Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Category: Music (page 1 of 3)

Favorite Albums of 2015

I do this every year.  It’s never the same number of albums. I just start putting together a list. When I run out of things to put on the list, I usually top it off to a round number. This year I got to about 36. I scrounged around for four more that were good enough.

Requirements for inclusion:

  1. Gotta be on Spotify. That’s about all I listen to any more. Sorry, no Taylor Swift (not likely to have made it even if available) or Adele (a slam dunk had it been made available).
  2. I’ve gotta like it.
  3. I’ve gotta have listened to more than one of its songs more than a few times.


  • Active Child, Mercy
  • Alpine, Yuck
  • Astronauts, etc., Mind Out Wandering
  • the bird and the bee, Recreational Love
  • Bop English, Constant Bop
  • BORNS, Dopamine
  • CHAMPS, Vamala
  • City and Colour, If I Should Go Before You
  • Disclosure, Caracal
  • Eilen Jewell, Sundown Over Ghost Town
  • EL VY, Return To The Moon
  • Ex Cops, Daggers
  • Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Foals, What Went Down
  • Golden Rules, Golden Ticket
  • Grimes, Art Angels
  • Houndmouth, Little Neon Limelight
  • Howling, Sacred Ground
  • Indigo Girls, One Lost Day
  • Jamie Woon, Making Time
  • Jose Gonzalez, Vestiges & Claws
  • JR JR, JR JR
  • Kelela, Hallucinogen
  • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  • The Late Call, Golden
  • Lord Huron, Strange Trails
  • The Maccabees, Marks To Prove It
  • Oddisee, The Good Fight
  • Oh Wonder, Oh Wonder
  • Other Lives, Rituals
  • Parlour Tricks, Broken Hearts/Bones
  • Passion Pit, Kindred
  • Patrick Watson, Love Songs For Robots
  • Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues
  • Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
  • Tove Styrke, Kiddo
  • Until the Ribbon Breaks, A Lesson Unlearnt
  • Vetiver, Complete Strangers
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness
  • The Weepies, Sirens

If you are on Spotify, I’ve got these albums in a list (see below as well). Have a listen around. If something comes out between now and the end of 2015, and it meets the rigorous criteria outlined above, I’ll add it to the list here and on Spotify.

Persons over Projects

So I did an impromptu interview the other day in our office about my work as an editor. I wasn’t at all dressed or shaved for the occasion, but it was fun and it gave our media guy a chance to play around with his new toys and editing software. Here’s a piece he put together:

Oh, and there was this as well…


20 Favorite Albums of 2015 (Halfway-Point edition)

Listed in an order somewhat representing how I would rank the albums if I took more time, and listed with one representative song from each album. Continue reading

The Return of Some Favorites

I tend to associate certain musical groups and artists with particular periods of my life. New Edition, for instance, makes me nostalgic for middle school. Many of those artists persist in my life beyond that specific period, but their music reminds me of the time when I first began to listen to them. Recently a handful of artists have released albums or individual songs that recall a time in my life not too long ago. I’m not sure how I would label this time. It’s the period encompassing dating and the first few years of marriage, prior to our move to Eugene and my starting work at Wipf and Stock Publishers. It’s that weird period many people experience wherein school wraps up (in my case the final year or so of dissertating) and a job solidifies. Some of my favorites from that period have put out new stuff. I like the new music, but I think I like the memories they evoke even more. Here’s a list of the meaningful albums from that 6 year period and the new stuff out this year. [NB: Links are to artists, albums, and/or songs on Spotify. Also, Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine were busy guys during those years!]

Jose GonzalezVeneer (2006), In Our Nature (2007), and Vestiges & Claws (2015)

Death Cab for CutieTransatlanticism (2003), Plans (2005), and Kintsugi (2015)

Sufjan StevensMichigan (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Come on Feel the Illinoise (2005), Songs For Christmas (2006), The Avalanche (2006), and Carrie & Lowell (2015)

Iron & WineThe Creek Drank The Cradle (2002), The Sea & the Rhythm (2003), Our Endless Numbered Days (2004), Woman King (2005), The Shepherd’s Dog (2007), and Archive Series Volume No. 1 (2015)

The WeepiesHappiness (2004), Say I Am You (2006), and the soon-to-be-released Sirens (out April 28, 2015), containing “Sirens,” “No Trouble,” and “Crooked Smile.”

