Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2009

I always enjoy reading those best-of-year lists and used to compile my own back in the day, but I have become so removed from secular pop culture that most of the names on those lists are unfamiliar to me. Music still holds my interest and Christian contemporary is my preferred genre.

I have enough favorite songs, sacred and secular, from 2009 to compile a top 10 list. In no particular order, here they are.

Carolina Liar: Show Me What I'm Looking for

Selah: Hosanna

Silversun Pickups: Panic Switch

Plumb: God-Shaped Hole (2010)

Bat for Lashes with Scott Walker: The Big Sleep

Steven Curtis Chapman: Heaven Is the Face

Phoenix: Lisztomania

Lifehouse: Broken

Doves: Kingdom of Rust

Chris Tomlin: I Will Rise

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

JibJab Retrospective: Never A Year Like '09

The funny folks at JibJab have created an animated video compiling the most memorable public moments of 2009. Did they miss anybody?

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pastor Chuck Smith Suffers "Mild Stroke"

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder and pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, reportedly suffered "a very mild stroke" yesterday morning. According to the Orange County Register, spokeswoman Laura Jackson said, "He's recovering well. The doctors want him to have a chance to rest. That's all the family wants to say right now." Smith is 82 years old.

I first attended CCCM during the Jesus People movement of the 1970s, which Pastor Chuck is widely credited with fostering, and returned to the church in 2008. During the intervening 35 years, Calvary Chapel grew into an international fellowship of more than 1,000 evangelical churches, Bible colleges, and radio stations.

Smith is a beloved, iconic, enormously influential figure whose ministry continues to focus on expository preaching of the Scripture as it did when he established Calvary Chapel in 1965. On Sunday evenings, he still teaches a study of the Bible verse by verse and in October 2009 started Genesis anew after completing Revelation for the umpteenth time, in addition to leading weekly Sunday morning worship services. He has tirelessly inspired and supported generations of ministers, including Greg Laurie, Raul Ries, Mike Macintosh, Pancho Juarez and Skip Heitzig, among countless others. But there is only one Pastor Chuck.

Here is Pastor Chuck Smith delivering a recent sermon on the topic "Are You Ready to Meet God?"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

John Pinette: I Say Nay Nay

When I desperately needed to laugh this fall, blogger, patriot and Tea Partier extraordinaire Colonal Manly Rash introduced me to the comic stylings of John Pinette. Pinette is that rare comedian - hysterically funny without being mean, physically graceful while simultaneously chubby and cherubic, and thoroughly entertaining without relying on profanity.

John Pinette is headlining the Irvine Improv on New Year's Eve and a few dates afterward. I will be otherwise occupied with lots of delicious food and loved ones, but I'm sure it will be a hoot. Here is the best of Pinette in six parts. Don't hurt yourself!

Friday, December 25, 2009

He Has Come and He Will Come Again

Thank you, dearest Lord, for your precious Son, our Savior, and for the gift of this and every day to celebrate His birth. Let us praise Him with our voices, our hearts and our lives!

Mercy Me has become one of my favorite bands from any genre. Enjoy in good company and great health!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Muppets Christmas 2009: Ring Them Bells

After their viral Bohemian Rhapsody video, the Muppets are back to help us ring our Christmas bells.

Here is a more traditional version of Carol of the Bells synchronized to Christmas house lights.

And here is the Ray Conniff Singers version from my childhood performed with the original ostinato, a four-note repetition alternating between the bells and "ring ring ring ring" lyrics throughout the song.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Breath of Heaven: ASL Interpretation for the Deaf

Among all of Amy Grant's Christian recordings, my favorite is the exquisite Chris Eaton composition Breath of Heaven, which has been covered although never surpassed by dozens of other vocalists, in my opinion. The song is written from the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

According to Scripture, Mary was a girl used by God who trusted His plan and remained obedient to Him throughout her life. She was neither a deity nor an object of worship, but she provides an example of faithful submission that we can emulate regardless of the nature of His calling to us. The same can be said of her husband, Joseph, who doesn't inspire the same historic fascination or creative intensity as Mary. As far as I can discern, the primary difference that distinguishes Mary from Joseph and explains the disparity in the attention each receives is the mystery of immaculate conception and the virgin birth.

