Saturday, August 19, 2006


A few weekends ago, I drove to my parents' house and spent two days clearing out the large closet of the very small bedroom I last occupied around 1984. Three siblings, two nephews, and a niece also pitched in. I'd stored my record collection and some other memorabilia in there when I moved to Seattle in 1991. It's been there ever since, despite the fact that I moved back to New England nearly seven years ago. So, my brother has been helping our folks get organized this summer, and when he happened across said closet, I was called into action.

Somehow, a great of deal additional stuff managed to accumulate on top of my stash. To top it all off, because the closet had been so full when the professional animal control company came to block off all possible mouse, squirrel, skunk, and raccoon entrances into the old farmhouse, it was the one place they couldn't access. Therefore, about a million happy little mice have made quite a comfortable home in there over the years. There was plenty of chewed cardboard and fabric to show for it, though the more dire consequence of all that eating (ahem) was quite distressing. We did lots of cleaning -- ourselves and the house.

The little buggers nibbled through the spines of about 100 albums that were stored in crates. Argh! Thankfully, the remaining records (approximately 1200 albums and 12" singles, and 1000 45s) were all safely secured in boxes that the mice apparently found too daunting to chew. Everything is now safely in brand new, climate controlled, and pest-protected storage. Moving all that vinyl caused me to contemplate a couple things.

First, records are really heavy! I moved those things twice a year, every year, for all four years of college. Each trip, the number accumulating. I moved them three more times to each place I lived in Maine before their final move into Mom and Dad's house when I headed West. I'd nearly forgotten how much they weigh in large groups.

Second, I'm really looking forward to listening to this stuff again. Although I have replaced some of it on CD or MP3, I own a treasure trove of music that has never been released digitally. I'm going to have to set my computer up to capture the stuff and make my iTunes library more representative of my whole collection. That sounds interesting, but I still haven't even come close to getting my CD collection (which numbers approximately 1500) into iTunes yet.

That weekend was the start of a trend for me. I'm cleaning out. Decluttering our space. Lightening the load. Taking inspiration from Mom & Dad's house, and one of my favorite home shows. Upon opening a mysterious file box, I discovered a notebook I'd written when I was first living in Seattle. It includes the last of a series of lists that I created annually highlighting my favorite music released during the year.

Here is my 1992 Best of Albums list:
  1. Alice in Chains "Dirt"
  2. k.d. lang "Ingenue"
  3. Pearl Jam "Ten"
  4. Thomas Dolby "Astronauts & Heretics"
  5. Enya "Shepherd Moons"
  6. Matthew Sweet "Girlfriend"
  7. Arrested Development "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..."
  8. Annie Lennox "Diva"
  9. "The Commitments" soundtrack
  10. Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea "Play"
  11. Bobby McFerrin & Yo Yo Ma "Hush"
  12. Madonna "Erotica"
  13. Alison Moyet "Hoodoo"
  14. Ephraim Lewis "Skin"
  15. CeCe Peniston "Finally"
  16. Michael Penn "Free-For-All"
  17. Prince & New Power Generation "[the symbol that later became his name]"
  18. Queen Latifah "The Nature of a Sista"
  19. Shakespeare's Sister "Hormonally Yours"
  20. Go West "Indian Summer"
I have a couple observations about this grouping. First, it was my requirement the list could only be comprised of records I actually owned. It being my first year after arriving in Seattle, I had precious little money to spend on music (as mentioned in a recent post), and so my choices were limited. Second, I'm fascinated to see how I have become more appreciative of some of the "lower" ranked records since 1992. Ephraim Lewis is a great example. At a modest #14 here, I might well place it at the same rank or even higher of my all-time favorites (a list I've threatened to create but have never actually done). It comes close to being a perfect album.

But wait, there's more! My 1992 Best of Songs list (alphabetical, not enumerated):
  • Beastie Boys "So What Cha Want"
  • Mary J. Blige "Real Love"
  • Brand New Heavies "Never Stop"
  • Chesney Hawkes "The One and Only"
  • Cowboy Junkies "Murder Tonight in the Trailer Park"
  • En Vogue "My Lovin' (Never Gonna' Get It)"
  • Extreme "Rest in Peace"
  • Live "Operation Spirit"
  • The KLF with Tammy Wynette "Justified and Ancient"
  • King Missile "Detachable Penis"
  • L7 "Pretend That We're Dead"
  • The La's "There She Goes"
  • L.A. Style "James Brown is Dead"
  • Lush "For Love"
  • Madonna "Deeper and Deeper"
  • George Michael "Too Funky"
  • Public Enemy "Can't Truss It"
  • Screaming Trees "Nearly Lost You"
  • John Secada "Just Another Day"
  • Sting with Eric Clapton "It's Probably Me"
  • Sugarcubes "Hit"
  • Sundays "Love"
  • Tears For Fears "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)"
  • They Might Be Giants "Hey Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal"
Even though there is definitely some diversity in the group, it feels so narrow now. I suppose that makes sense given the volume of new (and old) music I've enjoyed and/or procured since 1992.

Here's an example. I just bought a new album (the entire thing digitally... I've evolved to the point where I no longer need physical evidence) that is rapidly growing on me. It is "Dreaming Through the Noise" by Vienna Teng. This is not her first album, but I am just now learning about her. Wonderful music.

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