On a lonely patch of ground somewhere on the Kent campus lies the barely marked remains of Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed.  Smithson’s piece on entropy has seen its share of natural and unnatural processes since its inception in 1970, just weeks before the infamous shootings—fires, graffiti, time itself.  It is at this quiet mound of grass, under a grove of trees, that artist Matt Kurtz would return, over and over again, to reflect, to draw inspiration, to meditate on his own entropic life.  Just a few weeks ago, Kurtz released his first album of songs, simply titled 107, seemingly after the four short transitionary breaks of sound that segment the album.  The songs themselves—apocalyptic and beautiful—drift like tumbleweeds across plains of steel guitar, electric guitar solos, banjo strums and the artist’s own fragile voice, pleading to God, grappling with love, grappling with doubt, seeking to make sense of a planet rapidly eroding.  And in those one minute and seven second breaks, we hear the wisdom of children, the chirping of birds, a choir singing, a heart beating.  In those one minute and seven second breaks, we hear something close to an answer.    

Listen, download, purchase here.

Year in Review: 2019

December 26, 2019

Movies watched:

Game Night 2018

Sunset Boulevard 1950

Free Solo (2018)

Glass (2019)

Christopher Robin (2018)

Frye: The Greatest Party that Never Happened (2019)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

The Notebook (2004)

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

A Night at the Opera (1935)

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)

Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene (2013)

A Bucket of Blood (1959)

Eighth Grade (2018)

Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Captain Marvel (2019)

High Flying Bird (2019)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

City Lights (1931)

Total Recall (1990)

West Side Story (1961)

Us (2019)

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

All the Presidents Men (1976)

Tootsie (1982)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

The American President (1995)

The Sisters Brothers (2018)

John Wick: Chapter 3 -Parabellum (2019)

I Am Big Bird (2015)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)

Chinatown (1974)

Vertigo (1958)

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019)

Gone with the Wind (1940)

First Man (2018)

Apollo 11 (2019)

Anima (2019)

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

The Graduate (1967)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

The Muppet Movie (1979)

On the Basis of Sex (2018)

The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

Ida (2013)

Network (1976)

Long Shot (2019)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Shampoo (1975)

Harlan County U.S.A. (1977)

American Factory (2019)

The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

Clue (1985)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

North by Northwest (1959)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Spartacus (1960)

American Graffiti (1973)

The Godfather (1972)

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)

Ad Astra (2019)

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Casino (1995)

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Rear Window (1954)

Joker (2019)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1947)

Annie Hall (1977)

The Host (2006)

Raging Bull (1980)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Knives Out (2019)

The Producers (1967)

The Irishman (2019)

Paresite (2019)

Marriage Story (2019)

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Brick (2006)

Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker (2019)


Books read:

Frederick Buechner, “Open Heart”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”

George Saunders, “Lincoln in the Bardo”

H.P. Lohrman and Ralph H. Romig, “Valley of the Tuscarawas: A History of Tuscarawas County”

Graham Greene, “The Quiet American”

Bob Odenkirk, “A Load of Hooey”

Edwina Gately, “In God’s Womb: A Spiritual Memoir”

N.T. Wright, “Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians”

Waylon Jennings and Lenny Kaye, “Waylon: An Autobiography”

Thomas John Carlisle “You! Jonah!”

Graham Greene, “The Heart of the Matter”

Brian Jay Jones, “Jim Henson: The Biography”

Donna Bowman, “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Being Human: Becoming the Best Bag of Bones You Can Be”

Phyllis Tickle, “The Great Emergence”

Walker Percy “The Moviegoer”

Frederick Buechner, “The Yellow Leaves: a Miscellany”

Ron Hansesn, “Mariette in Ecstasy”

Molly Hand (editor), “Women’s Writings on Christian Spirituality”

David Benjamin Blower, “Kingdom Vs. Empire


Favorite albums:

Buddy & Julie Miller, “Breakdown on 20th Ave. South”

Damien Jurado, “In the Shape of a Storm”

David Benjamin Blower, “We Really Existed and We Really Did This”

Dori Freeman, “Every Single Star”

Joan Shelley, “Like the River Loves the Sea”

The National, “I Am Easy to Find”

Wilco, “Ode to Joy”

Buddy Miller has tended to refer to the new Buddy and Julie Miller record, Breakdown On 20th Ave. South, as a Julie Miller solo project, with his wife having written a majority of the album’s 12 tracks.  True, the confessional batch of songs by the esteemed songwriter, her first in many years, is very Julie-centric; but that’s not to take away from the production and playmanship that Buddy brings to the proceedings.  Tense, tortured, seeking lyrics filtered through Buddy’s electric guitars makes for a combustive, exciting record that could only come from this very unique Nashville duo.  Find the album here.

