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JFH Staff Blog | August 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

We Recommend - Common Children, 'Skywire'

Some of you may notice that I tend to pick albums older than just a couple years ago for these recommendation blogs. I have found that some really great music seems to become almost altogether completely forgotten, which borders on criminal. But, with the wonders of the web these days, it's become easier to track down highlights of yesteryear in many forms, and Common Children's grunge-influenced alt rock release Skywire from 1996 is no exception.

When it comes to selecting a record to listen to (usually via my iTunes library), sometimes it's not until one of the tracks from a certain album appears during a regular shuffle, that I'm reminded of how great an album was and still sounds years later. I will then often turn the shuffle off and listen to the rest of the album as a whole. Skywire was one of those projects that recently got such treatment. Everytime I listen to this record, I find it to be such a great, solid album. Common Children mixed in unique song compositions, poetic and meaningful lyrics, and a diverse collection of styles on Skywire. From the heavy and frantic "Hate" (about hating our sinful nature) to the redemptive "Treasure" and all around, it's one of the highlights of the Christian alternative scene in the mid-90's. And it's releases like these that are still relatively easy to track down. For example, you can get a physical CD used from Amazon for less than a quarter, or download the mp3s for less than 10 bucks. Well worth checking out! ~ John DiBiase

Common Children
Skywire (1996)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A passionate grunge-influenced rock record that is sorely overlooked as an undeniably relevant release." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Struggles with sin, guilt, grace
Song Highlights: "Wishing Well," "Last Time Out," "Broken Smile," "Skywire," "Dual Lens"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Skywire? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How people can think that there isn't a God?

As I type this I am on HWY 101 in California. This is my first time in Cali and I have to say that I think I could live here.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the desert like mountains (some might call them hills but I am from FL so they look like mountains to me) that are right next the beautiful coast.  This is definitely one of those moments when you wonder how people can think that there isn’t a God. God’s hand is all over the place and I am thankful for these moments when I am reminded of that. 

I am in the middle of reading a book by Francis Chan called “Crazy Love” and I have to admit that it is really kicking my butt. Francis Chan is one of those guys who challenge you to step up and live out the things we say we believe.  Early in the book he talks about the parable of the sower and the seed and says something that no one has ever said to me, he says “Let me warn you, do not assume you are good soil”.  In the parable there is a farmer is throwing seed for harvest.  Jesus compares our hearts to the different types of soil the seed landed on and the seed itself is the word of God.  Jesus explains that the seed that fell on the path is heard but quickly stolen away, the seed that fell among the rocks has the appearance of growth and depth because of the good soil beneath the rocks but because of the rocks the seed has no roots, Some of the seeds fell amongst thorns and could not grow because the seed was eventually choked out by the thorns, lastly some of the seed landed on good soil and was able to grow, take root, and produce fruit.  Those of us who call ourselves believers like to think that we are in the “good soil” category.  In this book Francis challenges that thought.    

He thinks that most American churchgoers fall in the “Thorny ground” category because of all the distractions in our lives that choke our relationship with the Lord.  Thorns can be anything; money, video games, music, school, work, and even acts of service.  All these things can be distractions that end up keeping us from having the relationship we want to have with the Lord.  I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we all have distractions we have let creep in that are “choking” the seeds that God has planted. My prayer is that, as a body of believers, we will stop assuming that we are the “good soil” and start making steps to get rid of the distractions and fall in love with our Creator once again.


Jesus Freak VS Supernatural

OK, so this won't be the conventional blog you normally see here, but it's one I'm curious what you old school CCM fans would say about. While at Purple Door Festival over the weekend, some friends and I got into a late night diner discussion over which dc Talk album was truly better -- 1995's Jesus Freak or 1998's Supernatural. (For the new kids -- DC Talk is TobyMac's original band. Good stuff! Check 'em out) Now, while some might assume that I hold Jesus Freak as the best record ever created due to this site's very name, I definitely wouldn't say that's the case. While I think it's a very important record for Christian rock music and still a very solid album, I don't think it's my favorite album -- however, I do think it's my favorite dc Talk album of all of their releases. As far as an album as a whole, I think it's stronger and flows better than Supernatural. It seems Supernatural tried too hard to be a big follow-up to Jesus Freak. There were one too many quirky songs (and by that I mean... not quite the caliber and quality you'd expect from dc Talk even if they are decent pop songs in their own right) - like "My Friend So Long" and "Since I Met You" (which was kind of pop-punk-ish in the process), and you even had the song "Jesus Freak" referenced in "My Friend So Long," which just seemed to make the record feel too much like it was riding the cotails of such an iconic record. But at the same time, you have killer tracks like "Supernatural," "Dive," "It's Killing Me," and even the uber-catchy although debatably corny "Into Jesus." So it's still a great album. I guess it just has a couple missteps on it in my eyes (yes, Jesus Freak could have done without "Mrs. Morgan" or especially "Jesus Freak (Reprise)" to give it a more serious tone overall).

So anyway... let's carry on the diner conversation my friends and I had that night. Let's hear your honest casual opinions (no mud-slinging, we're all friends here, right?). Give me your opinion and WHY.


