Gensheer’s Top 10 Albums of 2010

This is not a list of albums that came out in 2010, but bands and albums I discovered (or in some cases re-discovered) this past year.  Check them out, see which ones float your boat.  If you like the artists, support them by buying their music.

What would make your list?  What from my list are especially digging?  Or not digging?  Share your take.  You might just help us all discover some new, old band for next years “Best of” lists.

B.R.M.C. by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, B.R.M.C.

If you’ve seen the Kettle One Vodka commercial – the one with all the dudes in “dressed-up-but-now-I’m-casual” sitting in a bar, having drinks and a good time just being themselves – then you’ve heard B.R.M.C.  Their song “Spread Your Love” is playing in the background.  All around great band, and great album.  I first heard them on the “New Moon” Soundtrack (thanks to Maggie) with their song “Done All Wrong”, and it is by far the best song on any of the Twilight Saga movies/soundtracks.

Scala & Kolacny Brothers - It All Leads to This

 

2. Scala & Kolacny Bro thers, It All Leads to This

Imagine hearing some of your favorite songs, by some of your favorite artists, covered by a children’s choir.  And not like mandatory public school kids choir.  I’m talking, on par with the Vienna Boys Choir.  Only this is a Belgian girls’ choir.   That’s Scala & Kolacny Brothers.  Hearing “Wake Up Dead Man” (U2) sung by this group, along with Radiohead’s “Creep” (for the Social Network movie trailer) were truly new musical experiences for me.

Sons of Anarchy "The King is Dead"

 

3. Battleme, “H ey Hey My My”

Ok, so while not an album, I think this one single track is worth lumping into the mix for best albums.  This is a cover of the Neil Young classic, “Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue). This was the perfect song to play the last few minutes of the Sons of Anarchy season finale.  Her voice singing a Neil Young classic, mesmerizing.  It was like it was permanently burned into my brain. If you take a chance on nothing else on this list, take it on this (But you’ll probably also like some of the others, especially The Arcade Fire and The Black Angels).

 

The Black Angels, Passover

 

4. The Black Angles, Passover

When I first heard the first track, “Young Men Dead“, I knew I found a new personal favorite band.  Then when I heard this song featured on the Fable III video game commercial, I recognized that it was a perfect fit.  These guys flat out rock.  I created a sub-genre when I moved to New Mexico – “Southwest-Rock-with-Spiritualized-Undertones”.  These guys, along with B.R.M.C. and Wovenhand were constantly playing on my iPod, in the car, at work…everywhere, really.

 

Wovenhand, The Threshingfloor

5. Wovenhand, The Threshingfloor

David Eugene Edwards and company are phenomenal to see live! They came to Santa Fe, so me and a friend got to check them out El Corazon.  I also know that David is an unabashed believer in Jesus.  He’s not ashamed either to sing, sometimes blatantly about that either.  And yet, there were a couple hundred people, in a club, on a Saturday night in Santa Fe, NM, riveted by this music.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, this is what Christians making music is supposed to sound like.  Its great art, fabulous musicianship, and authentic gutsi-ness.  As opposed to most other Christian music that just simply sucks. Highlighted tracks: “A Holy Measure” and “His Rest“, and “Singing Grass“.

 

 

Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown

6. Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown

Radioactive” got me hooked.  “The End” solidified the album for me. These guys have a way of making something that can play on pop radio, yet still have enough uniqueness and edge to not be a typical, pre-fabricated musical cop-out.  Few bands can pull that off.

 

 

Jonsi, Go

7. Jonsi, Go

This is the breakout album from the Sigur Ros frontman, Jonsi.  Incredible stuff (just like Sigur Ros). I heard Rob Bell use one of his songs in a sermon illustration.  He had someone in the audience listen to a song, and while listening, attempt to describe it to someone else.  The description included, “New Age-y”, “dreamy”, and “I could run to it”.  That was Jonsi’s song, “Animal Arithmetic“. I couldn’t have described better myself.  The rest of the album is great.  For me, its part of my Study Mix on iTunes.

