Mumford and Sons

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a Bonnaroo mixtape created by SPIN magazine. I was super excited about it because it contained the Gaslight Anthem’s new single “American Slang” several weeks before the album was released. And while I certainly love The Gaslight Anthem, I found on that album a treasure: a live version of the song “White Blank Page” by London folk rock band Mumford and Sons.

I bought the full album on Monday, and it’s one of the best musical purchases I’ve made in a long time. The entire album–12 tracks long–is brilliant. Marcus Mumford’s voice is strong and deep, the instruments (including a mandolin and banjo) rock, and the songwriting is absolutely brilliant!

There are times when I listen to the album, and the music sounds like it should be played on the porch of a mountain cabin in Appalachia. And then there’s the song “Dust Bowl Dance,” and I imagine some film of violence and poverty in 1930s Oklahoma. These are definitely not the kind of voices I imagine coming out of London, but then again, what do I know about the London folk scene? πŸ™‚

I’ve been listening to the album all week. And hoping that eventually, they add tour dates in the US.

Here’s a video of “White Blank Page,” filmed in a bookstore in London. Excellent music + books everywhere = a beautiful video:

And one of my favorites, especially lyrically, is track 4, “Roll Away Your Stone”:

“It seems that all my bridges have been burned / But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works / It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart / But the welcome I receive with every start”

“This is the sound of a heartbeat.”

Friday night. The Orange Peel. Switchfoot. Incredible.

My fifth Switchfoot concert was the best I’ve been to. It would have been even better had I actually been able to see the stage. Sadly, being 5’2″ means that unless I arrive at the Orange Peel several hours pre-show, I won’t see most of the stage. However, when the musice is that intense, seeing the stage didn’t matter as much. I know what they look like by now. πŸ™‚

The show was broken up into two sections. First, the band played the album Hello Hurricane from start to finish. As amazing as that album is, it’s so much more epic in a crowd of people who are screaming the lyrics and pumping their fists.

[Note: it was so intense, and I was so into it, that when I went to scream after the seventh song, “Hello Hurricane,” my scream was a hoarse cry that moved to a high-pitched squeal. I definitely lost my voice a mere 30 minutes into the show. Fortunately,Β I recovered by the end.]

After they finished “Red Eyes,” the final track from the album, Jon announced that we as an audience would choose the next song. We were all supposed to start singing the song we wanted to hear next. Eventually, the crowd would be singing the same song, and that’s how we chose. Of course, the song ended up being “Meant to Live.” It’s always a great one to hear live.

The set list for the second half of the show:

“Meant to Live”

“Stars”

“The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”

“Oh! Gravity.”

“Learning to Breathe” (my all-time favorite Switchfoot song–this is the third time I’ve heard it live)

“Twenty-Four” (a girl in the audience was celebrating her 24th birthday…fitting)

“Company Car” (from their first album The Legend of Chin. This song is so much fun live. Jon instructed the whole audience to put our arms around the person next to us and sway.)

“Dare You to Move” (a staple at any Switchfoot show)

They left the stage then, but they always do an encore. This time, it was “This is Your Life” and “Awakening,” two of my favorite songs to hear live. When Jon sings “This is Your Life,” he sings directly to the crowd. I always feel like I can conquer the world.

After the show, we headed outside in the bitter cold to hover around the tour bus. As we walked out, a group of people was singing Christmas carols to Jon Foreman. It was such a beautiful thing. Eventually, every guy from the band came out, so I met them all for the first time, took pictures with them, and they all autographed by deluxe edition of the album. I’m pretty sure it’s now my most prized possession.

Here’s me (and Candace and Jess) with the guys from Switchfoot:

Jon Foreman, of course, with me and Candace.

Tim Foreman, the bass player and Jon’s younger brother, was actually the first one we met that night.

Candace, me and Jess with Drew Shirley, the guitarist.

