Best of 2019: Jon’s List

Best of 2019

This past year for me was spent quietly tending to personal projects and family concerns. Most of the reviews I wrote were in the first half; the second half I mostly concerned myself with releasing another Domestikwom album, starting a movie podcast with Chris, and a YouTube channel with occasional Nine Circles contributor and Qoheleth noise man Jeremy Hunt.

When I finally lifted my head above ground, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had actually done a good enough job of keeping up with the year’s new releases that I could put together a list I could stand behind.   Continue reading

Album Review: The Austerity Program – “Bible Songs 1”

austerity program - bible songs 1

For anyone who has ever tried to dramatize Bible stories, especially for movies, the first and often most important challenge is how to fill in gaps from the text so it makes sense to modern audiences. Usually these are narrative gaps, but certainly as ancient bits of myth making, the psychologies of its characters are rarely, if ever explored. This practice of using, as Wil Gafney calls it, “sanctified imagination” goes back more than a thousand years to the rabbinic tradition of midrash. But what happens when the stories we explore are violent, unstable and predatory? Well, you get Bible Songs 1 from The Austerity Program.   Continue reading

Album Review: Big|Brave – “A Gaze Among Them”

big brave - a gaze among them

It is a fairly common experience for people (read: me) getting into meditation for the first time to experience difficulty in quieting one’s mind. Repeating mantras over and over can sometimes be helpful , because that repetition gives the conscious mind a concrete task to focus on, which frees up the rest of the person. The language used can change based on the tradition it’s found in of course, but the idea of using repetition to lower defenses and experience something wonderful is all I have been able to think about as I continue to sit with Big|Brave‘s new album, A Gaze Among Them.   Continue reading

Album Review: Astronoid – “Astronoid”

astronoid self titled

On the Scriptnotes podcast, professional screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin dispense advice to young and aspiring writers, and a recurring thread is the idea that building a career of screenwriting isn’t about writing one perfect script, but about being able to repeat that process on an ongoing basis. While not diminishing the merits of a single particularly good work of art, longevity requires more than that. That is the question that is asked of Astronoid’s self-titled sophomore album.   Continue reading

Album Review: Azusa – “Heavy Yoke”

azusa - heavy yoke

Over the years, graphics in video games have evolved from tiny pixelated 8-bit characters to much more photo realistic art styles, and while this is generally seen as an advancement of the medium, in the last 10 years or so, there’s been another movement to bring back that old 8-bit aesthetic, using modern tech to evolve that style to do things it never could in its original incarnation. Think of it as an alternate history. While it’d ever be a mistake to call anything that Swedish extreme metal band Extol did basic, their 5-album discography covered a lot of ground, and any of those albums could provide foundational anchor for a whole band. In the year 2018, we receive just such an album in Heavy Yoke, the debut album from AzusaContinue reading