Ari Hest - Sunset Over Hope Street
2011, Mercer Street/Downtown Records
Ari Hest had it all: A record deal with Columbia Records; tours; airplay and national recognition. But something wasn’t right. Hest walked away from the major so he could have more control over his music. It started with a project to write 52 songs in 52 weeks, opening Hest up to deeper creativity that he couldn’t access under the yoke of corporate masters. 2011 sees Hest return with what may be his best work to date, Sunset Over Hope Street.
Sunset Over Hope Street opens with "Until Next Time", which plays like a dreamy outcast from an off-Broadway musical. Hest explores the heart-breaking vacillations of a flighty love who slips away like dreams upon waking. Piano providers a spark as a counter to Hest's plaintive baritone, and could easily be written to an artist's muse. "How Would I Know" is a love song that begs the age-old question of whether his love is 'the one'. He doesn't know, but is carrying on as if she is. "A Way Back Home" is a subtle rock tune vaguely reminiscent of Peter Gabriel.
Hest engages in interesting social commentary in "Business Of America", taking on the socio-economic system in the United States that places the desire for more over the needs of the many. There's a pervasive melancholy that runs through this beautifully-written and poignant tune. "One Track Mind" is a gorgeous, but sad song about a couple at loggerheads. He wants her to change while she acknowledges the co-existence of a desire to change and her seeming inability. This is the tragedy of a true love between two people simply can't co-exist. "If I Knew You'd Say Yes" is an edgy, electric guitar-driven tune where love and desire run up against deep insecurity. The narrator is frozen in place, caught between what he wants and what he fears.
"Sunset Over Hope Street" is a poetic diagnostic of a relationship that's falling apart. Hest uses gorgeous imagery to explain the facts in academic terms, while palpable heartbreak simmers just beneath. "Down The Mountain" is refined musically but obtuse lyrically. An enjoyable listen yet a head scratcher. "Give It Time" is a pretty little request to not let the small stuff get in the way of a relationship. This one is well-written and well thought-out, an understated gem. "Swan Song" sounds like something Sting might have come out with in the early 1990's. Beautiful yet dark, with a vague Spanish guitar style beneath haunting vocal harmonies. It's absolutely beautiful. Hest closes things out with "A Good Look Around", a song about being in over his head but finding the motivation to make it all work out. It's another gorgeous bit of songwriting that will make you happy you stuck around for the final track.
Ari Hest impresses with Sunset Over Hope Street, showing off an unusual blend of qualities that put the listener instantly at ease. Hest is a story-teller with the bent of a mystic poet, drawing out each tale impressive imagery and melodicism. Hest's understated air sometimes comes across as a literati distance, but more often reflects the other-worldly bearing of someone who walks on both sides of the moment. Sunset Over Hope Street will keep you coming back for more.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)