Us with Jerome Fontamillas, who rocks the keyboards. After Sam mentioned that I’m the biggest Switchfoot fan he knows, Jerome gave me an extra hug. It was pretty great. πŸ™‚

Chad Butler, the drummer, was the last one to come off the tour bus, but we waited around in the freezing cold long enough to meet him.

I love Switchfoot. πŸ™‚

“You can’t silence my love.”

hello hurricaneFriday afternoon, I found a medium flat-rate box in the mail with a return address of San Carlos, CA. Inside, encased in bubble wrap (that was quickly tossed aside) was the deluxe edition of the Switchfoot album Hello Hurricane–four days before the official release date (today!). The 84-page hardcover book contained lyrics, notes, and a story written by Jon Foreman about the album; photos of the band on tour, in-studio, and surfing; a full-size poster; a DVD detailing the making of the album, as well as live recordings; a CD of alternate mixes; and the 12-track album, the first album full of new material Switchfoot has released in nearly three years.

Before I listened to the album in its entirety, I had only listened to the song “Mess of Me” once. I wanted to wait and experience the music only when I had the CD in my hand, when I could read the lyrics as I heard them, when my focus could be almost totally on the music (which explains why I almost forgot about the cookies I was baking at the time).

I want to proclaim that this album is their best yet, and although I’ve initially believed that about every album, this one actually does blow my mind in how incredible the music is. The reason why Switchfoot is my favorite band is evident on this album: the music always meets me where I am. As my life evolves, so does the music, it seems. I listen to Switchfoot and wonder how Jon Foreman makes poetry out of the jumble of thoughts in my head. How do his words always seem to reflect what’s going on in my heart?

This album reveals the cycle of one’s life, or even one’s day. “Needle and Haystack Life,” the opening track, greets the new day, while “Red Eyes” seeks the rest that comes with hoping for a new beginning after the night is over. The progression from high-energy anthems to slow, introspective songs mirrors the triumph and tragedy of life. And through it all, one purpose is revealed: the world is wrong, messed up, but we fight for love anyway. Love is what drives us, frees us, redeems us.

So, song by song, here are my impressions of the album:

Track 1: “Needle and Haystack Life”

“The world begins / With newborn skin / We are right now”: it’s a great way to open the album. The song immediately presents the theme that is so prevalent in nearly every Switchfoot song: purpose. Life is no accident, even when it’s difficult.

Track 2: “Mess of Me”

This is the first single from the album. I’m really not surprised by the choice. It’s loud and energetic–much like “Oh! Gravity.” was for the album or “Meant to Live” was for The Beautiful Letdown. Thematically, it also works with those two songs: Yeah, we screw our lives up, but we must strive for a better life. My favorite lyrics for this song: “It’s hard to free the ones you love / When you can’t forgive yourself.” Truth is right there. And this is one example of how Switchfoot is so relevant to my life: so much of what we work through in Radius, what pervades my life as aΒ  believer, is how to be free and free others.

Track 3: “Your Love is a Song”

This third track slows the tempo down to almost a rock-ballad-like feel. After my second time through the album, I’d already pegged this one as my favorite on the album, and I was listening to it on repeat. If “Mess of Me” shows that we make mistakes, this track reminds us that redemption is available, and perfect love can conquer all. Hope is here. Thematically, this works perfectly with “Let Your Love Be Strong” from Oh! Gravity. and “Your Love is Strong” from Jon Foreman’s Spring EP. My favorite lyrics would be the whole song, so I’ll just post the chorus: “I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open / Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me / Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me / Your love is a song.”

Track 4: “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)”

[If you’re wondering who John Perkins is, check out his foundation’s website.]

This song picks up the tempo and blends the ideas of the two preceding tracks, while adding some incredible guitar work (and other stuff). The world is fallen and messed up: “This is the sound / From the discontented mouths / Of a haunted nation / We are the voice of breaking down.” What’s the cure? “Love is the final fight / Let it rise above / Rise above / There is no song / Louder than love.” When I start a revolution, this song will be on the soundtrack. πŸ™‚

Track 5: “Enough to Let Me Go”

This is a quiet, aimless, melancholy tune, a nice break between the epicness of tracks 4 and 6. I want to know if there’s a story behind it, but it seems to be about the difficulties of relationship. “Do you love me enough to let me go? / To let me follow through / To let me fall for you?” While love might be what we’re fighting for, it’s not always easy. Sometimes, it hurts a lot.

