The Year of Gungor

I love discovering and listening to music. On average, I listen to a new album every week. This increased this year due to the fact of my discovery of how helpful listening to music is for emotional and spiritual life. Thus it has been a big year in music for me personally. I have listened to many different artists and songs this year. Spotify reported I listened to 262 artists and over 4,000 different songs, which over 400 were songs released this year. But there was one artist that I listened to then more than an other artist and that was Gungor. They had been a band that I have listened to for several years but never consistently until this year. The difference is they released a trilogy called One Wild Life. This was a controversial release to say the least. But it has was a part of changing my music tastes for the better. I listened to more Christian themed music this year then I had in a long time (future blog post coming about thoughts concerning “Christian” music). Gungor was not the only band I listened to this year. I am going to spend the rest of post discussing my five favorite albums I heard this year, list of ten favorite songs and looking forward to next year. The albums listed are not necessary released this year but were first heard this year. (Note: the  link to the album or song on Spotify will be embedded in the album or song name).

One Wild Life: Spirit and Body by Gungor

gungor

Of course I will begin by discussing Gungor’s last two parts of of their One Wild Life trilogy, Spirit and Body (The first part was released in 2015). Before these were released, Gungor had already become my favorite band and thus was really excited to listen to these two albums. They did not disappoint. I really enjoy listening to them. But more important has been the impact on my life. They have been apart of my spiritual growth of the last year. Despite them no longer being orthodox, the Lord used them to bring me closer to him and back to some of things I love like theology and philosophy. And as stated above, it changed my music tastes and brought to me more Christian themed music. Lastly, this are just fun albums I love listening to them over and over again. I look forward to having them on vinyl someday once I can afford to purchase them.

Lost in the Dream by War on Drugs

war-on-drugs

This is my favorite album to listen to. I have to credit Sara with finding this album. Back in June, we were discussing what albums we want on vinyl. She found a list of about 20 or so suggested albums for vinyls. This was one that was listed. I immediately fell in love with it and for about a month; a day did not go by where I did not at least listen to one song from the album. There were some songs which I connected well too personally like “Under Pressure” but not as influential as Gungor. However, there was not another album that I more enjoy listening to. I have heard each song probably 20 times and they never get old. This will definitely be added to my vinyl collection.

Ouroboros by Ray LaMontagne

wp-1482789929626.jpgSpeaking of Vinyls, there is probably no album released this year that sounds better on Vinyl. It was what originally drew me to it. I read in a Rolling Stone article about this album and immediately was drawn to it. I loved it the first time I heard it on Spotify. It is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd albums which are some my favorite albums to just listen to. I knew then I was missing part of the experience. So when my parents gave me a gift certificate to my favorite record store, I bought a special edition of it on Vinyl. And it was even better. I have listened to it several times and each time I catch something new. It is a very calming album for me. I just want to sit back and experience the music. Needless to say this is a good album but is is great on Vinyl.

Showbread is Showdead by Showbread

wp-1482790545994.jpgThis is probably my surprise album of the year. Showbread was a Christian metal band that I listened to for many years. In fact, they were a part my Christian music trinity along with Relient K and Five Iron Frenzy. Showbread had fallen off my radar just do to different tastes. One day I was listening to the song “Matthias Replaces Judas” and decided I would research Showbread on Spotify. I learned they had a new album. I thought it would be fun just to listen but not expecting to like it. I was shocked how much I enjoyed it. And it took me on a journey to relisten to their music. They are now back in my library and it was because of this album. If you were a fan of Showbread or Christian metal, I suggest taking a listen to this album.

Instruments of Mercy by Beautiful Eulogy

wp-1482791494184.jpgThis album is mentioned in this group of five because of how it changed my view of Christian Hip-hop/Rap. Before I heard this album, I did not like what I had heard. But a close friend suggested I listen to this album and so I did. It was really good and opened me up to a whole new genre of music. It lead me to the likes of Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Propaganda and Sho Baraka.  I would not say this was the best Christian Rap album I listened; it was the most important as it was the one that started it all for me. Lastly, my wife really enjoys them as well which is important because there is very little music we tend to agree upon.

