Dislocation: Simon’s soundtrack 2014

Dislocation Counting Crows

Somewhere Under Wonderland is Counting Crows’ first album of original material in many years, and I while I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite, it has some standout tracks. This one took a while to grow on me, but it’s the kind of rock I think CC have always wanted to make, and I can hear both Adam’s delight and sincerity in the lyrics.

I am written in the radio
I dream on my TV
Dislocation, dislocation
I am fading out in stereo
I don’t remember me
Dislocation, dislocation.

La Cienega Just Smiled Ryan Adams
The kind of laid-back, sprawling epic that Ryan Adams seems to put on effortlessly. If you want to chill out to a slightly melancholic anthem, put this one on.

Go Let It Out Oasis
Oasis never depart far from the script, but what they do, they do well. I love where the bass comes in on this track.

September Earth, Wind and Fire
Once again we did GraceTree movies over last summer. This song featured in a particularly joyful scene in The Intouchables, and brings up warm nights under the stars in summer for me.

Wiseblood Tender Mercies
Highly recommend this entire album – alt-country-gospel brilliance, and a side project for Dan Vickrey and Jim Bogios from Counting Crows (who often cover this and other Tender Mercies songs).

One Sunday morning at dawn you know they baptised my soul
But they held me down so long Christ I almost drowned
I was the kind of boy who never learned to smile, so I kicked and I screamed
‘Til I tore myself lose from all these, great big hands oh yeah.

Laid James
I was trying to decide between this one and Tom Petty’s Freefallin’. I just like the way this one is so unabashed.

Against Th’ Law Billy Bragg and Wilco
2014 was definitely a year of civil disobedience, not only for me, but for stacks of others. With the rise of Love Makes A Way, Maules Creek and a particularly eventful Swan Island Peace Convergence, this song felt topical, but somehow also reassuring. While my overly-literal kids argued “Not everything is against the law”, sometimes it feels like it hey Woody?

Strange Desire INXS
Early in 2014 I was one of those sucked in to the nostalgia of Michael Hutchence’s death – an event which really affected me when it happened, I was a big INXS fan and it felt like they were at the top of their game. So I listened to Welcome To Wherever You Are a lot this year, and was reminded of the era when albums were written as albums, to be taken as a whole, and not just a collection of random singles for radio or iPod. I couldn’t include the whole album though, so here’s one you probably didn’t hear much from that album.

In Between Days The Cure
I listened to The Cure a lot in the latter 1/3 of this year. A ridiculous amount. Being the band of choice for Goths when I was in high school I never listened to them much, assuming they were a bit obsessed with death and depression, but they’re actually more often love songs with an edginess to their pop.

Ch-Check It Out Beastie Boys
I listened to a fair bit of Beasties this year. Every time this comes on my mp3 player in the car, the kids say, “Is this the Sesame Street one?” because the “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out, wh-wh-wh-wh-what’s it all about” part is on Sesame Street. And for that, I love Sesame Street.

OPP Naughty by Nature
I don’t know, I think it’s the Jackson 5 samples, but this one is just so catchy. Wrong, but catchy.

Bless the Lord Taize
Craig Farrell and I sang this in the Geelong police cells after the sit-in at Richard Marles’ office, as the cold air seeped in from the exercise yard and the concrete walls echoed with our voices. It doesn’t really fit musically in this compilation, but I couldn’t not include it.

God Only Knows The Beach Boys
I’ve heard this described as an utterly flawless love song, and I can see why.

Bonus track: Possibility Days Counting Crows
It was hard to choose just one track from this album, and probably this is my favourite track from it, so I had to include it. They know how to bring a song – especially ballads – to a climax, and to get the right lyrical mix of redemption and regret.

So you pull down the shades
And you shut out the light
Because somehow we mixed up
Goodbye and good night…

The Sound of Silence: Soundtrack 2013

1. The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel
I’ve spent much of this year learning how to pray; which is to say, to be silent, to listen. So this song has been on heavy rotation in between.

