Mean Everything to Nothing

manchester-orchestraI’ve recently become a fan of the band Manchester Orchestra. I don’t know why I was never a fan before–maybe I just wasn’t ready. But about six weeks ago, I listened to their first full-length album I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child all the way through, and I was hooked. Like Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open, it’s one of those albums that I can listen to on repeat for hours. In fact, I don’t start listening to it unless I know I can make it through at least once (or I can leave it in my car and listen to it for days at a time). I liked the album so much, I bought one of their EPs, You Brainstorm, I Brainstorm, But Brilliance Needs a Good Editor, and I’ve now listened to that album more than the full-length.

So when their second full-length album, Mean Everything to Nothing, came out on Tuesday, and iTunes had it for $7.99, I was pretty stoked. And I find the album to be phenomenal–just as good, if not better, than their first.

In my opinion, the best parts of the album: mean-everything-to-nothing

1. The first single, “I’ve Got Friends,” gets stuck in my head often. In a good way, not an annoying way. It’s the track I first listened to over and over until I really figured out what my favorites are. So good.

2. The track “The River” is probably my favorite on the album, if only because they take lyrics to my favorite hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and twist them around, adding the phrase “I’m gonna leave you the first chance I get” to the end. It’s heartbreakingly honest. I like that.

3. Potentially tied for my favorite is “Pride.” The band premiered the video on Spinner.com on Friday, and both the song and the video are intense. You can click the link to see the video and read Andy Hull’s comments about both it and the song.

Also, if you’re a social networking junkie, you can friend them on MySpace, follow them on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, or just listen to the music and be blissfully happy. 🙂

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Popcorn and Progress

popcorn1When I was young, my mom had this orange Tupperware bowl. And every time we watched a movie at home and popped popcorn, we would put it in that bowl, specifically. To put popcorn in a different bowl was unheard of. To use that bowl for another purpose besides popcorn was also a rarity.

I’m not sure how old I was when I realized that I could put popcorn in a different bowl. Perhaps it was around the time we had to start using another bowl out of necessity. I vaguely remember that orange bowl later as a little deformed–perhaps someone left it to close to the stove and it melted a little. At any rate, it’s been years since I’ve seen it. Nonetheless, at some point, my mindset changed. I believed, as a child, that each bowl or utensil in my parents’ kitchen had one specific purpose–one popcorn bowl, one bowl I ate applesauce out of, one spatula to mix up cake batter. One tool, one function. Habit. Tradition. Unwavering, steadfast, closeminded.

I think this mindset is just a part of the nature of a child. Children, who must adjust to a new teacher every year, who grow out of clothes and shoes after mere months, whose best friends change almost weekly, must have some sense of security, something that never changes, be it popcorn bowl or security blanket or favorite storybook.

Eventually, though, we have to grow out of that. We can’t keep changing, into adolescents and then adults, while still holding onto the way we’ve always done things.

We push the limits; we break a few rules. Read Jack Kerouac, listen to indie music, get a tattoo. We put our popcorn in different bowls.

I’ve always considered myself resistant to change. I still do, in a lot of ways. I like my books in alphabetical order. I like waking up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much sleep I’ve had the night before. But to have those small routines is fine, as long as I’m open to progress in other ways. And I don’t freak out if my routine or plans change.

I’m currently working on a paper about Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’ve constructed an introduction and a thesis statement about the role that Jody Starks plays in the novel, with his controlling force and with the progress he brings to the town in which he lives. I spent half an hour reading the passage I’m writing about, highlighting, outlining, and re-writing my thesis. I’m putting more effort into the pre-writing process than I would have if I were writing this simple four-page paper as an undergrad. In some ways, my American lit class is frustrating, but in regards to the paper-writing, I feel challenged to provide a good, argumentative thesis. At NGU, I knew what my professors were expecting of me, and I was able to fulfill that expectation. In grad school, the environment is different, the expectations are unknown, and I’m working harder to accomplish this goal. I’m changing.

