What a difference a year makes.
In the final week of 2014 I was knee-deep in this weblog, spitting out posts in tandem with my new blog-friend Sugar. Today, I’m struggling to write again, and have barely posted in months. Sugar’s blog is gone, and I thank her and wish her well. All things come to an end.
However, I’m not giving up on this blog yet. I’ll call the last few months a setback, but will not make another empty “new year’s resolution”. I will plan on channeling more energy into writing here in the next weeks, and see how that goes. For this week, in cognizance of the year-that-was, I return to music, as I did in 2014.
Here’s the music that was 2015 for me. (No, I didn’t forget the Adelecalypse. Her new album didn’t really do anything for me, sadly.)
Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood
Carrie’s Greatest Hits album was released at the end of 2014. Its two new tracks, “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” were right at home on the album, country pop/rock driving tunes made from the same cloth as Carrie’s last album “Blown Away”. Towards the end of 2015, Carrie released her new full album, “Storyteller”, featuring a sound that leaned more towards bluegrass but still with the trademark Underwood pop/rock power. I love both albums, and combined they’re my most played music in 2015.
Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
This was the year’s biggest surprise. On the heels of Taylor Swift’s massive 1980s pop-styled album 1989, Carly Rae Jepsen released her own 80s pop passion project album, E*MO*TION. I love the album, and hold it in the same esteem as Tay-Tay’s record, with maybe a bit less sheen and self-awareness. “Run Away With Me” has a sax line! They don’t do songs with sax lines anymore.
E Più Ti Penso – Andrea Bocelli & Ariana Grande
Every Andrea Bocelli classical crossover album is an event for me. This year, it’s movie soundtracks. Sold, sold and sold. The album, “Cinema”, got as a carrier track this collaboration with teen techno-pop princess Ariana Grande. It’s good, even if Ariana sounds like she’s being overpowered due to her breathy vocal. They should have just let her sing full voice instead of this borderline falsetto she’s using. Anyway, the standout track is “Mi Mancherai”, the theme from Michael Radfor’s 1994 Pablo Neruda sort-of-biopic “Il Postino”. There’s nothing on YouTube yet, so we get Andrea with Ms. Grande.
Can’t Deny My Love – Brandon Flowers
Speaking of 1980s-inspired passion projects, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers also released one in 2015. His record, “The Desired Effect”, draws more from synth-laced new wave music than the Madonna-pop that Taylor and Carly Rae referenced. It’s a strong record, regardless of what the industry rags and critics said. Using musicians and producers from that decade on the album tracks is a plus in my book.
Ave Maria (JS Bach/Gounod) – Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott
Yo-Yo Ma is one of the greatest musicians of my generation. He’s also the greatest cellist of my generation, and one of the most prolific and inclusive. If you go to his artist page on Spotify, hit shuffle then play, you’re going to be transported to all manner of places. He’s incredible. So to my joy Ma released a new album, “Songs from the Arc of Life”, in 2015. It’s exactly what its title says it is – a collection of pieces that represent life, from birth, through childhood, adulthood and old age, then finally death. It’s rare for albums these days to have a structure that invites listening to its tracks in order, like chapters of a story. The track here, the well-known Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria”, is the first piece of the album. The sound is breathtaking, and this is a YouTube video. This is one of those albums where I actually got a physical CD, because there’s nothing better than redbook audio for something this amazing.
One more note on one of my favourite pieces of music: “Songs from the Arc of Life” includes a new recording of Saint-Saens’s “Le Cygne”, a song about the twilight of life. I previously posted Ma performing this piece, which happened maybe 20 years ago. I watched both again, and he plays the piece very differently, perhaps reflecting his emoti0ns now that he’s closer to the end of his life than the beginning.
If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me this far. This post is dedicated to Sugar – obrigado, for being my blog-buddy for a time. Be well, always.