American Football’s New LP3: Best In Class, Ever

A couple dozen listens in, here’s how I was feeling about American Football’s new LP3, released last Friday through Polyvinyl Records. These are messages I sent to a good friend and guitarist I used to rock out with:

 

 

Five stars. And—you heard it here first—it’s not only American Football’s best album, but the best album this genre has produced to date.

The other reviews I’ve read or skimmed talk a lot about the lyrics. This one is more about the music itself, all written when I first listened a month and a half ago.

 


 

 

Whoever called this album “post-house” is a genius

 

American Football’s third full-length LP has my new favorite album beginning. The band released the album’s first track (its first single) well before the album’s release date. I remember when I first heard its sparse, gradually building intro. Xylophone, vibraphone, then bass. The first LP didn’t even have bass… was this even the same band? Then, and only then, does the band come in, sounding fuller, tighter, more confident, and more creative than ever before. The string swells, chimey guitars, fat (phat?) bass line, vibraphone, silky vocals, and totally perfect drums make this the best American Football song I’ve ever heard. Easily. Its 7 minutes and 22 seconds passed in an instant.

I felt like Bill and Ted must have felt when they went up to heaven and heard the future Bill and Ted’s new jams. If there were a Platonic form of an American Football song, “Silhouettes” would be it. Steve Holmes, Mike Kinsella, Nate Kinsella, Steve Lamos might be my first choice for the soundtrack of heaven.

Where do you go from the epic opening track? To vocal duets! The next two tracks feature Hayley Williams (Paramore) and Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk). Mike Kinsella’s vocals and the interlocking guitar parts—whether as Owen or as American Football—are already so full and so good, I’d never even considered what an outside-the-band singer could do for them. It’s an awesome sound. (Track 6 features another vocalist: Rachel Goswell of the just reunited Slowdive, and it’s an amazing song.)

The flute on track 4 (“Heir Apparent”) is about the last instrument I expected to hear, but, man, is that a cool song. Just as it starts soothingly hypnotizing the listener at the 4-minute mark, in comes… well, I won’t spoil it for you. It’s yet more sweet instrumentation I never would have thought to have in an American Football song, but it works great (even if the instrumentation and the lyrics feel like a mismatch).

Thank God there’s another nearly 8-minute track on this record. The fifth track (“Doom in Full Bloom”) begins with a reverb-y trumpet (just like old times), which gives way to more ethereal goodness, this one with layered vocals, guitars, piano, and a smooth, laid back drum beat. It’s not hard to imagine this song—with its syncopated rhythms and detuned guitars—being covered by a metal band. In its current form, though, it’s smooth and beautiful.

They could have stopped after five songs and still had a genre-changing album. But the sixth track (“I Can’t Feel You,” with Goswell) is just nuts. The drum and bass combo calls to mind my favorite Radiohead track of all time, “Where I End and You Begin,” but this is very much its own song. I wouldn’t be surprised if it got radio airplay.

The last two tracks are awesome, too. The closing song “Life Support” is spellbinding.

The only thing I don’t love about this album is—years later—I still can’t tell if I think of some of Mike Kinsella’s lyrics as “overly dramatic” or if he’s just speaking openly and “honestly.” Maybe somewhere in between. Either way, the sublime music more than makes up for any impatience the listener may have with continued reference to “relentless adolescence”—a theme which, in fact, Kinsella treats beautifully in the last song.

American Football is making music on a whole new level right now—both compared to their previous stuff and compared to the rest of what’s in the emo and indie rock scene. Nothing else is close. There are few better musical experiences than putting on headphones and listening to a brand new American Football album for the first time (and it’s been two years since the last time), so once you’ve downloaded this album via the provider of your choice, block out some time and space and enjoy.

Here’s the record at Polyvinyl.

 


 

Thanks to the powers-that-be for the advance release download of this fine album, so I could write a review.

In the Mail: Updated Zondervan Greek and Hebrew Grammars

Zondervan has just released updated editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, as well as related aids for students working through those textbooks. Behold:

 

 

Zondervan Academic has sent these for review. It feels like a long time ago (though it was only 10 years) that I began learning biblical languages. I spent hours and hours combing through the previous editions of these Greek and Hebrew textbooks, filling out almost every page of the workbooks, and learning the vocabulary with the cards. So I’m excited to work through these resources and report back.

In the meantime, you can click the links below to learn more. When I post I’ll point out differences in the new editions, but please also leave comments or questions if you’re wondering about a specific aspect of these new resources, and I’ll do my best to address them in the reviews.

Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar / Workbook / Vocab Cards / Compact Guide (not yet released)
Basics of Biblical Hebrew: GrammarWorkbookVocab Cards / Compact Guide (not yet released)

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday (from Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.)

Yesterday in the mail I received a review copy of Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky (publisher page / Amazon). We’ve loved its predecessor, Run Fast. Eat Slow. This new volume says you can “cook the recipes that Shalane Flanagan ate while training for her 2017 TCS New York City Marathon historic win!”

