Category Archives: music

New Music Rodeo! Whoop!

i do dig me some music. and i’m old school — i still buy it (as in, download it from the itunes store; though i get a ton of awesome indie free stuff from noisetrade). in the last few weeks, i’ve totally overshot my normal purchasing rate, because i’m weak, and there have just been too many amazing albums.

here’s what i got, and a peek into my eclectic-but-specific-and-opinionated taste:

shovels-and-ropeShovels & Rope: Little Seeds

pre-ordered this one, and have two songs so far. i found Shovels & Rope a couple years ago via a free download on noisetrade, and have become a huge fan. bluesy, indie, husband and wife duo, with amazing harmony.

the-bad-plusThe Bad Plus: It’s Hard

TBP is, hands down, my all-time favorite jazz act. i have 13 of their albums. a jazz piano trio (piano/bass/drums), every member is a virtuoso. i love their original tunes, but i fell in love with them because of their inventive cover songs. they haven’t had cover songs on their last few releases, so it’s a massive treat that this album is all covers.

crowderCrowder: American Prodigal

another pre-order. what’s to say, other than i dig both the man and his music. always have.

jon-batisteJon Batiste: Jazz is Now

you might recognize jon batiste as the band leader for stephen colbert. that’s where i was introduced to him. i love his style and decided it was time to pick up one of his albums. i chose this slightly older release over his newest stuff with his current band (Stay Human), and have almost worn out its digital grooves. (btw: Christianity Today recently listed him in their article on culture shapers.)

jack-whiteJack White: Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016

jack white is the man. jack white is to me what 21 Pilots is to a 13-year-old girl. he’s musical crack for me — everything he releases. this is a compilation of acoustic recordings (some in original form, some stripped down versions) that span various bands and jack iterations. oh, and it’s double-length. yee-haw.

miaM.I.A.: AIM

you know, that girl who had the mega-popular song Paper Planes (“All I wanna do is / And / And take your money”) a few years back. i’m not normally a fan of dance music, but i love the world music influences and pretty much everything else about her music. it’s PUMP YOU UP music.

macy-grayMacy Gray: Stripped

ah, the voice of macy gray. how to categorize her: post-soul? r&b? all i know is her voice is amazing, in a gritty, sexy way. this album shows maturity (we’re all getting older, after all), and leans well into jazz on some tracks. it’s mellower than some of her angrier stuff of the past, and i like it.

wilcoWilco: Schmilco

normally an amazing alt-rock band (last year’s release Star Wars was UH-MAZING), this time around they go with a WAY-stripped down, almost acoustic album full of inventiveness and lyrical depth. so good, in a more chill way than past releases.

frank-oceanFrank Ocean: Blond

despite the buzz, i hadn’t planned on getting it. but my son’s strong suggestion (begging?) caused me to give it a listen. and — wow. reminds me of a guy version of beyonce’s lemonaide, a little in sound, but more so in its variety and creativity. i guess the genre is called ‘post-soul.’ but all i know is i’ve been listening to it nonstop for 3 days.

Chris Tomlin’s new album — who wants a copy?

loveranredtoday i’m listening to chris tomlin’s new album, Love Ran Red. (i just accidentally typed ‘love ran rad.’ and i suppose that’s true also, but wouldn’t have been as strong of an album name; so i applaud chris for not going with that.) clearly, the dude has a gift for writing singable songs, which results in chris’s songs being sung everywhere, probably more than just about any other modern worship artist. chris’s albums are lovely; but as a church worker, i think his greatest impact isn’t in how many people listen to his songs, but how many people sing his songs.

there are two versions of the new albums: 12 tracks on the standard version of the album, and 16 songs on the deluxe version.

and i have 3 copies of the deluxe edition (why does deluxe have an ‘e’ on the end of it, i ask you!?) to give away. here’s how we’re doing it this time (yup, i’m gonna milk this!): friday is the regular registration deadline for The Summit — the coolest youth ministry event ever, taking place in nashville in a week and a half. after friday night, the reg rates go into “late registration” mode, which adds something like thirty bucks or thereabouts. so, the next three people to register for The Summit win a delux(e) edition of chris’s new CD, mailed directly to you! i’ll post the winners here, so you’ll know if you get one or not (and i’ll contact the winners directly). let’s just call this a little nudge for those of you who are planning on attending The Summit, but hadn’t registered yet.

oh, and all of you should check out Love Ran Red (not ‘love ran rad’) here.

book now for the Lost And Found farewell tour!

for their 30th year of performing together (2015), the wonderful and unique band Lost And Found are doing something… interesting: a farewell tour. in other words, they’ve decided to make 2015 the last year of touring for the band.

