Top Albums 2011

It’s been a year. Blogging is so last decade, it’s all about the Twitters. Same as last time, you’ll get the countdown, the cover art, my thoughts, and a music vid. And without further ado:

TOP ALBUMS 2011

10- 116 Clique – “Man Up”

Honestly, this album is only #10 because there’s only seven tracks. In more traditional terminology, they’d have called it an “EP” but that’s such a “physical media” thing of me to say. Basically, the 116 Clique is all your ravourite rappers from Reach Records – Lecrae, Tedashii, Trip Lee, PRo, Andy Mineo, Sho Baraka and KB – doing posse cuts non stop. This album, apparently, is a soundtrack for a curriculum & documentary – all aimed at, you guessed it, helping this generation of young men to “man up” – to lead and love boldly with grace. It’s a much-needed rallying cry, and the beats and rhymes are only outmatched by the heart behind it all.

09- Gungor – “Ghosts Upon The Earth”

Some of my in-laws turned me on to Gungor earlier in the year – specifically their debut album “Beautiful Things.” When I met Gungor, I met great harmonies, folksy vibes, and a well-honed sense of when to be quiet and restrained and when to be free, loud, and relaxed. Gungor excels at using variance in volume, pacing, and tone to capture emotion (or more accurately, capture worship) and this is true of 2011’s “Ghosts Upon The Earth” – a generous, difficult-to-describe multi-layered hyphenated-word-deserving album. Not exactly a worship album, but not exactly not one either. Delicious, in other words.

08- Emery – “We Do What We Want”

I keep thinking that Emery is gonna fall off. Hardly the case at all – We Do What We Want is arguably and in turns their most aggressive, loud and intense album and at the same time has perhaps their greatest “slow song” to date (I’d even argue it tops “The Ponytail Parades”). This is a band that has matured remarkably in… wow it’s gotta be close to a decade now! Anyways, the closing track on the album, “Fix Me” is one of the most heartfelt, earnest songs they’ve ever done and it’s my personal favourite on an album that is otherwise marked by a serious case of THE HEAVIES. Brace yourself, buckle up, and check it out. You’ll be glad and wear a grin.

07- Propaganda & Odd Thomas – “Art Ambidextrous”

Most people first heard of Propaganda when his video “G.O.S.P.E.L.” went viral early in 2011. Some of us (myself included) have been familiar with the dude since his days with the Tunnel Rats in the early 2000’s. Much to my joy, Props has gone in a decidedly Christ-centric direction with his content, and the results are great. This is not your average rapper – Propaganda is the sort of emcee who can put together a brilliant spoken word piece just as quickly as a boom bap attack. Needless to say, the lyrics on Art Ambidextrous are (generally speaking) rather heady. Not one to shy away from polysyllabics and weirding rhyme schemes, there’s a lot to sink your brain into here. Definitely worth a careful listen when you’ve got time to digest meat rather than “just some rhymes”. Oh, and did I mention that this album is FREE from HumbleBeast Records? No? Well, it is.

06- Matt Redman – “10,000 Reasons”

Frankly, there was a sizeable portion of my life where I didn’t care at all for worship music. Needless to say, those days are gone. In terms of what my generation would call “normal worship music” – Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons is by far the best effort of the year. Personal favourites on the record are “Never Once” (about the faithfulness of God), “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” which is about as anthemic as they get, and “Holy” (you can guess what that one’s about). Either way, they’ve been standards at church this year and for good reason – they strike great notes and (with the help of God’s people) bring down the glory.

05- Braille – “Native Lungs”

You’ll be glad to know that one of this year’s best is also one of this year’s… FREE. Braille’s been a constant companion of my hear-drums since high school and for good reason – excellent beats, excellent rhymes, and a knack for excellent guest artists. Native Lungs is, in my opinion, his best to date (closely followed by The IV Edition) – stuffed with head-nodding rhythms and brain-happy wordsmithery. There’s a decidedly West Coast flavour to this album (that’s not unusual for Braille) and there’s plenty of transparent, vulnerable honesty (quite usual for Braille) and far from a weakness, the honesty makes the record what it is. Did I mention this album is FREE? Get it here from HumbleBeast Records.