Last night I wasn’t thinking about marathons; just how to make a good dinner for the family. As yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, I went right to the index to see if there were any pancake recipes. Lo and behold, I found one for oatmeal banana pancakes:

 

 

I did not have oatmeal flour on hand, but had some organic rolled oats, which I could easily grind up in a food processor. My wife and I went to work: she mixed the wet ingredients; I mixed the dry ones (there were hungry mouths waiting). Before long, this:

 

 

became this:

 

 

They were tasty!

Between the previous cookbook and now this newer one, we have yet to find a dud of a recipe. (Although I’m not sure I’ll repeat the first cookbook’s blueberry scones made with corn meal.)

There are also racing tips and bigger picture eating strategies in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. So far it looks like a worthy follow-up to our current go-to cookbook. More to follow!

How to Make Yourself Poop: And 999 Other Tips All Runners Should Know (Book Review)

9781635651836

 

Yes, it’s a funny title, but it also is a needed skill for runners who are going to be on the road for a while.

This has been a fun book to read. The full title is Runner’s World How to Make Yourself Poop: And 999 Other Tips All Runners Should Know.

Think of this book as a few years of the Runner’s World website printed out, all in list form. There’s barely a running detail that’s not mentioned here. There are 34 chapters, split into 6 sections:

  • Section 1: 205 Training Tips
  • Section 2: 193 Nutrition Tips
  • Section 3: 126 Gear Tips
  • Section 4: 158 Motivation Tips
  • Section 5: 169 Tips for Staying Healthy
  • Section 6: 157 Racing Tips

I’ll save you the time–that’s 1,008 tips, assuming the section titles are right. But this is at it should be, since 9 tips (a list of 3 and a later list of 6) are on how to poop; then 999 other tips give you 1,008 pieces of digestible advice you can put into practice.

I mentioned this in the book note I wrote a few months ago, but from the very start, the book is practical and offers good guidance. Here are “The 5 Golden Rules of Training”:

  1. The vast majority of your miles should feel easy.
  2. Your “easy effort” should be really, really easy.
  3. Increase milage gradually.
  4. Aim for three… quality workouts each week: a speed workout, a long run, and an in-between workout at a comfortably hard pace (a “tempo run”).
  5. Follow every hard or long run with at least one easy or rest day.

You won’t find philosophical reflection on running here, nor detailed exercise science. But there’s not much else missing. You get, for example, tips on how long to warm up for different races, whether a 1-miler, a 5K or 10K, a half marathon, or a full marathon. There’s lots of good advice about injury prevention, race etiquette, hydration, and even some sample interval workouts–one of which (a “pyramid fartlek”) I tried and loved.

You can check out the book at Amazon here, and at its publisher’s site (where you can read an excerpt) here. Definitely a book most runners will want to have on their shelf and keep referring back to, as I will in the months and years ahead.

 


 

Thanks to the publisher, who sent me a review copy, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

A Call for Presidential Repentance

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, I wrote an “Appeal to Christians Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump,” which local and nationally known faith leaders, scholars, and ministers co-signed.

The petition began with an expression of concern about Trump’s character:

President-elect Donald Trump has bragged about sexual assault and berated his female accusers. He has repeatedly disparaged African Americans, Latinos, and other communities. He has denied what is true and promoted what is not. He has threatened political opponents, called for torture of U.S. enemies, and has failed to quickly and unequivocally denounce and distance himself from race-based crimes committed in his name.

Character matters, and a position of power brings out more of what is already there. People can change, yes—that’s the power of the Gospel! But Trump has expressed no interest in asking for forgiveness of wrongdoing, as he famously said in 2015.

My concerns about Trump’s character have only grown—perhaps a post for another time. Today, I simply want to say that more than ever, I stand by the five commitments in that “Appeal to Christians” petition:

  1. We will pray for President Trump, elected officials, our nation, our churches, and each other.
  2. Rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, we will tell the truth about the world around us, and we will speak up for those who have been marginalized and taken advantage of.
  3. We will actively resist the temptation to overlook or normalize values, speech, and behavior that are in conflict with what Scripture calls us to.
  4. In the name of Jesus, we call President Trump to repentance for dishonoring the image of God in others.
  5. We will fix our eyes on Jesus and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, redouble our efforts to honor the image of God in all people and to love all our neighbors as ourselves.

I’ve prayed for this presidential administration more than for any other. But the third commitment has been more difficult for me. Saying nothing or ignoring the news is easier. We can easily be desensitized, or lose our sense of shock. But it’s important that we keep our moral bearings.

Trump knew the other night that he would say in his State of the Union address: “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution.” Those words themselves are right. Did he mean them?

I don’t think so. Earlier that same day he is reported to have called Chuck Schumer a “son of a b*tch.” He called Omarasa “that dog” after she published a book about working for the Trump administration. He referred to the pornographic film actress he cheated with on his then pregnant wife as “Horseface.” The list goes on.

