Shiny Things! or, 10 Songs I’ve Recently Discovered

Back in November, I wrote an article about songs I was listening to.  I said I would write a post about the new music I discovered on Pandora.  Nine months later, I’m finally getting around to writing that post!  The songs listed here are part what I found on Pandora, part new music I’ve discovered other ways.  Either way, I hope you like what you hear!

1. Propehcy by Carter Burwell – The movie “Howl” stars James Franco as a very good Allen Ginsberg (I will admit, I was surprised.  Playing Ginsberg in all his mania and even simply reading the epic that is the poem “Howl,” I imagine, is difficult to portray). Very appropriately, the soundtrack of this movie has become my new writing music, particularly this song.  It ebbs and flows, dramatic and serene, love it!

Prophecy

2. Ballad of the Sad Young Men by Roberta Flack – I heard this song in the beginning of a lecture by Patrick Rosal.  It stuck with me and I got the album, “First Take,” for my birthday. Rumor has it that the album this song is on was, as suggested by the title, recorded in one take.  I have a lot of respect for Flack’s undeniable singing chops.

Ballad Of The Sad Young Men

3. Acknowledgement by John Coltrane – If you read my Blue Like Jazz post, you’ll know I’ve been listening to Coltrane for a while.  About a year ago, a friend of mine gave me four gigs of new music.  I’m still discovering new tunes from the cache he gave me.  A discovery within the last three months or so has been Coltrane.  I am most definitely falling in love with jazz music.  Something about its inherent creativity and improvisation speaks to me.

Acknowledgement

4. Girl with One Eye by Florence + the Machine – Ok, I know Florence been around for a little while, and I’m late to the bandwagon. I’m just now discovering her awesomeness. It was love at first listen for this particular song and I.  It’s sassy and, yes, I do belt it out in the car…terribly.

Girl With One Eye

5. The Cave by Mumford and Sons – I have my roommate to blame for this one.  It’s his favorite song of the Mumford and Sons collection he has.  Maybe about six months ago he kept playing this particular tune incessantly.  I’d be lying if I said it had to grow on me.  This song starts out kind of slow, but quickly picks up pace.  I can’t help but bop my head whenever it comes on.

6. Sky by Joshua Radin, featuring Ingrid Michaelson – Here’s another song I discovered because of a friend.  She randomly said there was a song she thought I’d enjoy and sent it to me.  She was definitely right.  I feel like this tune is unique in that it acknowledges the fact that people in a relationship fear that the other person will leave them, but, many times, these fears only manifest themselves in dreams.  The song ultimately renews the singers’ love for the beloved.

Sky (featuring Ingrid Michaelson)

7. That Wasn’t Me by Brandi Carlile – Another song recommended by the same friend who introduced me to “Sky.”  About a month ago, I got a voucher for three free MP3 songs on Amazon.  I did a facebook poll asking which songs people recommended.  My friend recommended this one, and, once again, she was spot on with her choice.  This song won me over with the first few seconds of piano playing and kept me hooked with the soulful, honest lyrics.

That Wasn’t Me

8. Right as Rain by Adele – This was a Pandora recommendation. Damn, that girl can sang!  I realize people know this already, but it bears repeating.

9. I Will Not Bow by Breaking Benjamin – One of my favorite bands, RED, toured with Breaking Benjamin for a bit.  I wasn’t able to go to a show on that tour, but I heard that Breaking Benjamin has a music style very similar to RED.  Pandora played this song on the RED station I created.  Definitely one to head bang to!

10. The Last Fight by Bullet for My Valentine –  I heard this song during one of the Body Combat sessions at my gym.  There are few things I like more than punching along to a rock music riff.  Bullet for my Valentine has quickly become a favorite band of mine.  They’ve got a great mix of gritty lyrics and attitude that are right up my alley.

The Last Fight

Of Mitres and John Coltrane: My Thoughts on Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz: The Movie

I think Don Miller is pretty cool.  If you’ve spent any time around me, you already know this.  I’ve been reading his books for a couple of years now.  He seems like the kind of guy you could sit down with at a coffee shop and talk for hours, which might be why I keep reading.

The reason could also be that his work is real.  Don doesn’t sugar coat life or faith or the hard work it takes to get where you want to go.  So I was thrilled to learn his memoir, “Blue Like Jazz,” was going to be made into a movie.  And after this surge of anticipation came a wave of dread.  Books turned movies don’t always translate well (“The Lightning Thief” anyone?).

As a book, Blue Like Jazz is a beautiful fusion of faith and wrestling and life and interactions with people that seem really off-beat (in the best way.)  To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the film.  Many movies under the “Christian” label can be quite biased and unrealistic.  This movie could also swing in the opposite direction, creating a piece devoid of any deeper meaning.

After I saw the movie this past Friday, I was happy to find that Blue Like Jazz is delightfully balanced, showing both the reality of life (specifically college life) and all of its complexities when you throw in wrestling with faith.

Sure, there will be the people who may expect a sermon and will not be happy with the fact that the movie doesn’t end with Don’s character parading around the campus of Reed College handing out Bibles and yelling, “Repent!”  There will also be people who won’t like it because of all the God talk.  But, ultimately, this movie serves as a great discussion piece.  Not to say that the cinematography wasn’t good or that the dialogue felt forced.  But the movie is more than close-ups and funny one-liners.  Blue Like Jazz is a movie that isn’t afraid to wrestle with the larger life questions and refuses to present clear-cut answers simply because we all have our own experiences, which almost never produce a neat answer when we add them all together.  Life is art, not math.

There are certainly big differences between the book’s accounts and the movie’s portrayal.  But the film tells a good story (and, really, isn’t that what a movie should accomplish?).  There is one scene I keep coming back to where Don’s character is speaking with his father.  His dad is sitting on a lawn chair outside of his trailer, drinking a beer, and listening to Coltrane when he says two lines that have stuck with me: “Life is like Jazz music.  It doesn’t resolve.”  This is the main theme I took away from the movie.  It’s a theme that is nuanced, and certainly opens the floor to discussion.

A Love Supreme

All of the people Don interacts with along the way (Penny, Lauryn, “the Pope”) are three-dimensional.  They are not dismissed as heathens or God girls or merely intellectuals.  There’s depth to them, qualities that made them all human.  This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie, mostly because I can relate.  I have a friend who reminds me of Lauryn and a friend who is pretty much “the Pope” (minus the mitre).  And these friends have struggles and beauty and flaws.  And yet, I feel that some would box them in, then write in big, bold, Sharpie letters “THE LESBIAN” and “THE PAGAN.”  Blue Like Jazz shows that people are more than the sum of their labels without being preachy.  That in and of itself is quite a feat.  I hope movies (both Hollywood and “Christian”) will take a hint from this movie and create more films with complex characters.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film not because it was made by a Christian author or marketed to a specific audience.  I enjoyed the movie because it is refreshing, because it is honest, because it celebrates the very human freedom to question and draw conclusions from our own messy and beautiful experiences.

It has been five days since I’ve seen this movie. For whatever reason, I can’t stop listening to John Coltrane.

Listen to a song by Coltrane here: Acknowledgement by John Coltrane from the album A Love Supreme