Track 6: “Free”

Another anthemic song from the very first notes. I cannot wait to hear this song live–it’s gonna rock so hard. And, thematically…well, duh. Freedom again. This picks up where “Mess of Me” left off–we have to be free–from the chains we lock ourselves. The chorus: “Free / Come set me free / Down on my knees / I still believe you can save me from me.” When I see them play this live, and I’m in a crowd of fans screaming these lyrics, these words are gonna come from that desperate place deep inside all of us that desires to completely overcome the sinful, enslaved nature that prevents us from living the glorious life God has designed us to live. “There’s a hole in my heart but my hope / is not in me at all / I had a dream that my chains were broken / broken open / Free.”

Track 7: “Hello Hurricane”

This song is perfect for the album title. If “Free” gets our fighting spirit riled up, “Hello Hurricane” reminds us once more what we’re fighting for. We have to fight through our sufferings through the storms of life (or, you know, hurricanes). The song echoes the apostle Paul: “Everything I have I count as loss / Everything I have is stripped away.” How do we survive? The answer is always the same: “Hello hurricane / You can’t silence my love.”

Track 8: “Always”

Jon’s notes in the book describe this as a song about love “from the upstairs perspective.” We know that we’ll have to overcome adversity, and this is yet another reassurance that we are not alone in that battle. The last few lyrics of this song are the most beautiful. The words have my crying out that this is Truth: “Hallelujah! / Every breath is a second chance / And it is always yours / And I am always yours.”

Track 9: “Bullet Soul”

This will also be on my revolution soundtrack. It will also be incredible live. It’s so intensely anthemic–I want to be a “kid with a bullet soul.” And what will we be aiming for? Of course: “I want to turn up the radiation / I want to glow in the dark / Love is the one true innovation / Love is the only art.” Anyone else feel utterly consumed?

Track 10: “Yet”

Passion and intensity can’t be all of life, though. We have to slow down, which is evident in this much slower track: “I’m losing ground and gaining speed.” Even when we know what we’re fighting for, we lose sight and get caught up in confusion. This phase won’t last, and you’ll learn from it and come out stronger: “If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love / If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough / It’s when you’re breaking down / With your insides coming out / That’s when you find out what your heart is made of / And you haven’t lost me yet.” This song is going to be such an encouragement on days when I lose sight and forget what really matters.

Track 11: “Sing It Out”

And the story continues: “I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight.” Jon’s notes describe this as an “apocalyptic hymn in first person present tense.” It begins with a lonely, ethereal, longing question. This song haunts me. This could be the story of anyone’s journey: crying out for the Father and grasping for the Truth that He is all we have. “I need your breath in my lungs tonight / Sing it out / I’m holding on / I’m holding on to you.” This is a song that’s gonna make me cry–in a good, cathartic sort of way–just when I need it most. It’s the most emotionally intense song on the album. Raw and genuine.

Track 12: “Red Eyes”

It’s fitting that the last track should reflect the close of the day when “Needle and Haystack Life”Β  reflected the dawn. “What are you waiting for? / The day is done.” At the end of the day, when we’re exhausted and “nowhere feels like home,” we always have the hope of the next day to look ahead to. We have to keep moving. We must have hope.Β  And, as a perfect way to end the song and the album, Jon’s voice echoes “In this needle and haystack life / I’ve found miracles there in your eyes / It’s no accident we’re here tonight / We are once in a lifetime.” He’s already reaching ahead, beginning the cycle over. We must join in.