 

The Black Keys, Brothers

8. The Black Keys, Brothers

I was introduced to these guys two years ago.  Their 2010 album, Brothers, re-introduced me to the sublime delight it is to have overdriven guitars, laden with bluesy riffs, melodies and lyrical plot, in a popular but still not Pop package.  That is my best summary of The Black Keys.  Check out the songs “She’s Long Gone“, “Sinister Kid” and “Next Girl“.

 

 

The Journey, To See the Curse Removed

9. The Journey, To See the Curse Removed

My old church back in St. Louis put out an album this year, and at the helm of the project was my friend Jon Yerby.  You’ll notice that there aren’t any other overtly Christian artists or albums on this list, because I frankly think alot of it is dribble.  This is not.  “Common Place” is incredible, and the rendition of “And Can it Be” has thoroughly ruined any other version of that old hymn for me.  I can’t sing it any other way now.  Thanks Jon Yerby for being a great artist, worship leader and friend.

And the single best album of the year…

 

The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

10. The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Hands down, my favorite album of 2010.  This was on constant rotation for at least three weeks after it came out.  Incredible music, telling a story through songs, instead of the usual putting random songs onto an album. Get this if you haven’t already, and listen, from start to finish, and then repeat.  You won’t regret it. “Rococo” might just be the best critique of hipster culture, from a hipster favorite.  It’s also my  favorite track.  And “Half Light I is a close second.

 

This is not an Official Arcade Fire video, but I think it captures both the beauty of what should be, with the sobering reality that things are not as they should be, being set to someone’s trip through my wife’s home country (of sorts), the Balkans.  This captures the beauty and the ache that is life, just like the song Half Light.

Honorable Mentions:

Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Records , esp. “World Sick

Band of Horses, Infinite Arms

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, especially his remix of “Lost in the World” by Bon Iver

Local Natives, Gorilla Manor

Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can.  “Devil’s Spoke” and “Darkness Descends” are fabulous tracks.  What modern blue-grass could and should be. I just discovered her too late in the year.

The Story of Christmas

In today’s worship service, Martin Ban highlighted something about the story of Christmas from Luke’s gospel that I had not considered before.

“Luke begins his story w/ Jesus in a cave & wrapped in linen and ends the story with a cave & unwrapped from linens.” – Martin Ban (paraphrase)

The story of Christmas is really the story of the gospel. And in Luke, the story begins with Jesus being born in a cave, wrapped in swaddling linens, and ends with Jesus being placed in a burial cave, only to emerge days later and leave his burial linens behind.

The story of Christmas is the story of new life, found in and made possible by Jesus – God with us, making all things new.

Our part?

To receive this story, believe it, and spread it through our lives and with our words.

Merry Christmas everybody! A new day has arrived!

Sometimes God seems to be killing us

“Something is safe for us to maintain in our lives only if it has really stopped being an idol.  That can happen only when we are truly willing to live without it, when we truly say from the heart: ‘Because I have God, I can live without you.’…Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us.”

– Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods:The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power,  and the Only Hope that Matters

 

Below, you’ll find a short video of Keller explaining why he wrote the book in the first place.  Enjoy!

Best Christmas Album

My pick for the best Christmas album is hands down, Jennifer Daniels’ A Thrill of Hope.

If you have never heard of Jennifer Daniels before, you’re missing out. She packs all of her songs with hints of the beauty of what could be with the emotional integrity to deal with things as they are. This Christmas EP is no exception.

Do yourself a favor, click on the link, download the album from Amazon MP3. You won’t regret it.

What would a Black person have to do to live in your neighborhood?

Chris Rock

"The the black man has to fly to get to something the white man has to walk to." - Chris Rock

I’ve been sitting here watching a Chris Rock special on Comedy Central.  I like the guy.  I think he’s hilarious on so many fronts.

I also find him thought provoking.

There was a minute long sketch where he goes into talking about his neighbors.  You can watch it below if you want (Disclaimer: I make no judgments on use of language, so if you do, don’t watch.  Or watch. Just don’t be offended and tell me about it later.  This is your warning.)

Here’s the gist.