lost and foundif you’ve ever seen Lost And Found live, you know: the music and is good and fun and meaningful; but the real magic of this band–the reason people love seeing them over and over again–is their live shows. they are one of the only bands i know that can be, and are, equally loved by people in any stage of life (children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged peeps and older folk). their lyrics have the spiritual depth one might expect from two lutheran boys; their songs swing from beautiful and sparse to quirky and riotous. and they engage an audience like no band i’ve ever seen (really, i’m not exaggerating).

so, i could not encourage you strongly enough–if you’re running a youth event in 2015, or want to host a multi-generational event at your church–Lost And Found will be a win for you.

website (
email ’em here.
phone number: 419.897-9792

and check out this video:

Crowder’s Neon Steeple (win a copy!)


thanks to the live streaming on itunes radio (available through today only), and then thanks to the record label who sent me a copy of the album in the mail, i’ve been listening to Crowder’s new album, Neon Steeple, almost nonstop over the past week (a few little breaks to listen to the new Coldplay album and the new Conor Oberst album). the album releases on itunes, and everywhere else, tomorrow (tuesday, may 27).

neon steeplei realize i’m biased, since i’ve loved Crowder’s music for a long time, and even more biased because i like him as a person. but it almost doesn’t matter which new direction david goes with his music: i love it musically, and love it lyrically. this album is, unquestionably, his most eccentric and eclectic, ranging from bluegrass and old-timey church songs that johnny cash could have sung, to alt-pop worship, and even a couple tracks i can only classify as “dance” numbers. neon steeple is the baby that marcus mumford and emmylou harris and johnny cash and hank williams and king david (the psalmist) and someone representing alt-pop (maybe the xx, or–OOH!–the ting-tings) would have, uh, birthed together. that just got weird; but, again, i love eclectic.

if you want the same old vanilla christian easy listening, this is not your music. but if you want honest lyrics, unwaveringly god-focused (as Crowder’s songs have always been), with a wild variety of musicality that leans to the down-homey (lotsa banjo, baby), you’ll be a happy listener.

and, i have two copies of the deluxe edition of the CD (17 tracks!) to give away. in the past when i’ve given these away, i’ve gotten a ton of comments, because i made it easy on you (which made it hard on me); so i’m going to inverse that equation this time around. if you want one of these FREE CDs, you must write a haiku about Crowder. that’s right: three lines, of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. i’ll pick the best two, email you for your address, and your CD will be mailed to you.

i mean, Crowder put quite a bit of creative energy into creating this baby, so a little creative effort on your part seems warranted, right?

whatcha got?

winner, winner, crowder dinner

hey, nice job, peeps. fun entries.

i’m sad to be forced to not consider a handful that don’t fit the required haiku form (3 lines, of 5 syllables, 7 syllable, and 5 syllables, in order). some of you don’t quite get that, or just didn’t care!

hands down, the winner is absolutely Rob, for his brilliant three word


(for those not in the know, “pogonology” is “the study of or a treatise to beards”)

the second winner was more difficult; but i’m going with Chuck’s for sheer randomness and absurdity:

I met Crowder once
He smelled like freedom and steak
No wait, that was me

thanks for playin’, everyone!

win a copy of the new chris tomlin deluxe CD/DVD set

4739_BurningLightsDVDCD_lgtoday, chris tomlin is releasing a deluxe edition of his award-winning CD Burning Lights. the deluxe edition includes a DVD of a full-length show at red rocks, in colorado.

when chris’ record label asked if i’d like to give a few away, i figured there were plenty of youth workers who’d like to get their hands on this baby!

so: i’ve chosen 3 random numbers between 1 and 40. comments who match those numbers win! (don’t try to cheat! one comment per person, please!) you don’t have to guess a number; just leave a comment.

here’s a trailer for the DVD:

bam. we have our winners. i wrote down 3 numbers on a little sticky pad — 5, 24, 38. then i looked at the corresponding comments. winners are:
matt acton
adam mashni
jason buchan

congrats, guys! thanks, everyone, for playing!

win a copy of the new album from The Digital Age

the digital age bandi hope, by now, you’ve heard of the band The Digital Age. while it will not be long before they don’t need this explanation, The Digital Age is made up of four of the six former members of the David Crowder Band. i’ve known these guys for years and love that i can honestly call them friends.

