In my next life, I might choose musician over chef, as music holds deep meaning for me. I admit a bit of hesitation in the making of “Best of” lists, because of my thought that Top 10 music lists are often only a means of carving out a place to stand and brag about bands that only you and no one else has any idea even exists, thereby proving you a person of superior taste and judgment. If no one knows what you are talking about, it’s easier to dismiss criticism.

With that disclaimer, I reflect on five albums that caught my attention this year. Would I call them my favorite? Let’s veer away from that word, and replace it with the word notable. Favorite means they will probably be in my playlist five years from now. Notable means they drew me back to listen again, allowing me to discover something new in subsequent visits. Much music is one dimensional, some is just plain forgettable. These were neither for me. Here they are in no order of preference.

  1. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

If a band is important to you, I hope I can reciprocate the favor, by treating it with equal meaning. So when Feng Dude told me about these guys over a year ago, I chose to not go there until I had ample time to give them my full attention. In the era of ubiquitous downloads playable on any of five digital devices you have on your person at any given moment, I grieve the loss of the trip to the record store or head shop an hour away to track down the latest vinyl presentation of rock and roll. I couldn’t listen to it in the car. No, I had to endure the hour return drive, waiting to place the disc on the turntable and do nothing but listen to the music in its entirety while reading the liner notes and following along with the lyric sheet. I felt I needed to hold this suggestion with some sort of reverence

When Feng Dude came to visit this fall, I took the opportunity to acquire my first Band of Horses CD, and put it in the player while I had an undistracted drive to the airport. Immediately, the opening song, Is There a Ghost, hooked me like a crankbait in the jaw of a struggling fish. Resistance was futile, since I’ve often wondered if there was a ghost in my house, also.

  1. Brad Mehldau Trio – Art of the Trio Vol 4

I love jazz, for reasons I’m probably not able to articulate intellectually and certainly not with a theoretical musical explanation. It’s much more visceral for me. Simply, I like the way it makes me feel. I love its groove. I love the energy and spontaneity. It’s the music I wish I had the ability to play, therefore, it also makes me jealous. I can’t watch good jazz musicians without a green-eyed stare.

It was actually the liner notes of this CD that made me want to give it a listen. Written by Mehldau himself with a bit of resentment in his tone, he attacked the common comparison of his style to Bill Evans, a Miles Davis contemporary that forged a sound in the late 50’s that has come to signify the era. Mehldau’s resistance to this association made me wonder if I could detect the stylistic differences of which he noted.

  1. Pablo Zeigler and Quique Sinesi – Bajo Cero

My wife and daughter got to hear Zeigler at our performing arts center here in Lincoln, (I had to work) and loved the show so much, she bought the CD. You have to understand, this is out of character for her. Getting the recording is something I do. I regret not getting to hear them live.

Tango can easily be relegated to a clichéd image of dancers in a cheek to cheek embrace, while stepping with exaggerated movements in rhythm to an accordion-heavy ensemble. Gotan Project did its part to destroy that impression. The remake of Roxanne in Moulin Rouge likewise. Pablo Zeigler reinforces the new vibe.

  1. The Elders – Gael Day

When we planned to go to the Irish Fest in Weston, MO, where The Elders were headlining, I bought their latest CD. I usually like to have a sense of the music of a band I am about to hear. That way I don’t feel so ignorant when people around me are enjoying the music and tell me how much they LOVE this band.

Songs becomes more meaningful when you know the context out of which they were written. Lead singer Ian Byrne recently became a US citizen, and told the story about Decoration Day, which accounts the process immigrants go through and the joy they feel in coming to America.

Despite the centuries of bad circumstances, somehow the Irish have maintained the ability to let their music rise above their past. I put this in when I want to feel good.

  1. Young Dubliners – Saints and Sinners

Our trip to Ireland sparked an interested in all things Irish. So with a card for store credit at Best Buy, I decided to buy a risk CD. The rule of the risk CD is to purchase a disc based on artwork, mood, or gut instinct. It has to be one you’ve never heard or listened to before. The band name alone convinced me to roll the dice.

Straight up, Irish influenced rock and roll, I can listen to this one all the way through without feeling the need to skip a track here and there.

Let Me Digress…