Tuesday, December 31, 2013

20 Songs I Liked This Year (PART 2)

Here's the rest of the songs I liked this year, continuing on from the last post in alphabetical order...

Hold On We're Going Home by Drake ft. Majid Jordan

I don't actually know why I like this song.  I'm not a big Drake fan, though I guess this song is pretty different from most of his stuff anyway.  Maybe because Danice has played it so much and it's just worked its way into my heart.  It was released just before Danice & I came out publicly, and I found it calming in that chaotic time.  Hold on, we're going home.

Lisa Baby by Walk the Moon

Walk the Moon is another example of a band I discovered through PS22, and a good example of a band I like that Danice is fairly indifferent towards, but she came to their concert anyway, with me & Cara, and had a relatively good time, except during the one song she hates (I Can Lift a Car - the one I linked to above - because, as she says, who can actually lift a car all by themselves?  I told her it's a metaphor, but she still doesn't like it.)  I feel too old to like Walk the Moon, as evidenced by the average age of people at their concert, but I think they write good hooks, play tight, sing a good falsetto, and put on an energetic show.

Only Love by Ben Howard

I think I first heard Ben Howard this year through a roommate's influence, but I can't remember which one (Sharlene? Britney? Cara?), and ended up downloading his whole album.  His album is great particularly for chill times, like when I was doing a puzzle with my family last week.  This is a simple, repetitive song, but it's so beautiful and entrancing.  I recently looked up a video of him playing the song, in an attempt to learn it myself, and discovered (after staring at his strange fingerings in confusion) that he is a lefty guitarist.  So that's another point in his favour.

 Pilot Me by Josh Garrels

I first heard this re-worked hymn at Britney & Jordan's wedding, during the signing of the registry, so it carries instant memories of that beautiful May day.  It was also what forced me to finally listen to this Josh Garrels that everyone had talked about.  Remember my love for falsetto?  This guy has falsetto.  Ulysses is another favourite of mine, but I can't sing it because it goes too high and too low for me.  His concert at St. Andrew's Wesley church was not only a hip-Christians-of-Vancouver reunion - it provided breathtakingly beautiful acoustics for a gorgeous voice.

 Retrograde by James Blake

This might be my favourite song of the year, and I discovered it randomly on my Facebook feed.  I then played it at my office desk literally 20 times on repeat.  That flighty and plaintive hummed riff... the alternately faint and punchy vocals... the sparseness on either side of the big synth part... the moment when the synth drops, and the moment when it disappears... I have no idea what he's singing about, but I'm hooked.  Can't convince Danice on this one, either, but at least Cara is with me - it's GOOD.

 Suit & Tie by Justin Timberlake ft. Jay-Z

This one takes me back to our Grammy party, when we first heard the song and saw it performed with JT and those snazzy, jazzy dancers.  I remember Jenny Toews, Jacquie and Danice going crazy.  I remember thinking that I could maybe finally legitimately like JT's music, a couple decades after most of my peers.  This has become a dance party favourite, and Danice and I also splurged to see JT & Jay-Z do it live with thousands of other Vancouverites at BC Place this summer.  Here's the equally impressive SNL performance.

Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend seems like a pretentious band to like, but I can't help it - their music makes me instantly happy.  Who else could make such a profound reflection on the reality that most Christians think most people on earth are going to burn in hell forever, and do it to such a peppy melody and beat?  For some reason I can't handle the whiny background melody on the equally profound Ya Hey, so this track is the one I've listened to instead.

Where's the Fun in Forever by Miguel

I think Danice first played this for me on our road trip down to Los Angeles to visit Kat, as a break from all the West Coast hip hop she wanted me to be exposed to on our drive.  I was struck by the awesome bass line in this song, and asked her to write it down on the list of songs I wanted to steal from her once we had access to our computers again.  It's smooth R&B at its best.  And it's much better than the one with a hashtag where he sings with a very scantily-clad Mariah Carey.  What's the deal with the girl-on-your-motorcycle trend in pop music?

The Wire by Haim

This is a late entry on my list... One day, a few weeks ago, Danice said, "I think you'd like Haim.  You should check them out."  She knows me well.  I have been liking the tight sound of the drum-machine/hand-clap trend lately.  This one puts that to good use, and has a very singable chorus, and an over-the-top but funny video.  And they've got the sibling thing drawing me in again.  But I gotta say, their live performance on SNL left a lot to be desired.  I think I like them only after their sound has been well-produced.  :)

You Ain't Alone by Alabama Shakes

A good way to end the list.  As we head into the new year, you ain't alone.  And if you ever feel alone, or like you don't fit in or belong, check out a video of Brittany Howard, lead singer of the Alabama Shakes.  She is one of the most surprising human beings I've encountered this year.  She definitely doesn't "fit in" in terms of traditional pop star proportions or personalities, but she is so, so, so wonderful and talented and humble and unabashedly herself.  At their concert back in March, I couldn't take my eyes off her.  She blew my socks off - I felt like I was watching a living legend.  And she's only 23.