Josh RouseNashville (2005), Subtitulo (2006), Country Mouse, City House (2007), and The Embers of Time (2015)

UPDATE 4/22/2015: Great Lake SwimmersGreat Lake Swimmers (2003), Bodies and Minds (2005), Ongiara (2007), and A Forest of Arms (2015)

In putting this list together, I notice they all have a similar aesthetic. Hmm. Wonder what it was about that time of my life and this style of music?

Underwhelmed, Excited, Satisfied

This post has three parts. The first is about the music offerings of 2015 so far. The second is about the start of the 20th season of MLS. And the third is about a running app. In other words, if you came here looking for a book announcement, or a theological reflection, or commentary on a current event, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’d like to get some new music recommendation, or you are a fan of soccer in America, or if you’re a runner and want the lowdown on a helpful app, then you’ve come to the right place. Links abound!

Part One: Music of 2015

So far I’ve been underwhelmed by the music coming out in this two-month-old year. Nothing has stood out. To be fair, I listen almost exclusively to Spotify, so I’m not able to hear everything. For instance, I’ve yet to hear the new Bjork album. From what’s available to me, and from what I’ve taken the time to listen to, I’ve not yet been wowed. I had high hopes with the new releases of some old favorites: Father John Misty, Iron and Wine, Jose Gonzalez, Joshua Radin, The Lone Bellow, Of Montreal, Dan Deacon, Belle & Sebastian, and the Punch Brothers, to name a few. They’ve not disappointed me, necessarily, but none of them have hit me quite like they did the first time I heard them however many years ago. I’ve come across some artists new to me that might grow on me as the year goes on: The Amazing, Champs, Fryars, Ibeyi, Sea Change, Jape, and Rhiannon Giddens come most readily to mind. And I’ve hope some of the singles being put out in anticipation of later albums will lead to a better music year: see especially Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine, and Passion Pit.

Part Two: MLS

The MLS owners and players worked out a new CBA yesterday, so the 2015 will not be derailed by a work stoppage. This means the 20th season begins tomorrow night. My boys and I have created our fantasy teams, we’ve got tickets for a Timbers game in April, and the league has a new television deal that will allow us to see a few more games.  The recent influx of USMNT players to the league makes it all the more exciting.

Part Three: Wahoo running app

I’ve been running fairly regularly for the last 5 years or more. In that time I’ve used two different sport watches and numerous running apps on my iPhone. I’m as addicted to the data as I am the running! The problem is that my data has gotten scattered across several platforms. I like certain things about one platform and certain other things in other platforms. I have running data on Garmin Connect, RunKeeper, Runtastic, and Runcoach. I’ve been able to consolidate much of that data to some extent. There are still several missing activities on some platforms and still many other duplicates, but I’ve got a good history on several sites. I still can’t decide which one I like the most, so I’ve decided to keep adding activities to all of them and more. Recording runs on several platforms means having several apps open at once while I run, or it means having to manually enter my runs on a half dozen sites after I’ve completed my run. I was going the manual entry route for a while. It got old quick. Then I found a running app that recorded my runs and also allowed me to upload the run to several other running apps: Wahoo Fitness. It is the most versatile running app I’ve ever used. After each run I upload my run to my accounts on Garmin Connect (which automatically connects to Runcoach), Runkeeper, Strava, Nike+, and MapMyRun. I can also put the GPX or TCX file into a folder on Dropbox for uploading to Runtastic. There are other fitness sites Wahoo can upload to, but I’m trying to discipline(?) myself and stick to these seven. While I can’t seem to make up my mind about one platform for recording my running data, I am quite satisfied with the Wahoo app for giving me the option of not having to decide. In addition to compatibility with other sites, Wahoo is capable of linking up with various devices like heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, bluetooth scales, bike computers, and a host of other gadgets for purchase. I’ve yet to buy any of those compatible gizmos. The thing I like best about Wahoo is its simplest feature: the screen! The workout screen has big, easily readable numbers. Reading your distance or pace or time on an iPhone strapped to your forearm, your head bobbing up and down, and sweat getting into your eyes that don’t have glasses on them or contacts in them is not easy. Wahoo’s designers seem to understand this. Highly recommended for runners who are as indecisive and visually impaired as I am.