Honorable Mentions:

I do have some other albums that I will just mention: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Relient K’s Air for Free, Andrew Peterson’s The Burning Edge of Dawn, The Head and Heart’s Signs of Light, Little Green Cars’ Ephemera, Jars of Clay’s The Shelter, All Sons and Daughters’ Poets and Saints, John Mark McMillan’s Borderland, The Grey Havens’ Ghost of a King, The Lumineers’ Cleopatra, Shai Linne’s Attributes of God, Timothy Brindle’s The RestorationThe Avett Brothers’ True Sadness, and Leeland’s Invisible.

Ten Favorite Songs:

Below is a list of my favorite songs that I heard this year. Just like albums, they do not necessarily have to be from this year. There is no particular order to these songs. The main cireteria for these songs is how often I would replay these songs.

Looking Forward

I wanted to close this post by looking towards next year. There are a couple of albums I am really looking forward to coming out. The first is John Mark McMillian’s Mercury and Lightening. He has already released two songs and they are already two of my favorite songs. It could be safe to say that if the rest album lives up to the first two songs this could be in my top albums for next year. The other album is All is Not Lost by the Brilliance. This is a band that has been slowly growing on me. My wife and I were fortunate enough to see them live in December and they were very good. I have heard some of the album and have really enjoyed it. I am sure there will e more albums but these are the two that I know about and am excited about.

The last thing I want to talk about is who I think could be my top artist of 2017. I am doubtful it will be Gungor despite the fact of them being my favorite band right now. The simple reason is my history on Spotify has shown a band has never repeated as top artist. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to point out some bands that I think could potentially be the top band of 2017. The first band is the Avett Brothers. Ever since their album True Sadness came out, there is hardly a week that goes by where I don’t listen to them. I have already listened to two more of their albums and have just enjoyed them more. The second artist is John Mark McMillian. It always helps a band when they are releasing a new album in a year. This helped the Decembrists in 2015 and Gungor in 2016. The last artist is the long shot for now and that is Andrew Peterson. The reason he is a long shot is I have listened to him a lot but not consistently yet but things change quickly when it comes to my music tastes. At this point, it really could be anyone. I have been listening to more classic rock again. I have also finally listened to my wife and begun to listen to classic R&B. So stay tuned. I believe this will be an exciting year in music.

 

 

The Year of Gungor

Humility

Isaiah 66:1-2

Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.

These verses bring myself into awe of who God is. It’s describes the Lord as in Heaven and he is looking for someone who is humble and has a contrite. Now raise your hand if this you… This is impossible to do on our own but we are still called to do it. There is only one man who did this perfectly and that was Jesus Christ. He took me on journey this past through Humility and so I have a few thoughts from that.

I have now been involved in Lent for three and half weeks. And I realize I said I was going to write a weekly blog post. Well that has not happened. I could go into what I think are reasons but really it comes down to I had no idea what to write about. I have been thinking and praying through what to write next and I landed on leadership. But something happened last week which reminded me before I get into leadership I need to discuss humility. As apart of Lent, I am reading a devotional every morning call the The Journey Through the Cross by Kendal Haug and Will Walker. I was able to find a free pdf version online. Each week they take a different theme to discuss. The first week is repentance and the second was humility. During this past week, I felt lead to re-read Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney. I read this about three years ago and changed my perspective on how Jesus views life. So I read two chapters a day and I finished this morning. And I was on the last chapter. The plan that was in my head was to close the book and then talk to Sara about how great the book, which it is. However, God obviously had other plans. I was drinking a cup of coffee while I was reading. And I was talk a drink on the last page, when I clumsily spilled coffee all over the book and myself. Here is the picture to prove it:

20160228_105924

Now I am extremely proud when it comes to my books. I love to show off my collections and I do my best to protect them. This is one of my favorite books and one that God has used to change my life(By the way I highly recommend this book to everyone). My typical reaction would have been to yell and get upset. But all I could do was laugh for God wanted to make sure I did not use a book on Humility to bring pride to myself. Also Sara got a very good laugh at is as well.

