in some way.