Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Album of the Year (So Far)

It's my responsibility, or desire, or wish, to shove good music upon you, or at least let you know it's out there. So here's my review of what I think is probably the best album released this year - Derek Webb's The Ringing Bell. (Forgive Derek for the mediocre, tired, title.)

Derek Webb’s The Ringing Bell ***** (out of five)
Released in 2007 by INO/Columbia
Derek Webb made headlines last year when he, get this, created a website to let people legally download his album Mockingbird - for free. The result was a lot of attention, and over 80,000 downloads. It got peoples attention, and made a statement, but what about the quality of music being given away? Mockingbird was a pretty good album, that lacked something that you can never quite put your hands on. I guess most of the music of the songs never felt as fully fleshed out or realized, or passionate, or good as the lyrics which accompanied it. It’s also very simple stuff, almost shockingly background, simple guitar parts, with seemingly simple, and sweet piano compositions leading the melody. That album gets much better with time, but with The Ringing Bell Derek Webb has shown his full potential.
The Ringing Bell is, quite simply, a good old rock and roll record. So much so on some tracks, that some have hailed him as the second coming of John Lennon, and the Beatles. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is this is the album that (if there’s any fairness in the world) will get peoples attention, and make countless Best Music of 07 Lists. Derek Webb’s The Ringing Bell is the best album in Christian music for years, and an A+ effort from someone who should be finally ready to break out of his shell.
This is great protest music, filled with delightful drum beats, and all the right guitar licks and flourishes, filled out with handclaps and explosions of feel good background vocals. It’s an album that is edgy, and sweet, and sad. With the lyrics "What would you do/If someone would tell you the truth/ But only if you tortured them half to death/Tell me since when do the means justify the ends/And you build the Kingdom using the devils tools," before exploding into its chorus of "Can time be short/It’s got to be a love that’s stronger than our fear/Everything went out of control/Everything went out of control," from the song "A Love that’s Stronger than Our Fear," which is anchored by its intense guitars and drums, using its riffs and beat for the shortest moments of sadness, and moral protest. Every element of every song on The Ringing Bell comes together perfectly, creating a experience that can be simultaneously beautiful, sad, and must plain perfect.
The album is only a few seconds over thirty minutes, but nothing on The Ringing Bell is wasted. It moves from one perfectly captured moment of lyrical and musical bliss, to the next. In fact, the only real flaw with the album is the disappointing openers "The End," and "The Very End" which are one song, divided into two, with just the slightest change in instrumentation to signal the changing of tracks. Together they create an eerie, slightly electronic opening, and are good for what they are but lack greatness as a song. However, after that, the album moves from one small masterpiece of an accomplishment to the next with no mistakes.
There’s "A Love that’s Stronger Than Our Fear," which I’ve discussed earlier, the simple joy, awesome bass line, of "I Want to Marry You All Over Again," the point blank awesomeness of "Name" which is undeniable god old rock and roll, with its hippy coolness and chorus that you’ll want to hear over and over again of "So baby don’t let em, don’t let em put a name on you." We also get the earning and unresolved feelings of "Can’t Be Without You," and the protest anthem "A Savior on Capitol Hill," which contains more perfectly pointed jabs at the politics of America than I ever thought a song that clocks in at just over two minutes could possibly contain. But the last song, "This Too Shall Be Made Right," is probably the best. It’s a lyrical tour de force, with Webb’s voice rasping and singing its way through what is the perfectly emotional culmination of all the music on the album that came before. The songs lyrics in their entirety are featured in this issue, immediately following this review.
With The Ringing Bell Derek Webb has created an album of pitch perfect execution, that hits all the right notes, with every song filled with the flourishes and guitar solos that perfectly compliment everything while never distracting from the core of the song. On most albums you find a handful of songs where you’ll absolutely tired of the chorus when it repeats itself for the tent time, but on The Ringing Bell you’re longing for more, because everything is just so good and stripped down to its absolute best and essential. One might complain that the album, which is just a little over thirty minutes, is too short at ten songs the first two of which are really one song separated into two, but at the end of the day The Ringing Bell leaves the listener with one question "When is Derek Webb’s," (who has been a very prolific artist in the last couple of years) "next album coming out?" I can’t wait for more: The Ringing Bell is simply one of the best albums of the year.
Top Four Songs on The Ringing Bell:
"A Love that’s Stronger than Our Fear," "I Want to Marry You All Over Again,"
"Name," "This Too Shall Be Made Right."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Introduction to the Edge of the City Blog

I don't know if I consider myself a blogger. If you don't consider yourself the person who really cares about a blog we might fit perfectly together, if you love blogs, well, we still may get along pretty well. I think of what I'll be posting here more of essays, examinations, confessions, and the like.

The idea of starting a blog began, and Imight lose some of you here, with the desire to share my thoughts about a certain television show that I admire. I found it preferable that I should not limit myself to one topic (which is, you could say, what blogging is about) and therefore resolve to use this blog for the expression on all things, whether political, or non-political, may it be about a movie, or a film, or a great novel that inspired me, or an image, of a tree, or a mountain, or the sight of the lights of my city, as seen from the edge of the city.

If those words don't excite you, then I don't know what will, as I sat down writing this with nothing in particular to say, and ended it with something that has just in these last minutes moved me. Hey, I think I'm starting to like the idea of a blog, all the more since I have just began one.