Why talk about Humility first before leadership? Simply it is number one quality the Lord looks for in a leaders, see the verse above. I want to lead defined by what God define and ultimately this means I need to be humble. I have to fight against the desire for people to see me as the really great leader because ultimately it is Jesus Christ my Lord who makes me the leader. And without Him then I cannot lead. And so the first thing that I have learned about leadership is the need to kill pride and humbly serve the Lord.

I will say this I am not expert on humility even though I feel like I am after reading a book on it. But I think what Lent has shown me most is this is a lifelong discipline and it will take some time. I will say I have the best person in my life to help with this, Sara. She is constantly able to point out my pride and show me how I am not loving Jesus. And even if she does not say anything. Typically, the Holy Spirit shows me how I was prideful to her. I go and apologize. I will say this past week has given me a renewed vigor to kill pride and foster humility. And as last Sunday shows my clumsiness will always be there to show me how much I need this. And ultimately need Him.

 

Humility

Going Analog

Today is February 10, 2015, also known as Ash Wednesday. For those of you who do not know what this is; it is the beginning of Lent. Over last five years or so, I have been interested in participating in Lent. My attempts have been weak at best. The purpose of Lent is to get closer to God by preparing for Easter Sunday. This is typically done by choosing something to abstain from for 40 days. I will once again for the fifth year in a row attempt to go through Lent. And so I wanted to outline how this will look like for me. (Here is an article about Lent which helped a couple of years ago: Lent)

The Why

The first thing to answer is why would I chose to do this. The simple answer is it is a way to get closer to Jesus. For centuries, Christians have used this as way to get rid of the distractions and get closer to Jesus. This is the goal I have in mind. I want to get rid of the biggest distraction I have: Technology. I will explain in a bit in what all I will be doing. I also have another goal in mind and that is to find out what areas of my life needs to pruned away. I did this a couple years ago and stopped using twitter because of it so I am excited to see what will happen this time. The following verses sum up my purpose:

Philippians 3:7-9 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”

Technology

Over the last few months, the Holy Spirit has shown how dependent on Technology I have become on, when I am supposed to be dependent on Him. So for the next forty days I am giving Him control of Technology. Now, I am only going to use it if it keeps me connected with Him or other people. But here is what I am doing, I am disabling all of the following Apps and websites: Social Media, Sports, Shopping, and news related apps. The only apps that are currently left on my phone are Bible Apps, Church Apps, and Apps which cause communication between people. I have also disabled all notifications on my phone except calendar, phone calls, and texts. I will only be checking email once a day. I am also not going to be suggesting to my Wife that we watch TV or movies together. This will force me to think of other things to pursue her with. I am praying through all of this to bring my closer to God.

Addition

There is one thing I have learned with doing Lent over the last couple of years and that is you have to add something you are taking away. Here is what I am going to do instead. I am going to read the following books Forgotten God by Francis Chan, Tranny of the Urgent by Charles Hummel, Family Worship by Donald Whitley, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, and People Can Change by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp. All of these I have already begun and some I will finish very soon. Most of these I believe will bring me closer to the Lord.

The next thing I am going to do is pray with my wife everyday. This is a habit I am looking to start everyday but I am committing forty days to do this. And I am thankful I have a wife that will not let me forget this commitment.

The next thing is I am trying the bullet journal method. This a concise method of journaling. I am not going to attempt to explain it so here is the website for more info: http://bulletjournal.com/

The last thing I will do is I will write at least one blog a week. This will be to update on what has been going on since I begin this and what the process looks like. This may include reviews of the above books and they have impacted my life. It will not be on the same day but I will pray about which day to begin it on.

