Between commutes that, because of the weather, are often twice as long as they typically are (which means that most days I've been on the road for at least two hours) and some sort of cold/flu/virus that I'm fighting I've been listening to a lot of new music lately. I've also caught up on some DVD watching since Christmas. I tend to have a couple of series going at the same time. I almost never watch more than one episode of a show in one sitting so it takes me months to get through a series and usually days to get through a film. While that can blunt the impact of the film I typically don't have a couple of hours to give to one film at a time so I do what I can. I'm still in the process of getting to know most of these albums on this list so I haven't formed final opinions on but I'm working on it.
Indelible Grace V: Wake Thy Slumbering Children (CD) – Kevin Twit has once again assembled a wonderful batch of artists (like Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Jeremy Casella, Andrew Osenga and others) who have rewritten old hymns to give us the fifth in his Indelible Grace series. This set is perhaps a little less up-tempo than previous editions but on my second listening I realized how many beautiful melodies there are on this album and it has grown on me ever since.
Joni Mitchell: Shine (CD) – I'm still trying to figure this album out. Mitchell makes an, at times too strident, album about the environment which has only a little lyrical subtlety but her jazz/folk sensibilities and her amazing voice still come through. It is the opening instrumental, "One Week Last Sumer" though that really grabbed my attention.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: The Swell Season (CD) – I have heard from more than a few people that I need to see the film Once. The song "Falling Slowly" won an academy award for best song and Bethany got me to listen to the song and the album. This album has really caught my attention. It is full of emotion and careful, delicate instrumentation which set off the sometimes fragile voices in a way that really heightens the drama of these songs. I have played it multiple times a day for the past week and I just can't get enough if it.
Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken: Ampersand (CD) – They've appeared on each other's albums for years but this is the first time husband and wife Derek and Sandra have actually made an album (or in this case and EP) together. Technically it isn't released for two months but with a pre-order you get an immediate download and it has been a lot of fun to listen to. My immediate favorite track was a cover of Dylan's "If Not For You" with more than a little George Harrison influence.
Tift Merritt: Another Country (CD) – I had never heard of Merritt until her song "Broken" showed up on a Paste Sampler. I was so impressed that on the day the album was released I downloaded it from iTunes. While "Broken" still remains a favorite I am impressed with the rest of the album as well and I'm looking forward to hearing it more so that I get to know the other songs too.
Heroes: Season One (DVD) – I finished the first season of Heroes and enjoyed it more as the season came to a close. This is a smart, quirky show. I understand that the strike-shortened second season didn't quite deliver like the first one did but I'm willing to hang in there with them for a while because I really enjoyed the first season.
Firefly: The Compete Series (DVD) – I had not heard of Firefly until my daughters gave the DVD to me for Christmas. This series only lasted for a short season (11 eposodes plus three that never aired) but, just as it was being canceled it really got going well and the last three unaired episodes are among my favorite. The plot was continued in the feature film Serenity which I now have to see.
Across the Universe (DVD) – This Julie Taymor directed film based on the Beatles song catalog was an ambitious idea – how do you make a coherent plot out of a series of songs that were composed without any such plot in mind? The result is mixed. There are times in the film that work really well, like the prom dancing to "Hold Me Tight" or Uncle Sam pointing and saying "I Want You." There are also many things that seem to be there simply because there was a song that might work. After watching it and all the DVD extras I'm about ready to watch it again. My son tells me that he thinks it gets better on repeated viewings. I think that the plot will become clearer and I'll probably catch a lot more so I'm looking forward to seeing it again. The soundtrack, which I've had for a while, makes a lot more sense in the context of the film. They did a nice job of reimagining the music in the context of the film.
Bones: Season One (DVD) – It has taken Laura and me over two months but we're nearly done with the first season of the detective series Bones and we're really enjoying it. The characters are becoming more developed and the cases are varied enough to keep it interesting. I'm occasionally annoyed that Temperance Brennen, the lead character, can tell amazing amounts of things about someone from simply looking at a bone fragment but I guess if I'm willing to let characters fly around in a spaceship in Firefly I can live with a little suspension of disbelief in Bones. I like the interplay between the characters and mystery aspect of the show keeps me guessing.