Sometimes I notice something in my apartment out of the corner of my eye and rediscover something I’ve had in plain sight for so long that I’ve forgotten about it. Today my eyes fell across my CD tower, and now I’m looking through all these albums and thinking about the different version of me who collected them.
It’s mostly 90s/00s Christian pop. That was most of my music exposure through high school, and even after that, the music I felt most okay about spending money on.
There’s a small collection of Mark Schultz albums. His self-titled album was the first CD I ever owned. A friend gave it to me on my 13th birthday. More than half my life ago, now. That friend and I had anti-birthdays, exactly six months apart. I don’t remember if I got him anything.
I actually still like his stuff somewhat. Most of these songs are basically short stories, many of them filled with dying children, failing marriages, and a sense of loss and sadness that is usually missing from the relentless cheerfulness of most contemporary Christian music. I used to listen to these albums over and over again, addicted to the catharsis I could squeeze out of them.
On the other end of that spectrum are a couple albums by FFH…as close to a full embodiment of that cheerful Christian pop as I can find on my shelf. In my defense, this had something to do with a girl I liked in high school, though for the life of me, I can’t remember why. For one reason or another, a synapse formed between thoughts of that girl and thoughts of that album, and led to me liking it for far longer than was good for me.
There’s a Bill Cosby comedy album. A bit awkward to be holding on to now, I suppose. I’m not sure what the consensus is on what to do with the works of public figures when their personal misconduct overshadows their creative careers. It’s the one with a half-hour-long story about staying up late and goofing around with his brother. I remember my dad introducing me to this album. It felt like a rite of passage, like being admitted to a secret club of comedy-listeners. It’s one of the better memories I have of my dad.
On the shelf below that is an eclectic collection of musical and movie soundtracks: Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, and Kill Bill Vol. 1. Then there’s a U2 album I’ve never listened to, a Thousand Foot Krutch CD I’ve listened to but never taken out of the plastic wrap, and two copies of Brave Saint Saturn’s second album, in case I ever need a backup.
I have a pretty complete collection of Five Iron Frenzy albums. They were one of my favorite bands for a long time–a predilection I vampired from someone at college, as I did with most of the things I liked. Panic! at the Disco came from my freshman-year roommate, Sara Bareilles from my sophomore-year girlfriend, and I don’t know where all these Anberlin albums came from, but it’s a safe bet that I didn’t find them on my own.
The first thing I remember liking on my own was The Beatles…and I realize how bullshit that sounds. But somehow I made it to senior year of college without ever hearing their music. I knew they existed, but I’d been in a Beatles vacuum for 20 years, with the exception of an spoken-word rendition of She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) that my dad got stuck in his ‘singing’ repertoire.
But I found a CD of Sgt. Pepper for $1 and decided to give it a try. Fell in love pretty much overnight. When I moved out of my college dorm, my last roommate (I had four in four years) and I carried furniture and boxes of books down three flights of stairs singing a manic, abbreviated three-fourths-remembered version of this album in our best (read: worst) impressions of Lennon and McCartney.
That’s what these all ultimately come down to, the reason I’m still holding onto them. Not for the music…with Youtube and Spotify, there are easier ways to listen to the ones I still like. I’m keeping them for the memories.