I’m also hungry. I think popcorn will make a nice, paper-writing snack, don’t you? And this time, I think I’ll eat it straight out of the bag. 🙂

Hysteria

Can I just tell you how EPIC this week has been musically? Oh. My. Gosh.

First, new music:

1. Civil Twilight announced the release date for both their new single and their new album. If you follow my blog, you’ll notice that my last post is about this very subject.

2. While they haven’t announced an exact date, Switchfoot has mentioned (On Twitter, I think. Or maybe an email. Somewhere.) that their new album will be released in August/September. Only a few months away, as well!

Second, live music:

1. Harvin and I will celebrate our birthdays by going to Charlotte the weekend between them to see The Fray live! We shall be occupying the very same venue space as Isaac Slade and his piano! It’ll be sweet.

2. The MOST EPIC: Harvin bought our tickets to see U2’s 360 Tour in October in Charlotte…which MUSE is opening for! Oh, geez… Earlier, I spent six blissful minutes spaced out in the writing center, listening to “Knights of Cydonia” and imagining what it will be like to see Muse singing it live. Oh. My. Freakin’. Gosh.

It will look something like this:

Perhaps this is why I’ve been sick this week. I’m so pumped right now. Imagine if I’d been feeling well. I’d have spontaneously combusted at this point from sheer exhilaration.

Is there a word for “beyond epic”? Because that’s totally what the next six months of my life are gonna be. 🙂

It’s only love.

letters-from-the-skyOn April 28, it will have been a year since Civil Twilight opened for Switchfoot at The Orange Peel in Asheville, and my world was turned upside down. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but if you knew me at all last summer, you’ll also recognize that it’s not much of an exaggeration. 🙂

Admittedly, I was OBSESSED for most of the entire summer. They are glorious. And if they had more than one album containing a mere 14 songs, they’d probably eclipse Switchfoot as my favorite band. As it is, they rank in the top 3.

But this post isn’t about that. I’ll get to my point:

On July 7, Civil Twilight is re-releasing their album Human as a self-titled album with several new tracks! (That also means that one day, when they’re famous, my autographed copy of Human will be worth big bucks. Not that I’d ever sell it…) Hybrid Magazine already has a review up (it’s terribly written and actually only talks about the songs that are already on Human, but you can read it anyway, if you’d like).

Even better news: they’re releasing the first (new!) single on May 12! OMG…less than a month away!

I’m not hyperventilating. I promise. But after they release the album, they’re supposed to start a national tour! That’s gotta include Greenville…the city where they lived for several years…right? I can’t wait for the tour dates to be announced. How many shows do you think I can manage? (I doubt I’ll beat the three-shows-in-eight-days record from April/May of last year, but I aim to try!) Also, how many more times do you think I’ll have to meet Steven (the gorgeous lead singer) before he’ll remember me and know we’re destined to be at least BFFs? 🙂

Seriously though, this is GREAT news that I’ve been waiting a long time for. Civil Twilight and a new album with several new songs and a tour! YES!!!!

And just in case you’ve never seen it, here’s the video for “Letters from the Sky,” which will inevitably be one of their biggest hits (and ladies, try not to drool on your keyboard):

By the Cross

My childhood memories of Easter all seem to merge together into one indistinct memory. We always woke up really early, Berry and I unloaded the goods in our Easter baskets, and I unwillingly put on some frilly Easter dress (until I was old enough to really protest). Then, my family went to our town’s sunrise service (the three main churches held a community-wide service, which means I saw everyone I knew), followed by breakfast in the church fellowship hall. Breakfast was followed by some sort of Easter cantata, followed by lunch at one of my grandmother’s houses, followed by a nap and being lazy the rest of the day.

