Sunday, December 21, 2014

Best of 2014

For my dollar, there’s been no better observer of the world than Ernest Hemingway. His written attention to detail transports the reader to a time and place that becomes rather familiar. You can see, hear, taste, smell and feel the world with which his characters lived.

Here’s a passage from The Sun Also Rises

“We drove out along the coast road. There was the green of the headlands, the white, red-roofed villas, patches of forest, and the ocean very blue with the tide out and the water curling far out along the beach. We drove through Saint Jean de Luz and passed through villages farther down the coast. Back of the rolling country we were going through we saw the mountains we had come over from Pamplona. The road went on ahead.”

Goodness me, I can pretty much smell the sea when reading that. The descriptions jump out of the book.

With that said (and following a bit of research), it seems that we are lucky his early pursuits of music didn’t suit him. If he had continued in his mother’s path as a musician, we may have been robbed of some of the greatest literature the world will ever see.

But – what role (if any) did music play in his life and career?

We know that Ernest grew up in a household full of music. He took cello lesson but didn’t take to them and he wrote about music fondly in pieces over the years.

Let’s look at a couple specific examples…

- He admitted that music lessons served as an influence in the counterpoint structure in which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Similar to how a composer writes multiple harmonies in a piece, independent of one another.

- Whilst living in Paris, he enjoyed the work of Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland who were fine-tuning their craft, as the lost generation boozed and traipsed about. American Jazz also played an integral role during his time there, often seeking it out in caf├ęs and bistros.

Now, of course you might be thinking...well, yeah - obviously the dude enjoyed music...he’s human, after all. But, what’s interesting is that for Hemingway, it’s safe to say music went beyond a listening experience and directly influenced his work.

In bringing this around…after countless listens of The War on Drugs album Lost in the Dream, I personally can’t help but make a connection to the way Hemingway takes a reader to a time and place. From the opening measures of steamrolling track, Under the Pressure, to the triumphant closer, In Reverse… the listener is exposed to the inner workings of Adam Granduciel, as he faces life after a monumental breakup.

Here, the music takes you for a ride of wide-ranging emotions and experiences through the lyrics and musicianship, the textured layers and even the packaging...this album is a full on assault of your senses. Not too dissimilar to absorbing a colorful passage in one of Hemmy’s narratives.

Now, admittedly, this was my favorite album of 2014 by a mile, so my bias might be strong. But, I’m continually amazed at the attention to detail and care of production.

With every listen, I’ll hear things I missed on previous spins. Which is a pretty impressive feat in and of itself, given how the guitar lines, atmospherics and Granduciel’s steady/blue-collar vocals absolutely demand your attention…but that’s where its greatness lies. This is truly an exceptional album that demonstrates endless depth. It continually evolves and opens up - yep, you guessed it - just like a classic piece of literature.

Music and prose aside, I personally enjoyed all that 2014 had to offer. Travels, new life experiences and growth with friends and my was a wonderful year. And, for that I am very fortunate and blessed.

I hope you found fun, love and laughs along the way and may 2015 be even more enjoyable and prosperous.

Happy holidays!


Top 10 Songs of 2014

10) White Fence - Wolf Gets Red Faced
9) St. Vincent - Prince Johnny
8) Mac Demarco - Salad Days
7) Fool’s Gold - I’m In Love
6) Ty Segall - Green Belly
5) Spoon - Inside Out
4) Hiss Golden Messenger - Saturday’s Song
3) Woods - Full Moon
2) Real Estate - Talking Backwards
1) The War on Drugs - Eyes to the Wind

Best Albums of 2014

10) Spoon – They Want My Soul

9) Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather

8) White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent

7) Kevin Morby – Still Life

6) Mac Demarco – Salad Days

5) Woods – With Light and With Love

4) Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

3) Ty Segall – Manipulator

2) Real Estate – Atlas

1) The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

Honorable Mentions

Amen Dunes – Love
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Tinariwen – Emmaar
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
St. Vincent - St. Vincent