04- Great Awakening – “Songs In Secret”

Ok… so this one falls into the “worship” category, but it’s not in the “normal worship music” category I mentioned above. Great Awakening’s first album (Cities) would have largely fallen into that category. Songs in Secret, much to the contrary, is subtle, paced, quiet, meditative, pleasant, downtempo worship that is full of earnest heart. Which is to say, this album’s excellence lies in the intricacy, in the stillness, in the excecution of well-timed silence and the strange first track “Explore” which fools you into thinking that you’re about to hear an uptempo indie rock worship album. Which you aren’t. Get this album FREE from Come&Live! Records here.

03- Sovereign Grace Music – “Risen”

I’ve never kept it secret (in person, at least) that I’m a huge fan of Sovereign Grace Music. Now, in part at least, this is because most of their songs are in keys I can sing along with (unlike Chris Tomlin, for example). I like to sing, so selfishly that makes sense, right? Anyways, Risen is their 2011 album centered around the Resurrection of Christ. Fittingly, it came out just before Easter, but don’t be surprised if a grip of these songs are just starting to hit the air more visibly as we head into Easter this year (2012). Fantastic writing, theological depth, thrilling harmonies, and a load of modern hymns / spiritual songs to lend your vocal chords to. Trust me, your vocal chords are stoked to sing along.

02- Shai Linne – “The Attributes of God”

Honestly, if there could be two #1’s, this would be #1. Choosing between these two albums left me conflicted. Let’s get to the basics, shall we? Shai Linne has released the best hip hop album of 2011. The Attributes of God is not only a 15-track sendup to the character and nature of Almighty God, he’s done it with class, substance, and serious music to match. When I say “serious,” I mean these beats have my head bouncing even when I don’t have the record on. Highlights on the record are “The Glory of God (Not To Us)”, “Taste and See”, and “Mercy and Grace”, but you won’t find a dud on this one. Non-stop glory to God, non-stop beat rock.

01- Thrice – “Major/Minor”

This shouldn’t be any surprise. I love Thrice and I’m not sure if they’re capable of anything below excellence at this point. I’ll admit that I’m probably biased and blind to it, but everything Dustin Kensrue and company touch turns to ear-gold to me. Personal favourites are “Words in the Water”, “Treading Paper”, “Promises” and “Anthology”… but I could listen to the thing on repeat all day and not get tired. The lyrics, as usual, are solid “good plutonium” for your eardrums – packed with biblical allusions and weight that is difficult to describe. To say that Dustin is one of the best lyricists in music today is an understatement. To say that Thrice is one of the best rock bands in music today is, also and likewise, an understatement. Miss this one at your own expense.

Honourable Mentions:
Lecrae – “Rehab: The Overdose”
Playdough & Heath McNease – “Wed, White and Wu”
Hillsong Live – “God Is Able”
Hillsong United – “Aftermath”
Blindside – “With Shivering Hearts We Wait”
August Burns Red – “Leveler”

Rejoice?

Currently listening to: “Circles” by Thrice
Thrice recently did a session at Daytrotter, and the results are stripped-down, sparse, largely acoustic, and predominantly wonderful. If you’ve ever wondered what a masterful rock band would sound like when given a room with a bunch of instruments in various states of being, this is a great example. You can listen/download the tracks here at Daytrotter.

I have a bundle of news for those who don’t know me personally – namely, a bundle of Bolton that is on the way! Yes, my lovely Steph and I are happy to announce that (with God’s help) we’re in the midst of welcoming a new human being into the world. It’s one of the reasons that I haven’t been able to devote the kind of time to writing that I usually like to. The other reason is that my rebellious heart prefers distraction, abstraction, and escape to reality. So, truth be told, I’ve been much in the habit of wasting time on things far less than eternal.

I like to call her "wee bee".

So, with that said, and with my apologies implied therein… I would like to share some of what God has been teaching me through his Word as He speaks to me in the midst of the constant swirl and ebb of the circumstances of my life.