“The sign said
The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls,
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

2. Crosstown Traffic – Jimi Hendrix
I just like this one.

“You’re just like crosstown traffic,
So hard to get through to you…”

3. Ingrid Bergman – Billy Bragg & Wilco
Mermaid Avenue was by far my most listened to album of this year. It’s a collaboration between Billy Bragg and Wilco, putting music to some of the 3000 Woody Guthrie songs that were discovered without music. I probably could’ve picked any one of about five favourites from this album, but this one is just a cracker love song, complete with raunchy double entendres.

4. Elegantly wasted – INXS
I miss INXS. Or rather, I miss the Michael Hutchence-era INXS. Listened to this in the car a lot this year.

5. Hospital – Counting Crows
I saw CC live again this year, and although they were not in particularly good form, they still have some great songs. This is off their album of covers of mostly little-known songs, and anyone who suffers from any form of mental illness can probably relate.

6. Jesus Walks – Kanye West
Great lyrics to the second verse, in fact I had a similar conversation (without the rhymes) with a cop when he was arresting me in September at SIPC.

“To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(Jesus walks with them)
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(Jesus walks with them)…”

7. 99 Red Balloons – Nena
For Ascension Sunday this year we all tied gospel messages to helium balloons and released them. I played this song as part of it. It’s from the early 80s Cold War period, about releasing 99 helium balloons in Berlin and the military mistaking them for an attack and starting a nuclear war.

8. Jacob’s Ladder – Pete Seeger
This year at GraceTree we did a series on Genesis/Exodus, looking closely at the stories of the patriachs and matriarchs. This is one of the songs we used.

9. Down in the River to Pray – Alison Krauss
At the Swan Island Peace Convergence this year there were 15 arrests after a walk-on incursion, and as each person was ejected from the base we sang the modified spiritual:

“As I went down to Swan Island to pray,
Studying about that good old way
And who will stop this ugly war
Oh Lord show me the way…”

10. Same Love – Cam Nacson ft L-Fresh the Lion
L-Fresh the Lion had a few of us over to his place to watch Q & A early in the year. He’d just done this cover of Macklemore’s song. He’s a lovely guy, check out his music.

11. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z
It’s been growing on me.

12. Drown – Smashing Pumpkins
I watched the movie ‘Singles’ again, and realised how brilliant the soundtrack is. It’s deeply etched into my late-teen self.

13. Oh Freedom – Harry Belafonte
I’ve been trying to collect movement songs/spirituals to adapt to various protest/resistance circumstances, that are easy to learn, catchy, and easy to adapt. This is definitely one of them.

14. Jumper – Third Eye Blind
The catchiest song about suicide you’ll probably ever hear.

15. Buses are a-comin’ – Bernice Reagon Johnson
From the documentary Freedom Riders.

Out of my head: Simon’s soundtrack 2012

Here it is. As usual, no apologies for bad taste, diversity, etc. Click the song titles to hear the songs (not all included):

1. Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
Spring always feels like this.

2. Jump in the Line – Harry Belafonte
This should get you dancing. At least in your seat. A song you can’t help moving to. Go on, I dare you!

3. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Sufjan Stevens
Has there ever been a better lyric than, “Here I raise my Ebenezer”? (for the record, “Ebenezer” is a biblical word meaning “stone of help”, and was a stone Samuel named when God helped the Israelites win a victory over the Philistines.) But really, mostly I resonate with this verse:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

4. Mercy – Counting Crows
This year Counting Crows released an album of covers of little-known songs. This is one of many they’ve covered by Tender Mercies, who do some of the best contemporary gospel songs I’ve come across.

5. John and Jesus – Peter Kearney
Putting together a songbook for GraceTree, I tracked this song (which is part of the Urban Seed songbook) down to Peter Kearney, an Australian songwriter and performer. The album version is a little dated, but if you want a contemporary version, come to GraceTree. 🙂

6. Salome – U2
We had a great session on John the Baptist at GraceTree earlier in the year. I spent the week meditating on this interpretation of John’s execution by U2. I didn’t end up using this as part of the session, but it certainly informed it.

7. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
I heard this in – of all things – a chase scene in an episode of Family Guy. It stuck with me.

8. Halfway Down the Stairs – Amy Lee
I grew up reading A.A. Milne’s poetry, particularly Winnie the Pooh. This is a quirky interpretation of the original poem set to music, from the Muppets “Green album” (covers of Muppets songs by contemporary artists). (For the record, the original song by Kermit’s nephew Robin is here.)

9. You’re the Voice – John Farnham
This became the official Swan Island Peace Convergence 2012 theme song – complete with celebratory dance – when it blasted out of the portable sound system soon after we held the gate. For two days we were not just the voice, but the hands, the feet, and the bodies too.

“We’re all someone’s daughter
We’re all someone’s son.
How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?”

10. Stay Right Here – David Rovics
Occupy Melbourne seems like ages ago now, but actually it was still going through the first months of 2012. In fact it’s now morphed into a bunch of affinity groups, most of which were radicalised by the State response to the initial movement. Occupy lives.

This is a song by David Rovics on why Occupy exists.

11. Never Fall in Love Again – The Whitlams
I remembered the Whitlams doing this version of the classic Burt Bacharach song and tracked it down. It’s still a doozy.

12. Stir it up – Bob Marley and the Wailers
How did it take me this long to find reggae?

13. How to Make Gravy – Paul Kelly
This song, written in the first person about a bloke in prison at Christmas, gets me every time. Especially thinking about the kinds of risks I’ll likely take in the future. Sigh.

14. Leaving, On A Jet Plane – John Denver
While looking for songs for GraceTree worship, someone suggested Annie’s Song, which sent me on a while nostalgic childhood trip down John Denver lane. My parents used to listen to John Denver a lot when I was growing up. I actually like it now.

15. Song of Ascent – Tom Wuest
Having looked for good worship music for GraceTree, I came across Tom’s music. Produced mostly on his family farm, and sounding just that intimate, these are great, simple, biblical songs for small group worship.  I also appreciate his intentionality about relational connection and slowness.

16. Bonus track: Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Muppets
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Muppets doing a Barbershop Quartet version of the classic Nirvana song. And if you haven’t alreadys seen the new Muppets movie, do yourself a favour and go see it.

Results of static cling: my soundtrack to 2011

Tracklist and explanations for my soundtrack 2011

This is my way of reflecting on the year, and of sharing some of the music that has touched my life with those close to me.

Mostly these are just the songs I listened to most, although a couple have specific memories associated with them. The order is always carefully crafted to produce the best album out of the songs – since the songs are chosen as representative of my year, not for the way they go together, that can be a challenge. I hope it works for you!

1. Back in the USSR: The Beatles

Spent too much time in airports this year – up and down the east coast of Australia as well as to Afghanistan. Just a good travelling song.

2. Hand Grenade: Things of Stone and Wood

TSW were part of the soundtrack of my teen years, especially the Happy Birthday Helen EP. So when  I saw the CD of it at a second hand record store I grabbed it. Turns out they were a little bit peacenik. “We are pointing guns at children not yet born/We toss our hand grenades into the future…God it makes me scared, it makes me so mad.”

3. Have a Lucky Day: Morphine

As I think I’ve said before in a previous year, I reckon Morphine are one of the most underrated bands of the 90s. Found this in an op shop for like 99 cents.

4. Girl from Mars: Ash

This one is op shop sourced too, although it was also a staple of my teenage years. Mostly this one reminds me of that time, but it holds up well even now. After I listened to this recently I tweeted, “Is it just me or did music peak around the mid 90s?” Scott Stephens (@abcreligion) responded, “It’s not just you.”

5. Details in the Fabric: Jason Mraz

Yes, I know. Jason Mraz. Well, get used to pop, because there’s a couple in here. I’m trying to get over the cringe factor, because I actually like this a lot. I agree with Nick Hornby: a good song is a good song. Life is too short for music snobbery. When you find a good song, why not just enjoy it?

6. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic: The Police

I never got into the Police when I was younger, it was really just before my time. I got their best of this year because it felt like my music education needed it (let’s face it, they’re not wanting for classics). I wasn’t disappointed.

7. Lovers in Japan-Reign of Love: Coldplay

Again, I know. Coldplay. But hey, a catchy riff is a catchy riff. It moves me. Why would you not want that in your life? “Sometimes even the right is wrong…”

8. Everybody’s Got a Right to Live: Jimmy Collier, Pete Seeger, Rev FD Kirkpatrick

I borrowed this cd (a Pete Seeger collection) from my friend David, and it’s just steeped in history. I taught and sang this in front of the gates of Swan Island on our second day of blockading, at 6am in the freezing dead of winter. “And before this campaign fails we’ll all go down in jail/Everybody’s got a right to live.”

9. O Mary Don’t You Weep: Bruce Springsteen

I’ve been collecting spirituals the last few years as ways of arming myself for times of trouble. I bought this cd (Bruce Springsteen “The Seeger Sessions”) at the start of the year and I’ve listened to it solidly ever since. Just spectacular stuff.

10. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard: Paul Simon

This song just always makes me happy, because of the bouncy guitar, even though its content isn’t particularly. Wikipedia says that the “radical priest” referenced in this is probably either Daniel or Phil Berrigan, because they’re the only radical priests who have been on the front of Newsweek.

11. Nonviolence they choose for Afghanistan: Anita McKone

I first heard this song over patchy reception through an ancient mobile phone on loudspeaker in the upper room of a Kabul home. It was written and performed for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers by a new friend, Anita, partner of one of my nonviolence heroes who I now also call friend, Robert Burrowes. (The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers was one of the groups I went to visit in Afghanistan, and have since become good friends with many of them.) We then had it recorded by my friend Evan, and put it out. It’s become somewhat of an anthem for the AYPVs.

12. Turn the World Around: Harry Belafonte

I’ve been reading a lot about the civil rights movement the last couple of years, and Harry Belafonte was heavily involved, bankrolling the Southern Christian Leadership Convention (SCLC – King’s organisation) a lot of the time. So when I brought home a Muppets Season 3 DVD featuring him, it was a good excuse to combine the kids’ education with my own. We listened, and all loved his music; in fact, the Banana Boat Song has become the number one favourite for my youngest. From there I bought the Essential Harry Belafonte, and it’s just magnificent. This is my favourite, and you can watch the Muppet version here.

13. Rumble: You Am I

Bought their Best Of, and had it on in the background while driving Kathy Kelly and Dr. Hakim around to various speaking gigs and radio interviews during the Melbourne leg of their tour. It’s (rather bizarrely) become the soundtrack to that rather hectic but memorable week.

14. All for You: Sister Hazel

This one is a memory from my early uni years – found it on a best of the 90s cd at the library and it brought back all sorts of memories.

15. Mystery track: (A plea)

 

Outrageous: Simon’s soundtrack to 2010

Here we go:
1. Buena: Morphine – This three-piece from the early 90’s is one of the world’s most underrated bands, and features the dirtiest bass you’ll ever hear.

2. Manhattan: Kings of Leon – Catchy bassline.

3. Got Some: Pearl Jam – I bought their album BackSpacer in 2009, and heard this song on the radio the night before Matt and Sam’s wedding. “This situation, which side are you on? Are you getting out? Are you dropping bombs? Have you heard of diplomatic resolve?”