earlier this year, i was the main speaker at a large youth event where The Digital Age was the worship band. so, even though i knew them well already, and had heard them play as part of DC*B dozens and dozens of times, that was the first time i’d seen them lead in their new formation. and. it. was. awesome. i mean, anyone who knew the previous band knew that these guys are wickedly talented as musicians. but a bunch of good musicians doesn’t necessarily make a great band, right? however: mike d, jack, mark and bwack are much more than great musicians. they’re great songwriters, great worship leaders, and great performers (oh, and they’re really great guys too!). really, i’m stoked about the future for these guys, and the songs we’ll all be singing that will flow from them in the years to come.

evening-morningand this week their first full-length album released, called EVENING : MORNING. check it out on itunes. buy it.

and! and! i get to give away some copies of the album here! let’s call it three copies. just leave a comment telling me why you should win, and i will either randomly or subjectively choose three of ’em later this week. the band will actually mail you a CD in the mail if you win.

i’ve had the album for a couple weeks and, if digital files could get grooves from wear, mine would have ’em.

winner, winner, bwack dinner

ooh, that was meant to imply a dinner with bwack, not a dinner of bwack. you sick person.

i wanted to pick stephen moye and brian aaby as two of the winners, i’ll admit, because i liked their answers. but since they’re personal friends of mine, i think it would be insider trading. so, sorry guys.

cliff, you almost won for your falconry comment also. you were a close fourth. but i’m only giving away three copies.

and those go to:

jake. your “bow chica bow wow” and the idea that you would use the digital age album as a… um… marital device, totally cracked me up. yes. please do follow through. for the sake of world peace.

jonathan sigmon. we want you to love again, man.

and kirk moore, for the anti-entry. brilliant.

congrats, dudes!

what? a new ‘best of’ album from DC*B? (and how to win an autographed copy)

something significant changed in the world of christian music the day the David Crowder Band released their first album. i’m not even completely sure how to describe that change. but i’ll try with this: the line between “worship music” and “totally fantastic music i want to listen to all the time” was suddenly blurred.

in fact, i remember very clearly the first time i heard the band live. it was at the NYWC in… actually, i have no idea what year. it was a long time ago. hardly anyone had heard of them. but we were experimenting with a musical style shift at the NYWC after many years with the same worship leader at every convention. and that year we discovered we were going to have to turn away about 1000 people from the san diego location — unless we came up with something very creative. the solution was to run two main sessions concurrently. the main ballroom (set for something like 2500 people, with a massive stage and all the technology would expect) had the older, “contemporary” worship leader. then there was this funky “overflow” stage in a much smaller ballroom. people who registered later, once we expanded the size limit on the event, “had” to attend the main sessions in that ballroom. the speaker’s talk was going to be on a big screen (hey! we were a video venue church before it was such a stupid fad!), but the band was going to be live in both locations.

uh, we had a problem.

during the music parts, the big/main ballroom was empty-ish; and the smaller/ancillary ballroom was pack to overflowing with youth workers who were ignoring our silly little differently-colored armbands or whatever was supposed to designate their assigned space (what? youth workers ignoring the rules?).

somewhere over the years, i got to become friends with david, jack, jeremy (bwack), hogan, and mike d. i even went on a tour with them once for a week or so. and now that they’re two bands, i’ve remained in contact with all of them.

but i’m still a fan.

to me, these songs represent something not many else have come close to approaching: songs i simply never tire of hearing or singing.


so, yeah, i was pretty stoked when i found out a new “best of” album was releasing (it actually releases today, and you can find it on tunes here). someone up the record distribution food chain was nice enough to give me access to listen to it online, starting a couple weeks ago. needless to say, if digital streams could get worn out grooves like vinyl back in the day, these tracks would already be trashed. the songs hold up. and they take me back. both. at the same time. as a bonus, there’s a couple new tracks, and a handful of fun remixes (i particularly got a kick out of the family force five remix of shadows).

ok, this is fun. david’s record peeps are allowing me to give away 5 autographed copies of the CD. here’s how we’re gonna do it: respond with a reasonably short comment about the first time you heard the band, or a funny story from a time you heard them live, or anything else that you think would make me choose you. in other words: convince me to pick you. and just writing “ooh, pick me” ain’t gonna do it. i’ll just give the CDs to my 7th grade guys small group if that’s the best i get!

this isn’t a race. so i’ll give you a couple days, and i’ll pick a winner on thursday or friday.


