Friday, December 30, 2011

Samuel James Dunn, Esq.'s Most Listened Albums from 2011

I realized something this year. I listen to music a lot. Whether I'm driving down the road, sitting in my room doing homework, sitting on campus doing homework, sitting in my room or on campus pretending to do homework, working at Boostability leaving mildly spammy comments on strangers' blogs, going for bike rides on Eliza Stardust (my sky blue little girl bike), or just walking around the streets of Provo, I'm always listening to music of some sort. Having realized that music is such a big part of my life, even if more often than not it's little more than background noise while more important things are happening, I've decided that I'm going write up a list of Samuel James Dunn, Esq.'s most listened-to albums from 2011.

Now, there are a lot of music-dedicated blogs out there that will probably give you a lot better analysis of music than you'll find here. Such blogs include a lot of well-worded, grandiose music descriptions that I find rather pretentious and off-putting. For example, I once read Kristian Matsson's voice described as, "incredibly distinctive, projecting a wistful snarl that attentively sways along with hazy acoustical progressions." (Matsson is the swede behind the band The Tallest Man On Earth)I don't really know what that means, but I do love the turn of phrase "wistful snarl." This will not be that kind of post. This will be more of a reflection of my year through the lens of the music I've listened to.

So if you're looking for music analysis, you'd do well to stop reading. If you don't care what music I've listened to over the past year, you'd do well to stop reading. If you think Norah Jones sounds like Macy Gray, as did one of my students this past semester, we probably can't be friends and you too would do well to stop reading. However, if after reading that Kristian Matsson has wistful a snarl, you imagined to yourself a love-sick coyote on the prairie gazing longingly at a waning gibbous moon, read on.

And so, in no particular order, the list:

Beirut - The Rip Tide

Favorite Tracks: Vagabond, Goshen

To be honest, I hadn't ever really gotten into Beirut's music until this album. But The Rip Tide spoke to me like a long lost friend. It was like I was playing with my friend Morgan from my Kindergarten class. I haven't seen Morgan since Kindergarten. In fact, my last memory of Morgan is the time he came over to play at my house, and after playing with Legos for a while, we decided to go explore the old dilapidated chicken coops. While climbing around in the chicken coops we found a can of red spray paint. Naturally we then proceeded to paint most everything in the coops including Uncle Brad's motorcycle license plate. After that afternoon I have no recollection of Morgan whatsoever. In fact, I'm not entirely sure his name was Morgan. Anyway, this album left me feeling like I had run into Morgan after all these years, and we had a nice long chat about good ol' times while sitting at a sidewalk cafe and sipping exotic juice.

Boston - Greatest Hits

Favorite Tracks: Don't Look Back, More Than A Feeling, Peace of Mind

When I wake up in the morning I often have a song stuck in my head that served as the soundtrack to my dreams the night before. For instance, when I woke up Christmas morning this year I had "Christmas in Killarney" by Bing Crosby in my head. I don't know why. The song that is most often in my head in the morning is "King of Pain" by The Police. (what does that mean?) But coming in a close second is "More Than A Feeling" by Boston. As such, I probably listen to Boston's Greatest Hits while getting ready in the morning more than any other album of music. I now associate "More Than A Feeling" with the pain of getting up in the morning, "Peace of Mind" with the smell of Old Spice Showtime shower gel, and "Don't Look Back" with driving to school. On an unrelated note, I associate "Foreplay/Long Time" with Nick Homer...and I wish I knew why that was.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Favorite Tracks - Helplessness Blues, Montezuma, Blue Spotted Tail

In May the whole family went for a trip to western New York to see my brother Dr. David Dunn graduate with his PhD in Pathology from the University of Rochester. We stayed in a lovely little place in Palmyra, NY across from the Sacred Grove. One morning I woke up before nearly everyone else (I don't think it's possible to get up before Mom and Dad) and decided that I would go for a walk. So I grabbed a jacket, my ipod and my camera and set off. The music of Helplessness Blues accompanied me on my walk and I honestly couldn't have asked for a better soundtrack. Walking in damp tennis shoes past endlessly green fields bathed in misty early morning light was, for me, one of the many highlights of the trip.

