I get stuck in musical ruts sometimes. I will listen to the same CD in my car for months at a time. Lately I’ve had a core set of about ten songs – The Who, BeeGees, and miscellaneous rocksteady and Ghanaian palmwine tracks – that I’ve put on nearly every mix I’ve made in the last year. Though I work in a very music-friendly office, I find I don’t listen to music much outside of my car. There is something about the isolation and the boredom of driving that allow me to unselfconsciously listen to and enjoy whatever I’m in the mood for… although that’s usually limited by whatever is in my car.
Which brings me to the large case of CDs I discovered yesterday under the passenger seat. I undoubtedly hid them there shortly after I bought my car two years ago to deter theft (I imagine the last person who stole CDs from my car was disappointed to find only folk and bluegrass mixes). Since my music collection is scattered — when my last computer died, I basically started a new music collection from scratch — it was like coming across a time capsule of my musical taste of years ago. I found a lot of albums that I’d forgotten I loved. I immediately popped in Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and was flooded with memories of the early days of dating my then-boyfriend-now-husband, right about five years ago.
When I first heard YHF, I was in the middle of what I call my own personal summer of love: I had just returned to the Bay Area after a long dry spell in Washington state and commenced a whirlwind season of dating. For some reason, most of the dudes I went on dates with were excited about this year-old Wilco album. I figured I needed to check it out. When I got around to listening to it, I was blown away. I had always thought Wilco was a pleasant enough band but never really saw what all the fuss was about. Here they had made an album that was at once classic-sounding and very weird; it was much more complex and sonically heavy than their usual straight-ahead alt-country style. For me, it was the perfect combination of rock and experimentation. I proceeded to listen to it non-stop for the next several weeks.
A month or two into our relationship, my then-boyfriend-now-husband (TBNH) and I were driving to a café so he could grade papers and I could read. We used to sit there, working/reading in silence, and occasionally pass little love notes back and forth. It was fun. As we drove along, YHF was playing in my car. A song came to an end just as we were parking, and we sat still in our seats listening to the static, beeps, and general noise tacked on to the end of the track. “This is terrible,” TBNH said. Outside the context of the song, yes, it was hard to listen to. But I was not going to let him hate it. Thus began our first ever fight, in which I defended the album, and he defended his right to not like something which I loved.
While I hopefully learned to not take his opinions about art so personally, TBNH soon came to become a fan of Wilco. I’ve since learned that he sometimes has a strong initial reaction to something (movies, plays, music) and later comes around to tolerating it or even loving it. When I put the album on today I couldn’t help but think of the dorm room where I was living at the time I first heard it, of meeting TBNH, our first dates, and eventually our first fight. All kinds of memories from the end of college and my first recollections of TBNH overwhelmed me, each one real and immediate. The music beautifully wove it all back together for me – the good and the bad – and uncovered details which I hadn’t visited in years. All of which I’m grateful for.
Here’s a Wilco song that I wanted to be played at my wedding. (That’s a story for another post).