A quick look at Spotify Australia

Yesterday Spotify launched their online music streaming service in Australia and so far I am loving it!

I am currently using the free service which sees banner ads inside the application and the occasional audio ad – similar to a radio advert. The free service has an initial six month period during which you can stream an unlimited amount of music. After six months users are limited to 2.5 hours of music per week. There are two levels of paid service, the cheapest removes the ads and offers unlimited streaming, the more expensive option allows offline streaming and streaming on mobile devices.

So far I am most impressed by the catalogue of music available on Spotify. My music tastes are fairly unique, mainly being alternative Christian rock with the occasional mainstream pop/rock/dance track thrown in. Generally this means music availability is very hit and miss but so far Spotify has far exceeded my expectations. There is older NZ music from Mumsdollar, Solace, and Eight on the site, none of which I expected to find. There is also most of the general North American CCM bands there as well. The notable exception is the new independent release from Thousand Foot Krutch (but their back catalogue is there) and Manafest’s latest release (BEC Recordings).

I have installed the Spotify client on both Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 7. The linux client is a little buggy and has crashed a few times but generally works well. The Windows client worked without any issues – and even imported my local iTunes libary. Under Windows I was monitoring my data usage and Spotify used about 100mb/hour of music, I have also never experienced any problems with streaming or buffering under either OS. The quality of the music is acceptable through headphones and a PC surround sound system – the premium paid service provides higher bitrate audio.

Overall I am very impressed by the service offered – particularly for free! Some commentators are claiming that the service will replace iTunes. However, I see the two services as complementary. I like having proper copies of my music, and I have no issues paying to download music. I also wonder if I will use the service enough that in six months time I will get a paid service. At the moment I am listening through albums I have considered buying but never have, and the service is good for sampling new music but generally I like the music I already own – that is why I own it!

Sydney Symphony in the Domain 2012

Last night I went to Symphony in the Domain with a group of friends from uni.

The quality of the concert was exceptional. There were a number of violin and saxophone solos and the orchestra overall sounded superb.

Most of the music performed was not very well known. But the rendition of The Blue Danube Waltz was brilliant, and the traditional final piece Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture rounded out a very good evening.

Below is a video of the last three minutes of the 1812 Overture with the full fireworks and cannon display.

Delirious? – The Farewell Show

This morning I got my hands on a copy of Delirious? – The Farewell Show DVD. Delirious? performed their last show in November of last year and this live video of it captures the evening fantastically well. The show is different from their previous live DVDs in that the focus is not on playing their latest songs and using special effects – both visually and musically, instead the show is raw, the audience is in full voice, and the songs are mainly from the back-catalogue.

Because of the nature of any final show it is hard to find a single song that stands out from the rest. However, Jesus Blood had me in my living room with my arms stretched out crying out to God. Personally, for me, my favourite Delirious? song has always been History Maker and in The Farewell Show the boys do it exceptionally well one last time, at the end of the song Martin Smith does a little bit of preaching and in a change from his recent shows instead of reading Ezekiel 37 he read Psalm 23, before charging the audience to go out into the world and preach.

As a bonus feature the DVD also includes the “Cutting Edge Show” which appears to have been performed before the main show. In this 30 minute gig the Delirious? boys perform seven songs from their days as Cutting Edge (1992 – 1996), Thank You For Saving Me / White Ribbon Day is the stand out song here. And if you do get the DVD watch the Cutting Edge Show first – particularly if you have followed the band over the last 15+ years.

It is sad to see the end of Delirious? for me they have been a band that I have grown up with, for Christmas 1997 (or 1998) I was given their Cutting Edge 3&4 CD and since then I have owned every album except Glo, King of Fools, and Metamorphosis, I have also seen them perform live at Parachute Music Festival in 2006. Through my teenage years I made History Maker the soundtrack for what I wanted to do with my life, and it still remains my favourite song, hearing all the older Delirious? songs on this DVD brings back memories of 10 years of doing sound, lighting and AV at church.

Delirious? may no longer be performing or releasing new music but their impact on the Christian music scene will last for a long time, bands like David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, and many more are now carrying the torch that Delirious? carried for so many years. This DVD will be their lasting legacy of their impact on Christian music and it is a legacy that is well worth remembering and owning.