Chris Rock has three well-known and widely recognized as pinnacles of success in their respective careers black neighbors:  Mary J. Blige (R&B Singer), Jay-Z (Hip-Hop, entertainment mogul), and Eddie Murphy (actor who specializes in talking, animated donkeys).  Of course, he includes himself, a very successful comedian.  The other neighbor, who is white, is a dentist.

And not a famous dentist.  Not a “top-in-his-field” dentist.  Just an ordinary dentist.

His next statement I latched onto as something worth sharing:

“The black man has to fly to get to something the white man has to walk to.” – Chris Rock

His logic is reasonable for sure.  You have award winning artists.  Entertainment trail blazers.  People who have hosted the Grammy’s.  And then you have a regular dentist.

I’m not into suggesting that all “white” people are to blame for this disparity, but I do think that Chris Rock is identifying something that everybody may take for granted:  What does somebody have to do to be able to live in your neighborhood?

This happens in myriad of ways.  For example.  I live in a part of Santa Fe, NM known as Eldorado.  It is very much a granola neighborhood.  In fact, it was developed as the first solar energy community in the country back in the 70’s.  Now its a typically nice place to live in Santa Fe.  The school is quite good.  Its only a 15 minute drive into town.  It takes a certain income level to live out here (but that’s true of any neighborhood).  But it also requires an All-Wheel or 4-Wheel drive vehicle.  Or a monstrously huge truck with a snow plow latched on the front…because we get snow.

Lots of it.  I’ve been shoveling it all day.  Why?

Because I’m one of those guys who don’t own a Subaru with All-Wheel/4-Wheel drive.  Nor am I the guy with a big truck and snow plow attachment.  So that means I shovel, and stay stuck regardless.

Every neighborhood…every city…every culture and sub-culture…has this aspect.  There are certain things that make it viable, or not viable, to live, work, play and be a part of the culture. That is the ever present problem of context – we all live, work, play in a context.

And unfortunately, we all breathe in the air of the context to such an extent that we may be “nose-def” to the problems, concnerns and interests of others who may or may not share that same context.

Now, what I’m left pondering after watching Chris Rock, is not just so mono-lithic as to say that the cultural plight of black america is still subject to the whims of white america (What about Asian, Hispanic, or dare I say it, Native American cultures?  In other words, there is a history for sure, but its also broader than any one culture or ethnicity over/against another singular culture or ethnicity?).  Nor am I trying to be self-absorbed and say “I feel it too!  Look here..”

But these issues are more indicative of how we live and relate as human beings, that has ethnic, cultural, socio-economic implications.  We  tend to never  think about what it would take to let someone else live in our neighborhood, because, well, that’s their problem, not mine?  I can’t be concerned about someone else’s needs, that’s their responsibility?

And all the while we just recycle the same sad, sorry and pathetic excuses at the expense of developing a more gospel-centered mindset – a mindset that embraces and embodies all that Jesus has done for us.  In a nutshell, this is taking on the interests of another upon himself (cf. Philippians 2), and so bridging the way for two opposing groups to be reconciled and live in relationship with one another.  That would be God and man, by the way.

So, the gospel, if we truly embrace all of who Jesus is and what He’s done for us, makes Chris Rock’s insight something we should consider.

What would somebody else – somebody who is not like you, somebody who is maybe antagonistic toward you, or someone who has been truly hurt by you or someone like you – have to do, to be able to move into your neighborhood?

Or live in your city?

Or your group of friends?

Or visit and connect with your church?

If we don’t wrestle with this issue, nothing will ever change.  And that’s something the gospel is all about.

Maybe the Inconceivable Happens

The following is what I imagine a conversation might have been had between Joseph and a friend once Joseph resolves to marry, Mary. This is an imaginary conversation, obviously.  It is springing from what we read in Matthew 1:18-25:

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

A Conversation between Joseph and a “Friend”

Friend: “What???  You are carrying on just as before”

Joseph: “Yes I am”

F: “Why?”

J: “Because I believe that the child is someone special, and that Mary is innocent.”

F:  “Have you proved that?”

J: “No.”

F:  “Then how can you know for sure?”

J:  “I can’t.”

F: “Then why?”

J:  “Because God has asked me to believe it and to act on faith in what He says.”