For starters, it hasn’t escaped me that for 21 weeks now, I’ve been a father. Granted, I haven’t been conscious of that for all 21 of those weeks, but increasingly as our lives already feel the weight of changes and as my wife’s abdomen swells with new life… I’m conscious of the responsibilities I now carry before God. Being a father means that, in addition to my wife and I, there is now another person for whom I am very intimately responsible. Another person, one for whose training and fathering I will answer, for whose provision I will be held to account, and to whom I must strive to be an example of the gospel in action. My daughter (assuming that the Ultrasound Technician was right – and they’re not always) or son will look to me to be an example of pastoral, godly, disciplined righteousness.

I love my daughter deeply – more with every passing day as she grows and develops and learns and changes and as God shapes and knits her together. I love my daughter, young as she is. I love her, and so many questions fill my mind:

  • What if my daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly in the womb (as a couple we know of recently experienced)?
  • What if, in a few short years, my precious young daughter was killed in an accident in our driveway (as a musician many of us are familiar with experienced a couple years ago)?
  • What if my daughter grows up and rejects Jesus Christ?
  • What if she lives a long and unrepentant life of rebellion and immorality?
  • Someone mentioned to me today that, because of how I love her, she will always be “Daddy’s Little Girl”. My head reeled. Not because I don’t treasure the thought of taking care of this little girl, nor because I really hope she doesn’t stay little. Neither was it because my hope and prayer is that she grows into a godly woman who loves Jesus Christ. No, I reeled because the thing that immediately jumped into my head was a question:

    Is this Little Girl mine?

    Let me explain:

    How dangerous would it be to my soul if I thought she was MINE… of all things? If I believe that she is “mine” and I lose her in any of the above ways I might despair of life or betray God!

    Isn’t it true that so often the line between responsibility and idolatry is very thin?
    Or what about the line between love and idolatry?

    I am responsible for my daughter. I love my daughter.

    But she is not mine.

    At my church, we’re about to start into a series in the book of James. This week we’ll be delving into the first twelve verses, which (among other things) say the following:

    James 1:2-5 ESV
    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    If you’ve been a Christian for some time, you probably have encountered these kinds of ideas before. After all, from Genesis to Revelation, God makes incredible good come out of incomprehensible evils. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and ultimately Joseph saves them from a famine many years later. David is pursued all over Israel and the surrounding areas by Saul (who is rabidly trying to murder him), and becomes a “man after God’s own heart”. Jesus, God of very God, is betrayed, spat upon, brutally beaten, and crucified… takes upon himself sin – that which he justly and righteously hates, and experiences the full Wrath of God poured out against sin… and in submitting himself on the Cross in this way makes a way for sinners to be reconciled to God.

    If you’re like me, the principle makes sense: God allows and sometimes causes trials and suffering in our lives in order to refine and purify us, in order to transform us and conform us into the likeness of Jesus.

    But James didn’t just say “Accept it, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. He said to count it all joy. Joy. In other words, James is saying “rejoice when you suffer!” and “be delighted when you go through difficulty” and “chalk it up as a sweet thing when your circumstances are sour and bitter”.

    What? I understand accepting that, as Joseph said to his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20)… but to rejoice in suffering? How?

    Let me take a stab at it, with my thanks to preachers like John Piper and Matt Chandler for crystallizing this in my thoughts lately:

    Everything we have is loaned to us that we might point to and make much of Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ – they are all given to us or allowed to us so that in all of it we would rejoice in the Cross.

    The Cross?

    The Cross, through which our worst adversity becomes an instrument of God in subjecting our hearts more wholly to him!

    The Cross, through which everything that would seek to destroy us serves instead to strengthen us – conforming us more and more to the likeness of Jesus!

    The Cross, the greatest sin ever committed, but through which sinners are reconciled to God!

    How else can we move beyond merely accepting our circumstances (especially when they constitute trials and suffering) to REJOICING in them? How else but to see God’s grace and mercy overflowing as he works through our varied and frequently terrible circumstances to accomplish the transformation of our hearts and lives?

    We rejoice in adversity because the worst of circumstances is a gift from God. The worst of circumstances is the gift of a dark, painful, and evil place in which to say to a watching world (and to our rebellious hearts):

    “God is enough! He is all I need! He is my life and sustenance! There is no world, no meaning, and no hope without Jesus Christ!”

