Tuesday Two-Step: Tetherball & TW Walsh

Woo it’s been a bit since we’ve done one of these!

Nashville’s Tetherball has a way of combining smart indie-pop with an almost doo-wop sensibility on their new single “Social Jedi.” The guitars take you along “tumbling down this ladder” right behind the vocals while the drums keep you snapping right along with it. It’s a brisk little tune that felt like it was over too soon, a testament to how much I wanted to play around in the sound. Check out the Pac-Man themed video below and get a little more of a taste of Tetherball when the EP Pheromone Flood comes out February 26th.

We’ve also got a new video from TW Walsh, formerly of Pedro the Lion.  “Fundamental Ground” kicks off with the line “I’ve been in this room for way too long.” The song feels haunting in a way that expresses the melancholy of not going anywhere even as you search for something bigger out there, that base thing that must be holding up everything else. Walsh’s vocals have an uncertainty to them that plays up this theme.  Check out “Fundamental Ground” here and pick up TW Walsh’s new album Fruitless Research when it releases this Friday.

Reflect

I WROTE THIS ONE IN THE SKY WE’RE LIVING IN THE FUTURE

Now we see in a mirror dimly but then we will see face to face

What are we looking for?

What are we hoping to see reflected back at us?

Are we looking to see the divine, somehow captured in our own visage?

I mean, that’s the image we were made in after all.

Or maybe we’re desperately hoping that God looks more like us, that we can be ourselves and know that we’re still doing okay

But that dimly lit reflection, that fog on the mirror that develops after we clean ourselves up keeps us from seeing the whole picture.

Because it’s dangerous to say that God looks like me

Because then God can’t be you, or anyone else. In that reflection only lies saying what God cannot possibly be and I don’t think that God works.

It’s not about seeing ourselves in God but being able to know that there is a divine spark present in us

Maybe the reflection we need isn’t our own face but to examine what we need to see staring back at us.

And eventually we’ll stop looking at ourselves to find that, transfixed by our own reflection, and go become that mirror for the world.

Reflecting back the beauty that was always there.

Anatomy

So they say it’s kind of like being a body

That we’re all connected together but we have different parts to play

Eyes can’t see without hands that can’t move without feet

Each one with a different role to play that allows us to function as we were intended

Roles that we were designed to fill, that we can fit into perfectly if only we can find out what we are.

Maybe we are eyes, looking forward, examining things, finding what lies ahead for each of us

Maybe we are those ears, listening to others, processing perspectives that may not be our own

Maybe we’re a thumb, helping to hold on to things that we can’t bear to let go.

Maybe we’re a stomach, taking things in, breaking them down, making them possible to consume and provide energy.

But what Paul didn’t talk about is the days where you feel like an appendix.

Feeling like no one understands your purpose.

Maybe you don’t quite get it either.

That you feel like you’re an unsung hanger-on.

But even in those days, there’s a purpose.

The appendix is a safe-haven for the bacteria that help out in digestion, in taking the food and drink that we take in and turning them into energy

When they get pushed away from their homes by some outside force, the appendix welcomes them in.

And I know this is a little more gut science than you find in most poetry but it needs to be said that even this organ that for the longest time seemed to exist only to cause pain and be removed has value, has a purpose, has a reason to belong to the body.

And on those appendix days, I hope I remember that. Sometimes it takes a long time to discover a purpose, a reason to realize you belong, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

The body needs all of us, no matter what we decide we are.

Lights Will Guide You Home

I’m fascinated by lighthouses

With all the advances we’ve had in technology there’s still a need for these pillars to shoot these radiant beams out over the water

To show that there is a safe place waiting for people

A port in a storm.

Built to hold up against the wind and the waves that rock ships and brace against the foundation of the lighthouse itself.

Because somewhere along the line people realized that all of these other things can fail

But the light? The light never does.

Gasping for Air

Continuing my lectionary poetry project, this piece is based on Mark 1:1-11

Listen. Did you hear it?

There was a sound of expectations rending apart, something heavenly being split open

The divide that was between us and what is much greater than us has been smashed and from the looks of it I don’t think we’re putting it back together that easily.

And as we look to see what could have possibly made that hole in the heavens all we can find is a tiny dove.

A dove and a voice are all we get to see as proof that this rending, this tearing, this schism is worth seeing.