The video below features one American Sign Language interpretation of Eaton's lyrics. My brother Richard is deaf since birth and enjoys "singing" with his hands in church. God is merciful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jason Castro Sings Feliz Navidad

In anticipation of the March 31, 2010 release of his debut album on Atlantic Records, Jason Castro continues his tour of small venues throughout the U.S. Recently he added some seasonal favorites to his repertoire, including Feliz Navidad, originally made popular by José Feliciano.

Jason is of Colombian heritage and his father René was a singer before him. Jason's performance style and public persona are defined by a soft, natural sweetness that seems especially heartfelt and authentic when he sings in Spanish, the native language of his parents. During his season of American Idol, Jason performed an underrated bilingual version of Sting's Fragile. I really enjoy the organic way he integrates his family's culture and faith into the music and hope he continues.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

While I am out simply having a wonderful Christmas time, enjoy these versions of the song that celebrates, well, simply having a wonderful Christmas time.

Paul and Linda McCartney

Jars of Clay

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Birthday Etiquette, Divorce Style

How does an abandoned wife properly commemorate a very special celebration of an estranged husband who wanted her dead by his next birthday? Well, this wife has a warped sense of humor that refuses to die, coupled with an incorrigible jukebox in her head stocked with an endless supply of music for every idle thought and occasion.

Several weeks ago, I performed a grand sweep of my documents, emails and calendars to purge them of all reminders of my STBX (soon to be ex-husband). One deleted reminder was of his upcoming birthday. Guess which song began to play in a continuous loop on my inner jukebox?

Was it the Beatles' Happy Birthday?

We may be going to a party party and I hope we have a good time - at different addresses forever more, of course.

How about a new wave Happy Birthday by Altered Images?

This song elicits memories of early KROQ radio when they overplayed this frivolous little record quite simply because new wave was still in its toddler years and there weren't a lot of better options. It's far happier and poppier than my jukebox selection, though.

Happy Birthday by Concrete Blonde?

You'll never catch Johnette Napolitano jumping out of a birthday cake. This isn't the right song, but we're getting warmer.

Happy Birthday Guadalupe by the Killers deserves at least an honorable mention.

The Killers' birthday offering is also a Christmas song, at least marginally, and it honors the Mexican culture from which my Guanajuato born STBX likes to distance himself. But, no, this ain't it, either.

I'll spare you the birthday tributes by the Chipmunks, Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe to reveal the one song out of dozens available that my inner jukebox, quite independent of my personal preference to take the high road here, decided was the perfect selection to cue up for this occasion. Mr. Jukebox is clearly more vindictive than I, but I'm up for any excuse to promote Morrissey's lyrical excesses and Johnny Marr's sublime guitar work.

For the record, so to speak, I am not wishing anyone named Luis or Rosas an Unhappy Birthday - and it's not today, anyway. Every day since he left has been a happy unbirthday for me and my family, so I am in a forgiving, charitable mood. Unlike my STBX, I don't wish my spouse dead or ill. I actually wish him to be regenerated and reconciled with God.

Any resemblance between the lyrics and my personal circumstances is just a lucky guess by Mr. Jukebox. My conscience is perfectly clear and I can enjoy the Smiths' snarky humor without guilt. Join me, won't you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ben Folds: Singer, Songwriter, TV Judge?

First, a shout out to Nick, my fellow Ben Folds fan. Ben's been classing up NBC this week. Have you seen him?

The best reason to watch the newest talent show The Sing Off is the multi-talented Mr. Folds, my all-time favorite piano rocker and now my favorite TV panelist. His judging flows as whimsically from his distinct musical perspective as does his catalog of personal, ironic and sometimes twisted songs. He instantly elevates a program that would otherwise be just another forgettable singing competition.

You can catch up with missed episodes at Hulu and enjoy his music videos on YouTube.

Here is a sampling of the many moods of Ben Folds, which are often sweetened with a bowl of sugar spiked with salt.

Vengeful: One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.

Self-effacing: Army.

Bitter and bilingual: Song for the Dumped.

Mockingly envious: Battle of Who Could Care Less.

Mocking his southern heritage: Your Redneck Past.

Wistful and wishful: Where's Summer B?

A romantic cynic: Fair.