    I am responsible for my daughter and I love her… but she is not mine. (May God grant that I never see her as mine!) My daughter, much like every good thing that I have, is a gift from God, created and sustained by him for my joy and for His glory.

    Top Albums 2009

    Without much ado, here are my best beloved musical albums of the year 2009. In descending order, building up to an apex of musical happiness.

    In Shallow Seas We Sail
    10. Emery – “In Shallow Seas We Sail”
    Although this record doesn’t really jump forward on Emery’s generally uncomplicated lyrical themes, it is a wonderful example of a band returning to their roots while incorporating everything they’ve learned in the meantime. Even though this won’t win awards, it’s a gutsy rocker with just the right amount of tenderness to make it all come together. Definitely a great record to throw on.

    Hope Rising
    9. Fee – “Hope Rising”
    I first heard of Fee this past spring after we began singing one of their (then unreleased) songs “Glory to God Forever” at Harvest York Region. By the time “Hope Rising” came out in the fall, I was stoked to hear it. The more I listened to it, the more stoked I became. My only critique is that it comes off a little overdone (particularly the production), but otherwise this is an anthemic, thoughtful, and lyrically excellent collection of original worship songs. As a plus, they work great when sung by a big crowd of people.

    III
    8. Maylene & the Sons of Disaster – “III”
    Maylene is just all kinds of fun. Take former Underoath vocalist Dallas Taylor, mix his insane gutteral vocals with a whole truckload of southern twang and smash-you-in-the-eye guitars, and you have Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. This year’s “III” continues their pattern of putting out stuff that just ‘southern rocks your world’.

    Identity Crisis
    7. Tedashii – “Identity Crisis”
    With the Cross Movement focusing on solo projects primarily now, it’s been interesting to see successors to the Holy Hip Hop legacy rise up in their wake. Other than those on their own Cross Movement Records, cats like Lecrae, Shai Lynne, and Tedashii have really impressed me with deep, theologically informed yet immediately accessible lyrics. “Identity Crisis” isn’t the best example of this new wave of HHH (that goes to Lecrae’s 2008 disc “Rebel”), but it’s this year’s finest.

    Picket Fence Cartel
    6. Project 86 – “Picket Fence Cartel”
    Hard to believe this year brought Project 86 all the way to album number seven. “Picket Fence Cartel” wins points for bringing back a lot of the heavy that was missing on 2007’s “Rival Factions”. It also wins points for some great apocalyptic and devotional lyrics. Songs like “The Black Brigade” mean that this one will see repeated plays for quite some time.

    Son of the Morning
    5. Oh, Sleeper – “Son of the Morning”
    Metal record predominantly ‘voiced’ by Satan but made by Christians. Nine tracks on this record are written from the perspective of the Devil himself, with the final track being from that of the risen and living one – Jesus Christ. Conceptually this pushes the envelope (if that idiom even means anything anymore), but trust me when I say that it’s full of Bible and theology, full of great moments, and full of excellence. Closing track “The Finisher” is a blistering, potent reminder of the all-consuming power of the Almighty One.

    Vancouver
    4. Matthew Good – “Vancouver”
    Ah, Matty Good. He’s kinda the odd one out on this list, and not just because he’s Canadian. “Vancouver” does a lot of what 2007’s “Hospital Music” did, only better. The only thing it’s really missing is a blow-your-face-off rocker like “I’m A Window” was for that record.

    5print Mixtape
    3. Deepspace5 – “5print Mixtape”
    What happens when an unknown but skilled producer has a whole whack of beats NOT used for Jay Z’s “The Blueprint 3”? He, Alex Goose, puts it out for free online as “The Blueprint Outtakes”. What happens when rap supercrew Deepspace5 gets ahold of those beats? Magic. This mixtape is freely available at Deepspace5 dot Com.

