Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 5 - 2016

Friends -
I have been posting my top 5 albums for nearly a decade on this blog and to you via email in years prior. In 2016, it was all I could do not to post my Top 20 favorite albums. Indeed, the year past may have been the best year in the History of Music!

Kate Tempest, Frank Ocean and Banks & Steelz released hip hop albums that in equal parts dwarfed the industry heavy hitters and simply expounded the craft.

Snowglobe, AJJ, LVL UpCar Seat Headrest brought the Elephant 6 Collective into the new century.

Our old friends Nada Surf Okkervil River returned with the best work of their storied musical histories.

Joyce Manor, Modern Baseball, Weezer and The Front Bottoms proved that emo / or pop-punk / or whatever you call it is... awesome!

Radiohead put out the best record of their career... and if they are the best band ever.... this could be the Greatest Record Of All Time!

We lost so many extraordinary legends of the craft in 2016 but I will not place them into an obligatory list simply to oblige tribute... because that would make them puke in their graves.

Here are the Top 5 Albums of 2016:

5. Cardinal by Pinegrove

"... My steps keep splitting my grief through these solipsistic moods... I should call my parents when I think of them... should tell my friends when I love them ... "

My friend Bob Boilen introduced me to Pinegrove while boarding a plane back home for a friend's funeral. This album captured the moment to perfection and stuck with me all year. As a man who seldom sees his high school friends, the sentiment of this entire album is a wonderful reminder if not a sorrowful aside. Most impressive is the maturity of these young men in their lyrical craft and sonic layering. New Jersey could very well be the future of Indie Rock!

4. Kindly Now by Keaton Henson

"Those who hate Los Angeles have never been in love"

This record melts from song to song, the emotion of each pouring into the next. Songs that evoke heartbreak while shining a glimmer of hope. Piano balladry foreshadowing the subtle evocation of Henson's story telling. This record finds a calm place amid all the chaos: a person in a crowded airport feeling completely alone, someone hiding in their headphones on a busy city street, a drive out to the country to get away from it all.

A revelation. A cleansing of the soul.  

3. Ruminations by Conor Oberst

"When it came time to stand with him you scattered with the rats"

The vanguards of Indie Rock seem to be the victim of their own excellence. Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, Built to Spill and The Decemberists are taken for granted. No one suffers the expectation of perfection more than the moon-faced boy from Omaha. Conor Oberst has been part of the scene in different machinations since his prepubescent years but has always found ways to evolve.

Ruminations is a collection of Piano laments that remind us of Conor Oberst's command of lyrical prose. A much needed reminder of the power of simplicity.  

2. 22, A Million by Bon Iver

"I worried 'bout rain and I worried 'bout lightning but I watched them off to the light of the morning"

It was "Woods" off of the Blood Bank EP that would take us from the cabin crooning of Skinny Love to Kayne West sampling. Today, Justin Vernon has found a way to translate the world's most-annoying studio crutch into a catapult of emotion. This algorithm to the human soul brings sparse landscape highlighted by bold shimmering lightening off in the distance. The journey from the trail gate to meadow leaves the listener wanting more, searching, pleasantly lacking appeasement.

Raw emotion packaged in auto-tune to protect the heart of the innocent bystander in headphones.    

1. Winter Wheat by John K. Samson

"Most of us probably not getting better, but not getting better... together"

Weakerthan frontman, John K. Samson has a way with words. He knows how to weave the complexity of technology through the simple landscapes of his dark, lonely Canadian home... all with a tip of the cap and a heart full of pride. His albums never seem to have a directly intended thread and his avoidance of chorus creation conveys open-road windshield provocation. Winter Wheat is a collection of short stories that touch every part of our day, week, month.... and everyone we meet in-between.

As an aside:
It was difficult not to lose faith in Humanity in 2016, amid the election and the social abuses ignited on both sides of the broken fence. Social & Popular Media were flooded with false information created to provoke hatred in an effort to divide us. It was impossible to ignore and harder not to get upset. Can it then be said that there has never been a more critical time for the influence of the arts(?)

The good news is that after all the machines are turned off and the talking heads eat themselves, we have the opportunity to vacate the grid for a short while. The according soundtrack listed above.

Thank You For Listening!

~ Dave

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 Pearls

Business is growing ever-complex: more vendors doing more things, shrinking company budgets, a workforce starving for opportunity and a quest to find what really matters to those you seek to recruit. There are consultants and technologies and process flows and hierarchies and interactive templates and places to be and people who want to be there.

It's All Pretty Exhausting!

So there you are in an airport bar, hanging your head in your beer, trying to understand how after two decades of professional experience you still haven't mastered your trade.

When the devices are turned off, the consultants go home and people stop telling you what you HAVE TO DO; only one thing matters:

Human Compassion!

If you reflect on the key points in your career you'll be reminded less of some mind-blowing gadget and more by advice you have received.

Having been in technology sales for nearly 20 years I am ever-surprised by humanity's inexhaustible ability to rear it's head when we need it most.

Follow me as we reflect upon the Human Stuff:

Don't Go Getting Insecure
My Boss had flown in for a major presentation. I got my suit dry cleaned, my car washed, my hair cut and shaved my pretty little face. I picked him up at the airport eager to impress. I was excited to show off how awesome I was in front of our customers.

We arrived to the appointment to discover our contact was not there....

As we walked back to the parking garage, I searched for an explanation for a circumstance that was out of my control.

When we got back in the car I offered 30 sentences deflecting blame in an effort to save face.

My boss put his hand on my shoulder and said:

"Don't Go Getting Insecure On Me"

We tend to scramble when times get tough, when our back is against the wall, when our production isn't perfect.... That's the worst thing we can do!

The minute you start doubting yourself, you empower the irrelevance of the unknown. It's a fools game!

You Are Not Going to Change Them, You Are Going to Become One of Them
The progression as far as I knew was simple: perform exceptionally well as a representative, get promoted to manger.. then director... then VP. I was more talented and more determined than anyone around me and I wasn't going to relent until I landed in the C Suite.

... I was ill-informed ...

The most-talented people didn't always get promoted & determination was often perceived as selfishness.

Happiness is not dictated by your organizational title. Some of the most-miserable people I know have high profiles and big pay checks.

When I stopped worrying about the status others assigned me, I started carving it out for myself.

You Seem Like You'd Be A Good Dad
Every morning I would get in early to chat with our Operations Manager. He had no influence on my career development, was not a vanguard for organizational advancement and would be fired a few years into my employment at company X. But he could really weave a story! We talked about PEOPLE in all the places he had been. We talked about music and movies and sports. He spoke with a voice that mirrored a journalist. He could make any topic seem worthy of pursuit and we never talked about work.

It was not the big bonus paychecks I received at the company, the onstage accolades for sales performance or the trophies that would soon gather dust in my mothers house that ended up being important. When the reality of my sweetie being pregnant arrived in our morning conversations, the man who meant nothing to my career development, told me the most important thing I needed to hear:

"I don't know where this company is going or any of the things you'll achieve in the next 50 years, but you seem like you'll be a good dad"

He was right... in so many ways!

Don't Forget to Remember!