Saturday, December 23, 2006

2006 - Albums In Review

Listed below are the new albums that have entered the Pearce household in the last year with commentary following each.

Casting Crowns - Lifesong. Casting Crowns is a praise and worship band with a record deal. I was expecting depth, social commentary, and an elevated view of God. On the whole, I was disappointed.

Dredg - Catch Without Arms. This will be the last Dredg album I will ever buy. They went from being one of the most artistic rock bands to putting out an album named for a song about how much they hate their producer. Dredg are dead to me.

Eight Days Gone - 303 Sessions. I can't help but sound like a local newspaper columnist when I refer to Eight Days Gone as Allentown's best kept secret. They far surpass Fuel as the best band out of Allentown, and have probably been kept from Fuel's fate by the fact that no one knows they exist. Much thanks to Greg for passing this album on to me.

Jack Johnson - On and On
Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams. Jack is up there with Switchfoot as the most pleasant surprise of 2006. He has filled the vacuum that previously existed in the mellow genre between quasi-rock (Coldplay) and the soft girlie stuff (Norah Jones). Another plus is that he doesn't emit the not-so-subtle narcissism of other singer-songwriters. I feel like I could be friends with Jack Johnson. Two big thumbs up. In Between Dreams is my favorite of the two.

Jars of Clay - Who We Are Instead. The day that I gave up on Jars of Clay is now a day I regret. I was a mile-a-minute sixteen who's love affair with punk rawk was hot and heavy. I had devoured Jars of Clay's first album, but turned my nose at Much Afraid when it didn't rock nearly enough for my hormones. Seven years went by, and my wife has helped bring me back to the Jars. I'm glad they had me back. They have a depth, both spiritually and musically, that is grossly lacking in Christian music.

Jim Croce - Photographs and Memories, His Greatest Hits. I found Jim Croce about four years too late. He's got perfect songs for falling in and out of love, living in a town that is not your home, and half a dozen songs about things people just don't write about anymore.

Jimi Hendrix - Experience Hendrix, The Best of Jimi Hendrix. Again, about four years too late. I am now to the point where I don't think classic rock greatest hits albums have any appeal to me. Even the best collection only features four or five songs outside of the staple selection that classic rock radio plays every single day. Experience Hendrix has every single Jimi song I would ever want on an album, but somehow I'd still rather own an original album.

Johnny Cash - The Essential Johnny Cash. The same could be said about Johnny Cash, except this entire album was new to me. I don't think I will ever own a Johnny Cash album unless it's the live album from Folsom Prison. I was pleased to have met Johnny Cash.

Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Neil Young - Harvest. With all due respect to my wife, and Nick Ritenour, and Courtney Schmidt, I don't see what's so great about this Neil Young guy. He's not a good vocalist or lyricist, and his guitar solos are simple at best. I have no idea how Crazy Horse can be considered a "legendary backing band," and it's even further from my realm of understanding how Harvest was the top-selling album of 1972. I just don't think Neil Young is that great. However, he's definitely not. bad. and I'm glad we bought these albums. The melody and the feel of any of his songs can stay with you all day long without becoming oppressive--like the path of the sun on a summer's day. Neil Young--good but not great.

Our Lady Peace - Healthy In Paranoid Times. This album almost makes me forget how dreadful Gravity was, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already an Our Lady Peace fan. Raine's lyrics aren't anywhere near the level of the first four albums--he is deep in the rut of writing guy-girl relationship songs and isn't adding anything fresh. His lyrics have no nuances or quirks to them anymore. To an album, each release has been progressively less dark. Healthy is a twinge darker than Gravity, but maybe only cynically so. OLP fans take it at your own risk. All others leave it.

Pedro the Lion - The Only Reason I Feel Secure (Is That I Am Validated By My Peers). Nice little Pedro album. Didn't supplant It's Hard to Find a Friend as my favorite, but it does lend a few bright spots to my Pedro landscape.

Shiloh Ridge Band - I'll Be Alright
Shiloh Ridge Band - Big Payday Blues. Best $20 I've ever spent at a music table at a Christian festival/concert thing--and that means a lot considering I've also bought a few ska albums and a Geoff Moore & the Distance cassette in my glorious past.

Sovereign Grace - Worship Album

Switchfoot - The Beautiful Letdown
Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound. I cannot sing Switchfoot's praise enough. Without knowing it, they are what I have been longing for my entire life. They are a Christian rock band that are both Christian and rock, without sacrificing quality for message or vice versa. Nothing Is Sound plays like the book of Ecclesiastes set to music. Both albums are well produced and feature songs that truly rock. I am a believer.

Tool - 10,000 Days. We bought this almost only to be able to say that we own a Tool album. We own a Tool album.