F:  “That is inconceivable Joseph!”

J:  “Yes, it is, isn’t it?…But isn’t that like God?  Wasn’t it inconceivable for the barren fore-mothers of our nation to conceive and bear children, yet it happened.  And what if what we expect of God and His Messiah isn’t completely right?  After all, when Isaiah prophesized to Ahaz about a “son” being born to a woman of marriageable age, there was Isaiah’s own son that fit the bill…until the Assyrians came in….

Maybe what we expect to happen as usual, is really extraordinary….

…and what if the extraordinary is really usual?”

F:  “What are you talking about Joseph?”

J: “I’m not completely sure.  I only know that God has showed up in the past in unusual ways, and saved His people in unusual ways.  Maybe what we expect to happen, isn’t altogether right.  Maybe its not the way we think its supposed to be…but He still shows up nonetheless.  And that no one can deny.  Why should I deny this?”

F:  “So you’re just going to go forward, pretending?”

J: “No!  This is not pretending.  This is taking it on faith that what God has said is true and worthy of my response.”

F:  “And that’s easy for you?”

J: “No!  It isn’t!  Are you kidding me?  Do you know what its like to walk down the streets and here the whispers under people’s breaths?  ‘Slut’.  ‘Tramp’. ‘Whore’.  Do you not think I hear that?  Do you not think I find myself saying that in my head myself?  Do you not think I have considered divorce?…

…. Or what about what I hear people saying about me?  ‘Sinner’, ‘Unrighteous’. ‘Imbecile’.  ‘Idiot’. ‘Second-class’. ‘White-trash’. Do you not think I hear those things either?  No!  I carry those words and those thoughts every day of my life.  You ask if this is easy?  I assure you it is anything but.”

F:  “Then why do it?”

J: “Because maybe…just maybe, the inconceivable is just what is appropriate.  Maybe…just maybe, the problem we have is not just that our circumstances are such that they are – that we are held captive by a foreign nation.  We tend to locate the problem ‘out there’.  ‘It’s the Romans; lets get rid of them.’  Before, it was the Babylonians, Assyrians, Canaanites, etc…  Well, ‘friend’, do you not realize we have been saying that same thing from before we ever became a nation?”

F:  “What do you mean, Joseph?”

J: “What I mean is that is exactly what Adam did back in Eden.”

F:  “Explain?”

J: “When God came to Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit, and after He asked where they were because they were hiding because of their shame, He then asked Adam, ‘What have you done?’  And do you remember what Adam’s response was?”

F:  “Sure, it was ‘we ate the fruit we weren’t supposed to’.”

J: “No!  Friend.  His response was ‘the woman you gave me deceived me…’  Adam located the problem of his disobedience onto others.  Eve for sure.  And look at how men have historically treated women ever since. They are inferior.  They are to blame.  We tell ourselves that if I cheat on my wife its because she has ‘Daddy’ issues and I just need a break.  Or she’s incapable of understanding my needs, so I take the initiative in my own hands to satisfy myself.  We justify our treatment of women because after all, they are to blame!…

…And then we blame God!  ‘You’re the one who set this whole thing in motion.  Now where are you?’  ‘Why have you made us to do this wicked thing, God.’  ‘Why have you allowed us to suffer.’  ‘Why are you so evil, God, to let this all happen and not get rid of the problem?’.”

F:  “And what’s so wrong with that Joseph?”

J: “What’s wrong is that maybe we’ve misjudged where the problem lies.  Maybe we’ve determined that the problem lies ‘out there’, outside of ourselves….

….Maybe, just maybe, the problem is with us….

…and God hasn’t gotten rid of the problem because He still loves ‘the problem’, even when it doesn’t make any sense for him to do so.  Maybe God knows something of having to deal with the dilemma of the people He loves betraying Him, and yet He still chooses ‘what is difficult all one’s days/as if it were easy’ [Auden, “For the Time Being”, found in his Collected Poems]….

…Maybe, just maybe, the exceptional is really usual…

….Maybe, just maybe, the exceptional is really the way its supposed to be…

…because deeper problems need exceptional solutions…

…after all, the inconceivable happens.”