(oh! and one more thing! did you know that david crowder is one of the 18 presenters speaking at The Summit? yup: he’s not coming as a performer. he’s going to speak to us about “the process of creativity.”)


oops — an offsite retreat, a birthday party, and a holiday weekend caused a little delay in picking winners! sorry ’bout that. this was almost impossible, as almost all the responses were wonderful. but i had to pick five, and five that i really loved were from Darin Brown, Amy Mateer, Mark Seitz, Julie, and Eli Ruggles. i’ll contact you all via email to get your addresses. congrats!

win a copy of Chris Tomlin’s new album: Burning Lights

there’s no denying a couple things about chris tomlin:

  1. the dude can sing. like, he can sing in a way that sounds effortless and inviting
  2. the dude can write songs that make you want to sing along. really, we all (church peeps, that is) know so many of his songs, it’s nuts. whether your an uber-fan or not, you know his songs, because they’re clearly singable, and are therefore ubiquitously present in modern american church life.

i have very fond memories of my middle years at YS — the years from just before yac left us to just after, the “good years”. and one of the memories of that period for me is that i became friends with david crowder and chris tomlin (and all the guys in both bands). those were some years of amazing worship at the NYWC, when we had both of those bands in every city, for a few years in a row. i have a very clear memory of one of the last times chris was with us at a YS convention. he had just released a new album (that week, i think), and no one knew the songs on it yet. but one of the songs (i don’t remember what song it was — i just remember how powerful this moment was for me) was so freaking gorgeous; and once he’d taught it to us, 3500 youth workers took to it like pizza, and started singing it so loudly and passionately. i remember chris stepping back away from the mic, just staring at that ballroom full of open-throated worshippers. chris wasn’t even leading anymore; he was just along for the ride. really, i think it was one of the most powerful times of worship i’ve ever experienced.


while i’ve stayed friends (and in contact) with crowder, i’ve lost touch with chris. so i was glad that his record company still asked me if i’d like to hear his new album, Burning Lights (as they did with many people, from what i see in the blogosphere — i’m not suggesting this had anything to do with formerly hanging out with him!). i listened to it non-stop yesterday (for about 8 hours, at least). and, man, those two “no denying” things at the top of this post? they are just as true as ever. clearly.

funny thing is: we’re already singing a couple of these songs in my church, and i just didn’t know they were chris’s songs!

my favorite track (got me choked up a couple times yesterday) is the gorgeous Shepherd Boy, which i’m guessing will get less mileage than some of the songs on the album, even though it caries the album title. but dang:

i’m no hero of the faith
i’m not as strong as i once thought i was
i’m just a shepherd boy
singing to a choir of burning lights
i’m just singing
singing over you
come and lay your troubles down
’cause love is breakin’ through

and the melody — even if there were no lyrics! gah.

ok — here’s the cool thing. like other bloggers, EMI is allowing me to give out five copies of the new album (which releases on january 8). and i’m going to give them away in my own way, darn it!

so: first five people to share a tomlin memory from an old YS convention. yeah. that’s the ticket. who’s in?


ok, these stories were awesome. in fact, part of me wishes i’d said i would choose winners from the stories. but i said “the first five.” there’s another part of me that’s glad i wrote that, as i don’t have to pick.

so, the five winners are:
chris lynch
Chris Oakes
and Jeni

Joe Thompson, if i were you i’d be wondering why i wasn’t the 5th winner. well, Jeni responded via email to the post (which she receives via email subscription), then added it as a comment a little later. so, since i didn’t say she couldn’t comment that way, i gotsta call her the 5th winner.

congrats to you five! and thanks, the rest of you, for sharing such great memories. i hope tomlin sees these!

an album, a movie, a curriculum, and an event worth mentioning

yup, this is a bit of a random collection, i’ll admit. but these are four things i really want to recommend, and i didn’t want to inundate you with four separate posts. see how thoughtful i am?

an album
i met brian houston in belfast, northern ireland, quite a few years ago (this is not the same brian houston from australia, btw). i was speaking at a youth worker event for the presbyterian church of ireland, and brian was the music/worship leader. i totally dug his music, and we hit it off. we did a couple other events together, and i hung out with him a couple times when i was in belfast (one of my favorite memories of yaconelli involves brian also, but it’s so off-color — thanks to a very drunk woman who came out of a bar to pursue yac when yac, brian and i were sitting in the lobby — that i cannot write it out here. feel free to ask me sometime when we’re face-to-face).

anyhow, i noticed on steve stockman’s blog that brian had a new album out. if digital files could get worn out, my other brian houston albums (particularly big smile) have 0s and 1s flying all over the place from over-playing. so i downloaded brian’s new album — shelter — and i just love it. rock mixed with gospel with heavy doses of blues and R&B. amazing lyrics, great voice.

let me be clear: i’ve not had contact with this guy in over 5 years, and no one asked me to promote this album. i found out about it by luck. i just really like it!

a movie
jeannie’s birthday was last saturday, and we’d celebrated with the kids earlier in the week. since it was just the two of us, she said, “let’s go to a movie that i would like.” (the clear inference, and probably fair, is that i tend to swing my movie-choosin’ weight around most of the time.) we looked at what was showing, and remembered that we’d heard good things about moonrise kingdom. but we had no idea.

