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Monday, December 20, 2004

Best of 2004

Before I begin here, I'd like to point out that I've gone back and added a bunch of pictures, along with mildly amusing captions, to my end-of-tour post. Be sure to check that out, because it was kind of a pain to do and I would hate to think that no one looked at it after all that work.

I love to make year-end lists. Numbering the best records of the year would be too hard, so here they are in no particular order. No guarantees on the family-friendliness of any of these, so use your own discernment, but I will say that these are all great.

U2 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb A solid, though unadventurous, album from the world's greatest rock band. Favorite tracks: "City Of Blinding Lights," "Crumbs From Your Table," "Fast Cars" (only on the Collector's Edition in the US)

Derek Webb - I See Things Upside Down Derek's masterpiece, an astonishingly mature record that I keep getting new meaning out of. If you are reading this, you need to buy this album. Favorite tracks: "Ballad In Plain Red," "Lover Pt. 2"

Butterfly Boucher - Flutterby A pop record with melodies that become like best friends, telling you their secrets and bringing a smile to your face. Favorite tracks: "I Can't Make Me," "Another White Dash"

Wilco - A Ghost Is Born This record gets better and better the more I listen to it. Favorite tracks: "Company In My Back," "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," "I'm A Wheel"

Sandra McCracken - Best Laid Plans Sandra takes one more step towards world domination with this UK release. Her wisdom and grace shows forth on every track. Favorite tracks: "Last Goodbye," "Sons Of Cain"

Andy Gullahorn - Room To Breathe One of my favorite songwriters finally delivers his sophomore album, and he only made me wait five years for it. Favorite tracks: "Beginning Of The End," "Green Hills Mall"

Jeremy Casella - 10,000 Angels (Part One) Jeremy quietly matures with this brief but powerful EP. Favorite tracks: "Cast Away Stones," "Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell I technically bought this as two EPs in 2003, but they combined it into one album this year, so it sneaks in. Vastly underrated album from formerly overrated rabblerouser. Favorite tracks: "Love Is Hell," "Wonderwall," "World War 24"

Andrew Osenga - Souvenirs and Postcards This EP was recorded while Andrew was on the road with Caedmon's Call, Jars of Clay, and Stephen Delopoulos. The captured moment amplifies these already strong songs. Favorite tracks: "If I Had Wings..." "I Miss Those Days"

Buddy Miller - Universal United House of Prayer Buddy's best is still not as consistent as I'd like it to be, but boy does it have some of my favorite songs of the year. He makes country music the way it should be, and is a phenomenal guitar player. This record's political statements resonated deeply with me during a very lonely political year. Favorite tracks: "Worry Too Much," "With God On Our Side," "There's A Higher Power"

Caedmon's Call - Share The Well Caedmon's finds a renewed purpose on this multinational record written during their travels to India and Ecuador. If you used to like Caedmon's, get this. If you never liked Caedmon's, get this. Favorite tracks: "Mother India," "Dalit Hymn"

Griffin House - Lost and Found Springsteen, Bono, and Johnny Cash all seem to be poking around Griffin's songwriting soul. Favorite tracks: "Amsterdam," "Ah Me"

The Cardigans - Long Gone Before Daylight Swedish bands aren't known for good English lyrics, so I'll forgive them for that. Great tunes, though. Favorite tracks: "A Good Horse," "Please Sister"

Andrew Peterson - Behold The Lamb Of God A Christmas album for the ages, and Andrew's most accomplished work. The best Christmas record since, um, that one I exec produced a few years back.

Pedro The Lion - Winners Never Quit This one actually came out a few years ago, but I didn't get it until 2004. A disturbing, but extremely powerful tale about how pride is truly sin that leads to death. A work of art that convicts and engages in ways that only art can. Highly recommended. Favorite tracks: "Slow And Steady Wins The Race," "Simple Economics"

Ron Sexsmith - "From Now On" from Retriever I didn't like this album very much (though others seem to), but loved this song. I take it as a prophetic call to artists to rise up and speak the truth no matter what opposition they face.

I'm not as much of a movie buff as I am a music listener, but these stood out:

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - A beautiful, heartbreaking film about relationships, with layers of insight that I'm sure I'll still be peeling back years from now.

Born Into Brothels - A limited theatrical release that I saw at the Nashville Film Festival, Born is a documentary about children who are born to prostitutes in India, and one woman's attempt to teach them photography. I met the filmmaker afterwards and thanked her for redemptive work. Common grace flows out of this film.

The Incredibles - Pixar makes an action comedy. Pixar makes Matthew buy another DVD in 2005.

I haven't been as consistent of a reader this year as I would have hoped, and my memory is too fuzzy to even remember most of what I read, but I will say that Blue Like Jazz lived up to the hype. And I consider myself a fairly hype-averse person. Esther Meek's Longing To Know is also worth reading, particularly if you are interested in postmodern Christianity but can't quite swallow some of the stuff that's been served up lately. Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs took my immediate circle of friends by storm and left much hilarity in its wake (plus, the chapter "Toby vs. Moby" made some re-evaluate their musical identities, ending in confusion and despair. But not me. I sing hymns.). Next year I'll read Tortured Wonders, Get Up Off Your Knees, The Younger Evangelicals, and a certain summer blockbuster.

So, what were your favorites of the year? Music, movies, books, etc-- post your choices as a Comment.

Have a joyful Christmas everyone! I'll check back in come January to give you updates on the recording of Indelible Grace IV.