“Mess of Me”

Switchfoot’s new album was supposed to have been released in August/September. Because they’re producing it on their own, and are dedicated to releasing their best album yet, it’s been pushed back several times, and the new release date is November 10. I’m saddened by this because it’s been three years since we’ve gotten a whole album’s worth of new Switchfoot; however, I can wait a little longer if they promise it’s going to be the best yet. πŸ™‚

They’ve done some fun things to get fans ready for the album, though. They set up a scavenger hunt of sorts through Twitter, where they hid copies (or had fans hide copies) of their first single “Mess of Me” around the world. They also debuted a video for “Mess of Me” two days ago, featuring footage from their last tour.

I’m sitting at the branch library in Greer, attempting to watch the video on YouTube for the first time. This computer takes decades to buffer, however, so I’m really only getting the song in short clips with long pauses in the middle. However, although this is a crappy first experience with the song, I’ve gotta say that what I’m hearing sounds pretty darn good. I cannot wait until the album comes out, and they announce new tour dates, and I can be obsessed with new Switchfoot music once again.

And now, for your listening and viewing pleasure…”Mess of Me”:

The Winter Sounds

church of the haunted southIt’s no secret my deep obsession love for my favorite bands, specifically Civil Twilight and Switchfoot. πŸ™‚ Well, my friend Michele happens to appreciate my obsession, as she is a total fangirl herself. Her band of choice? The Winter Sounds. After realizing her obsession for this band, I had a listen and liked what I heard.

But it wasn’t until I bought their new album Church of the Haunted South that I became a real fan. (Check out this excellent album review here.) First, I was thrilled by the title–at the end of the spring semester, I wrote a paper on William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and the concept of the Christ-haunted landscape. Ironically, this album came out just before the paper was due, so The Winter Sounds serenaded me through the arduous paper-writing process.

The band played a show in Greenville about two weeks ago (to which I gladly accompanied Michele) and when she introduced me to Patrick, the lead singer, I eagerly asked him about the title of the album. The idea of a religion-haunted South is a theme of the album, and all the band members have religious backgrounds, but he’s not necessarily referencing O’Connor. Perhaps just proof of how pervasive this idea is?

Anyway, the album isn’t going to be officially released until July 7 (the same day Civil Twilight is supposed to release theirs!), but it’s available for download already. Note: the band funded this project on their own, so by paying the $10 it cost to download the album, you’re supported struggling, independent, amazing musicians. πŸ™‚

The album starts off strong with my favorite songs, “Swallowed by a Lonely Sea.” Sing a song about the ocean, and I’m hooked, and this song does not disappoint. Patrick’s vocals are astonishing–ethereal and lonely, they lend a perfectly stark tone to the beginning of the album.

The second track, “Trophy Wife,” has the potential to be one of the album’s biggest hits, I think. It’s energetic and addictive–a good summer song.

The third track, “O’Fear” had me convinced Patrick has lepruchan blood in his veins, although he’s actually just from Easley, SC. It has some of my favorite lyrics from the entire album: “Fear, o’fear, I love it when you come a-haunting me with terrible nightmares. Fear, o’fear, you ‘ve been in every shadow, counting down the hours of my long life.” The imagery! Such a great song!

Track four, “Candlelight,” is another catchy, addictive song. It gets stuck in my head, but I never mind at all. The song continues the theme from “O’Fear”: what happens when we die? We grow older, and it could happen naturally, or we could be “struck by a car on the streets of Atlanta” (much like Margaret Mitchell, if you know anything about her). No one knows for sure when or how death will come.

Speaking of Margaret Mitchell, the band pays ode to her famous character in “The Heart of Scarlett.” This song uses the most famous personification of the antebellum South to continue that haunted theme. Plus, this song might have been my favorite to hear live.

These are just some of my favorite tracks, but the entire album is just as solid–only great songs the whole way through. Totally worth the money to download it. And if you happen to hear of them playing a show near you, you should definitely be there! I don’t know why they’re not HUGE yet. How has the world not discovered how amazing this band is?

And, of course, check out their MySpace for tour dates and to hear some of their music. I’ll bet you’ll be just as eager to buy the album as I was!

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