Which is better: DC Talk's Jesus Freak or Supernatural? Discuss!



Monday, August 17, 2009

We Recommend - Roper, 'Brace Yourself for the Mediocre'

I loved Five Iron Frenzy.  I still do.  I always will.  When they broke up, I was sad.  I remember talking to Reese at their last show in Kansas City, and he said he was working on Guerilla Rodeo, and there was hope.  When all they ended up doing was three songs, and breaking my heart, it was a breath of relief to know that 5 Minute Walk Records was putting out the debut for Reese's new group, RoperBrace Yourself For The Mediocre pretty much picked up where Five Iron left off.  Though it obviously didn't have any of the ska-ness to it, it was similar to Five Iron otherwise.  Reese's impeccable lyrical talents were ever-present, and he found for himself a great set of musicians to back him up.  In true Roper style, the lyrics were funny (the old person's rock anthem "Vendetta!") and satirical (the anti-bad boyfriend song "You're With Stupid"), and sometimes even made pop culture references (the Back To The Future-theme "1985" and the G.I. Joe adventure of "Red Eye To Miami").  And of course, the serious times reflecting on God ("How Your Halo Fell" and "In Excelsis Deo").  There's even a cover song (a guilty pleasure of mine) of Shania Twain's "You're Still The One."  My understanding was that each new Roper album was to have another cover of a country song on it, but sadly, Roper broke up after this one album.  And from talking to Reese in an interview last year, there's pretty much no chance of a reunion.  But there's still this one album from Roper that us fans can hold on to when we cry about missing our beloved FIF. ~ Scott Fryberger

Brace Yourself for the Mediocre (2004)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "Some fun and intelligent pop/punk from the mega-talented Reese Roper and friends." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberge)
Perfect For: Fun, pop culture, satire
Song Highlights: "You're With Stupid," "Vendetta," "Red Eye To Miami," "1985," "Day of Pigs," "You're Still The One," "In Excelsis Deo"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Brace Yourself For The Mediocre? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Monday, August 10, 2009

We Recommend - Showbread, 'Age Of Reptiles'

This is where a lot of Showbread fans realized that they weren't true Showbread fans.  So many times, when an artist or band changes their style/genre, fans jump off the bandwagon.  As sad as it is, it happens.  And with a band like Showbread, a group of musicians who don't want to stay in the same place with their music from album to album, this happens a lot.  But Showbread's sophomore Tooth & Nail album, Age of Reptiles, was a great album.  Admittedly, No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical does top it, but Age of Reptiles isn't really that much of a departure from Nihilism.  Sure, there's less screaming (or toned down to only a tiny part of one song), and there's a little more structure (even in the progression of the tracks), but it's still got well-written music and thoughtful and captivating lyrics.  It's more accessible (meaning it's able to reach a wider audience than before) but still maintains the raw rock sound, and you can jam out to it loud and proud in the car.  (And FYI, when I first got my CD player in my car, this was the first album I popped in as I left the Best Buy parking lot with a smile on my face). - Scott Fryberger

Age Of Reptiles (2006)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "A more structured outing of the fantastic raw rock sound not found with any other band." (Recommended by JFH's Scott Fryberger)
Perfect For: Satire, love, worship, humility
Song Highlights: "Naked Lunch," "Pachycephalosaurus," "Oh! Emetophobia," "Sing Me To Sleep," "Centipede Sisters," "Age of Reptiles"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Age Of Reptiles? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

Monday, August 3, 2009

We Recommend - dc Talk, 'Jesus Freak'

Is it really possible that none of us have recommended this record yet? Sheesh! Well, maybe it's a given by the name of this site that this record is a hearty recommendation from us, but as we celebrate our thirteenth year online this month, it seems only fitting to dig this one out and put our little stamp of approval on it. Over the weekend, I got the bizarre but awesome chance of venturing into the Twilight Zone to experience Michael Tait's fronting of the Newsboys. It was a quirky trip down memory lane as the band ended up performing three tracks from this very dc Talk record! Jesus Freak helped pave the way for much of the mainstream's acceptance of "Christian rock" music and has opened so many doors for the genre in the Christian circuits. Crisp production and memorable life anthems make this a record that should be part of every music fan's collection. And it's undeniable that the pairing of Tait, TobyMac, and K-Max wasn't anything short of incredible and inspired. While it looks like we're drifting further and further from ever seeing that band reunite for the greater good, we at least have this 1995 album to cherish in our hearts and souls. ~ John DiBiase

dc Talk
Jesus Freak (1995)

Click here for a JFH Staff Review.

Our synopsis: "Ah, yes. The record that inspired this very website. Solid album from start to finish. It changed the music industry and lives as well." (Recommended by JFH's John DiBiase)
Perfect For: Bold Faith, Worship, Encouragement
Song Highlights: "Jesus Freak," "Colored People," "What If I Stumble," "Like It Love It Need It," "In The Light"

So, what are your thoughts on and experiences with the album Jesus Freak? Do you recommend it? If so, why?