100 Favorite Tracks of 2014

This is not scientific by any means. I went through all of the tracks I flagged this past year (nearly 500!) and checked the ones that stood out the most for whatever reason. I only allowed myself one song from any one artist or group. When I was done I had almost 100 favorite tracks. I needed a round number, so I went back through and checked a few more to get to an even 100. Here they are in no particular order:

50 Albums of the Year

Every year I seem to change up how I post my list of favorite albums and songs.

2014 was a good year. I had a hard time selecting my favorite albums. Picking the top album was easy. Sturgill Simpson ran away with it this year as far as I’m concerned. His is one of the few albums where, after a full listen or two, I don’t pick out a few favorites and stick to them. I’ve listened to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music from start to finish countless times this year, and I plan to do it more in the coming years. I haven’t had an album hit me like this in a long time. From there the next ten are pretty close. In fact, the top 20 divides into four groups: 1) Sturgill Simpson is in a group to himself; 2) 2–11; 3) 12–15; and 4) 16–20. I could shuffle 2-11 around and be happy. But I am returning to Glass Animals’ ZABA more than the rest. It is rising above the other nine in this group, so it gets the #2 slot. After that 12-15 are only slightly behind 2-11. Here too I’d be satisfied with a different order. Same for the last five.

There were so many good albums this year I put together a supplementary list of thirty more. One of the things different about this year’s list is that I’ve provided recommendations for all 50 albums. There’s a link at the end of the post to a Spotify playlist with all 126 recommendations. I think my tastes are pretty eclectic. But you will not find any hip-hop or metal (and probably some other lesser known genres). I like hip-hop. Not as much as I did in high school and college, but I still listen to a good deal. I don’t know if it is my age or becoming a parent or what, but I have a hard time with too much violence, bravado, sexism, and other things that too often tend to fill hip-hop albums. I play music a lot at work, making Spotify playlists that then get played at home. Because of this I don’t tend to put hip-hop songs into my playlists for fear of 4- and 7-year-old ears paying attention to what Papa is playing. (They hate Sturgill Simpson, by the way. I’m worried about them.) I’m not completely opposed to violence, bravado, sexism, and such in songs, as you will hear if you happen to listen to the recommendations playlist. And, if I get around to putting together my favorite songs of the year, there is likely to be a hip-hop song or two in the list. As for metal, I simply don’t like it. Never have.

Top 20 Albums of 2014:

  1. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (THE WHOLE ALBUM!!! If you need a place to start, try “Turtles All the Way Down,” “Life of Sin,” “Long White Line,” and “The Promise”)
  2. Glass Animals – ZABA (“Black Mambo,” “Pools,” “Gooey,” “Hazey,” “Toes,” and “Wyrd”)
  3. Hozier – Hozier (“Take Me To Church,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “From Eden,” “Work Song,” and “Like Real People Do”)
  4. Black English – NO (“Leave the Door Wide Open,” “Monday,” “There’s a Glow,” “Last Chance,” and “Hold On”)
  5. SOHN – Tremors (“The Wheel,” “Artifice,” “Lights,” and “Veto”)
  7. Thief – Closer [EP] (“Closer,” “Broken Boy,” ‘Don’t Believe You,” and “Cold”)
  8. alt-J – This is All Yours (“Every Other Freckle,” “Left Hand Free,” and “Hunger Of The Pine”)
  9. Beck – Morning Phase (“Heart Is A Drum,” “Blue Moon,” and “Turn Away”)
  10. Duologue – Never Get Lost (“Forests,” “Sibling,” and “Drag & Drop”)
  11. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (“Small Things,” “She Treats Me Well,” and “Time Is Dancing”)
  12. Kishi Bashi – Lighght (“Carry on Phenomenon,” “Once Upon a Lucid Dream (In Afrikaans),” and “Hahaha Pt. 1”)
  13. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso (“Hey Mami,” “Dreamy Bruises,” and “Could I Be”)
  14. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love (“Scream (Funk My Life Up),” “Better Man,” and “Looking For Something”)
  15. Young & Sick – Young & Sick (“Ghost Of A Chance,” “Glass,” and “Valium”)
  16. Dry the River – Alarms in the Heart (“Hidden Hand,” “Gethsemane,” and “Everlasting Light”)
  17. Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old (“Autumn,” “Time Between,” and “If I Were To Lie”)
  18. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half the City (“Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Broken Bones & Pocket Change”)
  19. Jack White – Lazaretto (“Lazaretto” and “Would You Fight For My Love?”)
  20. TV On The Radio – Seeds (“Careful You” and “Happy Idiot”)

30 more in alphabetical order:

  • Arthur Beatrice – Working Out (“Midland” and “Carter-Uncut”)
  • Bad Suns – Language & Perspective (“Dancing On Quicksand” and “Salt”)
  • Broods – Evergreen (“Mother & Father” and “Bridges”)
  • Chet Faker – Built on Glass (“Talk Is Cheap” and “1998”)
  • Chris Staples – American Soft (“Hold Onto Something” and “Black Tornado”)
  • Deptford Goth – Songs (“Relics” and “We Symbolise”)
  • Fink – Hard Believer (“Hard Believer” and “Looking Too Closely”)
  • Gramercy Arms – The Seasons of Love (“Always in Love” and “Winterlight”)
  • The Hoosiers – The News from Nowhere (“Somewhere in the Distance” and “Make or Break – You Gotta Know”)
  • Horse Feathers – So It Is With Us (“Violently Wild” and “Why Do I Try”)
  • Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss (“Devil” and “Let Go”)
  • How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart? (“See You Fall” and “Repeat Pleasure”)
  • Jessie Ware – Tough Love (“Tough Love” and “Sweetest Song”)
  • The Kooks – Listen (“Forgive & Forget” and “Down”)
  • Kyla LaGrange – Cut Your Teeth (“Cut Your Teeth” and “The Knife”)
  • Lo-Fang – Blue Film (“Look Away” and “When We’re Fire”)
  • Lost in the Trees – Past Life (“Past Life” and “Rites”)
  • Matthew And The Atlas – Other Rivers (“Into Gold” and “Counting Paths”)
  • MØ – No Mythologies to Follow (“Maiden” and “Glass”)
  • NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers In The Wasteland (“Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” and “Brother”)
  • Owen Pallet – In Conflict (“I Am Not Afraid” and “In Conflict”)
  • Owl John – Owl John (“A Good Reason To Grow Old” and “Red Hand”)
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days of Abandon (“Kelly” and “Life After Life”)
  • Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant (“TV Song” and  “Only Lies”)
  • Stars – No One Is Lost (“From The Night” and “Look Away”)
  • Submotion Orchestra – Alium (“Time Will Wait” and “Rust”)
  • The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie (“Whimpering Child” and “Glue”)
  • Vance Joy – Dream Your Life Away (“Riptide” and “Best That I Can”)
  • Walk The Moon – TALKING IS HARD (“Shut Up and Dance” and “Avalanche”)
  • White Sea – In Cold Blood (“Prague” and “Future Husbands Past Lives”)

Playlist of the 126 recommended songs.

New Look, New Voice, New Music

Last week we announced the launch of our new Wipf and Stock website. Responses have been positive. We hope it is a better online experience for customers, authors, and casual browsers.