4. Heavy Heart: You Am I – “I miss you like sleep/There’s nothing romantic ‘bout the hours I keep…”

5. Under Pressure: Queen – This has been apt at times, both for me and for others.

6. Come Pick Me Up: Ryan Adams – There were about 3 months of this year where I listened to nothing but Ryan Adams, to the extent it made it very hard to choose which song would make it on here. This has to be the perfect breakup song – almost makes you want to break up with your partner just to experience it fully (almost). Adams said of this song, “Of all the things she did, the worst was stealing my records.” He later admitted it was he who stole the records from her… “I wish you would come pick me up/take me out/f*** me up/steal my records/screw all my friends/behind my back/with a smile on your face/and then do it again…”

7. Jena & Jimmy: Derek Webb – Derek Webb has been a bit of a revelation for me this year. Some U.S. friends have been pestering me to get some of his stuff, and I resisted for a long time because he’s a Christian artist from the U.S., and usually that means they’re awful. I finally gave in a couple of months ago and I’m glad I did.

8. Cannonball: Damien Rice – Yes, I got onto this rather late and yes, I’m a little embarrassed about Damien Rice being on here. But a good song is a good song…

9. Beautiful As You: The Whitlams – For my family: “I miss you girl like I miss the skyline of my own hometown/And I love you like I love the familiar feeling of being homeward bound…”

10. Think About It: Flight of the Conchords – “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk-comedy duo” deliver comedy with a social conscience: “Could somebody please remove these cutleries from my knees…”

11. Everlong: Foo Fighters – “Hello, I’ve waited here for you…everlong.” Just a great song high on my rotation early in the year.

12. Talking Sly: The Sharp – Picked this up on a holiday at a secondhand record store – I still had the original cassette EP they released in the late 80’s, so it’s been great to update the technology.

13. Come on Children Let’s Sing: Mahalia Jackson – I bought a two disc set of her live earlier in the year – this song is just such a celebratory one.

14. Outrageous: Paul Simon – The kids found a VHS tape of the Muppets, and the guest star was Paul Simon, which gave me the perfect excuse to listen to something in the car other than kids’ music (woo hoo!). I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel – I like to think my parents named me Simon because of Paul Simon, but I don’t think they did.

15. Positive Bleeding: Urge Overkill – Takes me back to the early 90’s.

16. Bad: U2 – Saw them live for the fourth time. They still put on a great live show, and they played this, one of my favourites. For Ian.

ain’t got time to die: my soundtrack to 2009

It’s taken longer than usual, but here’s my soundtrack to 2009.  Like a movie soundtrack, music accompanies events and periods of my life.  This is a way to reflect on my year AND have a productive outcome – a compilation album of quality music.  I recommend any and all of these songs and the albums they come from.  Enjoy!

Marker in the Sand – Pearl Jam
I went on a massive Pearl Jam bender for the last 6 months of the year, just putting every Pearl Jam album I have on my mp3 player and soaking it up.  Who knows why?  But this was a standout.   Great light and shade.

Counting Crows – Cowboys (live from Palais Theatre, Melbourne, 27-3-09)
After cancelling their Australian tour 4 years ago, they finally came back – and it was worth the wait.  In two nights they blew through two MASSIVE sets of more than 22 songs each, repeating just one.  The main song I wanted to hear was Cowboys.  When they opened with it, I knew it would be a good night.

Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine
One night this year I just happened to catch a new documentary called Chicago 10.  Strangely I’d never heard of these guys who had been arrested and tried as the Chicago 7 (then 8 when Bobby Seale was indicted, and now they call themselves the Chicago 10 because their lawyers got caught up in it…).  Anyway, it was a truly inspiring story of a bunch of activists who proceed, at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, to make a public mockery of the government and judicial systems by their wit, humour, and anti-establishment spirit.  The director decided that if he was going to tell this story in 2009, he would need to update the music.  This is from the soundtrack.

Adelaide – Ben Folds Five
I made two trips to Adelaide this year – once to be keynote for a Uniting Church young leaders conference, and the other to hang out with my friend John Dear for the weekend.  Both were amazing.  I did warn the UC crew with my opening line, “I might as well apologise now.  Everything I know about Adelaide I learned from Ben Folds.”

