Last year, for the first time in my life, I kept track of what albums I bought throughout the year. I loved being able to look back over the previous 12 months and remember what I'd found in a used CD bin or purchased online or had given to me by friends; it's like a really immediate autobiography. Last fall, I wrote:
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.
That reasoning still holds. As the year progressed, the music I acquired became fused with the experiences I was having/surviving at the time, and I know I'll have those sense memories with me forever. So without further delay, here's the first installment of this year's list: January San Saba County, Easy Does It (2004) I found this band by visiting the site for Austin's Waterloo Records, and it was a great buy. I picked this up used at Half.com, since it's not available on the band's site any more, and it's got some pretty good songs. Will Hoge, Blackbird on a Lonely Wire (2003) Meh. A friend gave it to me to prepare me for a concert I went to with a larger group. Pretty forgettable. I haven't listened to it since. February Various Artists, Juno (2007) What can I say, I fell for the hype. There are actually good tracks on here, too, but they're not the Kimya Dawson ones. That Dog, Retreat From the Sun (1997) I bought this on the strength of the recommendation it got in a blog post in which I called for reader suggestions for great guitar pop. Solid record. Willie Nelson, Natural Renegade (c. 2003, but who knows) This was a total impulse buy when I was browsing Amoeba one day. It's a compilation put out by Starbucks, but it's still a fun album and one of the many, many possible combinations of "greatest hits" you could cull from Willie Nelson's life and career. The titles speak for themselves: "On the Road Again," "Always on My Mind," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," "Crazy." Come on. (It also has Willie and Merle Haggard doing "Pancho and Lefty," but I still think no one will ever top Townes van Zandt's original. No one.) Lyle Lovett, Lyle Lovett (1986) Some people think of Pontiac as Lyle Lovett's first record, and that's a great one ("If I Had a Boat" alone makes it a classic), but his first album was actually his eponymous debut two years earlier. It's a fantastic group of songs that typifies Lovett's ability to combine country and blues with a singer-songwriter sensibility. The brush-off "God Will" is great for the sharp turn it takes, and "If I Were the Man You Wanted" is every good thing you'd expect from the title. Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman (1992) Amazing album. I've seen Emmylou live a couple times, and it's always wonderful, but this one was recorded back before she started to lose some of the power from her upper register. Her cover of John Fogerty's "Lodi" is a standout, and "Like Strangers" will kick your ass.