A companion album to his last record, Jeff Tweedy’s new batch of tunes, Warmer,  continues the Wilco frontman’s abstract, sometimes apocalyptic introspection.  Perfect melodies.  Oblique lyrics.  And folk tunes full of hairpin turns.  You can find the album at most online retailers, or at the Wilco website.

Smoke-filled images drift about when listening to the self-titled release of Akron’s Broken Plank.  Backroad honky-tonks. Lost highways.  To the whir and hiss of a tape machine,  sad steel, and wicked guitar; the listener is swept up in a ghostly waltz among the stars.  You can stream and purchase this strange, haunted, beautiful album here.

On his new album, From Here to All of Time’s Entire, Cody J. Martin spins tales both tall and tender.  Across 10 blues/folk/Americana-infused tunes, the dynamic Martin spits out his singular brand of skewed colloquialisms and twisted religious idioms; grappling with hard love and ennui.  This righteous slice of rock-and-roll drops on August 23.  For more information or to preorder, go here.

Discoveries & Recommendations

Movies: Anima (2019)

Ida (2013)

Classic Albums: The Phipps Family, Faith, Love and Tragedy

David Benjamin Blower’s newest album, We Really Existed and We Really Did This, is a beautiful, heartbreaking meditation on our environmental sins and what it means for our future, our souls, and for the world to come.  The proceedings drift along on dust bowl melodies and poetic, anthemic wailings.  They inspire.  They convict.  They wound and heal, like any good prophesying is wont to do. The album is available at https://benjaminblower.bandcamp.com/ in both physical and digital forms, with extended readings and reflections on the physical copy.

On the National’s eighth record, I am Easy to Find, singer Matt Berninger shares the microphone with a roster of female vocalists, not to mention lyrical collaborations with his wife, Carin Besser.  These contributions breath a new kind of life into the already expansive sound of the veteran band, and adds a dimension of push and pull that, intentional or not, echoes our culture at large.  You can purchase the album in all its forms at the band’s website, americanmary.com.

Damien Jurado’s record, In the Shape of a Storm, is his first since the death of collaborator Richard Swift.  Throughout their many records together, Swift pushed Jurado’s quiet tunes into expansive, psychedelic soundscapesAlone again, Jurado strips everything down to vocals and guitar, his oblique reflections on love and death are put front and center and seen through a new lens. The album is available for purchase at most online retailers, but a good place to start would be here and here.

In the upcoming months, Wilder Adkins will officially release his new album, In This Pilgrim Way, where the soulful Birmingham artist interprets old standards like “Softly and Tenderly” and “In the Garden”, while adding a few of his own hymns to the gospel mix.  “I’m all peace on the outside, and fury within,” sings Adkins. “I am still running for the light”—a sentiment worthy of Charles Wesley.  To preorder the album, both in vinyl or digital forms, visit https://wilderadkins.bandcamp.com/

Discoveries & Recommendations

Books: You! Jonah!  by Thomas John Carlisle

Movies: The Sisters Brothers

Classic Albums: Jackson C. Frank, Self-Titled

Podcasts: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend



When the first Bifrost Arts record came out (Come O’ Spirit), one of its contributors, Joseph Pensak, released a B-side to the record called “Come Unto Me You Weary”.  As with the other Bifrost tunes, the simple hymn stood in vivid contrast to much of the “worship” music of its day.  It had a quiet melody, an unpredictable arrangement, and vocal performances that ache.

Some 10 years later, Pensak has enlisted a number of Vermont (and beyond) musicians, to help him expand on those initial Bifrost outpourings on his new record, Hallowell.  He draws inspiration both far and wide, from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, to ancient hymns, to REM and the Breeders.  These eccentricities fit well with the output of Great Comfort Records, founded by Lenny Smith and family (Danielson).  The Smiths have been recording and releasing gospel music that doesn’t fit the rigid framework of conventional worship music, looking instead to songs that emphasize melody and poetry over structure.  Hallowell fits nicely in this unique catalogue, as Pensak and his friends grapple with faith, with the unknown, with the weight of glory across 10 beautiful tunes.

Hallowell will be released on March 22.  You can purchase the album here and here.