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)


Jesus loves the little children

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

This is one of the first songs I learnt as a child. I have recordings my parents made of my brother and sister and I singing it, my squeaky little voice chiming in with “Jesuh luvvah little pouldren”. How could Jesus not love little pouldren? They’re so cute and delightful and innocent.

I’ve been pondering this song again in recent days. Last week nine such children (in this case brown, not black, red, yellow or white) – aged between 7 and 9 – were gunned down by a U.S. helicopter while collecting firewood in the mountains of Afghanistan. A tenth boy escaped, severely injured, and deeply traumatised by watching his brothers and friends shot to pieces.

Yet did this make the news? Not in Australia. Was there outrage? Not in the NATO or ISAF countries. A shrug, an apology, mutterings about “collateral damage” at best.

Imagine for a moment this had happened in Australia. Nine children gunned down while collecting firewood. The response would be incendiary. Jesus might love the little children, but we appear not to – not if they’re Afghan, anyway.

What does “Jesus love the little children” mean when our “friends” and “allies” are gunning them down?

I assume by “Jesus loves the little children” most Christians mean “Jesus wants all the little children to accept him into their heart so they can go to heaven when they die” rather than “Jesus wants the little children to have long happy productive peaceful lives where they aren’t killed by helicopter gunships.” I assume we mean something like, “I hope Jesus makes everything ok” rather than, “As the hands and feet of Jesus in the world I need to demonstrate love to the children of Afghanistan.”

But maybe you and I are the hands and feet of Jesus. That’s certainly what Paul was thinking when talked about the church as the Body of Christ. Could it be that “Jesus loves the little children” might mean you and I need to put ourselves in the way of these little children being harmed? Could it be that it means you and I need to demand our government stop with the bullets and the bombs so that Afghan children can live without the fear of Hellfire missiles landing on their homes, or white men with guns bursting into their houses in the middle of the night?

I suspect “Jesus loves the little children” means that Afghan children are no less precious than your children and my children. But how will they know if we don’t show them?

For more info on the ways the NATO and ISAF forces continue to tolerate Afghan “collateral damage,” see this meticulously researched article by Afghans for Peace.

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.

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.

Insignificant: Simon’s soundtrack 2008

Landed – Ben Folds Five
There are not many songs that can last as long as this one has

I opened my eyes and walked out the door
And the clouds came tumbling down
And it’s bye-bye, goodbye, I tried
And I twisted it wrong just to make it right
Had to leave myself behind
I’ve been flying high all night
So come pick me up…I’ve landed

Joan Baez – Love Song to a Stranger
Joan was the unofficial voice of the 1960’s and 70’s US peace movement – an amazing voice and an amazing person who has been at the forefront of some of the most powerful nonviolent movements of the last 40 years. I picked up Joan’s autobiography for 50c at an op shop on the inspiral weekend away. This is a heartbreaking song about her struggle to find and understand love.

Don’t tell me of love everlasting and other sad dreams
I don’t want to hear
Just tell me of passionate strangers who rescue each other
From a lifetime of cares
Because if love means forever, expecting nothing returned
Then I hope I’ll be given another whole lifetime to learn

Peace Train – Cat Stevens
For Berrigan.

Now I’ve been happy lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I’ve been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
some day it’s going to come

Move along – All-American Rejects
Great song for riding to…

When all you gotta keep is strong
Move along move along like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along move along just to make it through

All I Want – Joni Mitchell
The opening song of her classic album ‘Blue’

I wanna have fun, I wanna shine like the sun
I wanna be the one that you want to see
I wanna knit you a sweater, I wanna write you a love letter
I wanna make you feel better, wanna make you feel free…

Michael Franti – Everyone Deserves Music
This was a regular on my rotation in the first 6 months. Got pretty thoroughly sick of it halfway through the year, but there’s no doubt it evokes a big chunk of the year.

Everyone deserves music, sweet music
Even our worst enemies, they deserve music
Even the quiet ones in our families, they deserve music.

Love Waits – Lovers Electric
Ciaron O’Reilly introduced me to these guys via a free download of their album because they’re friends of the LA Catholic Worker. It was about 6 months before I got around to listening to it and was surprised to discover not overearnest social justice folk but bubblegum electro pop. But oh so catchy.

Love waits for everyone
If you’ll wait
Love takes in everyone
If you’ll stay
Love waits for everyone
If you’ll wait
Love takes in everyone.

Insignificant – Counting Crows
In a year where Counting Crows released just their fifth studio album in almost 20 years, you have to expect at least some representation. This isn’t their best song by any stretch, but the chorus kind of sums up a lot of how I often feel. It’s Mr. Jones all grown up.

I don’t want to feel so different
But I don’t want to be insignificant
And I don’t know how to see the same thing as different now.

Come Around – Counting Crows

Wistful and nostalgic

That’s one of the reasons we say goodbye
We’ll still come around

When I First Met Your Ma – Paul Kelly
How better to write a love song about your wife than to address it to the children you share?

