Three Favorite Albums of 2021 - #2 Brett Dennen


I’m drawn to art that reflects changes in an artist’s life. In this case, a song and album inspired by a son. Parenthood can change how people see the world and perhaps most importantly how they communicate about the world. This album opens with a Cat Steven’s-like ballad that tells of a father’s marvel in the growth and developing life journey of his son. “See the World” touches on a young man’s struggle, a father’s acceptance of the inevitability of time, and shares advice that many only realize after reflecting on their own life. Denne has said that “’ See the World’ is about making a choice to experience life.” The open song sets a perfect tone for this for an album that encourages the listener to shrug off the mundane and try to connect with those we love and ourselves.


The second to the fourth track, “Paul Newman Daytona Rolex,” “Couldn’t Help Myself,” and “Cayamo,” displays the unavoidable sentimentality of the album. But Dennen plays with these ideas in a fun very 80’s Rupert Holmes pop-vibe kind of way. He even admits “I’m a man from another time.” In today’s music scene it’s too easy to dismiss the sentimental as unimportant. But given the political consequences of nostalgia we’ve seen over the last decade; some sweet sentimentality can be a very curative elixir.


“Kumbaya, Life Rolls On” is my favorite tune on the album. The song celebrates the shine of the struggle with the mundane. Like much of the album it reminds us to shrug it off and move forward. The line “Fighters on the TV shaking hands when the fight is done. Say, "Kumbaya, life rolls on" paints the image for me that sticks with this song. As an aside, on Spotify Dennen uses a loop of a woman dancing while skateboarding a longboard. It’s memorizing. I just love this clip and watch it over and over.


The inspiration for the album may have been Dennen’s son, but there is plenty of love and recognition for his wife. “Alpenglow” is a lovely tribute and “In You Mother’s Eye’s” Dennen reminds his son that he will always be a child in his mother’s eyes.


Dennen’s “It’s Not a Free Country” is a straight-ahead political tune that doesn’t seem to fit the vibe of the album. But it’s the type of song that a lot of indie-artist are releasing recently. It’s hard to ignore everything ignore politics and it’s hard to imagine any father not having something to pass along to his son.


“The Last Stop” closes with the advice “Your time here if it's your… destination. Step on through, the world is yours, and watch the closing doors… I'll be waiting here for you.” The song reminds me of Kahil Gibran’s poem “On Children.”


You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies.


The thing about arrows is that once they are released the archer can only watch. We have no control over the arrow’s flight once it has left the bow.


I love this album because it’s sentimental. Yes, I’m an old man. Yes, I enjoy seeing Brett Dennen, an artist I’ve followed for some years, maturing into the middle part of his life. I look back fondly on the lessons I learned in those middle years. Perhaps, that is why “See the World” is my second favorite album of 2021.

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