And these  two guys that say all I have to do is get in the water. That it’ll wash everything away, let me start fresh

I tell them they’ll have to hold me under a while. I’ve got a bit more grime on me than I’d like to admit

The water is so cold. You’d think it would be refreshing for what it claims to do but all I can feel as I wade in is my chest tightening up as the chill bites at me, working its way up my bones.

They plunge me beneath the surface and I’m underwater for what feels like forever, like they took my joke about my grime all too seriously. Everything feels like it’s closing in around me, the icy water seeming to freeze, encasing me in this mistake. I was simply too dirty to get clean.

Light. I see glorious light as I’m brought up, terrified, soaking wet, gasping for breath as if I thought I’d never get the chance to feel air in my lungs again.

I hear something in the distance, barely audible over my own distracted panting. Something about someone being “well pleased.”

Am I any different now? Has anything changed? All I can think of is surviving this frigid bath I just undertook.

But as I haul myself out of the water, I feel the light on me again and I am warmer than I’ve ever been. And when I look down at my arms, still dripping from the water, I see a shine that I haven’t noticed in a long time.

Discovery

When you think about it, the Magi were just First Century paparazzi.

They heard from someone else the location of someone important

They showed up unannounced, unexpected, and interrupted someone’s private moment

They come to worship, nominally. They come to adore what they’ve found

But in reality I think they’re here to prove that this star is just like us.

I can’t help but wonder if Mary and Joseph ever knew a peaceful night while they waited in Bethlehem, snuggled up close to God

I wonder if between the constant flow of people who those shepherds had shown the way, moving out of a lowly stable to finally find room at an inn, and the crying of a helpless Lord if they had time to rest.

I wonder if they asked God to maybe turn off that star that burned brightly overhead for just one night

And here these people arrive. Because of that same star.

“We thought we would find a king here, so here we are!”

And they rejoice, exuberantly yet briefly, and leave these gifts

I wonder if Mary and Joseph appreciated the sentiment but wished they would’ve all just brought gold instead of the other stuff.

And we call this an Epiphany.

We call this a moment of insight, a spark of realization

This idea that a star could be just like us

That God could be more than something far away

That God could be with us right here and now

It’s having all these words, these prophecies, these tales of something that is to come and in one moment having a realization: It’s all true.

And the Magi slunk back to their own country, warned not to make that short trip back to Jerusalem to let everyone know what they had found.

Unable to sell those people on the story they worked so hard to uncover.

And yet there is still joy on this day of Epiphany

Because we can still discover for ourselves what awaits us underneath yonder star.

The Catch-Up: Frank Turner

So this is going to be something a little different from the first two parts of The Catch-Up. This isn’t going to be a quick little review of Frank Turner’s Positive Songs for Negative People (If you really need that here’s an even shorter one: I liked it a whole lot).

One song in particular caught my attention on my few spins through the album. On the song “Demons,” Turner goes on about living life to the fullest, how “Time is not there to be saved.” The song ruminates on taking advantage of everything that one comes across, even going as far to say “If life gives you demons, make a deal.” Not to shy away from temptation or evil but to take hold of the power that may be offered. I appreciated the shot taken at Pascal’s Wager (the idea that you should say you believe in God on the chance that God exists just to cover your bases and not go to hell) because even as a pastor I think that’s the worst possible reason and method to engage with faith. And while I think that Frank and I would disagree on the true value of selling one’s soul to experience life to the fullest, or even whether or not it’s for the best to give in to every temptation just for the story you’ll have after, I think that he’s got something to say about how we end up using the life that we have.

The chorus starts with the line “You’re not delivering a perfect body to the grave,” and I think that’s honestly poignant. There is a call for the Christian life not to be played safe, not to exist in a bubble and refuse to be tainted by “the culture” but to engage with the world around us. We’re not going to live a brief, wholly perfect life and then die. There’s no efficient way to speed-run existence, finding all the exploits that we can to get the most out of it as fast as humanly possible. We were given life to use, to serve others, to share love, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. And while this is a temporary situation that we find ourselves in, there’s something to be said about using every second of it. I believe that part of that is refusing to be stagnant, to innovate and iterate on what the Church has done well and to find ways to shore up the places where the Church has been lacking. In those moments of trying to do new things, sometimes there will be mistakes and yes, even flat out failures. But it’s not about doing the perfect thing 100% of the time. It’s about being willing to step out in faith to make use of the time that we’ve been given to help bring about something beautiful.