I’m in a cynical mood, just saying

So anyway after my crazy long blog post this afternoon I suddenly decide at 5.40pm to go and visit a church in the middle of the city, I pretty much picked up my keys, walked down the road, jumped on a train, off at the next stop, and then walked my way two blocks to find the church.

Outside the church the doors were closed, and while they were glass faced so you could see in there appeared to be no one in the foyer welcoming people or anything, this was 5 minutes before the service was due to start, and no people coming or going from the building. Thinking this was odd I walked past and quickly thought of my next plan of action for something to do. It was at this moment that I heard very loud crowd sounds coming from the nearby Hide Park.

I then wandered up to the park where as part of the St Patricks Day Celebrations a U2 Cover’s band was playing. And this is where things get weird. There were probably 20,000 people at this park listening to the band, possibly more. And you know what the songs of the lyrics were talking about everything that is wrong with the world, and people were singing along, they had their hands raised and were jumping up and down as well. It was at this moment cynically I thought to myself that this was a lot like church. Only the people weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit they were filled with too much Alcoholic Spirits. And later there were people who appeared to be overcome by the spirit but it was the spirit of alcohol that had caused them to collapse.

And the cynic in me goes why do we have magnificent church buildings where the doors are closed and you are just expected to somehow know how to get in, when you can get a much larger crowd by setting up a stage in a park, that is open and exposed to the world. What are we missing? I am sure the alcohol component has something to do with it, but if people are able to have a fun time on alcohol and desire it so much, then why isn’t it the same which church? Sure you have some people who are completely on fire for God but what about the rest. What are we missing?

And reading over this the cynic inside the cynic tells me that it is because there is too much arguing amongst church denominations and the like. Sure that is partly true. But that can’t be that much different than the difference between hip hop, classical, and alternative rock can it? I mean all of those genres all attract massive crowds and people long to attend live music gigs, but there is something about Sunday and church that just puts people off including myself. Just saying.

Save Me From Myself – Korn’s Brian Head Welch

Last night I finished reading one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is called “Save Me From Myself” and is written by Brian Head Welch formerly of the band Korn. The book is an autobiography of his life from childhood, through his drug fuelled years with Korn and his coming to Christ and becoming a Christian. I won’t give too much away about the story as it is a book that any young person should read.

The one bit that really got me from a Christian perspective was towards the end of the book where Welch describes some songs he wrote after coming to Christ:

After I’d been writing for a bit, God gave me another song called “It’s Time To See Religion Die.” To me, this song has a few different meanings. For one, it’s a song that encourages people to get out of this whole “Sunday Christian” mentality and into the world so God can use them to change the world, to help people understand that God does not live in buildings made by men (Acts 7:48). We are God’s building, because he dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Upon reading this I grabbed my bible to check the verses mentioned in context. The full context of Acts 7:48 is from verse 48 through to verse 50, from the NIV:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?”

The full context of 1 Corinthians 3:16 extends into verse 17 as well:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

This commentary was something that I had always known but had forgotten about. It seems too often that we get caught up in thinking that God is at Church. When God is actually right with us, right now. And church is something made by man to come together as a body of believers to worship God. Church is not God and does not create God, but we can meet God at church, in exactly the same way we can on our owns anywhere else at any other time.

Welch then continues:

That’s not the only meaning to this song though. Also, this song is for all the people that have been hurt by religion. All of the man-made religion crap in this world has to die. Whenever it’s Christian man-made religion crap or some other man-made religion crap, it all has to die. It must grieve God’s heart when he sees Christians fighting about whose doctrine is right; he doesn’t see denominations, he sees one big glorious bride. When Christians argue about doctrinal issues, all he sees is carnal people acting like children. All that prideful, controlling religious crap is what drives young people away from churches, and it has to go. Much of the world’s population is under the age of eighteen, and we have to bring the love of Christ to them without all this controlling crap going on. Because, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I found this point quite interesting as well. I think it is important to be able to freely and frankly discuss your differences of points of view on doctrine but many times church groups take it way too far (catholic vs protestant for instance). And it does put people off. If we put as much effort into working with young people as we did discussing the finer points of some minor piece of doctrine how many more people would we save?

You can buy the book on Mighty Ape

Two new live albums

I got both Skillet’s Comatose Comes Alive and Rapture Ruckus’s Live at World’s End Live CD/DVDs yesterday.

