My Musical Year In Review — 1

Dick: I guess it looks as if you're reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?
Rob: No.…
Dick: Not alphabetical....
Rob: Nope....
Dick: What?
Rob: Autobiographical.
Dick: No fucking way.
High Fidelity

The pleasing thing about lists is they allow you to see just how you measure up, to look at where you've been, and to show you where you want to go. I started putting together a list of every movie I've ever seen when I was a senior in college, and after a few weeks of combing the IMDb databases and adding titles whenever they occurred to me, it began to take shape and become as complete as I could make it. I update it a couple times a week, and while I concede there may be a title or two I've simply forgotten that I've seen, it's mostly accurate. The movie list is organized by title, not by when I happened to first see the movie, but I can usually make a good stab at when I saw a particular movie; for many films, I can remember who I was with when I saw them, and where we were. But music is different. An album has an effect on your growth in a different way than a movie or a TV show, mostly because it's something you listen to several times in order to let it begin to sink in. The best albums become somehow stuck in your car's CD player or become a default choice on your iPod, and you listen to them over and over again. Music is much more of a continued experience, which is why I decided this year to keep track of the albums I acquired in hopes of being able to step back and observe my musical habits and maybe come to some kind of half-assed conclusions about the whole thing in a musical-journey-of-life-minus-the-b.s. sense. (I say "acquired" because I bought almost every album on here, but a couple were gifts from friends or coworkers. They're definitely not illegally burned copies. I swear.) I figure this will take a few installments, so the first one will deal with albums I bought in the first two months of the year; I didn't have the idea until February or so, meaning I had to work from memory for the first few discs on the list. But later months are accurate. Here we go. January-February 2007 wrap-rhome.jpg Old 97's, Hitchhike to Rhome (1994) This was a fantastic buy. I couldn't stop listening to it when I got it; removing it from my car's CD player seemed impossible, an idea that made no sense. Living in L.A., I spend a fair amount of time on the road, and most of that timeis spent trying not to die, and albums like this one always make those trips more enjoyable. Hitchhike to Rhome is raw, and young, and so damn earnest and swaggering that I fell under every note's spell. The cover of "Mama Tried" is fantastic, as are "If My Heart Was a Car," "Stoned," and the fantastic version of "Doreen," which would resurface on the band's Wreck Your Life. I'd loved the Old 97s before this, but Hitchhike to Rhome cemented them as an all-time favorite. wrap-early.jpg Old 97's, Early Tracks (2000) I bought this because I'm a bit of a completist when it comes to certain bands, and I wanted to own it. It's a decent album: It's got a different version of "W-I-F-E," as well a nice cover of Merle Haggard's "Harold's Super Service." But on the whole, it's only really listening to if you already know the Old 97s. There's nothing here to get excited about, just stuff to enjoy a few times. wrap-alright.jpg Steve Earle, I Feel Alright (1996) Holy hell, did this click with me from the very first song. I already owned a couple of Earle's albums before I got this one — Guitar Town, The Mountain, El Corazon — but this one came on hard and fast and blew me away. The dirt and pain are so real here, and Earle churns out some amazing songs. The eerie obsession of "More Than I Can Do," the breezily lamenting "Now She's Gone," the beautiful "Valentine's Day," and the solid duet with Lucinda Williams, "You're Still Standin' There," are all amazing. The album exists at the nexus of blues and country and rock and the singer-songwriter ethos, and it's always great to hear. wrap-moon.jpg Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten-Cent Town (1978) Emmylou Harris was on an unholy creative tear in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and her string of albums from that period remain the best she's ever put out, from Elite Hotel to Roses in the Snow. Quarter Moon in a Ten-Cent Town is a typical entry from this era for her — a solid collection of covers with some duets and assists from established artists — but it's still worth getting just to hear Harris' voice at the peak of its power. Trivia: The album cover was painted by Susanna Clark, husband of Guy Clark, who also painted the cover of Guy's Old No. 1. Impress your friends. wrap-richey.jpg Kim Richey, The Collection (2004) I won't lie: My first exposure to Kim Richey came via "Angel." But I'm glad I found her. This is a decent best-of with some good songs that's worth an occasional listen. If you find it at a used record store for a couple of bucks, pick it up just for "A Place Called Home." Trust me. wrap-colter.jpg Jessi Colter, An Outlaw, a Lady: The Very Best of Jessi Colter (2005) I'm pretty sure my CD is autographed by Jessi Colter, unless someone in L.A. is in the habit of falsely autographing albums and selling them back to Amoeba. Regardless, this is a good album that I really haven't spent any time with, largely because I can enjoy the songs at arm's length and appreciate them for what they are, but I have trouble listening to the overly produced sounds of 1980s-era country for too long. The day I bought this, I was waffling between it and Colter's 2006 album Out of the Ashes. I probably should've gone with the latter. wrap-gold.jpg Ryan Adams, Gold (Special Edition) (2001) I know, I know. I owned most of the songs on Gold already — and when I say "owned," I mean I gleefully ripped them from the shared folders when I was a freshman in college — but I'd been keeping an eye out for a long time for a good used copy of the two-disc edition for less than $20. I finally found a good deal and snagged the album. There's not much to say in the way of discovery. I already knew how great the album was, having had "La Cienega Just Smiled" and "Firecracker" bouncing around my head for years, but it felt really nice to be able to hold the actual discs in my hands. That's what I don't like about downloading songs: You don't get to touch anything, to flip through the battered liner notes, to root through bins week after week waiting for that one album to show up. There's no tactile connection. Anyway, Gold is amazing, and something Adams will probably never top, which is why he's making (slightly) different music now instead of trying to bottle lightning twice. If you don't have the album, you should. wrap-tolerate.jpg Lyle Lovett, My Baby Don't Tolerate (2003) The album cover and the fact that it's on the Lost Highway label pretty much sold me on this one, and I wasn't disappointed at all. My Baby Don't Tolerate is a rootsy album that runs the gamut from Western swing to modern alt-country to some fantastic gospel numbers. The album is also amazing in its repeatability; instead of feeling like a sonically linear journey from A to B, the songs seem to call out to each other in pairs, creating a wonderful sense of internal continuity. And this isn't just in obvious pairs like the choir-backed album closers, "I'm Going to Wait" and "I'm Going to the Place." It's in the way "In My Own Mind" and "Nothing But a Good Ride" seem to mirror each other, and how track 3 ("The Truck Song") and track 10 ("San Antonio Girl") seem to have the same basic chord progression, as if they're just flip sides of the same battered old 45. Plus, I smiled like an idiot the first time I heard "San Antonio Girl," happily crushed by the weight of memories brought on by Lovett's mentions of everything from HemisFair to the Riverwalk to Mi Tierra's huevos rancheros. Damn, but it made me miss home a bit.