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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Half-Handed Cloud
Thy Is a Word and Feet Need Lamps
Asthmatic Kitty

Rating: 8/10 ?


April 1, 2005
Despite Jesus' insistence that any would-be followers come to him as a child might, most Christian musicians come to him with the attitude of a teenager. With God-as-my-girlfriend lyrics, demographically engineered clothing styles and haircuts, and attempts to focus on only the most pristine, emotionally-fetching aspects of faith, Christian artists have pigeonholed themselves as a na´ve lot, with even more credible characters like Sufjan Stevens and David Bazan being subject to bouts of artistic immaturity. The music may be relevant - hell, it may be extremely proficient and creative - but it deliberately tiptoes around the realities of human existence, leaving these musicians about as thought-provoking as the latest Deep Elm signee.

John Ringhofer, the mastermind/madman behind Half-Handed Cloud, takes his Christian faith back to the sandbox, and in doing so, takes a step back from the preciousness and over-aestheticism that the twentysomethings at your local T-shirt and blue jeans church laud as "good art" and gives himself room to be brutally honest and begin dealing with shit that thinking, feeling human beings actually think about and feel.

This isn't to say that Half-Handed Cloud's music drips with lurid details of transgressions or writhes in existential anguish - that stuff's for dudes like David Eugene Edwards who come before the Lord as grown-ass men. Ringhofer instead approaches sin in the same muddled state that a preschooler does, puzzling out what exactly constitutes as right and wrong, and doing so through examples from one of the more morally confusing and paradoxical texts ever written - the Old Testament. Ringhofer recounts tales of drunken saints, defilement, circumcision, excrement, and blood sacrifice, and never reaches any concrete conclusions. There's little to no commentary between the narratives, which leaves the album feeling like an unfinished dialogue, but is also completely necessary, as the stories Ringhofer cites raise issues that no person, especially a child, can fully reconcile.

As with past Half-Handed Cloud albums, the musical accompaniment to Ringhofer's lyrics is as whimsical and completely alien to the rest of the indie-pop community as his treatment of his subject matter. Thy Is a Word's sixteen tracks breeze by in less than half an hour, playing out like one gigantic Brian Wilson-inspired suite. Like fellow quirky theologically-minded rocker Daniel Smith, Ringhofer's eccentric vocal stylings, jittery pop orchestration, and unconventional melodies seem like a confounding and even annoying combination on paper, but actually form some of the most enjoyable, easy-to-digest music around. With so many memorable vocal hooks, playful clarinet parts, and dizzying marimba lines, it's a shame that the album isn't longer. Blessed are the children indeed.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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