As Jared Ripplinger's first solo album, "The Last Mile" (2005) is a representation of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Jared works through largely synthesized instruments, adding one to another until he comes up with a finished creation. Many of the pieces are orchestral in nature, often featuring piano as a solo instrument.
I - "The Last Mile" begins with "Pathway", an exploration of the journey life takes us on and the parallels it has to many things we find in nature. In particular, "Pathway" is based on the Angel's Landing hike in Zion National Park, Utah. This hike is an incredible journey from low-lying portions of Zion Canyon to the top of a cliff ridge with thousands of feet drop on each side. You will even hear a flute later in the piece, which is evocative of a flute I heard while doing this hike.
II - "Denial" is a duet of electric guitar and piano (which some may call an unlikely pair). These instruments reflect the duality of denial.
III - Opening with a gentle melody, "Let Go" chronicles the undulating of emotions as we move on from certain emotions and stages of our lives. Fragmented and exploratory, "Let Go" concludes with a section of big orchestra sound with the viola leading in the melody.
IV - Getting into the more bizarre, "The Traveler" is fragmented and often dark. Utilizing pizzicato strings and heavy percussion, this piece also ends on an emotional high of discovery and enlightenment.
V - The title track, "The Last Mile", is perhaps the emotional climax of the album. This carefree piano melody is supported by more modern pop beats and backup strings. Upbeat and hopeful, this track is based on the idea that life should be lived as if you didn't get to live much longer. Just as you would give everything to make it through that last mile of your long run.
VI - Beginning with what evokes a somber battle march, "Pillar" is the longest piece on "The Last Mile". Exploring more abstract ideas, this piece is an exploration of what holds us up - our pillar.
VII - "Advent" features two very contrasting themes. One in the piano that is upbeat and almost folk in nature, and one in the strings that is melancholy. The passing back and forth between these two represents new beginnings - an advent.
VIII - Have you ever woken from a dream and for even just a passing moment wondered which reality is true? Or is there such a thing as one true reality? "Trance of Reality" reflects on the idea of this surreal realization. What is life? What is perception?
IX - "Forgotten Avenues" clearly features a glockenspiel and harpsichord. In this somewhat forlorn melody, this piece explores the places that you can no longer go. People who have passed on, things that are no longer part of your life. Listen for the tribute to track III, "Let Go".
X - Originally written after reading the treatment for a friend's film project, "On the Moors" is also a melancholy theme. Listen for the syncopated harp part and the heroic strings at the end.
XI - The first time I saw a galaxy with my own eyes was on top of a mountain in the woods of Utah. Looking through the binoculars and contemplating the magnitude of what I was seeing, I later wrote this piece called "Andromeda". This is one of the few pieces I have written principally for guitar.
XII - If you can picture a dog chasing its tail out in the old west, and men riding around on horses shooting in the most comical style possible. That is what I see in this piece, "Castle in the Sky". Especially listen for the xylophone, which represents the dog.
XIII - Originally written for a short film by the same name, "Cold" is contemplative and somber. It features a slow piano melody backed by strings and synthesizers.
XIV - This piece is perhaps the synthesis of all the pieces that have come before, and you will hear pieces of many of them here. "Redemption" focuses on that desire we all have to be redeemed - whether it is in a spiritual, physical, or emotional realm. This piece concludes with a triumphant rendition of the theme from "Pathway"
XV - What lies beyond the extent of our view? For me that is one of the things that calls me onward. "Horizon" begins with a melody in the horn and flute, which eventually expands to the strings. This piece reflects on the expansiveness of what lies ahead. Also listen for the tribute to "Pillar".