Love like a bird flies away
You’ll find out the only way
Love like a bird flies away.

Jesus Christ – Woody Guthrie
Covered many times, but rarely bettered. This is the song in its original stripped back glory…

Jesus Christ was a man who travelled ‘cross the land
Hard working man and brave
Well he said to the rich give your goods to the poor
So they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

Something’s Gotta Give – JBT

God bless the people in New York when they were attacked
God bless the children being bombed there in Iraq
God bless the goddamned junkie with the monkey on his back
God bless everybody under the sun

Thursday – Morphine

I’ve loved this band since I first heard them on Triple J back in the day.

Vine and Fig Tree (bonus track)

Spare Change: my soundtrack to 2007

(Spare change refers to the fact that most of these songs are from albums I picked up for under $3, but also the theme of a broader type of change, and how I’ve engaged with it more deeply this year. If you want a copy, email me your address.)

It’s been quite a year – visits from John Dear, Jarrod and Harry from Peace Tree, and Ciaron O’Reilly have inspired and moved me beyond talk of nonviolence to action. The central event of peace games in the midst of war games at Talisman Sabre continues to be a formative experience as we go through the court process into 2008. But most of all this year I’ve learnt to value my family and my mobs: Julie and the girls especially, but also inspiral, Urban Seed and Brunswick Baptist.

1. Something Beautiful – Sinead O’Connor
I picked this up for $3 at a primary school fete. It was an advanced copy of her new album Theology, in which she basically appropriates a bunch of Psalms and sings them out of her own experience. Now I’m not much one for worship songs, but this one captures it pretty much perfectly – not just the usual ‘divine ego-boosting’, but an acknowledgement of our own brokenness, and lament for the brokenness of the world, and the final cry of “Who’ll dress their wounds?” which becomes the exhortation to be “something beautiful”. It’s Sinead’s response to the events following 9/11 and you can’t help but hear the heartbreaking agony when she sings the outro.

I wanna make
Something beautiful
For you and from you
To show you
To show you
I adore you…

They dress the wounds of my poor people
As though they’re nothing
Saying “peace, peace”
When there’s no peace

And in their want
Who’ll dress their wounds?…

2. The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders Pt 1 – The Great Frontier Pt II: Come To Me With Only Playthings Now – Sufjan Stevens
I’d been hearing about Sufjan Stevens and Illinoise since 2005 when Thom Morgan was banging on about him, but I managed to hold out on hearing him until this year. The first time I heard this song was when I sat down on the plane to return to Yeppoon for our first court appearance, and I fell in love with it immediately. Partly because it’s unlike anything I’d heard before – the arrangements are so delightfully lush, and it’s more like soundtrack music than just your average pop song.

I count the days the Great Frontier
Forgiving, faced the seventh year
I stand in awe of gratefulness
I can and call forgetfulness

And when I, and when I call
The Patient, the Patient fall
The Spirit, the Carpenter
Invites us to be with her

3. The Hard Road (Restrung) – Hilltop Hoods with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
When I take kids on an Urban Seed walk, we always finish up with a reflection on the time, with a slide show set to a groovy, contemporary (but relevant) song. For years, it’s been Joel Turner’s These Kids, until this year began and we all said that if we heard These Kids once more, we’d have to do something rather unpleasant to Joel Turner (and most of his Modern Day Poets). So we found another song. And now, after a whole year of it, I’d like to do something unpleasant to the Hilltop Hoods.

Bail me out, a failure out once again,
Next weekend, bail me out, drunk again,
And I never will forgive myself,
For putting you through all that hell,
I went from high school dropout to factory labourer,
Slave to the clock until four, went from sleeping on the floor,
To being out on tour, now no stopping me,
I’ll finish with a bang like Kurt Cobains biography.

Going down the hard road, down the hard road,
Don’t know where I’ve been, and don’t know where to go its like,
Going down the hard road, down the hard road,
Don’t know where I’ve been.

4. Cowboys – Counting Crows
This album’s not out until next year, but since they’ve delayed the release of the album for six months (and because I’ve listened to it enough this year), I reserve the right to release this song right about now. It’s a return to form for what has been my favourite band for many years now.

I’ll wait for you where Saturday’s a memory
And Sunday comes to gather me
Into the arms of God who’ll welcome me
Because I believe…Oh I believe…

And I know I could look at anyone but you now
I could fall into the eyes of anyone but you now
So come on, come on, come on, come on,
Come on through now…

This is a list of what I should have been but I’m not

5. Times Like These – Jack Johnson
The night before we went into the military base we stayed at a local’s house. His support of us was totally amazing, not just giving us a place to sleep, but feeding us too. And then, just because he somehow knew, he put on Jack Johnson. And now Jack Johnson will always be that moment in my mind of perfect hospitality and the way God sometimes makes her presence so clear when you most need it.

There will always be stop and go and fast and slow
And action reaction and sticks and stones and broken bones
Those for peace and those for war
And God bless these ones not those ones but these ones

Make times like these and times like those
What will be will be and so it goes

6. Close to Me – The Cure
Picked up the Cure’s best of album for just $2 at Savers, and it’s been on regular rotation. Close to Me got more airplay than most.

