Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Top 5 2021

Another year in isolation is good for only one thing: creative output. Indeed, any artist with access to a four track has amplified musical production over the past 21 months. Fewer shows, cancellations, the loss of elder songwriters, more zoom interviews and videos made at home. Grab a cup of coffee and your acoustic guitar.... it's time to channel your inner Bon Iver.

2021 brought us the return of Bleachers, an homage to 80's pop and Bruce Springsteen. Little Jackie also produced every upstart pop star's record in 2021. Perhaps no one made a more apt quarantine record than Bo Burnham, full of mockery but astutely precise in reflection of this bitter sweet shitty time. Damien Jurado remained prolific (and sad). Dinosaur Jr returned to form never lost. Drake sucks, Ye rules! Nada Surf snuck in some nice little songs for the lovers. RADIOHEAD Tay Tay Tyler War on Drugs & Weezer.

Maybe you saw a show or two and maybe some shows got rescheduled for 2025 or maybe your favorite artist died or maybe someone you loved became a COVID denier and sued a lady for $11. Strange days are these. 

May the new year find you under a tree covered by headphones, poolside with the radio on high or rocking out in your car. 

Here are the top 5 albums of 2021:

5. History of a Feeling by Madi Diaz  

"I don't hate you, it's worse than that"     

Break ups bring us some wonderfully insightful music. Our narrator's heart hurts which reveals itself through sorrow and more than a few FU's. The crescendo on "Man in Me" is an emotional rollercoaster that will evoke tears and heart palpitations all at once. These reflections are drenched in remorse with an undertow of hope. They leave us with a feeling that having gone through hell might get us a step closer to heaven (unsure if any of it exists at all). Isn't this a perfect sign of our times?

4. Long Lost by Lord Huron 

"There's a reason why I'm still living here though I can't think of it right now"       

Lord Huron has consistently delivered quality song writing layered in acoustic strums and slide guitar shimmer. This record fades in on a scene of a ghost town littered with broken dreams and time gone too quickly. Each song invoking the years past with a nod more than a shake of the head. A long winding adventure through a myriad of emotions sonically present and distant in thought.

3. How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? by Big Red Machine

"Is it insensitive for me to say 'get your shit together', so I can love you"

Few have been as prolific as Aaron Dessner & Justin Vernon in recent time. From their recreation of Tay Tay's catalogue with a more sparse indie flare, to the extensive side projects, the production support and their primary projects; these humble kings just keep their head down and let the music speak for them. If only that was a sign of our times. Invite Anais Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, Fleet Foxes, Tay Tay herself and slew of others to the party and you have a collection of songs that occupy an individual space. All songs underpinned by Aaron's piano and Justin's ability to compliment others with his vocal accompaniment.  

2. Pressure Machine by The Killers  

"Parents wept through daddy's girl eulogies and merit badge milestones"  

You won't see this one on many year end lists. People expect The Killers to blast them with 80's vibe bangers not a forlorn concept album about an opioid ravaged small town. Brandon Flowers narrates a place stuck in time; parents seeking solace in bars absent of factory work while their children over-dose on a daily basis. High School heroes living in tents off the lone highway, the way out visible but too far to fathom. Another day, another fix in a barbwire town with barbwire dreams. Lights won't illuminate the dance floor, more so, a fading hue with little light at the end of the tunnel.

1. Home Video by Lucy Dacus 

"He hadn't seen you since the fifth grade now you're 19 and you're 5'8"  

If 2020 was the year of Phoebe Bridgers, 2021 is the year of Lucy Dacus. The Boy Genius collective dominating the pandemic with home recordings that offer life shattering lyrics delivered in perfect pitch (the dichotomy alerting of present day confusion). "Hot & Heavy" brings our narrator back to the discomfort of lost love. "Brando" is a triumphant kiss off to someone seeking to mold a friend into someone they wish not to be (a misconception of cool, waived). "Thumbs" may be the most brutally revealing song ever written. Every track on this record is perfect in it's vulnerability while remaining self-aware. A triumph of the human spirit carrying us where ever we might be headed.

Until next year.... Thank You for Listening!


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

An Approach to Tomorrow

It's the time of year to plan for next year unless you've lived through the last 2 years. Indeed the New Year's Resolutions going into 2020 were hit with freight train of "oh no you don't", while most people probably didn't bother setting goals for 2021. Things learned from a few years of isolation might help build a better tomorrow: people are sick of arguing with avatars and the great resignation has been hit with the great reality of a less than perfect job market. With a few years of futility behind us and a variant for every Greek letter ahead, how is it possible to catapult into a new year with any hope? 

We're alive and things, while complicated, show signs of normalizing. We might never go to an office again. We may have to adjust to technology irrupting human interaction. There may come difficult decisions with an uncertain end in mind. 

... and at some point, we'll get back to living. Why not make that time now. 

Can we allow humility to replace frustration?

Can we innovate against immobility?

Can we find a way to be grateful with so many simple pleasures being lost? 

Yes, we can!

The Story Of The Man Who Survived Poor Timing

Every road to success has a long runway covered with failure, regret and doubt. We tend to only get the tail end of the story. Michael Jordan did not make his JV Basketball team, Tom Brady was selected #199 in the NFL draft, most every tech billionaire fell on their face 100 times before finding their Big Idea. In all cases preparation and perseverance prevailed in the long run. But, what about these strange acts of god (or satan) that are unforeseeable if unavoidable?

There are certain things that are out of our control. In times of uncertainty we are some times forced to wait.... with only hope and luck in our back pocket.

Did you launch a business the 1st of 2020? Did a spell of bad luck cost you fortune or love or both? 

Your professional consequence will often be the result of motivation and drive. However, the most overlooked characteristic of success is patience. Many find their opportunity and run it over with well-intended repetition. What we fail to understand is that our effort is some times best directed through letting go. When we lack control we find that tedium can drive evaluation of time spent wisely. 

The Choice to Perform

The concept of the Great Resignation has empowered many to believe they have aces in their hand. Unfortunately, some have forgotten how to play cards. The last two years have certainly brought individual empowerment to many (through elevated professional and/or social consciousness). Some have found their moment of empowerment has been met with confusion and ill-conceived opportunity.

In the midst of success the greatest attribute one can embrace is humility. To understand fortune despite earned distinction leads to humility. To be under-stated in one's labor-driven pride leads to grace. Grace is important. 

Without chest-pounding or negotiation, to be grounded in one's current form is the definition of success. Simple success is often lost on those who amplify promotion of effort as the ultimate reward. 

Forgetting Everything That Sucks    

If you wake up with the first thought in your mind being that your day is going to suck.... it likely will! Finding resources to validate your discontent is the easiest thing in the world. To be positive in the midst of the current state of misery is a truly unique capability.

Misery is a choice. If you surround yourself with negative thinkers and/or spend your time consuming media that provokes defensiveness, you are making unfortunate choices. There are some who consider optimism to be a form of naiveite, these are people who are too weak to accept the responsibility of trying to make the world a better place. Anyone can embrace negativity and never attempt to make up for life's shortcomings. 

One day you may wake up feeling tired of always hating the dawn of another miserable day. Then it's time to do something about it. It starts with ending friendships with those who validate your excuses. From there, you'll need to develop distinct goals and a plan to achieve them. Finally there is the ever-difficult task of forgiving yourself for your failures.

And the sun shines brightly again (finally)! So, what are you waiting for? 

Don't Forget to Remember,