What a contrast between the two albums.

Skillet’s album is fantastic. I mean more then fantastic. The DVD of the film is just amazing, lots of postproduction effects and a really good selection of songs accross their past few albums, and a one hour 20 minute show.

Rapture on the other hand is a 40 minute, 10 song show which is interrupted every second song by Parachute Music putting in a mini promo or message about something, I didn’t buy a live DVD to get advertising breaks. However the show itself is awesome.

Both albums also come with an audio cd version of the respective concerts which is good for the MP3 Player.

Top 15 Christian Albums

Jesus Freak Hideout have got their writers to each list their 15 favourite albums of all time.

It is pretty cool, check it out here: http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/features/favorites/top15_2008/default.asp

Which made me think. If I could only have 15 albums from my collection what would they be?

So in no particular order, and I limited myself to only one album per band my list is:

Audio Adrenaline – Until My Heart Caves In

This was Audio A’s last original studio release. And it rocks. Opening up with Clap Your Hands, and featuring King, Starting Over, Are You Ready For Love, Undefeated and Losing Control it rocked from start to finish. Easily one of my favourite albums.

Delirious? – Access:D

Access:D was a great live album from the D boys. Featuring all the hits from the Cutting Edge era and more recent Touch material it was a great two disc live collection that really defined what it means to be a fan of Delirious.

Eight – Unfinished

Eight are a local Kiwi band, or were. Unfinished was released after the band went their seperate ways. Openning up with Build a 7 minute instrumental really does Build the album. Featuring Depends and Fall Apart the album really shows the beauty of Eight a very well polished band and album.

Jeff Deyo – Surrender

I really coundn’t leave this album of the list. I was front row at Parachute 2005 where it was recorded live. Other then the personal connection to the album it is a great collection of modern worship songs such as Let It Flow, Be Lifted Up, More Love More Power, Nothing Less Than All Of Me and Bless The Lord.

Kutless – Hearts of the Innocent

The highlight of this album is Winds of Change a beautiful rock song. But like almost all the other albums on this list it the entire album rocks. Million Dollar Man is a great description of our modern lust for greed.

The Lads – Lost at Sea

We all said it was okay to live our own way without God. The Lad’s late 1990s album Lost at Sea is powerful because it successfuly blends punk/pop rock with songs about God and life. The highlight of this album is the ballard Ode To Joy. A must have.

Lifehouse – No Name Face

Your all I want, your all I need, your everything. Lifehouse’s No Name Face album is fantastic. It contains a large amount of spiritual metaphors mixed into a mainstream rock album. Hanging by a Moment was the most requested radio single of 2001 in the United States and propelled the band to stardom.

Newsboys – Adoration

The Newsboys’ worship project is one of their best albums. Opening with He Reigns and containing a live version of It is You the album is exactly what it says it is, A worship album.

OneRepublic – Dreaming Out Loud

OneRepublic are a lot like Lifehouse sucessful at mixing God and the mainstream. My favourite song is Dreaming Out Loud which at first listen is a very confussed song, but on more indepth thought it contains many powerful metaphors about God and Church.

Paul Colman Trio – New Map of the World

The Paul Colman Trio was one of the best bands that never quite made it. Turn featured heavily on World Vision ads and helped the band get airplay on Christian Radio. The best song on the album is Killing Tree closely followed by Selfish Song.

Rapture Ruckus – I Believe

The third homegrown artist on my list. Rapture Ruckus has been very successful in proving you can have rap without having the negative images that go with it. A nice album with a powerful message.

Skillet – Alien Youth

Choosing what Skillet album to add to this list was hard. In the end Alien Youth was settled on because of the dynamic songs on the album such as Alien Youth, The Thirst is Taking Over and Will You Be There.

Thousand Foot Krutch – The Art of Breaking.

If you haven’t heard the song Hurt go and listen to it now. This album is brilliant at showing the success of christian rock, being well polished, clean and simply great!

TobyMac – Alive and Transported

Probably the best live album I own. Alive and Transported features all of the best songs from TobyMac and DC Talk, the lead in for Jesus Freak is fantastic.

Tree63 – Tree63

Tree63’s debut album is their best. Features: Joy, Look What You’ve Done, 1*0*1. Brilliant, just Brilliant.