The song ends with “You won’t get everything you wanted/But you will never be defeated.” I think especially in this season of Advent, as the body of Christ waits in anticipation for what is to come this is something to hold close. The Christian life isn’t about getting everything you ever wanted. Pascal was a chump when he reduced the whole thing down to heaven or hell. But it does come with knowing at the end of all things, God is with us. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

The Catch-Up: Cavanaugh

I was introduced to Open Mike Eagle through his incredible performance with Thundercat on Why? with Hannibal Burress. His A Special Episode EP entered steady rotation and digging back through his discography showed me an artist who had a unique style about him. So when I heard about Cavanaugh, his collaboration with Serengeti I was pretty excited to listen to it. Time and Materials is a concept album about a high-rise building that contains both luxury condos and section 7 housing and keeps the different groups of residents split by using separate entrances. The story is told through the characters of maintenance men Mike and Dave and gives Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti exaggerated versions of themselves to play off of as they spit grim lyrics about the life of blue collar artists.

The production, handled entirely by Open Mike Eagle (his first time to produce an entire project) has a dark electronic vibe to it. Opening track “Zorak” has an almost industrial quality as Dave and Mike trade verses  on top of it. Lead single “Screen Play” has our two characters discussing their lives outside of work, how they wish they would be able to leave it behind but they can’t. It feels like these two characters are talking to each other because they know that no one else is going to understand them. It’s a lonely song but one that’s handled with such care that it ends up being the best possible introduction to the people we’ll be spending the rest of the album with

There’s a line that haunts the final track that I can’t get away from. “Lemons” opens with a chant of “Keep the us with the uses/The yous with the yous.” In this world that Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti have created there’s a tension between the two groups that make up the Cavanaugh development and these two, Mike and Dave, are the only ones who get to see both sides. There’s both an isolating feeling of knowing that they are the only ones who can get the whole story (this probably plays into the melancholy that looms over the whole album) and a responsibility to tell that story even if it gets to be too much. The characters of Mike and Dave seem to need each other because no one else wants to listen.

Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti have made something special with Cavanaugh. The two emcees work in a near-perfect sync to make something much bigger then either has done alone and I can’t wait to hear what story they decide to tell next.

The Catch-Up: Chappo

So here’s what’s happening: Every December I say that I’m going to do a big rush through a bunch of albums to get a big picture of what came out this year outside of what I loved semi-obsessively on my own. Every year I do not do that thing. So this year in an effort to get back into a regular writing groove I’m picking at least one album a day that I haven’t listened to this year and spending some time with it. The plan is to write something short about each one here on Irrational Confidence every day but if it turns out an album give me no strong feelings one way or another you might just get a tweet or two. You can follow along with the project at http://tinyurl.com/catchup2015 and even add in some stuff you think I might have missed. We’re not going in any particular order other than I’m saving Wilco’s Star Wars for Friday as a desperate reach for a theme.

I found Chappo right when I started research for this project scanning through this list of under-the-radar albums from Don Saas over at Baeble Music. Don described Future Former Self as a mix of T. Rex, Tame Impala and just a hint of Rush, but somehow a little more than that. I’m inclined to agree, as Chappo runs the gamut from 80’s glam-rock on “I’m Not Ready” to some delightful funk on “Mad Magic” to something a bit more psychedelic on “Run Me Into the Ground.” The latter was a track that I kept coming back to as a palate cleanser, not because I disliked any of the others, quite the opposite. It was just a nice place for a come-down after the high energy grooves of the rest of the album. It’s one of those songs that has the ability to wash over you, a slow, near-full body nod in comparison to something like “Hold On” and its uncanny ability to make me want to break out into my trademark indie-kid shuffle.

Chappo has a distinct sound that takes their obvious glam influences and focuses them into something just a bit different. The vocals on every track have a tendency to float just over the track as a compliment to the soundscapes being created underneath. The instrumentals, with their jangly guitars and groovy drums feel full. There’s a lot happening in every track without it being distracting. Everything feels distinct and I mean that as a great compliment. I think that Future Former Self was a great place to start The Catch-Up and Chappo has set a high bar for the rest of the project. Check out the video for “Hold On” below and we’ll see you tomorrow for part 2!