DRUDGE DEPRESSES me. Every single day when I click over to the world’s source of up-to-the-minute gossip/news, I feel my heart sinking just a little bit more. Whether it’s a bottom feeding economy that seems to need more than life support just to keep it out of the grave, or the latest semi-controversial tidbit surrounding the race between Palin and Obama—Drudge reminds me that this world is just such a wonderful place to live in. Oh, and then, I wake up one morning to find a link from a sadistic web-searcher friend to this delightful piece of news. While my week didn’t induce complete depression and isolation, I made it out to catch Ben Folds/Missy Higgins at D.A.R. (review forthcoming), I did manage to snag a few musical gems that made the possibility of a complete financial system collapse and the inevitability of another disgusting presidential election finish slightly bearable.
So don’t let Drudge and razor blades into the same room, and enjoy the music.
The Killers, “Human”
"Plagiarist" isn’t necessarily an insult. While The Killer’s first single from their upcoming Day/Age LP sounds like it could have slipped from a long forgotten corner of the Pet Shop Boys back catalogue, there are few people who would fault Brandon Flowers & Co for their choice of influences. This song reminds you why Hot Fuss was the just-press-repeat summer album of 2004. While Sam’s Town was an underappreciated though overhyped gem of 2006, Flowers has given up trying to sound like Springsteen and taken that shimmery Vegas dance sound to a fantastic new level. While his lyrics remain vague and slightly confusing, one of my friends spent the entire week trying to decide whether he was saying, “denser” or “dancer” (the answer is the surprisingly singular dancer, if you were wondering)—vagueness does not counteract catchiness.
If the rest of Day/Age is anything like Human, this may be the winter album of 2008. That album that manages to keep its listeners in a state of preserved happiness and peace, defying the icy wind cutting through the frozen winter world and still holding onto the hope that spring will come. There’s a strobe-light bass line, warbling guitar riff, and a pounding synth that makes you feel like someone let all the best parts of the 80’s loose on 2008. I’m just waiting for Flowers to resurrect the eye-liner and sequins. Before you complain, just remember, anything is better than that mustache.
The Welcome Wagon, “Sold! To the Nice Rich Man”
It’s been almost two years since Sufjan Steven’s last release, and while no new state or album appears on his musical horizon, The Welcome Wagon may be just as good. Produced by Stevens, The Welcome Wagon, comprised of Brooklyn Presbyterian minister Rev. Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, make music that fits right in with the best of Steven’s catalogue. Their first release, Sold! To the Nice Rich Man, is a lush and delicate cover borrowed from the eclectic Christian troubadours The Danielson Famile. Another addition to the Asthmatic Kitty roster, The Welcome Wagon’s bio states that their songs are…“delivered with the simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.” Thes lyrics follow up that idea with a simple story of redemption that’s artistically nuanced, but clearly profound.
“Which man came to pay the price?/ He paid it all/ He paid the now/He paid the was/ He paid it in full/ He paid it for fools/ who wandered and drooled…This man bought our wandering world…”
Sold! reminds that Christians shouldn’t have to settle for sub-par lyrics or music when they craft artistic stories of redemption and hope. The swirling orchestration nicely cushions Aiuto’s gentle vocals but uses an improv guitar to keep the tune from becoming entirely predictable. The Welcome Wagon can’t get away from the influence or touch of Stevens, but if this tune is any indication, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Download: Sold! To the Nice Rich Man
Denison Witmer, “Champagne Supernova”
This song has soundtracked far too many get-together/road trip/ reflection/ wedding dance/break-up mixes and, despite gratuitous over usage, you can’t help feeling warm when this 90’s staple from Oasis comes on. As part of his latest Covers project, Witmer provides a simple, if slightly unimaginative, take on this classic tune. Slow strummed acoustic guitar provides the bare accompaniment for Witmer’s beautiful voice and Gallagher’s time tested tale of, “special people changing.”
It can’t replace the dramatic scene-closing crescendo of the original, but Witmer provides the children of the 90’s a chance to walk through the museum of their romantic history by triggering all the right idealized memories. You can’t help but wish that Witmer’s simplicity could have included just a tad of creativity, i.e., Ryan Adams. Regardless of its deficiencies, the song’s been on repeat in my room this week, so just download it, turn it up and ask, “Where were you when we were getting hiiiiiiiiigh?”
Download: Champagne Supernova
Against Me! (feat. Tegan Quin), “Borne on the FM Airwaves of the Heart”
Shameless boasting: I’m seeing these guys in the tiny confines of the Washington D.C.'s Black Cat next month. The show is sold out and Ted Leo, whom I love, is opening. Be jealous.
But my-show going prowess shouldn’t inhibit you from enjoying this choppy duet between Gabel and Quin. It’s more pop than punk, but this story of a summer love in the face of winter is just a great rock ballad. The echoing vocals perfectly highlight Gabel’s gravely screaming tones against Quin’s balancing harmonies. Regardless of whether you think that Against Me! has completely sold out and rejected the very things which made them special—you can’t deny that these kids know how to write an incredibly catchy pop-punk song.
Just get over yourself and enjoy it. I won’t tell Pitchfork.
Okkervil River, “Westfall”
This isn’t new. Though all Okkervil River has received far too much love for their last three releases, this track from their first LP “Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See” deserves just a little bit of love. It highlights Okkervil River at its absolute best with Scheff’s wavering voice draped over a slow guitar riff while a mandolin provides a chilling background to a dark story of murder. As the drums and backing vocals slowly come in, there’s a type of restrained recklessness that doesn’t get unleashed until you finally realize where this story is going to end up. When this band is on, they tell stories better than almost anyone, when they’re off, it’s just boring. This track is anything but boring and culminates with one of my favorite lines of the last few weeks, “looking for evil/thinking they can trace it/but evil don’t look like anything.”
Jack White and Alicia Keyes, “Another Way to Die.”
If were under a rock this week, you might have somehow missed this song. It’s got the feel of a classic Bond tune, but with White Stripes Jack White's scorching, distorted guitars driving Keyes vocals. It’s a killer song for the next Bond movie (that should be anything but boring), and Madonna is not incorporated into the mix at all. I'm more terrified of that woman than the economy.
Stream: Another Way to Die
Nathan Martin is Patrol's Washington, D.C. music editor.
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