Monday, December 30, 2013

20 Songs I Liked This Year (first installment)

Most of the music I listen to, I listen to because Danice introduces me to it.  This is very convenient for me, because I have very little drive to actually discover new music on my own.  Danice loves making best-of lists at the end of the year.  I made a list of my own this year, and for some reason (likely egomania, but hopefully a drive to share what I love), I want to put it here on my blog.

These are not the best songs of 2013 (some of them didn't even come out this year, and many are guilty pleasures).  Rather, they're the ones that got stuck in my head in 2013, the ones that instantly bring back memories of 2013, and the ones I hope I'll revisit in future years.

Oh yeah, and only five of them overlap with Danice's list.  I am my own person!

In alphabetical order, here are the first 10.


Afterlife by Arcade Fire

Danice bought this album last month right before our trip to visit Lexi and Lindsey in Victoria.  This song stood out for both of us as being the catchiest and most hopeful.  They're right - "afterlife" is an awful word.  I also loved this video, and how it surprised me by breaking the fourth wall.

Again by John Legend

This was the first year I got into John Legend.  No idea why it took me so long.  I had a live performance of this one on repeat for a while earlier this year, just soaking up this guy's sultry vocal poetry and sometimes-sloppy-in-the-heat-of-the-moment broken piano chords.  Love all the dynamics he drags me through.

Can't Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

My sisters, Danice and I had some great discussions this summer about Macklemore and the complexities of privilege and ally-ship and advocacy in the wake of Same Love.  I'm still a little hesitant about being a full-on Macklemore fan, but this song made me want to dance this year, and carries absolutely zero controversy.  Couldn't get the "naa naa na-na naa na-na-na" part out of my head.  The video is a lot of fun, too.

Closer by Tegan & Sara

Yes, I'm a lesbian, and I'm supposed to like Tegan & Sara, but I can't get into their earlier music.  Even this newer more successful album didn't hook me.  But this song was different.  I saw the video, and it made me so genuinely happy, because it reminded me of the best of our dance parties.  I successfully recreated the poofy pink streamer ceiling decoration at our Valentine's Day house dance party.

 Dance in the Graveyards by Delta Rae

I'm a PS22 fan - if you haven't heard of them, google them.  Sometimes I'm introduced to music by watching videos of PS22 singing with bands, and that's how I discovered Delta Rae.  I got hooked on their video of the gritty song Bottom of the River with PS22, but Dance in the Graveyards was the much more hopeful song that I actually downloaded and listened to.  Most of their stuff reminds me of sappy CCM bands, but what can I say - I have a soft spot for sibling harmonies.  Disclaimer: this video kind of sucks.

Drunk in Love by Beyonce

Beyonce's surprise album drop a couple weeks ago meant an absolute derailing of my Friday morning with Danice, as all our plans got pushed back by a video-watching session.  I have since watched them through a few times, and they're pretty incredible, though more explicitly about sex than her previous material.  They have inspired excellent debates in my house about whether Beyonce can really call herself a feminist if she plays into patriarchy by using her nearly-naked body to market her music, and whether she can tell us to love our bodies no matter what when she herself is so stereotypically beautiful, and how she can possibly sustain a healthy monogamous marriage when she lets the whole world see every part of this aforementioned body.  Debates aside, this music is going to be playing on my iTunes for a long time.  And with the exception of the "surfboard" part, I love this song and the way it makes married sex sound sexy.

Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

Here's a woman I can definitely call a feminist, and who regularly challenges traditional ideas of beauty and patriarchy.  Her concert a couple years ago proved to me that she's a freakin genius.  This song will remind me of the drive up to Whistler with Danice last month, where we got engaged.  The riff on "way-ay-ay-ay-ay down" is regularly in my head.

Fam Jam by Shad

I get a little fan-girl-ish talking about Shad because he's the most talented artist who has ever skirted the edges of my world - he goes to church with a bunch of my friends, and I was in a class with him once.  I know, I know, I'm almost famous.  His Flying Colours is the first hip hop album I've actually listened to slowly, looking up the lyrics, delighting over each clever move and double-entendre.  I could have picked many songs off the album (verse 3 of Stylin! seriously!), but this one has the best video.  He is at the top of his game, but he never takes himself too seriously...

Get Lucky by Daft Punk

Most danceable song of 2013.  I know, it's everywhere, but I can't help loving it.  And I especially enjoy the fact that Danice got in hot water for playing it in a DJ set at a youth retreat. 

Green Garden by Laura Mvula

Laura's music is some of the most uniquely beautiful I've heard this year, as is her striking face.  She surprised me especially with her jazzy and sometimes discordant vocal chords.  This album is pretty sleepy, in a good way, with a lot of slower, relaxing, study-to-able music.  But this track gets you moving.  And the video is one of the best I've seen all year.