The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

Favorite Tracks: King of Spain, Troubles Will Be Gone

Yes, Mr. WistfulRaspyness himself. Though I had to endure the derisive comments of one Chad Nielsen as I listened to this album, this was one of my favorite discoveries of 2011. Yes, it came out in 2010, but I didn't come to it until January of this year. One of my proudest moments of the year was converting Smed "Smed" Smedley to the song "King of Spain." This album will forever be the soundtrack to getting up at 5:30 in the morning and walking to the MOA in the freezing cold while wearing Maggie's old blue and red coat over my pajamas. In April I sadly left the MOA after three years of securing it from all potential malefactors. While it was hard to leave working there, I shan't miss the biting cold of those early mornings that came with it. Without the Tallest Man on Earth to accompany me, I'm sure I'd not have been up to it.

Shaun Davey - Waking Ned Devine Soundtrack

Favorite Tracks: All of the them, seriously. But if I had to choose I suppose Let the Draw Begin and Michael's Ride and Lux Eterna, My Eternal Friend and The Tullymore Polka/ The Witch, The Fiddle and The Phonebox and of course The Parting Glass.

Waking Ned Devine very well may be my favorite movie of all time. Even if I'd never seen the movie, I'm fairly certain that the soundtrack would be one of my favorite albums of music of all time. The music embodies all that I imagine Ireland to be. I listened to this soundtrack an awful lot this summer while I was working at Boostability because it offered me some semblance of an escape from sitting at a desk doing search engine optimization. As I followed Carolyn Carter's adventures through Europe via her blog, I became increasingly dissatisfied with my life centered around an 8-5 desk job. This soundtrack, along with the view of the field next to our office from the window by my desk, made life more bearable.

Coldplay - X & Y

Favorite Tracks: Talk, Swallowed In the Sea, Till Kingdom Come

This is possibly my favorite Coldplay album. Possibly. I don't know for sure, but it could be. This album, along with any and all of Sigur Ros' music is what I listen to when I'm writing papers. Given that I often (more often than I'm perfectly comfortable with) end up writing all night long the night before papers are due, this album often gets equated with that feeling of stillness, peace and inspiration that only comes when you're sitting on the floor at 3:30 am. In that moment you know that there is a God and that yes, you are going to get your paper done. On top of being a late-night paper writing soundtrack, when I go down to the lake to throw rocks and think about life, the universe, and everything, this album, especially the song "Till Kingdom Come," gets quite a bit of play time.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Favorite Tracks: Again, all of them. This album, to me, it best listened-to as a complete work rather than single tracks. However, Perth, Towers and Beth/Rest would probably be my favorite stand-alones.

This album is the soundtrack of sitting on the porch on a summertime evening with a mild sweatyness hanging over my body as I either wait for Ben and Melinda to come over to play with me or as I lace up my Brooks to go for a run. Also, one morning in July I woke up at 4:30 am (without any alarm I'll have you know) and decided that as long as I was awake I might as well go for a hike. So I grabbed some water, a box of wheat thins and my ipod and made my way up rock canyon with the end goal of pride rock (squaw peak). Being surrounded by mountain trees, graying darkness and the lilting falsetto of Justin Vernon is an experience I would recommend to anyone.

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Favorite Tracks: So What, Flamenco Sketches

It seems like whenever I get sick I listen to this album. Maybe that's a little bit melodramatic, but there you go. This isn't my favorite jazz album by any means, but it seems to catch the mood of being sick on the couch really well. Also, I had to include at least one album of jazz because I had my students this last semester convinced that I was a jazz junkie that slapped on the black turtlenecks every weekend and hung out at jazz lounges. Now that I think about it, I kinda wish that was my life. Kinda. Whenever my students were doing rush writes or group work or anything of the sort I would put on some jazz and quiz them about the artists. None of them but one knew anything about jazz and for some reason I found their exasperated ignorance endlessly entertaining.

Honorable Mentions (and when I say honorable mention what I really mean is that I'm tired of doing this and just want to wrap things up.):

U2 - Joshua Tree
Diana Krall - Live in Paris
Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
The Temper Trap - Conditions
The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart
The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Amos Lee - Supply and Demand
Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
Dvorak - Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 - "From the New World"

There you go. Feliz Año.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You ought to be a nonfiction writer, Samu el--officially, that is.