    Church Music
    2. David Crowder Band – “Church Music”
    After the letdown that was 2007’s “Remedy”, it was great to hear the return of the sprawling, almost experimental David Crowder Band ala 2005’s “A Collision”. Unlike that watershed record, though, there’s no bluegrass or Americana to be found on “Church Music”, just delicious electronics, top-of-your-lungs stuck-in-your-head choruses and a whole lot of heart and soul.

    Beggars
    1. Thrice – “Beggars”
    It’s no secret that I’m an avid, blathering, emphatic fan of Dustin Kensrue and his band Thrice. Between Dustin’s biblically-conscious, thoughtful, high-grade, genuinely epic lyrics and the band’s brand of toe-tapping groove-infested rock… it’s all win. “Beggars” is my Album of the Year with a vengeance. It’s also, in this fan’s opinion, Thrice’s best offering yet.

    …too good not to share

    Current Tunage: Thrice – Beggars
    Album of the year.

    It’s been forever. I’m (kind of) sorry. There’s much to report on, but that will be another post.

    For now, here’s what’s on my mind:

    “THE WEIGHT” by THRICE from their new album BEGGARS

    There’s many who’ll tell you they’ll give you their love,
    But when they say “give” they mean “take.”
    They’ll hang ‘round just like vultures till push comes to shove.
    They’ll take flight when the earth starts to shake.

    Someone may say that they’ll always be true,
    Then slip out the door ‘fore the dawn.
    But I won’t leave you hanging on.
    Another may stay till they find someone new,
    Then before you know they’ll be gone.
    But I won’t leave you hanging on;
    No, I won’t be that someone.

    And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind
    Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
    And come what may, I will be standing right here by your side;
    I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

    Some talk of destiny, others of fate,
    But soon they’ll be saying goodbye.
    But I won’t leave you high and dry.
    Because a ring don’t mean nothing
    If you can’t haul the weight,
    And some of them won’t even try,
    But I won’t leave you high and dry;
    I won’t leave you wondering why.

    And storms will surely come,
    But true love is a choice you must make
    And you’re the one that I have set my heart to choose.
    As long as I live, I swear I’ll see this through.

    …identity crisis

    Current Tunage: Thrice – Identity Crisis
    read below for lyrics:

    This song has been meaningful to me of late. It’s old Thrice, from their album of the same name as the song. Enjoy.

    Thrice – Identity Crisis

    Image marred by self-infliction
    Private wars on my soul waged
    Heart is scarred by dual volitions
    Juxtaposed and both engaged
    Kindle flame, a test of faith
    Help me see it through
    I put all my trust in you

    Refine hate and love
    Fall afresh on me
    End this crisis of
    Identity

    Draw this darkness out like poison
    Stab, retrieve, again decline
    Help me drive the dagger deeper
    Trace with me explicit line
    Take this blade, a test of faith,
    And strike me deep and true
    I put all my trust in you

    Refine hate and love
    Fall afresh on me
    End this crisis of
    Identity

    This is my voice, all shadows stayed
    This is my heart, upon the altar laid
    Please take all else away,
    Hear my cry, I beg, I plead, I pray
    I’ll walk into the flame,
    A calculated risk to further bless your name
    So strike me deep and true,
    And in your strength I will live and die, both unto you

    …the messenger

    Current Tunage: Thrice – The Messenger (Live @ The House of Blues)
    Lyrics follow.

    Mark me with fear and trembling; send someone else instead.
    I know my world is ending; I can’t repay my debt.
    How can I carry such a heavy burden?
    How can I move when I am paralyzed?
    I see a fire behind a heavy curtain.
    I lean in closer and I close my eyes.

    Kiss the coals; breathe in smoke, and I say,
    “HERE I AM, SEND ME.”
    It lifts my soul; I’m free and so unafraid.
    “HERE I AM, SEND ME.”

    Mark me with fire and send me among the living dead.
    They cannot comprehend me; I watch the sickness spread.
    How can they hear me when their hearts are hardened?
    How can they see me when they close their eyes?
    Still they can tell that I’m an easy target;
    A wooden saw is quite a way to die.

    Kiss the coals; breathe in smoke, and I say,
    “HERE I AM, SEND ME.”
    It lifts my soul; I’m free and so unafraid.
    “HERE I AM, SEND ME.”
    -Thrice, “The Messenger”

    …top ten records two thousand eight

    Here’s my top 10 records released in 2008.
    They are IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, and are followed by a few lines about each.

