A List of Summer ‘Bests’

Best Movie:
While I didn’t frequent the movies that much this summer, I saw some that were fun throwaway flicks, some that were out of my comfort zone, and some that I cozied up to brilliantly.  The best film I saw this summer definitely meets the description of the latter; Toy Story 3 is a rare sequel that finds its footing as deeper, more satisfying, and more fun than its predecessors.  It was funny and clever and fresh while maintaining that Pixar-characteristic heart and emotion.  Audiences in my age group fell in love with Woody and the rest of Andy’s toys in 1995 and re-evaluated the love and respect of our own toys.  Now, years later, we, like Andy, have grown up – and yet, there is still this reaching for, and appreciation of nostalgia that Pixar handles with heart, mind, and soul.  When you’re watching the climax of an animated movie in teary-eyed horror and wondering how the characters will get out of this one and rooting for them more than you’ve rooted for any movie characters in ages, that friends, is an EPIC summer movie-going experience.  I was surprised at how much I LOVED this movie.
Honourable Mention:
Letters to Juliet, for its likable, sweet, funny, charming cast and its beautiful setting and cinematography; I don’t really ‘believe’ in love, but seeing this movie made that kind of difficult.

Best Album:
While this summer was a Mecca of great albums and great music, the absolute apex of this fruitful crop was for me, David Gray’s brilliant double-album, Foundling.  I was sceptical of the aforementioned; David Gray JUST released,  under a year ago, a fairly good (though to be fair, not AMAZING) collection of songs in Draw the Line.  The perhaps-“sloppy seconds” of that record couldn’t be that good… right?  Wrong; they’re better, more emotive, more realized and more sparse than almost any song on Draw the Line.  In fact, the songs on both dics are overall, Gray’s best collection ever, in my opinion.  They function to comfort, inspire and romanticize the world in ways I couldn’t have imagined before hearing it.  In short, this album is NOT to be missed.  It is absolutely stunning and perfect in just about every way.
Honourable Mention:
If you want to hear something else that may have you believing in audio miracles, another must-hear of this summer is Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms which is sometimes catchy and raucous, sometimes transcendental, and sometimes devastating.  Its melodies are pure and catchy, and it doesn’t try to do anything except be a very straightforward, quality, sound, stable record.  Success.

Best Memory:
Sailing around the Halifax harbour on a cool, breezy evening, looking at the lights of the skyline and drinking Alexander Keith’s causes one to re-evaluate all negatives and appreciate all positives that one has experienced since birth.  Listening to beautiful, fun live music, dancing and partying with drunk strangers and feeling and living all the flavour of the majesty and excitement that is Atlantic Canada cannot be de-valued and lives in my mind, as my best summer memory.
Honourable Mentions:
While simple and not exactly a ‘special’ or eventful memory, spending time with two of my very closest friends at a wine bar & bistro on a hot summer evening and talking about things that are very real and dear to me and reminiscing and laughing and eating and drinking a fabulous Malbec was in itself, truly truly lovely.

Another most excellent time was SIP at Capital Ex; three words: coconut ice cream.  Two more words: sparkling shiraz.  I felt fancy and delighted with all of this amazingly decadent culinary excitement coupled with quality friendship time, fancy decor and live music.  Ah, summer…

Best Concert:
Normally, I like concerts most when I can share the pure wonderment of live music with someone else.  But for me, a la 2007, my best summer concert-going experience was alone; seeing Neil Young’s solo show at the Jubilee auditorium.  Neil Young is both an oddball and a true showman; he does what he wants by taking risks and playing weird instruments like huge, old-fashioned pre-war organs on stage, while opening the show with heavy-hitting all-time favourite singles that everyone knows.  His guitar and vocals are spot-on and seeing him feels as legendary as the experience looks when read on paper.  I love and respect Neil Young more than almost any other artist and the only thing that would have made this show better is if I had someone to share the wealth of appreciation and love with.  As an aside, Burt Jansch opened and he too, was an A+ performer, showman and musician.  It was a great night.
Honourable Mentions:
Of course, a legendary summer cannot be complete without eating a pulled chicken sandwich on a hill with your BFF watching Van Morrison sing Ballerina.  Despite Van Morrison’s lack of interaction with, or seeming appreciation of, the audience sitting in the perfectly dusky evening watching him perform BRILLIANTLY, the night was magical and filled with the glory, promise and juvenile excitement that defines the ideals of ‘summertime’.

Before I embarked on my EPIC vacation, I saw Fran Healy of Travis perform to a fairly tiny crowd; he told funny stories, sad stories, interesting stories, and sang and played amazingly.  When we met him after he was kind and gracious and genuine.  It was a simplistic evening of fantastic music that I’ll never forget.

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