Trump doesn’t “reject the politics of revenge,” as his SOTU address called for. By his own admission practicing “politics of revenge” is, for him, a way of life. In a previous speech in which he shared advice for achieving success, he said: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

So why is he pretending he believes otherwise? And are we being discerning in putting his words to the test?

Monday night’s talk of putting away revenge is not Trump turning over a new leaf (though we wish it were!)—it’s disingenuous lying (and gaslighting). In other contexts we would readily identify this as an abuser’s means of keeping control: he wants to keep others from pushing back on him while he continues to say whatever vindictive thing he wants to say.

Just as we would want our children to stand up to bullies at school, I hope the media and citizens alike point this discrepancy out—because as Marilyn Chandler McEntyre writes, we have “the responsibility not to tolerate lies.”

Frank Bruni was right on the money the morning after the address:

He pretends to care about matters that don’t move him in the least. He feigns blamelessness in situations where he’s entirely culpable and takes credit in circumstances where he has more to apologize for. He presents himself in a positive light, as one kind of person, when his actions paint him in a negative light, as a different character altogether. Many of his biggest lies are to himself.

Jeremiah warned the people about false prophets who said, “Peace, peace,” where there was no peace. So let’s acknowledge that Trump’s own words—about himself and directed to others—testify against him: he does not want to move beyond revenge politics. He just wants to quiet any who oppose him. That is not “peace.”

Consider this short post, then, one citizen’s small effort to make good on the third and fourth commitments from the petition above: to “actively resist the temptation to overlook or normalize values, speech, and behavior that are in conflict with what Scripture calls us to,” and “to call President Trump to repentance for dishonoring the image of God in others.”

Those are commitments that those who voted for Trump and those who voted for Hillary (and those who voted for Evan and those who voted for Jill!) can all get behind.

In his State of the Union address, Trump called on America to “choose greatness.”

I call on him to repent, come clean, begin telling the truth, and choose the greatness that he will only know when he asks God for forgiveness and begins to walk, as Scripture says, in the light of the Lord.

“Who Am I… that You Have Loved Me Forever?” Another Reason to Love the Septuagint

I’m already finding Will Ross’s LXX Reading plan rewarding. My Greek is improving again, and it’s been a rich devotional practice.

Here’s another reason to love the Septuagint: a beautiful, praise-inducing textual variant one would never see when reading the Hebrew text or its English translations.

This comes in a passage where David responds to God’s promise of an eternal throne, a message given through the prophet Nathan.

Here is 1 Chronicles 17:16, in the Masoretic text and the NRSV:

מִֽי־אֲנִ֞י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ וּמִ֣י בֵיתִ֔י כִּ֥י הֲבִיאֹתַ֖נִי עַד־הֲלֹֽם
“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?”
Here it is in the Septuagint, with the New English Translation of the Septuagint:
Τίς εἰμι ἐγώ, κύριε ὁ θεός, καὶ τίς ὁ οἶκός μου, ὅτι ἠγάπησάς με ἕως αἰῶνος;
Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house, that you have loved me forever?

“You have brought me thus far” (Hebrew) vs. “you have loved me forever” (Greek). Both beautiful, but the latter is simply arresting.

Okay, so you would learn about this if you were reading the Hebrew with the BHS and its apparatus, which notes the variant by back-translating the Greek into the Hebrew the translator might have been looking at:

𝔊 ἠγάπησάς με ἕως αἰῶνος = אֲהַבְתַּנִי עַד־עוֹלָם

In other words, the Greek translator could have been looking at the same Hebrew and just transposed a few letters.

Interestingly, the Tov/Polak MT-LXX parallel picks up the difference between “thus far” (MT) and “forever” (LXX) but not “brought me” (MT) vs. “loved me” (LXX). Even the parallel 2 Samuel 7:18 (LXX) doesn’t fully mirror this Chronicles verse. It has instead:

ὅτι ἠγάπηκάς με ἕως τούτων = that you have loved me thus far (lit., until these)

Regardless of which reading has the most support (and I just don’t have access to original manuscripts!), the LXX of 1 Chronicles 17:16 is certainly beautiful!

Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house, that you have loved me forever?

Memorize Weekly Verses in 2019

Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil

I’ve made a plan for memorizing verses of Scripture each week in 2019.

I intend, with God’s help, to follow this weekly plan. So far, so good! I have shared it with my congregation and wanted to share it here, in case any others have interest in joining me, or would otherwise find it helpful.

Each week there is a suggested verse or verses, spanning the whole sweep of the Old and New Testaments. There are never more than three verses to learn per week, except for the Psalm 23 week and the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 week. Many weeks suggest memorizing a single verse.

You can find a printable/downloadable PDF of the plan right here. You’ll also find (on the first page) some notes about reading in context, as well as “16 Ways to Memorize” that could be helpful, should you choose to take this on.

Let me know if you’ll be memorizing (or reading) along!