    Format:
    ## – Artist – “Album Name”

    01 – Thrice – “The Alchemy Index Vol. 3 & 4: Air & Earth”
    If their 2007 EP “The Alchemy Index Vol. 1 & 2: Fire & Water” hinted at anything, it was that the experimental direction begun on their previous record “Vheissu” was but a portent of things to come. “Vol. 1: Fire” revealed that Thrice can still melt faces with blistering post-punk rock even when they play with bizarre timings and unique structures, and “Vol 2: Water” revealed an entrancing, largely synthesized, beautiful ambient Thrice we had never heard before. In a
    similar fashion, “Air & Earth” pushes that envelope further, with “Air” glistening and crackling with quiet energy and what can only be described as a whirlwind of light and atmospheric crescendos. Conversely, “Earth” shares much more in common with frontman Dustin Kensrue’s solo work and is full of acoustic sounds akin to Johnny Cash and old-school folk and country records than anything else in Thrice’s catalog. In a word, breathtaking.

    02 – Brave Saint Saturn – “Anti-Meridian”
    Not only the best BS2 record, but the best thing Reese Roper has ever written and performed vocals for – and that includes Five Iron Frenzy. A brilliant ending to the loose story arc begun back on “So Far From Home” and continued on “The Light of Things Hoped For”. Lyrically strong, musically strong, and very highly rated independent release out of the remains of what will always be one of Third Wave Ska’s greatest memories.

    03 – Underoath – “Lost In The Sound Of Separation”
    Blistering, anthemic, organic, pulsating with purpose, raw, passionate, and ultimately the best Underoath record to date. Structurally remarkable as it almost unilaterally avoids the trappings of traditional verse-chorus, and sonically/lyrically impressive as it comes across with a remarkable juxtaposition of distortion and clarity.

    04 – Emery – “Where Broken Hearts Prevail EP”
    Quite simply, this is a wonderful hybrid of the sounds explored on “The Question” and “I’m Only A Man”. In short, they’ve taken the best parts of both, made a hybrid, tightened up the screws, and unleashed their best album ever – the only downside is that it only lasts 7 tracks.

    05 – The Classic Crime – “The Silver Cord”
    Not exactly known for pushing envelopes musically, The Classic Crime do manage to outdo their previous work both in terms of scope and in terms of sound – with the tasteful appearance of quite a few new instruments (the least of which is not frontman Matt MacDonald’s visceral yells, a welcome addition). Overall, there’s a whole lot more depth and maturity here, resulting in one of the best rock albums in recent memory.

    06 – Becoming The Archetype – “Dichotomy”
    Quite simply, Becoming the Archetype finally realized their remarkable potential on this album. Moving out of riff-city and into epic-metropolis, and from “we can write sweet bits for songs” to “we do write great complete songs”. Consequently, this is the year’s must-have metal record. A completely mind-blowing re-imagining of the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art” stands as an example.

    07 – Dustin Kensrue – “This Good Night Is Still Everywhere”
    Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue releases his second solo effort, this time a Christmas record. Questionable choice? Sure. Fantastic results? Absolutely. Eight covers (only one or two that are unremarkable) and two amazing originals. This one will see regular rotation for many years to come.

    08 – Mars Ill – “Black Listed Sessions”
    Mars Ill’s producer and deejay extraordinaire DJ Dust has been remixing their records since 2003, and the results are consistently as good or better than the original mixes. In this double-take on their previous “Blue Collar Sessions” EP, Dust provides us with some amazing reimaginings of classic tracks. They are so good that they might as well Blacklist them, for their release upon unsuspecting eardrums might cause the musical equivalent of a hydrogen bomb attack.

    09 – Deepspace5 – “Bake Sale”
    Upon finding themselves label-less after a brief stint on Gotee Records, rap supercrew Deepspace5 set out to record and release their third album independently. To fund the effort, they recorded and released this incredible 10-track equivalent of a grade school bake sale (hence the name) to raise funds for putting out album #3 (which will be called “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be”). The results, as always, are spectacular. Challenging beats coupled with humorous/convicting/clever raps, and brief enough to leave you hungering for DS5#3 in 2009.

