Sunday, 17 April 2016

Popular Music - February 2016

Tori Amos - To Venus and Back (venus orbiting)
Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines
Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
Toni Childs - House of Hope
Paul Dempsey - Everything Is True
Bryan Duncan - Mercy
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Gotye - Making Mirrors
Sophie B. Hawkins - Whaler
Jars of Clay - Much Afraid
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Metropolis Suites II and III)
Something for Kate - Echolalia
Something for Kate - Leave Your Soul to Science

It's really happened this time. I've left it too late, and too much has been happening in my life, and frankly I don't even remember listening to some of these albums recently.

I believe this might be the first time an Elbow album has appeared on the list, after a couple of false starts, but I can't recall enough to comment on The Seldom Seen Kid in any detail except to confirm that I liked it. Bizarrely, it's the 3rd Elbow disc I've bought. Having streamed all of their albums a year or so ago, and deciding that I liked them, my first purchase was actually a B-sides collection owing to some peculiar circumstances. I decided, however, that it was best not to listen to that first!

And then their most recent album was bought, but somehow I didn't manage to sit down and listen to it the whole way through as required by my "rules" for this blog and my spreadsheet. So The Seldom Seen Kid has crossed the line first. Barely.

Jar of Clay's second album, Much Afraid, was listened to for the first time in a number of years, and I was reminded how much better I think it was than their debut. The songs are in general a lot more nuanced and interesting, though the album still doesn't quite hold together as some songs don't seem to contribute the right tone. But that tone overall is tentative, questioning, troubled... afraid. And when it works, it's very affecting.

I have the impression that in some Christian circles, though, the tendency of Jars of Clay to express trouble and doubt are somehow seen as wrong. A Christian band should be all happy and clapping and telling everyone how joyful it is to be a Christian.

For me, the song on the album that best captures how beautiful and powerful the Jars of Clay approach can be is "Portrait of an Apology". It's dark, melodramatic, full of self-condemnation... and ultimately a cry for rescue.

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