As you might imagine creating a new web space for a company like ours is not easy. The project has been in the works for a good long time. This blog, however, is published using WordPress software, which comes with a standard set of templates. And it is sort of a side project for us editors. What that means is the look of the blog is pulled together with some extracurricular tinkering from one of the editors. And what that means is the blog will be pretty basic. With the new look of the website, we thought maybe the blog ought to get a makeover as well. Not much of one, mind you, but something in line with the look of the website. So I did a little tinkering yesterday and settled on the template and image you now see on the blog.

Wizard Island at Crater Lake.

Wizard Island at Crater Lake.

We have the capability to put different header images up pretty easily, so you may see different Oregon vistas from time to time.

As well as a new look to the blog, we are welcoming a new voice. Christian Amondson, previously our very capable assistant managing editor, changed positions last year to become an acquisitions editor for Cascade Books. You will find posts from Christian on the blog every now and again.

Finally, it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned new music. Two years ago alt-J’s An Awesome Wave led my list of albums of the year. They’ve come out with a new album this year, This Is All Yours. It is good and I’ve listened to it quite  bit, but it is not as accessible as their debut. Three other albums that in many ways are alt-J-like stand out:

I Forgot Where We Were by Ben Howard

Never Get Lost by Duologue

ZABA by Glass Animals

None of these albums has dethroned Sturgill Simpson‘s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, a shoo-in for my album of the year unless something surprises me in the next seven weeks. Glass Animals has come closest. There are about half a dozen songs I could highlight from their album, but I’ll leave you with the one that has the most interesting video.


The Promise, with some twang

From time to time I get in particular music moods. Could be hip-hop or classical, electronica or folk. My upbringing and my generation play a part in a couple of my musical moods. There are days when I have an itchin’ for some good ol’ country music of my Texas upbringing. Typically I go to the country music of the twentieth century. I know it may make me sound old and crotchety, but what passes for country music today is almost unbearable. I’d rather listen to a worn-out, depressed, and probably drunk Johnny, Waylon, Willie, Conway, etc. Or give me the big hats and fiddlin’ two-step tunes of Travis, George, Clint, Alan, etc. Dwight Yoakam combines the two and adds a dash of Elvis Presley, so obviously, he stands out as one of my go-to artists. A few weeks ago as I was making my way through the week’s new releases, as I do, I came across Sturgill Simpson‘s new album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. metamodernIt is easily the best country music I have heard in well over a decade. I can’t recommend it enough. It is more a combination of Waylon and Dwight, with a dash of psychedelica, than it is big hats and two steps. It is just downright good music. None of the sheen and glitter of the bastardized music on country radio, and that’s a good thing!

But more than a country itch, though, I often find myself in the mood for the music of my high school days. That means I run to the 80s and what I will argue until my dying day is the best decade for pop music. One of my all-time favorite songs of that era is When in Rome’s “The Promise.” I love it. I don’t know why, I just do. Blame it on MTV.

Now back to Sturgill Simpson. He has a cover of “The Promise” on his new album. It blew my mind. It’s recognizable and yet something quite different. In other words, it is absolutely fabulous! See for yourself.


Playing catch up

I was out of the office for several days this week and last, and I feel like I’ve been doing little more than playing catch up since my return. Aside from the many job-related tasks and domestic duties that piled up in my absence, I returned to a long list of new music awaiting my listening ears. These past two weeks, especially, saw the release of several anticipated albums, all of which are sitting still in a Spotify playlist waiting for me to give them attention. For those interested to know what I will be listening to for the next several weeks, here’s a list of new albums I’m most anxious to hear:

William Fitzsimmons – Lions

Phantogram – Voices

Beck – Morning Phase

St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (yes, the Neneh Cherry of 80s “Buffalo Stance” fame!)

On another front, yesterday I learned of James Allison‘s visit to Eugene next month and I read through the discussion on Scot McKnight’s blog about penal substitutionary atonement and mimetic theory. These two things made me realize I need to catch up on Rene Girard.

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