    10 – Copeland – “You Are My Sunshine”
    Copeland finds itself on Tooth & Nail Records, being produced by Aaron Sprinkle. Awesome, overwhelming serenity results. Hands down the smooth, sleepy, ambient, vocal-driven hit of the year.

    Honourable Mentions:
    GZA/Genius – “Pro Tools”
    Coldplay – “Viva La Vida”
    City & Colour – “Bring Me Your Love”
    Brandon Heath – “What If We”
    Sev Statik – “Shotgun”
    Death Cab For Cutie – “Narrow Stairs”
    Braille – “The IV Edition”

    …must listen/learn

    Current Tunage: Mars Ill – 2 Steps
    “He’s just another couple steps from where he needs to be…”

    I was thinking this morning that there’s a short-list of musical artists that I love and/or respect so greatly that I must own whatever they release as soon as they release it. Case in point, this morning Dust of Mars ILL announced via their mailing list that he (and Beat Rabbi) had just done an 18-track double-disc remix of Mars ILL’s 2003 EP “Blue Collar Sessions” entitled “Black Listed Sessions”. I ordered it immediately. You see, Dust is in the habit of remixing his own work, and the results have been consistently amazing – sometimes the remixes are even better than the originals. No small feat, when you consider Mars ILL is behind such underground classics as “Raw Material”, “Backbreakanomics” and “Pro Pain”.

    Anyways, I thought about it a bit, and here’s my short-list of “musical artists/groups so awesome I buy whatever they release as soon as they release it”:
    x. Mars ILL
    x. Project 86
    x. mewithoutYou
    x. Thrice
    x. Deepspace5
    x. Underoath
    x. Sintax the Terrific
    x. DJ Dust
    x. As Cities Burn

    …a list or two

    Current Tunage: Underoath – The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed
    Lost In The Sound Of Separation is incredible.

    So. There’s about a month and a half left in the Oh Eight, which may be a bit early to do this, but I feel like doing it now.

    TOP TEN RECORDS RELEASED or discovered by me IN 2008 (mostly no particular order):
    x LOST IN THE SOUND OF SEPARATION – underoath
    x II – maylene and the sons of disaster
    x BAKESALE – deepspace5
    x CURB APPEAL – sintax the terrific
    x SLOW FLAME – mars ill
    x THE ALCHEMY INDEX VOLS. 3&4, AIR & EARTH – thrice
    x THE SILVER CORD – the classic crime
    x THE IV EDITION – braille

    …breakdown in three quarters

    Current Tunage: Frodus – Out-Circuit The Ending
    In the dust of the least design I will take to the sky


    Pictured is Durn. Weilding “Jin’Rokh, The Great Apocalypse”. Now at rest.

    3 / 4

    One to go.

    Commentary: It feels so good to be done. Third year was difficult – not necessarily in terms of the content studied. Difficult in every way but scholastically, and so academics were thus rendered difficult as well. I feel like I’ve been stretched every way possible, and yet I know this is just the tiny, visible peak of a monstrous iceberg.

    This year is significant for many reasons, but few of them relate to school. This year marked the beginning of my first real relationship in ~4 years. Real, in this case, meaning “she is actually, in fact, interested and reciprocal; capable of making her mind up and being clear about it”. I apologize if the previous sentence comes off as bitter, as I’m not much bitter anymore, just glad to not be tired in the same way I was when that sort of thing bothered me (ie. right before meeting Steph). To add encouragement to healing, I found myself engaged shortly thereafter to someone I oft refer to as “Miss MyUniverse”, among many other things. I freely admit my human propensity towards bias and preference and subjectivity, but I honestly and holistically would submit my Fiancee as the best woman in all chronology, geography, and my unchanging opinion. Bar none. If you disagree, I will fight you and your ignorance (gently).