A poetic romantic: The Luckiest.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

O Come, Emmanuel

I first saw Amy Grant on MTV in her 1985 Find a Way video. She radiated a wholesome, winsome innocence that was as rare as it was appealing. Her coltish dance moves only added to her authenticity. By the making of this video, Grant had already recorded seven albums and formed a successful songwriting collaboration with Michael W. Smith, whose heavily synthesized keyboards - typical of 1980s pop music - dominated their hit singles.

Emmanuel from 1986 is one of my favorite Christian contemporary and Christmas songs. The lyrics consist of a simple, repetitive praise to Jesus.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel.
Wonderful, Counselor!
Lord of life, Lord of all;
He's the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Holy One!
Emmanuel, Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This Christmas by Elliott Yamin

In the history of the American Idol franchise, there has never been a more memorable character or more soulful singer than Elliott Yamin. Elliott was the poor, down-on-his-luck kid turned overnight star based strictly on pure, raw talent. In a contest dominated by veteran performers grasping for one last shot at the brass ring, Elliott came the closest to fulfilling AI's purported search for undiscovered talent.

Just seeing Elliott makes my heart melt. Hearing him jam on a Donny Hathaway classic like A Song for You or This Christmas lifts my spirits and restores my hope.

If you missed season 5 the first time or just miss Elliott like I do, you can relive the magic on American Idol Rewind.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Friendship Waltz Inspired by Brian Wilson

I don't blog; therefore, I have a social life.

Well, I haven't blogged for a week - and what a busy week it's been. I have been blessed by wonderful friendships, some of them enduring since childhood, some forged by our young children and aging fitfully like our now adult children, some with Christian brothers and sisters sent by God to hold me up during my marital trauma. One advantage of separation from Mr. Jealous Controller is that I can renew my friendships without fear and feel free to socialize again on work nights - even three work nights in a row. Gasp!

More than six weeks ago, I made a Declaration of Independance - and now I am waltzing with angels again, Brian Wilson style.

Here's to my faithful friends, whom I love, and Brian Wilson, who wrote so many cherished songs that formed the soundtrack of my life, including the following - although he doesn't appear in the video recorded during his infamous reclusive years.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

T Party Express: Time Is Running Out

My T Party Express has finally arrived at its destination. My STBX (soon to be ex-husband) is out of the house forever and I sure don't want to run away from home any more.

I have more cool videos to post than I have grievances, so this format minus the gimmicky title will continue until I tire of it. Time is running out for the T Party Express and my STBX. I have a fun bus to catch.

Muse - Time Is Running Out

Fallin Angel | MySpace Video

Previous stops:

Drive That Fast by Kitchens of Distinction (1991).

Vapour Trail by Ride (1990).

We Gotta Get You a Woman by Todd Rundgren (1970).

I Saw the Light by Todd Rundgren (1972).

Hello It's Me by Todd Rundgren (1972).

Cold Morning Light by Todd Rundgren (1972).

It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference by Todd Rundgren (1972).

Can We Still Be Friends? by Todd Rundgren (1978).

Time Heals (1981).

Weather with You by Crowded House (1991).

No Blue Skies by Lloyd Cole (1990).

Wicked Game by Chris Isaak (1989).

Blue Skies by Eva Cassidy (1996).

What a Wonderful World by Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua (2008).

Pick Yourself Up by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (1936).

Special by Garbage (1998).

The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys (1985).

Empty Me by Chris Sligh (2008).

So Long Self by Mercy Me (2006).

Here's Where the Story Ends by the Sundays (1990).

Broken by Lighthouse (2009).

God Shaped Hole by Plumb (1999).

The Thrill Is Gone by B.B. King (1970).

Love and Regret by Deacon Blue (1989).

Real Gone Kid by Deacon Blue (1989).

My Book by the Beautiful South (1990).

A Little Time by the Beautiful South (1990).

Your Ex-Lover Is Dead by Stars (2005).

This Woman's Work by Kate Bush (1989).

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division (1980).

Reptile by the Church (1988).

Accidents Will Happen by Elvis Costello (1979).

Tears Run Rings by Marc Almond (1987).

Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen (1984).

Love Lies Bleeding by Elton John (1973).

Last Time Forever by Squeeze (1985).

Conjure Me by the Afghan Whigs (1992).

Debonair by the Afghan Whigs (1993).

Hallelujah by Jason Castro (2009).

Total Recall by the Sound (1985).

Fly by Jars of Clay (2002).

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).