But if I had your faith
Then I could make it safe and clean
If only I was sure
That my head on the door was a dream

I’ve waited hours for this
I’ve made myself so sick
I wish I’d stayed asleep today
I never thought this day would end
I never thought tonight could ever be
This close to me

7. Eve of Destruction – Screaming Jets
A sensational cover of a Barry McGuire song written in 1965, this could just as easily have been written last week. Great protest song.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around at your own backyard
You may leave here for four days in space
And when you return it’s the same old place
They’re pounding out the drums, the fright and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next-door-neighbor but don’t forget to say your grace…

Tell me over and over and over again my friend
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

8. With My Hammer – Seize the Day
Following the trials and tribulations of the Pine Gap 4 was really inspiring for me, and lots of what was done early this year by the Christian Activist Network was supporting them. This song comes from the album put out to raise funds for their defence, and is itself an incredibly inspiring story about the four women who participated in the Seeds of Peace Ploughshares action, when they disabled an Indonesian warplane bound for East Timor.

With my hammer I break the chains
I will not remain in silence
I will stand and I will defend
My right to fight against violence
No prison can contain the freedom that we gain
When we move through fear

9. This Flight Tonight – Joni Mitchell
I spent a lot of time away from home this year, at least compared to usual. I swore I’d never get sick of flying, it’s too much fun, but there were some times this year when I was done with it. But this song is less about flying than it is about being away from home…from those people and places you love. There were definitely lots of times this year when I missed those I loved, especially because of the geographical distances between us. This is about sitting on the plane and thinking, “Turn this crazy bird around…I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight…”

I’m drinking sweet champagne
Got the headphones up high
Can’t numb you out
Can’t drum you out of my mind
They’re playing goodbye baby, baby goodbye,
Ooh, ooh, love is blind

Starbright, starbright
You got the lovin’ that I like, all right
Turn this crazy bird around
I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight

10. Never Never Gonna Give You Up – Barry White
Picked up Barry White’s Best Of for 50 cents at a Salvos Op Shop, and it’s totally awesome. This is vintage Barry. Barry White always makes me think of my mate Anthony. Not for romantic reasons, just because when I first met Anthony at a nonviolence workshop, we were set the task of creating our ideal nonviolent community, and Anthony decided that in such a community, people would only listen to Barry White. I can see why. How can you fight with music like this?

Never, never gonna give you up
I’m never, ever gonna stop
Not the way I feel about you
Girl, I just can’t live without you

I’m never ever gonna quit,
‘Cause quittin’ just ain’t my schtick
I’m gonna stay right here with you
Do all the things you want me to

11. On This Side – Claire Bowditch
Last summer I’d been listening to a bit of Claire and was just loving how local it is. This is just a happy little tune about everyday joys. And that’s what I’ve learnt towards the end of this year – that running around furiously trying to save the world means nothing when you don’t have a healthy home life. I know that now.

It’s a quiet night at home now,
Little miracles in bed
And a birdy on my windowsill,
That makes happy happen in my heard.
It’s funny all the little things,
So boring to describe,
They taught my joy her roots,
And they brought my life alive.

12. Touch – Noiseworks
Corny? Heck yeah. Overearnest 80’s pop rock? You better believe it. Just let yourself go, get caught up in the soaring guitar riffs and you’ll feel it.

Another day is goin’ out, yeah
A sea of faces cryin’ out
With all we have today
You think we’d stop and take a look now, yeah
All I want to say
Is maybe that we should reach out

Everybody – reach out and reach out and
Reach out and touch somebody
Reach out and reach out and
Reach out and touch somebody

13. Dogs – Damien Rice
This year I decided I would make more intentional time to be alone, for my sanity. One Monday (my day off) in January I went to a park over in Northcote and laid down in the shade of a tree for an hour and just listened to music. There were certain points when I was listening to this song where it was pure bliss; you’re lost in the feelings the music evokes in you, and it’s nothing but delight.

She lives with an orange tree
The girl that does yoga
She picks the dead ones from the ground
When we come over

And she gives, I get without giving anything to me
Like a morning sun
Like a morning
Like a morning sun
Good good morning sun

14. Impossible – Screaming Jets
My song of the year. Screaming Jets were one of the big bands of my youth, but I somehow missed their strong social conscience. It’s been a theme song the whole year, getting more deeply involved in activism, often against what seems like overwhelming odds. But this song brings home to me that it’s not just about “winning”, it’s actually about the kind of person I want to be. Maybe the end result sometimes feels impossible…but I’m gonna die trying.

You can’t do much about whats gonna happen today
And you can’t do much about yesterday
You can’t say much against some angry individual
You can’t say much against the majority.

Well ain’t it like being impossible
But there ain’t no harm in trying
And I say hell man
Ain’t this like being impossible.
But I’m gonna die tryin’.