Next 10 coming soon!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sermon for the Holy Fools

Hi guys,

Some folks have been asking to read a piece I had published in Geez magazine this month.  It was written for a "Sermons you would never hear in church" contest.  First, the disclaimers and fine print:

1: I don't know if you can really call it a "sermon" with a 750 word limit.  And sermons are meant to be spoken, not written & read, in my opinion.
2: I believe the purpose of a sermon is to open up Scripture and let it breathe in our lives.  I don't explicitly do that here - it's more autobiographical for the purposes of the contest.  Nevertheless, I believe there is some Good News (gospel) in it.

3: When I wrote this back in August, I was coming out publicly, and I had strong thoughts & feelings.  I still do, but know that these things shift and settle somewhat as time passes.

4: This is the version I submitted - the version they published was edited somewhat, including a title change.

5: Even though I'm posting this here, you should still go out and buy (and subscribe to) Geez!  It's a fringes-of-church kind of publication that never fails to make me think, even when I vehemently disagree with the columnists.

Ok enough!  Here it is....


Sermon for the Holy Fools

“You’re a holy fool.”

I hardly ever trust those next-thought-that-pops-into-your-head-is-God’s-message-to-you exercises.  But a year ago, I was on retreat, that’s what they told us to do, and that’s what I heard.

At the time, it made me laugh.  I interpreted it as a divine “lighten up”.  More recently, though, I wondered if “holy fool” had deeper meaning.  Google unearthed some intriguing Russian Orthodox saints who claimed the title, but they didn’t seem to have much in common with me.  

So what kind of holy fool am I?

I am a fool in love.  I am a female pastor who fell in love with another female pastor at an evangelical seminary.  We spent five years standing at a crossroads.  Would we love in a celibate, closeted way, and seek ordination in our denomination?  Or would we love in a romantic, hopefully eventually married way, and be disqualified?

Yesterday, we told everyone we’re gay and in love, irreversibly becoming (in the minds of many) two women pointing their love all in the wrong directions and calling it good.  We have become the Lesbian Pastors, our sexuality suddenly overshadowing all our other legitimate character traits.  We have been called saints for our ministry among the addicted, the homeless, and the teenaged, but by revealing that we ourselves belong in a marginalized group, we will be called sinners and fools.

Being gay is not foolish; we couldn’t have chosen otherwise.  What’s foolish is when two pastors reveal they’re gay when they could have easily hidden and progressed in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” world of evangelicalism.  Even more foolish: two gay pastors pursuing marriage mostly because it seems right to the Holy Spirit and to them, because they can’t imagine how their mutually sacrificial love increases the overall sin quotient of humanity.  How foolish, like the Virgin herself, to proceed on this reputation-destroying course after having an experience of God they can’t conclusively validate in Scripture; to have nothing to lean on except this mischievous God, and the few would-be Elizabeths in their lives who call them blessed.

While this “fool” role is new to me, the “holy” part has been my life’s project.  I’m the eldest child of a pastor, the product of a long fixation on other people’s perceptions of my piety.  Regrettably, striving to earn the favor of God and my peers has yielded more pride and perfectionism than holiness.  Ironically, receiving regular criticism for this foolish life choice could create the very conditions required to wean me from my addiction to approval.  It could be what propels me down the long path toward true, humble holiness.  

One test of my developing holiness will be whether my love can overflow even onto those who call us fools, or worse.  When they label us “sinners,” will I grin and answer, “You bet, but probably not in the ways you’d think”?  When they hurl more biting titles like “dyke,” “heretic,” and “abomination,” will I translate them “fool,” and rejoice in the company we keep?  Will perfect love overcome all our fear?

As of today, we are recently pulpit-less holy fools in training.  We can no longer pastor among those in our clan, now that we have been denominationally deemed unfit to do so.  Sadly, we have plenty of sermons they do not have ears to hear.

So instead of preaching to them, I speak now to the fellowship of the disqualified, to the addicted, incarcerated, prostituted, shamed, pitied, and damned.  You outcasts, you so-called sinners, all holy fools, whether gay or straight, tell me: do you have room for me, my words, and my gifts?  How wide is your tent?  I know I only have one lesbian toe over your threshold, while most of my well-educated, middle-class, white, cisgender self is firmly rooted in the world of the privileged.  Can I come in anyway?

I want to be with you, to be counted among you, you who renounce all the condescending descriptors in my last paragraph and instead dare to call yourselves beloved.  I want to follow you and the Spirit into places we’ve been told not to go.  I want to taste freedom by your side and speak grace in your presence.  I want to delight together in the mischievous king who chooses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, and then surprises us by welcoming everyone, wise and foolish, ashamed and unashamed, to a wedding feast without a guest list.