HOLY COW! what an incredible film, in so many ways. the story is amazing and layered and insightful. but visually, i hardly even know how to describe it. i don’t normally notice — and completely enjoy — the color palate of movie scenes. i don’t normally notice — and completely enjoy — the symetry or framing of a scene. and the dialogue. and the costuming. and the casting. and so many other little bits about this.

plus, it’s about 12 year-olds!

jeannie and i left saying, “we never buy DVDs anymore, but we want to own that one so we can watch it a bunch of times.” youth worker joel mayward wrote a fantastic review here.

a curriculum
andy marin is a freakin’ saint. he has said and done what few in the church (at least the evangelical church) have been willing to say and do to build bridges with the gay community. and in doing so, andy has bushwhacked for many of us, providing a footpath that doesn’t seem as scary as it once did.

i read andy’s book, love is an orientation, a few years ago when it came out. quite simply: everyone must read this book. but if you’re an evangelical or catholic (those with more conservative understandings of homosexuality), you really, really, really must read it. please.

i knew that zondervan released a DVD curriculum to go along with andy’s book last year, and i knew it would be good. but i was lame, and i didn’t get around to watching it, even though two more of my friends — ginny olson and the esteemed adam mclane — are in it (in the fantastic session on adolescents and homosexuality). but i watched the whole thing the other night. and. it. is. so. great. it’s honest and helpful and will absolutely open up great dialogue. i highly recommend it — for adult groups, and maybe for more mature high school groups.

an event
i had a phone call yesterday with rick lawrence, group magazine‘s long-standing editor, to talk more about the content of the upcoming ReGroup event i’ll help to lead with him and kurt johnston on august 13 – 15, in loveland, CO (at the group HQ). i had been looking forward to this event prior to the call; but my anticipation is now approximately 8.3 times heightened.

we’re gonna talk through a handful of elements we’re seeing that really make a difference in great youth ministries (some of this comes out of my recent book, A Beautiful Mess). but rick and i agreed today that i’m going to spend a good chunk of time doing some of the exercises i use in my coaching program, helping the small-ish group of attendees to reflect at a more personal and strategic level about their lives and ministries. really, i now feel like this event won’t just be ‘interesting’ or ‘fun’ (though i think it will be those also); now i think it will be transformational.

limited to 100 people. it’s exclusive, baby. and it’s gonna rock. clicky-clicky.

please help the band Lost And Found (and get a cool CD in the process)

i was a fan of the band Lost And Found before i was friends with the two guys in it, george baum and michael bridges. but for years now, i’ve been both.

i remember seeing them perform at the national youth workers convention well over a decade ago, and experiencing a strange mixture of WTF combined with “i love these guys!” i’m sure many of you reading this, if you had a similar exposure to LAF at an NYWC or other event, had the same experience. i have every one of their CDs.

but somewhere along the line, george and michael became friends of mine. george’s family and mine started to hang out each year over our christmas trip to detroit (they lived in toledo, OH, at the time). our wives became friends; our kids became friends. george and i were “founding members” of a strange little men’s group (for lack of a better term) that we used to call the young notorious sinners. none of us our young anymore, so we usually just refer to it as YNS these days. but this group of guys, which usually meets annually for peer mentoring and accountability, has shaped me in deep ways.

george, michael and i have spent time together in more cities that seems normal, and have sparred or found common ground on more theological subjects than i can remember.

and i still love their music.

it gutted me when i found out recently that michael — who, in the last handful of years, got married and had a baby — had just had a large cancerous tumor removed, and was heading into a season of chemo and radiation.

and, as you might expect, this puts both of their families into a bit of jeopardy, since most of their income is tied to touring.

Lost And Found were set to record and release a new CD. and if they can get this thing out, they might be able to weather this. while a LAF album is always full of great songs, the live experience of their concerts is what really sets them apart. so, how perfect that this would be a live CD, with all the weirdness and insight and humor of that experience.

Lost And Found need our help. this isn’t just a band trying to get fans to help fund a CD. this is a band — two families, really — trying to find a way forward. even if you’ve never heard of Lost And Found before, i’d encourage you to help fund their kickstarter campaign at a level that will get you the CD. the worst that could happen is that you get some music you don’t really care about, but help two families who have given to youth workers for so many years bridge a difficult gap. and the best that could happen is that you’ll do that and love the music.

CLICK HERE for the kickstarter page.

and, watch this little video: