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young man in 2012

Posted by on Monday, 31 December, 2012

It’s the 31st December. So it must be time to make some lists.

And here are the rules (because there have to be rules). I’m not concerned about whether these were released or published in 2012, they just have to be new to me. And I’m not making any claims about what is “best” from some mythical vantage point of neutral objectivity. These are my favourite cultural artefacts of the year – the ones I’ve most enjoyed, or which have most deeply moved or inspired me. And this year I’m just going to do top 3 lists. First the music:

  1. Young Man in America (Anais Mitchell). This was far and away my favourite record of the year, and probably my favourite new discovery of the past few years. I’m guessing her voice is one not everyone will love, but I just found this beautiful, sad, compassionate, wise, lovely. The album is haunted by the influence of the songwriter’s father (his picture appears on the cover) and a deep longing for a father to shepherd and a mother to shelter us. “Another wayward son waiting on oblivion/Waiting on the kingdom come to meet me in my sin/Waiting to be born again.” Stunning.
  2. Abattoir Blues (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds). It was going to see Lawless and enjoying the soundtrack that send me back to explore some more of Nick Cave’s back catalogue. This is just brilliant. And bonkers. And beautiful. No-one else writes lyrics like Cave, mixing the sublime and the apocalypic with the everyday: “The sky’s on fire, the dead are heaped across the land/I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed/I woke up this morning with a Frappucino in my hand.” And the gosple choir backing lifts this record to another level. I’ve been so hung up on this first part of the double-album I haven’t even got round to exploring the second part (The Lyre of Orpheus).
  3. Babel (Mumford & Sons). For some reason, the Mumfords are one of those bands that music critics and music snobs love to hate. And I can even understand a little bit (I have a bit of the music snob in me). The music can be repetitive, they overdo the hoedowns, and the lyrics often fall back on stock “inspiring phrases” about light and darkness and whatever. In terms of musical originality and lyrical subtlety they can’t hold a candle to my first two choices. But the Mumfords also have something – an energy, a wholehearted sincerity, a kind of infectious joy – which sets them apart. I think the sincerity and optimism is part of why they are hated. This has been the most played album in our car, largely because our kids, lacking any kind of snobbery or pretentiousness, just love it and head-bang in the back seat with faces full of pure delight. It’s a great pop record.

Other albums I enjoyed this year: Oh Pioneer (Duke Special), Mermaid Avenue (Billy Bragg & Wilco), Sing the Delta (Iris DeMent), Brothers (The Black Keys), Love & War & The Sea In Between (Josh Garrels), Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan).

I’d love to hear about the music that has stirred your soul this year. Books and movies to follow.

on Puritans and Indians and sharing life together

Posted by on Tuesday, 21 August, 2012

Well I don’t have anything mind-blowing to write about, but I’m determined to get back on the blogging train so here’s what I’ve been thinking about the last few days…

We’ve been watching the HBO mini-series about the life of the second American president, John Adams. That has got me all in a historical frame of mind so I dug out the one-volume American history I’ve started several times before, and I’m determined to get past the War of Independence this time.

One recurring theme has particularly provoked me to ponder. When the first Puritans came to New England, they were determined to create a new kind of society that would be a City on a Hill for the rest of the world. With that bold vision in mind, they wanted to arrange the new settlements in such a way that community life revolved around a small town with the church at its heart. But they were frustrated in their hopes by the eagerness of the settlers to move out into the countryside, driven not by a love of rolling hills and fresh air, but by a lust for more land, an obsession with private property and a dream of their own individual paradise.

This theme comes up again in the deeply depressing chapter about the clash between the settlers and the native American people who had lived on the land for generations. What struck me was that the European settlers were simply incapable of understanding the world-view of the “Indians,” who saw life in communitarian terms and had almost no room for the notion of private property (which made it too easy for the late arrivals to claim for themselves what no-one had ever thought of claiming as a personal possession). This is not to romanticise the native Americans, who also had their violent side, but I find it sad that the zealously “Christian” settlers were unable to understand a way of thinking that was about community and not individualism, about sharing the land and its resources rather than dividing it up into portions of private property.

It got me thinking about the New Testament claim that God in Christ is creating a new kind of society, a new humanity. And in the glimpses we get of the early church in Acts, this new humanity found expression in local communities who shared life together, eating in each other’s homes with glad and sincere hearts, and sharing their possessions so that there was no needy person among them.

So this is what I’m currently pondering. If our churches are simply like clubs for people who believe a lot of the same things, they will fit in very comfortably with the individualism and materialism of our culture. There’s nothing radical about individuals coming together, leaving their private paradises for a little while each week to get together and share some common interests, and then retreating to our castles and pulling up the draw-bridge.

But to the extent that we take seriously the idea that the cross of Christ and the Spirit of God are creating a new kind of society, we will start to share life together  in ways that our culture cannot understand. And that will include a radically different view of possessions and property. We will be as exotic and strange (and threatening?) to our neighbours as the Indian tribes were to the Pilgrims.

That’s really as far as I’ve got, but I’m interested in your thoughts on what this strange alternative community looks like in our time and place. How do we share life together in a way that confounds and confuses our neighbours?

on the adversary behind the curtain

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

In our little corner of the world we just spent a few weeks exploring the foothills of the strange and powerful Book of Job. Early on in the drama, after Job has lost his wealth and his children, we hear these familiar words from his mouth: 

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will  depart.

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.

These are among the best-known and best-loved words in Job, and we often take them to be straight-forwardly admirable – this is how a faithful person should respond when tragedy strikes. Job’s words have even found their way into the bridge-bit of one of our best modern worship songs. And I’ve no doubt there’s a lot of courage and wisdom to be found in those words.

It’s just that the more I look at the story surrounding these words, the more I’m not quite sure how to respond to them. For one thing, Job’s confidence doesn’t last very long – as his suffering intensifies, his next expression of confidence in God sounds a lot more wobbly, and a few verses later he is cursing the day he was born and wishing he was dead. The impression I’m left with is that the words above represent a kind of conventional, expected religious response – the one Job had been trained to give, the right answer. He uses it as an instinctive response and protective wall, but it isn’t able to hold back the rising flood waters of doubt and anger and confusion which soon burst through. To find a place of honest hope, Job will have to give voice to all those dark emotions and wrestle with God. So I find Job’s later expressions of trust (“though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”) more honest, more hard-won, more powerful.

But that’s not all that bothers me about Job’s initial response. What troubles me most is the way Job bluntly attributes the death of his children to the direct action of God – Yahweh gives and Yahweh takes away. It troubles me on a personal, emotional level, but I think it’s also in tension with the opening scenes of the drama of Job, where we saw God in dialogue with the Adversary. There we heard the Adversary provoking God to “stretch out his hand” against Job, but God responded by giving the Adversary permission (within set limits) to attack Job. For those of us who have overheard this dialogue behind the curtain, it seems clear that it wasn’t the hand of God that struck Job, but the hand of the enemy.

Of course that distinction doesn’t take away the dark questions about why God gives such freedom or permission to the enemy to hurt and kill and destroy. But it seems to me like a vital distinction emotionally and pastorally,  for the sake of our hearts and our view of the Father’s character. We need the space, given by the drama of Job, to say in the face of tragedy that  “this is not how it’s supposed to be”, “this is not good”, this is not the good and perfect and pleasing will of God. We do damage to our hearts when we look at something damaged and twisted and evil (demonic) and try and find a way to call it good.

As Mrs Landingham once said, in the greatest episode of the greatest TV show ever made, “God doesn’t make cars crash and you know it.”

A friend of mine, who has walked through his own Job-like story with the death of a brother and a father, recently wrote these words after losing a friend:

Blessed are those who mourn, who do not go gently, nor call that night “good”, who rage when brushed by Lazarus’ stench, who defy every story’s ending, who contradict Job (who hadn’t seen the adversary behind the curtain), and say, “He gives and gives and gives us life, he does not take away”, whose final enemy, like Life’s author, is death, whose love, like His, is stronger than the grave. Who do not confuse the will of God with the will of His enemy, but, like Jesus, weep bitterly at the tomb and mock its clutch by calling it “sleep”. Blessed are those who mourn, for their greatest comfort will be the surprising joy and wholeness of hearts long torn, when the cloud of lost onlookers is to flesh reborn and once again we embrace and our eyes meet, never again to be still.

 Terence Malick’s breathtaking film, The Tree of Life, is deeply influenced and inspired by the book of Job – but Malick chose to put the words “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away” on the lips of the “Job’s comforter” character, mumbling useless platitudes with no power to comfort a mother who has lost her son. That seems kind of right to me. I’ll confess I’ve always struggled to understand why some people seem to consider it a comfort when a child or young person has died to assert that “God took him.” These words from David Bentley Hart seem to me to strike a better, deeper, more hopeful and healing note:

As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy…We can rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”

And now, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

and finally…

Posted by on Saturday, 31 December, 2011

It’s always good to end the year doing something momentous, like posting your five favourite albums of the year. Here they are, without comment (except to say I know I’m a year late discovering the Avett Brothers album):

The King is Dead (The Decemberists)

I and Love and You (The Avett Brothers)

The Harrow and the Harvest (Gillian Welch)

Metals (Feist)

I Am Very Far (Okkervil River)

Happy New Year!




inside a dog it’s too dark to read

Posted by on Saturday, 31 December, 2011

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it (P.J. O’Rourke)

When I started thinking about my books of the year, my first impression was that it had been a lean year and I was struggling to put together a top five. Of course, after a bit more thought I remembered a few more gems, and in the end I couldn’t trim my list down to less than seven. Here, then, are the seven books that most delighted, provoked or inspired me this year:

My two favourite novels were Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor, and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Both were every bit as good as the hype suggested, both took me into the human heart of a period of history full of political controversy, and both made me think and made me cry.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is written by one of my favourite novelists, Barbara Kingsolver. But this book is a kind of journal of a year in the life of her family when they tried to eat only what was grown in their local area, and mainly what was grown in their own back garden. It’s beautifully written (as you would expect) and full of wisdom, not only about food, but also about family, community, work, grace and gratitude.  It has even inspired me to make rash promises about joining Mrs. Crow in the garden this spring to dig and plant and weed and participate in the miracle.

Rob Bell caused a few ripples this year with a book which didn’t deserve the strangely frenzied criticism it received, but also doesn’t deserve to be widely read, being a bit messy and a bit rubbish. But this year I also read Sex God, and it is, quite simply, wonderful. It’s the book I would put in the hands of any young person or young adult struggling with issues of sexual purity. It takes turns being honest, funny, wise, sad and beautiful.

And no.

I didn’t find the writing style annoying.


 I finally got round to reading Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic reflection on the church and Christian community. It is a deceptively simple little book, full of profound wisdom. I would happily take it in place of all of the twenty best selling books on church growth and “The Next Revolution of the Church of Tomorrow” in my local Christian bookshop. I’ll probably re-read it once every couple of years.

 Friends have been badgering me to read some Stanley Hauerwas for a long time, and it may or may not have been a good idea to finally begin with his memoirs. The first thing to say about Hannah’s Child is that it is a genuinely enjoyable, entertaining page-turner – maybe not what you might expect from a book with the subtitle, “A Theologian’s Memoir.” It can be very moving, especially in the heartbreaking accounts of living with a mentally ill wife. There are lots of paragraphs I copied out, either because they were deeply, powerfully wise, or because I had no idea whether I agreed with him but wanted to think about it. He is never dull. At the same time, I finished the book still not quite sure what I think of Stanley. His most appealing characteristic is his blunt honesty, especially when he reflects on his own faults and failures. But I felt more uncomfortable when he turned that blunt honesty on others, and talked personally about the character flaws of people he has worked with. Anyway, the book impacted me more deeply than most, I’m glad I read it, I think you should read it, and I’ll move on to some of his other books in 2012 (any recommendations?).

But my book of the year by a long way is another memoir by a very different grey-bearded sage. I’m not even going to pretend my review is impartial and objective. Eugene Peterson has been a hero and mentor to me through his books for a long time, and reading The Pastor: A Memoir felt like the closest thing to spending a few days in his company, soaking up his gentle, joyful wisdom. The book is full of stories that are full of life in all its mess and all its glory. His descriptions of both what’s hard and what’s good about being a pastor, and both what’s messed-up and what’s beautiful about the church, were so recognisable and truthful they made me cry. I consider him a prophet of our generation. I would like to take every pastor/minister/priest on this island on a retreat where they can read this book on a mountain, then come down and talk about it together, then go and read it again. I’ll be surprised if I manage to wait a year before I read it again.

So now I’d love to hear about the books that have done you good this year.

Grace and peace to you and those you love in 2012.

 There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read (G.K. Chesterton)




a good year

Posted by on Wednesday, 28 December, 2011

Yes, it’s that time of year when a man’s mind turns to best-of-lists and good intentions to get back into the groove of regular blogging. I’d like to propose a gentle revolution that involves a general move away from Facebook and back to the deeper conversations and richer community of the blogosphere. Anyone with me?

But for now, The Lists. It’s been a good year for me in terms of movie-watching. In the last decade my engagement with cinema had declined drastically as a result of moving from Dublin to Coleraine (I assume this needs no explanation) and becoming a parent to three lively children (likewise). When I came to do my best-of-lists at the end of last year, I realised I had only seen about 10 movies in the whole year. That was the nadir and the wake-up-call. Good films have always been a source of inspiration and nourishment to me, a kind of means of grace. So the famine had to end.

We signed up to a postal DVD service, and dived into a year of catching up on everything we had missed the last few years. This will help explain why my choices are all a bit behind-the-times. We still don’t often get to the cinema and the best movies don’t make it to the Coleraine Moviehouse anyway. So I’m usually about a year behind the cultural cutting edge. But I managed to watch 70 movies this year, and most of them were good, quite a few were great, and these were the eight that most stirred my heart and mind:

A Prophet

Man on Wire


Of Gods and Men

The Fighter

The Last Days of Sophie Scholl

Blue Valentine

Joyeux Noel

For the record, here are the movies that just missed the cut: Crazy Heart, The Dark Knight, Wasteland, Away We Go, True Grit, Munich, Inside Job, Black Swan, The Class, Moneyball.

The worst films I saw this year? Prince of Persia, Taken, Green Lantern.

The biggest disappointments? Avatar, The King’s Speech, Hugo .

And the films from this year that I’m most looking forward to catching up with soon: The Tree of Life, The Artist, We Need to Talk about Kevin.

If I’ve missed something essential or deeply offended your favourite movie, please let me know and share your lists with the rest of us. My music and book lists are still to come…

the best I could find

Posted by on Friday, 31 December, 2010

I suffer from a psychological compulsion which means that I can’t let the end of the year go by without compiling lists of my favourite things from the twelve months just past. I know some of you can empathise. Hopefully putting up my lists may provide a spur to get back in the saddle with some more regular blogging in 2011. And also a spur to sort out my life and watch some more movies next year. Unlike certain other people, I’ve seen nearly nothing this year and had to scrape the barrel to find some offerings.

So without any comment, and in no particular order, here are my top 3 favourites from the culural artifacts that were new to me this year:

First, the music:

The National – High Violet

Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

And the novels:

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

And the non-fiction books:

Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright*

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward

(* definitely helped by the fact that I got to read and discuss it week by week with one of our favourite people)

And finally, the best I could find from the movies I managed to see:

A Serious Man

Up In The Air

Toy Story 3

(seriously, that’s all I can come up with)

I’m happy to defend my choices against your scorn, but more than that I’d love to hear your nominations (which will then form the core of my choices for next year).

Finally, if you’d like to catch up a little on the everyday craziness of life in our little family, I recommend a meander through my amazing wife’s advent blog.

Peace on all (three) of you in 2011.

life is a miracle

Posted by on Friday, 21 May, 2010

I like to think I take a generally positive view of science. And I’m confused by those who seem to think that the creation of the first “synthetic life form” presents some kind of drastic threat to the credibility of religious faith. In the-Christian-version-of-things, human beings are created in the image of their Creator. So the fact that humans have used their God-given resources of intelligence and creativity to copy something they found in God’s creation seems, well, unsurprising.

This is a genuinely impressive breakthrough in the history of human discovery, and of what Kepler called “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” So why do I feel uneasy and not excited? I spent this morning in Starbucks reading Wendell Berry (which is a bit like sitting in the Enron board-room reading Karl Marx) and he put words to my feelings of unease:

The journalists think it intellectually chic to stand open-mouthed before any wonder of science whatsoever. The media, cultivating their mediocrity, seem quite comfortably unaware that many of the calamities from which science is expected to save the world were caused in the first place by science – which meanwhile is busy propagating further calamities, hailed now as wonders, from which later it will undertake to save the world. Nobody, so far as I have heard, is attempting to figure out how much of the progress resulting from this enterprise is net. It is as if the whole population has been gentically deprived of the ability to subtract….

The only science we have or can have is human science; it has human limits and is involved always with human ignorance and human error. It is a fact that the solutions invented or discovered by science have tended to lead to new problems or to become problems themselves. Scientists discovered how to use nuclear energy to solve some problems, but any use of it is enormously dangerous to us all, and scientists have not discovered what to do with the waste. (They have not discovered what to do with old tires). The availability of antibiotics leads to the overuse of antibiotics. And so on. Our daily lives are a daily mockery of our scientific pretensions. We are learning to know precisely the location of our genes, but significant numbers of us don’t know the whereabouts of our children. Science does not seem to be lighting the way; we seem rather to be leapfrogging into the dark along series of scientific solutions, which become problems, which call for further solutions, which science is always eager to supply, and which it sometimes cannot supply…

It is dangerous to act… on the assumption that our knowledge will increase fast enough to outrace the bad consequences of the arrogant use of incomplete knowledge. To trust “progress” or our putative “genius” to solve all the problems that we cause is worse than bad science; it is bad religion.

(From Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition)

on the importance of not being earnest

Posted by on Friday, 26 March, 2010

I’ve been reading a strange and fascinating book called Planet Narnia by a scholar called Michael Ward who claims to have uncovered a hidden theme running through CS Lewis’s Narnia books. I was pretty sceptical of the whole idea of a “hidden theme,” but I was first hooked, then floored, then completely convinced by Ward’s arguments.

The basic idea is that each Narnia book reflects one of the seven planets in medieval astronomy (Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Saturn). Lewis was endlessly fascinated by the medieval worldview, and always believed that there was wisdom in that era that has been lost in the modern, scientific age. He knew that the medieval view of the solar system was not “literally” accurate, and he didn’t believe that the planets influence life on earth in the way that astrologers (medieval and modern) describe, and he didn’t believe in the pagan deities named after the planets.  But he did believe that the seven medieval planets were useful as literary metaphors, or as “spiritual symbols” of “permanent value.”

Each planet had its own particular character, which Lewis believed reflected some aspect of reality, of life, of God himself. And so Ward argues that each Narnia book was crafted to reflect the particular character or mood or atmosphere of one of the planets, especially in how it depicts the character of Aslan. You’ll have to read Ward’s book to find out how the flip that works.

But the bit that has grabbed my imagination is the way Ward (and Lewis) talk about the relative significance of Saturn and Jupiter. This is the tricky part to write about, since each planet represents a mood or atmosphere, and can’t be reduced to a strict definition. But in very simplistic terms, Saturn is the planet that speaks of sorrow, disaster, melancholy, pestilence and ill luck. He is “the last planet, old and ugly.” Jupiter, on the other hand, is the King of the planets, and speaks of benevolence, festivity, peace and joy – of “winter passed and guilt forgiven.” (For those who are interested, Saturn is the planet corresponding to The Last Battle,  and Jupiter is the ruling planet of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). The influence of these symbols is seen in the adjectives which are still sometimes used to describe these two different moods – “saturnine” (OK that one’s not used very much today) and “jovial.”