    Consequential to these remarkable and unexpected developments, focusing on academics has often been the last thing on my mind this year – and my marks will likely show the proof. I do expect to pass everything (some by the skins of their teeth), for which I am thankful and admittedly quite surprised in a couple of cases. Papers and topics for them filled my head throughout the year, and I feel some of my best writing ever was done – and some of the most mediocre as well. I discovered I rather dislike open-ended English essays, and rather love open-ended Philosophy essays. I nurtured a growing passion for poetry (which hasn’t really manifested itself in much writing for my poetry blog as of yet, but I’m sure it will come. Finally, I took to calling myself a “Philosophy and English joint major” where before I had called myself an “English and Philosophy joint major”. The reasoning is simple: I get excited about Philosophy. Almost always. English Literature, (especially the historical, remembering names and junk stuff) not so much.

    Without further ado:

    Annual Thirty “Best” Things of 0708 school year:
    [IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER]
    01. Going with Al & Shane & Gord to Barrie to commit random high-jinks.
    02. Doing 2v2 Arenas with my friend “Serida” in the Fall (August-November ’07).
    03. Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii – a more ‘epic win’ could not be conceived.
    04. Getting myself into a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with someone-awesome.
    05. Getting engaged to that same someone-awesome.
    06. Thursday nights studying Colossians here at the house with my TCF small group.
    07. Playing Dustin Kensrue’s “Blanket of Ghosts” with Todd at TCF Coffee House in honour of Robert Jordan. RIP.
    08. Five months of unemployment (which was, simultaneously among the worst things).
    09. No classes on Thursdays.
    10. Getting both of my characters in WoW to level 70.
    11. Quitting World of Warcraft in December. Again. For good this time. (It’s even uninstalled.)
    12. Regular weekends in Toronto visiting Steph and so many other friends.
    13. Trips way up North (South Porcupine) for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Premarital Counselling Round 1.
    14. Mondays hanging out with Todd, talkin’ life.
    15. Early Modern Philosophy with M. Neumann, and, more importantly, T. Anderson.
    16. Acquiring a second family. /wave
    17. TCF Retreats Fall & Winter.
    18. Our new boarder – my friend Shane!
    19. Finding my old green toque. Wearing it.
    20. Walking the pooch (Nuka) late at night during warmer months.
    21. Dangerous prayers.
    22. Installing Covenant Eyes. Reaping the benefits.
    23. Opening a PC Financial account. So. Good.
    24. Studying Metaphysics, Epistemology, and 20th Century Continental Philosophy.
    25. Joining up as a staff writer for The Phantom Tollbooth.
    26. Not getting Windows Vista, a Mac, an iPod, a metal water bottle, a blackberry, etc. XP really is better…
    27. Playing Team Fortress 2 and DotA with my brothers, friends, and enemies.
    28. Having a sweet, sweet beard. Getting rid of a sweet, sweet beard.
    29. Renos on my room being finished after a decade in limbo.
    30. Stephanie.

    Sleep soundly in silence
    Knowing that we will never return
    To what we once were
    What was now is a distant memory
    I guess that I should thank you
    For freeing me from my naivety
    -Project 86 “Breakdown in 3/4”

    Annual Ten Most Important “New-To-Me” Records of 0708 school year:
    [IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER]
    01. Sev & Dust – “Back To Dust”
    02. Thrice – “The Alchemy Index”
    03. Project 86 – “Rival Factions”
    04. As Cities Burn – “Come Now Sleep”
    05. Matthew Good – “Hospital Music”
    06. He Is Legend – “Suck Out The Poison”
    07. Dashboard Confessional – “The Shade Of Poison Trees”
    08. Lovedrug – “Everything Starts Where It Ends”
    09. August Burns Red – “Messengers”
    10. Oh, Sleeper – “When I Am God”

    This is the sound that drives you to deny
    These are the words that remind you we’re alive
    This is the voice that haunts you in your sleep
    Outdated, forgotten, we’re yesterday’s obsolete
    -Project 86 “Breakdown in 3/4”

    And my general plan now… is to rest. And work my (posterior) off. And contribute more than my share of the wedding planning. And have phun with friends. And read books I want to. And write lots of music reviews. And blog posts. And and and… get married.

    Yes.