Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Music's bloodline

Photo by Chrissy Piper, via Pitchfork
I was so excited to read Pitchfork's in-depth interview with John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. The new album, "The Life of the World to Come," uses Bible verses as the base for Darnielle's part-autobiographical, part-introspective, part-musing lyrics. The result isn't always saintly-- in fact, it's at turns dark, doubting and hopeful.
This isn't the first time Biblical themes have seeped into Darnielle's lyrics, but it's the first interview I've read where Darnielle gets so specific about his faith and how it influences his music. One of my favorite excerpts:

"If you're into music, you're into religion, somehow or another.
Religion, that's the bloodline of music. The whole reason, I'm pretty
sure, we have music on notation is to preserve chant, to transcribe
what was going on, which we're singing in order to describe the
experience the divine."

That got me thinking about music history and the way faith has shaped the types of music we listen to today. What do you think? Do you see the influence of hymns, devotionals or other "religious" music on the stuff you're playing on your iPod?
Here's an impromptu list of some of my recent-and-past-favorite songs that fit that description for me.

-Black Soul Choir-- 16 Horsepower
-Freedom Hangs Like Heaven-- Iron and Wine
-Children of the Lord-- Slim Cessna's Auto Club

Despite heavy Biblical imagery, I wouldn't consider these songs to be "church songs." In fact, I hear a sort of irony, darkness and artisticness to them that I've tried to explain a little better here and here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now back to our regularly-scheduled blogging...

So I promised myself I would never post one of those “sorry for not posting” messages here, but it looks like the ole blog has gotten a little dusty since I’ve been gone. I’m back, though, and armed with lots of news to tell you.
First off, I recently got a job as the Faith columnist for the Daily Camera in Boulder. So far, I’ve meditated with Buddhists, chatted about the Bible in a comic book store and listened to Jewish toddlers sing adorable Shabbat songs. That’s right, I actually get paid to write about religion now!
I’ve even been able to address pop culture in my recent column. R. Crumb, the comic book artist responsible for some crazy, weird, sexed-up, drugged-up underground comics in the 1960’s, has taken on a totally different project: the Bible. The Book of Genesis, to be exact. It’s definitely a departure from his past work, but the book—a “straight illustration job” depicting the book word for word—still has R. Crumb’s personality written all over it. Check it out at your local comic book or bookstore!

I’ll still be on Bubblegum and Bibles to talk about the weirdo fringes of religion and pop culture, a topic that seems to get broader and weirder every day. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!