Last Thing

Ultimately, I am praying this will bring me closer to Jesus. I am also hoping this will bring some type of encouragement to anyone reading this. There really is nothing special about me or these words. The only person that matters is Jesus and so I pray if you are reading this its what you are reading. I am excited about this journey and look forward where the Holy Spirit will lead.

Going Analog

Can Anything Beat Moonrise Kingdom?

Up to this point of the year, I have seen 35 films. The best of that group is Moonrise Kingdom. I will not talk about it here for I plan to write a full review on it in the near future. But the Oscar season is upon us, thus my favorite movie season has arrived and this shaping up to be one of the better movie years in recent memory. So far Moonrise Kingdom has been able to beat: Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight Rises, and Argo. If you would like to all the movies I have seen from best to worst, here is the IMDb list: http://www.imdb.com/list/1veFa-8gQMY/.

The movie will be listed in three categories. First is the contenders. These are the movies that I think have real legitimate shot of beating MK. The second is the would bes. This are the movies that are going to be really good but unless they just surprise me. They will not be able to beat MK. The last category is the Dark Horses. This are movies that could go either way but have the potential to be the best movie. Last year my best movie winner came from this category, so anything can happen.

The Contenders:

The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey (IMDb page)

Sliver Linings Playbook (IMDb page)

The Would Bes:

Les Miserables (IMDb page) 

Lincoln (IMDb page)

Django Unchained (IMDb page)

Flight (IMDb page)

The Master (IMDb page)

Dark Horses:

Anna Karenina (IMDb page)

Hitchcock (IMDb page)

Amour (IMDb page)

On the Road (IMDb page)

 

In the end no matter what happens I am more than excited for the upcoming month and half. Also this is by no means the only movies who could beat MK, just the ones that think can actually do it. But even with these above movies, its going to have be something special to be the best of the year.

Can Anything Beat Moonrise Kingdom?

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Director: Robert Sanders

Major Actors: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron

IMDb rating: 4/10 (click for page)

I could sum up this review in one phrase: Ed Wood does Lord of the Rings (My dad came up with that). But since many of you probably don’t understand the context. I will explain. Ed Wood is considered to be the worst director in Hollywood ever, just check his IMDb page. Nothing is rated above of five. Thus you know when I say the above phrase. I did not enjoy the movie. I don’t even know where to begin on this movie.

As good a place to begin as any is the characters. Just like many movies now a days there is no sense of character development but I really was not expecting so that came as no surprise. What did surprise me is there were no characters I enjoyed. Normally with movies like this I find a character to watch and enjoy. This has a lot to do with the fact that the minute you are introduced to character. There immediately follows an action scene. But lets be honest this was not main appeal of the movie.

What was the main appeal of the movie was new twist on the Snow White story. While the story had a new twist, it was superficial at best. My view is that if you are going to do a new twist on a story it better be entertaining, like Mirror Mirror. For the most part the twist was more action not a new twist in the storyline. In the end the main reason why I did not enjoy this film was that it could not keep my attention. I was constantly on my phone or PC because it was that boring.

Okay, I think I have ripped the movie up enough, so let me point out a couple of things that I thought were good about it. First the visuals of the film were actually quite stunning. I really like it when movie take a story that is typically colorful and make it dark. This movie actually succeeded in that, unfortunately for it visuals are not enough to save a movie for me. The second thing is that of the acting of Kristen Stewart. I have for a while now refused to throw her out as a bad actress. When I saw the first Twilight, the only one I have seen, I actually enjoyed her acting. She was the one thing that kept me watching the film but she was not enough to save the movie.


I will conclude by saying this: if you like constant action in your movies then you will probably enjoy this. However, if you are like me and like something a little then you may want to avoid this movie.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Before I begin the review of the movie, I wanted to introduce this series of movie reviews. This movie review, and some that I will do periodically, is apart of my favorite films (Here is the IMDb link for the rest). I use to able to pick out one movie that was my favorite but I have to many films to pick just one. This films I  highly enjoy but are by no means the best films. In fact many are like this movie, in that they will probably never make a great movie list. Lastly you will know it is a part of my favorite films when I rate it a 10/10.

Director: Erle C. Kenton

Major Actors: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, and Richard Arlen

IMDb rating: 10/10 (click for page)

Available in Criterion Collection

As it is well noted, one of the few genres in film that I am not the biggest fan of is horror. However that is not entirely true. I really enjoy 1930s horror films and Island of Lost Souls may just be my favorite from that time period. It is based off an H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, thus I knew going into there was basis for a good story. But that does not necessary mean that it translates well to film (see the most recent War of the Worlds). That aside it succeeds where others have failed.

This is a beautiful looking film. This is thanks to the camera work of Karl Struss (Sunrise and The Great Dictator). While I am by no means adept all the time at picking up on cinematography. I can on occasion recognize when great film work is done. But of course all I can is say “Wow that looks great.” I said this repeatedly while watching this film.

When it comes to the acting in the film, it like most early 30s movies is very choppy. In fact, if it was not for one actor this probably would have been around a 7 or lower, but one actor saves the acting, Charles Laughton. It is an automatic treat whenever he appeared in the film. He probably made many people jealous by making acting in a talkie look so easy. However, he is not the only acting treat. Bela Lugosi’s role in the film is a perfect role for him. Hearing belt out the words “Are we not men!” just sends chills done the spine. It really is a shame that Lugosi was not given more roles like this.

The last thing I want to talk about is the makeup. Watching a film like this, somewhat makes me wish we could go back to no CGI. The makeup is so real that when you first see the creatures. You think that they are just some type of natives to the island but you find out that is not entirely true. You can definitely see how this movie influenced the makeup within films for years to come.

From the camerawork, two great actors, and makeup, this film is highly enjoyable and a lot more gritty than you expect for 30s film. I highly recommend this film to any classic horror film buff.

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski

Major Actors: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Doona Mae, Jim Broadbent, and Jim Sturgess

Rating: 9 (ratings will be out of 10)

When I first saw the trailer for this movie three months ago. I was like what the heck is this movie? Can this actually be done? The answer is yes. The Wachowskis and Tykwer were able to tell six different stories within a three hour time frame. The first impression is that this movie is really scatterbrained but somehow this ends up working. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review “I was never, ever bored by Cloud Atlas” (click here to read more). I share the same sentiments of Ebert. It just wasn’t boring.

The pacing within the film is just amazing, considering that you are watching six different stories unfold before your eyes. This helped much by the fact in the first two minutes or so of the film. You are given six quick snapshots of each story. This helpful in two ways. First it lets the viewer now what each story looks like and second that it warns you that the stories are going to change quickly and sometimes unexpected. As you can see with what I have discussed so far that this really was an ambitious undertaking by the directors. I think only time will tell if this undertaking panned out.

When it comes to the telling of stories themselves. They end up fitting really well together. What I mean is when one story is doing intricate storytelling, the others they show also do the same. The same goes for action scenes. It really does match the tag line “Everything is connected.”

When it comes to the performances within this film. I could write a blog about each actors roles. There will be much talk about how good Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Halle berry were, but I want to point one of my favorite character actors: Hugo Weaving. Everything I have seen him I have enjoyed and this is no exception. He roles within Cloud Atlas are usually to the side but if removed or if done by someone else. They just would not have the same impact.

This leads to one point that makes this movie fun, which is looking for what each actor is playing. Sometimes they hit you square in the face and they are easy to see but sometimes you don’t even know it was them to the moment has passed. In the end all the performances are a joy to watch.

I do recommend seeing this movie although many of you probably will not enjoy it as much. I do have some suggestions. First don’t expect the movie to be explainable (see Ebert’s review). Second enjoy watching the actors perform different roles. I will conclude by saying this: I can’t wait to see this movie again.

Cloud Atlas