Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Monday, March 09, 2009

Like a Pirate in a pawnshop with a pocket full of jewels...

There's this album -- CD? Disc? What the Hell do we call these things now? -- I've been listening to an awful lot lately. I mean a lot. As in get-to-the-end-and-press-PLAY-again a lot. That kind of a lot. It's Hope For The Hopeless from Brett Dennen. Compulsively listenable, with a bunch of bits that stay stuck in your head enough to make you learn all the lyrics just so you're not trapped in a tiny loop of a single phrase.

I like this album a lot. As in get-to-the-end-and-press-PLAY-again a lot. You get the idea. It had me hooked from the first track, "San Francisco," one of the most upbeat breakup songs ever. Upbeat? Hell, positively perky. I had the CD with me on the trip to-and-from Rob & Kathy's a while ago, and it was the only thing I listened to on the drive home. Just pressed PLAY again every time it got to the end.

I bought the first Brett Dennen album a while back, as an impulse buy at, I think, Best Buy. The cover art caught my eye, and I guess the song titles sounded cool. More than anything else, though, I got a feeling about it. And the CD was Best Priced. So I picked it up, and I liked it. Some of the tracks I liked quite a lot, but the disc as a whole wasn't a play-it-over-&-over discovery.

Still, I liked his stuff enough to purchase a couple of singles and EP specials when they popped up on iTunes. One of them made it onto my Christmas mix-disc. And I bought his next album, So Much More, when it came out. So, yeah, I was liking Brett Dennen a fair bit.

So of course I ordered Hope For The Hopeless when the hit-or-miss Recommendations features on iTunes and Amazon told me it was coming out. That title certainly hit home: Yeah, I could sure use some hope these days. For me, this turned out to be his 100% album. Every song on it makes me happy. Even the songs that make me sad make me feel sort of happy, in that strange way art transubstantiates sorrow. I've yet to encounter a mood in which I want to skip a track when I'm listening to it. Some of the songs were special on first listen and have since become dear to my heart.

From everything I've read, Brett is wonderful live. Unfortunately, he's based on the west coast and all his performance dates seem to be there. (His site does list what looks like a tour sweep through Ireland and the UK, but that's not a lot of help to me.) From the way his music has been popping up in the song tracks of a few TV shows, and the fact that I've heard him on radio, I suspect he's about to shift out of the cool-private-discovery category. Whatever. That's happened to a few of my cool-private-discovery artists before, and it hasn't made me appreciate their work any less; it's just made things feel a little less personal sometimes. But with Brett Dennen, as with some others, I'll always know I found them on my own. Publicity machines weren't really responsible. Their own popularity didn't even have much to do with it. Through whatever confluence of factors, I was drawn to their work, sometimes before even hearing any of it.

Thinking about that with Dennen has me thinking about other artists -- in particular, singer/songwriters -- who I've discovered through the same sort of impulse of curiosity. In some cases, those have turned out to be my favorites.

I've been thinking about those, and also about other albums that have been as listenable as Hope is. In some cases, they're the same albums. Some are albums by artists I've found in that way, even if they're not the same album as the intial discovery; even with artists I love, some albums stand out.

Then there are the odd albums, the equivilent of one-hit wonders, which caught me on their own and have an appeal much stronger than anything else from those same artists. These are albums, often impulse buys or odd discoveries, which have appealed to me enough to spur me to explore the rest of the artist's work only to find that nothing else they've done clicks with me the same way. I still like those individual albums as lot; they just didn't result in an enduring connection.

Anyway, I may wander though some of those albums in the coming days, week, months or whatever the increments in which my posts here may creep ahead. You can take them as recommendations, if you want. Mainly, though, it'll just be me sharing some things that make me happy.


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