Onion Skin – Boom Crash Opera
I picked up the best of BCO for about $10 and it transported me back to my high school years like a crazy time machine…anyway, January 2009 was devoted to them as well.  I have a vivid memory of listening to all of these on repeat during the National Christian Youth Convention I was involved in, so this was the soundtrack to having 150 Christian kids descend on BAe Systems, the world’s 3rd largest weapons manufacturer. Weird?  Yes.

Inside Job – Pearl Jam
Great patient buildup.

I’ll not lose my faith
It’s an inside job today
I know this one thing

Landslide – Lior
Yeah, what can I say.  I just like it.

Live Forever – Oasis
Counting Crows do an amazing piano version of this as an intro to Long December, but if you don’t already know the original you really need to.  Classic.  I listened to this a lot this year.

Maybe
I don’t really wanna know
How your garden grows
‘Cos I just wanna fly…

Ain’t Got Time to Die – Acapella
The first time I heard this song was Jarrod singing it in the back of the police transporter on the way back to Rockhampton.  We ran through every spiritual we knew, and then taught each other ones we didn’t.  It was so much fun, and I realised that this is what group singing is for – to collectively affirm truths when we most need them, and to deepen the meaning of things at such times.  If we don’t practice them together beforehand we don’t have them to reach for when we need them.

Lord I keep so busy workin’ for the Kingdom
I keep so busy workin’ for the Kingdom
Keep so busy workin’ for the Kingdom
Ain’t got time to die

Come in from the Cold – Joni Mitchell
Have I had a yearly soundtrack without Joni in it?  I don’t always listen to her, but there’s always a time of year when I listen to her a lot.  This happened to be in the dead of winter.  Perfect.

Back in 1957
We had to dance a foot apart
And they hawkeyed us from the sidelines
Holding their rulers without a heart
And so with just a touch of the fingers
It could make our circuitry explode
All we ever wanted was just to come in from the cold

Counting Crows – Miami (live from Palais Theatre, Melbourne, 30-03-09)
As I said, they repeated just one song in their two Melbourne shows.  That song was Miami, and they did it electric the first night, and then acoustic the other.  This is the acoustic version, and includes a new interlude.

If you knew everything
If you could see everything
Before it happened
What would you do?
If you knew that the love that you threw away
Would mean everything to her
If you knew it would ruin her
What would you do?

Let It Go – Resonance Choir
This is the closing song for inspiral evening prayers (a Leunig poem set to music), but it gained new meaning for me in Queensland in July.  It was my first night in the lockup, and we put in solitary.  They wouldn’t let us eat, and wouldn’t give me my prayer book, but I sang this song to the cells around me for an hour as a prayer and a meditation.  This is a recording of Anthony’s old choir too – listen out for him!

The Path to Your Door – Gyan and Leunig (with Paul Kelly)
My birthday gift from Chris and Jane was this remarkable cd of a woman called Gyan who has put a whole bunch of Leunig poems to music.  From the strange (Billy the Rabbit is dead) to the beautiful (Summer Palace), it’s a truly fascinating listen.  I never fail to find this one deeply moving.

camo cap in an internet cafe

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While I was in Queensland we were under police and ASIO surveillance for a lot of the time, but the most bizarre thing that happened had nothing to do with being photographed or videoed.  I went in to an internet cafe to keep our friends in touch with what was happening.  It was one of those cafes with two long benches against each wall, completely clear of any clutter so you could put your laptop there.  Against one wall was a group of three teenage girls and an older couple, so I chose the bench that was clear of anyone.  After a minute or two of typing away I looked next to me and there sat this camouflage cap, right next to my hand.

It was the weirdest thing – I had seen nor sensed anyone close enough to me to put it there, nor had anyone set up next to me that could have accidentally left it.  It was somewhat like being pickpocketed, except that I was gifted something instead.

I’m still not entirely sure why it was put there, or who by – but it seemed clearly enough intended to communicate something to me, perhaps about knowing why I was there.  Anyway, I just gave it to the guy behind the counter and told him someone left it behind.   I wish I’d kept it, but I have this photo instead.