Very traditional. Very Southern. Very Baptist. None of those are bad things. They just are what they are. This year was remarkably different. It was the first Easter Sunday I haven’t spent with my family. Well, family as in my parents, brother, and grandparents. And it actually ended up being the best Easter Sunday I’ve had.

Easter season officially began with the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. It was my first time participating in Lent, and the whole experience changed the way I thought about a lot of things. More than ever, I focused more on my thoughts and actions and how they reflect Christ. I have a much better grasp on how difficult it is to fully die to my own self. In some ways, I feel like during those 40 days, I failed often. It’s so easy to become inwardly focused and self-pitying and forget about grace and peace. But mostly, I came out of Lent feeling victorious. To truly deny myself of something that I want very badly for the sake of letting Christ have my heart and mind is a miraculous thing. Last Sunday, I was really looking forward to the whole of Holy Week. Pushing through that last week of Lent, Good Friday at Radius, and the big party on Easter Sunday.

Good Friday dawned gray and stormy. Perfect for the somber mood the day deserves. I was soaked and chilled by the time I got to Radius. I sat upstairs in the prayer room, watching the rain pour down and listening to the booming thunder and the music reverberating through the floorboards from the gathering room below, where Stuart was playing Sigur Ros. Never have I been able to be so in-tune to what the disciples and the women at the cross might have been feeling that day that Christ died. Never have I felt so fully free.

Easter Sunday was the best celebration–all day! Chris came over for lunch, and Harvin and I cooked really awesome chicken and shrimp fajitas. It ended up being a cool celebration for the end of Lent–Chris got to eat meat, and I had Diet Coke (with caffeine!). Then, we spent the afternoon baking for Radius. Harvin made her most excellent sausage balls (and I helped by grating cheese, most of which Chris and I ate before it made it into the bowl) and Chris made mint-chocolate brownies that were delightful. Then we all went to Radius for a Resurrection Day party.

Easter at Radius was beautiful. A huge crowd gathered in the old sanctuary, which is slowly being renovated. Long rows of tables were spread out across the room, and they still didn’t hold everyone. We had a feast of biblical proportions. We talked about Christ’s last moments on earth and celebrated the Resurrection! We sang and worshipped and took communion as a body of believers. We watched five people get baptized–including one guy who was visiting Radius for the first time! We partied well. We’re living well. We’re experiencing grace and peace, and it’s so miraculous and beautiful!

March Books

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling. A re-read, of course. But I’m working my way back through the books.

2. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt. This semester’s choice for NGU’s new Film & Fiction/English club. I love this book so much, and I wish someone had taught this book in one of my middle school English classes. The conflict of eternal youth vs. death is really spectacular.

3. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner. My second time reading it; an assignment for my 20th Century American Fiction class. This book is intense and difficult and has a bad reputation among students. However, it is one of the most rewarding books I’ve ever read. The first time I read it, I spent most of the book utterly confused and angry at Faulkner. When I reached the end, and I understood what was going on and why I was confused, and I realized that Faulkner was a brilliant writer. Reading it this time, knowing what was actually going on in the book, was really good, although emotionally exhausting. (I read most of it over two days. I had to take nap breaks to rest my brain.) One of my favorite books, and worth the tremendous effort it takes to read it.

4. Standing Tall, Joan Bauer. A young adult novel about a really tall 12-year-old guy nicknamed Tree who learns how to make his life matter for more than just his height. It’s a pretty decent book, as are most of hers.

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling. Now that I’ve re-read this sixth book in the series, I’m really looking forward to the movie coming out in July.

Amazingly enough, only one of these books was for school, and the rest were young adult books. I guess it’s pretty easy to see what I really enjoy, right? 🙂

Fewer books in March than in February. Part of that is due to lots of extra work for midterms. Part of that is due to getting my laptop cable fixed. When I don’t have the internet to distract me (as I didn’t in the entire month of February), I read a lot more.

My total count now is 21 books in 2009. Only April, and I’m almost halfway through the challenge!