Lewis argues that the modern age is dominated by the spirit of Saturn, as reflected in the sombre, bleak, “realistic” literature of highly-admired writers like TS Eliot and John Donne. As a young man, Lewis was drawn to this kind of literature, but he later grew to question the dominance of this serious, melancholy mood.

Of Saturn we know more than enough, but who does not need to be reminded of Jove?

The view Lewis came to (and expressed in his Narnia books) is that Saturn must be given his place – there is pain and sorrow in the world, and it must be faced, and felt, and acknowledged, and lamented. But Saturn is not King, not the centre of the universe. So sorrow and melancholy are not the last word, are not the deepest truth we can bear witness to about reality. At the end of everything, at the heart of everything, Jupiter is King. Joy is at the heart of the universe.

This gets me thinking about a lot of things. A lot of times our Christian subculture  tries to skip past Saturn and get to the joy of Jupiter, and we end up with a cheap, sentimental, chirpy cheerfulness.  This is what I find reflected in a lot of Christian art (music, fiction, etc.) as well as in a lot of sermons and Christian books. It doesn’t face the depth of the brokenness that’s in the world and in our own hearts and lives. As that old saturnine prophet Jeremiah once growled, it “dresses the wounds of the people lightly.” That’s why in spite of the surface chirpiness and optimism, I find this music and writing strangely depressing and dispiriting.

I think it’s for that reason that I ended up being drawn to the art being produced outside the Christian bubble, and developed a great love of depressing novels and music and films. They seemed to describe the world more truthfully, more courageously than a lot of Christian art and teaching. They were deeper, more mature, more grown-up. There was wisdom in Radiohead and Fight Club and Ian McEwan that was missing from the shelves of Wesley Owen.

But I think Lewis is right. Melancholy has its place, but it’s not the last or best word we have to say. Cynicism is not more truthful than hope, and sorrow is not more mature than joy. What we need to bear witness to in our art, our preaching, our lives, is the joy that lies on the other side of sorrow, or even in the midst of sorrow.

Lewis says that capturing this truly “jovial” spirit is much more difficult than the melancholy of Saturn, and there are very few writers who pull it off. I think Lewis is one of those who did, and this jovial spirit, this infectious joy-beyond-sorrow, is the heartbeat of his best writing. It’s also the heartbeat of  the writers who most influenced Lewis, like George MacDonald and GK Chesterton, and of his old friend JRR Tolkien.

But are there any artists in our generation who manage to convey the spirit of joviality? Only a few come to mind for me. Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robsinson, Sufjan Stevens, Gillian Welch…? Among popular Christian writers, Frederick Buechner and Philip Yancey. There must be others. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

I’m also convinced that this is the heart of the challenge for preachers and for the Christian community. How do we acknowledge the heartache and brokenness in the room and in the wider world, the reality of cancer and depression and divorce and abuse and war and debt and anger and lust? Saturn must have his due. The sorrow must be felt and faced. But still, we must bear witness to a reality deeper than sorrow. Jupiter is King (because Jesus is King). We are to be a community of hope and joy and good news. We’ll let Tolkien have the last word:

there is joy beyond the walls of the world, more poignant than grief

now that’s what i call a decade

Posted by on Friday, 25 December, 2009

OK so without any further explanation, here are my favourite records of the past decade for your entertainment and ridicule. I’d love to hear what you would include instead…

Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams (2000)

Time (The Revelator) – Gillian Welch (2001)

American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash (2002)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco (2002)

Ohio – Over the Rhine (2003)

Illinois – Sufjan Stevens (2005)

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning – Bright Eyes (2005)

Our Endless Numbered Days – Iron and Wine (2005)

Songs from the Deep Forest – Duke Special (2006)

 Boxer – The National (2007)

Happy Christmas everyone!

(and a special word of sympathy and affection for Zoomtard and his two broken wings)