Music of the Year 2012: Albums

Yesterday, I offered my picks for Songs of the Year 2012.

Today: Albums.

The Album is a different beast than the Song. I like a lot of songs by a lot of different artists (I’m sure you do, as well), but when I delve into the artist’s broader work, I leave wanting. Songs are about the moment; Albums, the horizon.

To be able to craft an album takes an artisan’s touch. It means being able to sustain a narrative through-line that is interesting. The music has to build upon itself. It has to methodically go someplace. A concept album, while certainly the pinnacle of the form, is not a requirement. Regardless, a mish-mash will not do.

The following offerings are not necessarily my favorite albums from the year. But they are, without a doubt, the best one’s I think anybody released.

1) The Lumineers, The Lumineers

I believe it was in June when I texted my PLGRM partner-in-crime, Rocky:

I’m calling it now: The Lumineers is the Album of the Year

He agreed, and neither of us were wrong. This album keeps revealing things to me like it’s scripture or something. It’s an amazing collection.

Sample: “Big Parade”

2) Ingrid Michaelson, Human Again

The ukelele wielding, pop genius returns again, fast becoming one of my favorite artists. Lady and I got to see her live this Fall, and the Queen of Quirk-Pop did not disappoint.

Sample: “Blood Brothers”

3) Derek Webb, Ctrl

I have come to hate Derek Webb almost as much as I hate Rob Bell. His ability to craft original music is astounding. I’m ashamed to say that, seeing him with Caedmon’s Call in college, I never saw this kind of thing coming.

But I am pleasantly surprised. Mostly pleasantly.

Sample: “A Real Ghost”

4) Sara Bareilles, Once Upon Another Time

She and Ben Folds crawled into his home studio and emerged with this independently released EP. It is unlike anything she’s done to date. It is utterly astounding.

Sample: “Bright Lights and Cityscapes”

5) fun., Some Nights

I didn’t respond to this album like I wanted to, but that does not diminish it’s accomplishment. To call this “pop music” would be to insult it. The compositions are complex and, at times, surprising. The lyrics are written with a deft touch, revealing themes worthy of deep consideration.

Also, I’m proud to say that I knew about and loved fun. before any of you. #smughipsterpride

Sample: “Some Nights”

Promises kept


Old friends dropped by tonight for pizza and beer. There’s something comforting about that, being with people you’ve known for eons. The conversational clues are spotted; the subte jokes, acknowledged; the deep values, affirmed.

It’s the sacramental nature of the Body of Christ played out in your kitchen on nights like tonight, and you know that the Advent Promise wasn’t a lie.

Music of the Year 2012: Songs

The time has come for the World Wide Interwebs to be filled with those retrospective kinds of posts. For me, when I get reflective, it usually seems to involve music. I like to say that, given my personality type, “music is how I feel,” so my year end, best of lists are going to be my nominees for Music of the Year.

Today: Songs.

Lots of goodness to choose from this year. These picks are a surprise to me, but they are the ones I returned to over and over.

The heart wants what the heart wants, I guess…

1) Gotye, “Somebody that I used to know.”

When I first heard this tune on the radio last January, I knew it was going to be The One. I have not heard a pop song so expertly crafted since anything by John and Paul.

“you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough”

2) Kimbra, “Settle Down”

Gotye’s NZ conspirator is making me love pop music again. Her vocal acrobatics are unreal.

“We’ll call her Nebraska, Nebraska Jones”

3) The Lumineers, “Ho Hey”

I missed a chance to see them when they came to town this Fall, and I am still kicking myself.

“I belong with you, you belong with me/you’re my sweetheart”

4) Phillip Phillips, “Home”

I know what this pick says about me: My hipster cred is gone. But – DAMN! – that boy can lay down a tune.

“Don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear”

5) Good Old War, “Calling Me Names”

I’m proud of this find. Real damn proud.

“Instead of making sense, and talking like we’re friends, you think it’s a better idea: calling me names”

Honorable Mention – Sara Bareilles “Sweet as Whole”

Totally NSFW, but funny as hell. And true. Too true!

“I say what I think, ’cause it’s more economic than drugs or a drink”



The big brother cried small silent tears of joy when he opened his gift from the little brother. I’m serious: He. Cried.

For the last few years, we have been helping our boys develop the ability to make each other gifts. It has turned our Xmas morning into an entirely different affair. There is really no yelling and screaming, no whining and crying. Sure, we have to help the Littles along at times, but there is genuinely an atmosphere of striving to love and care for the other person, of feeling appreciated and honored for our own selves.

It’s a pastor’s dream, to be frank.





Attending to Christmas preparations makes me crazy. Little things, like ironing napkins. Who irons napkins? We do, that’s who.

As an introverted thinker, I hate anything that inconveniences me, anything that requires me to spend my precious energy on real life stuff that will be here one minute and gone the next.

I guess I haven’t really learned the “Advent lesson,” have I?

Nice job, pastor.