Forever Ago: The New Additions



A few months ago, I blew a lot of green on a new better-than-top-of-the-line 15" MacBook Pro. I really needed a new laptop, though my previous laptop, also an Apple, was working just fine. Great, in fact. It had just run out of room on its hard drive for any more music.


I had already taken the incredibly painful years-ago and continuing step of deleting songs from my hard drive in order to make room for the new iTunes purchases that I had kept making and for the CDs that I had kept buying.


(I know what you're thinking: that it might seem rather strange to still be buying CDs in these modern times, especially when just about any song can be found on iTunes, but I still think that some CDs are worth purchasing.


Which ones? The CDs that show great ambition and that strive for great beauty. The ones that are obviously more than just a random collection of songs. The ones that (and I apologize in advance if it seems silly to say this about pop music) are works of art.


Which ones are works of art? The CDs that are from artists, and I mean artists in the most serious sense possible. So, now, what’s a real artist? A person or a band that thinks of a CD as a unified work of art, as a product of a [singular or shared] vision, as something whose battle isn’t with other CDs in the marketplace, it’s with time. As something that wants to last forever. As something that tries to defeat death, in other words.


[Although, clearly, the artist/artists may not think of it in those terms. Usually they're just trying to make their art objects as beautiful as possible. Also, they would never think of their songs as art objects.]


So now you may be asking yourself where I find out about these albums. Some artists are long-time must-buys. If Iron & Wine puts out an album, I’m sort of forced to buy it [mostly because I’m sure that it’s going to be great from start to finish]. The same goes for Ghostface Killah, on the one hand, and Lucinda Williams on the other. In between are artists like Radiohead and Missy Elliot and TV on the Radio and U2 and Shelby Lynne and Massive Attack and My Morning Jacket and John Mellencamp and the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Portishead and Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon and Beth Orton and the Chemical Brothers and the Magic Numbers. New additions to the must-buy list include Antony & The Johnsons (whose most recent CD is resting about ten feet away from me as I type, waiting to get into the rotation), The Decemberists, Feist, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and M83.


And the other CDs I had just read about in various places. Review aggregators are a great place to start, but if you read around widely, you’ll see that certain artists and albums keep coming up again and again.)


And I also had forty-six CDs still resting in their cellophane because I didn’t have anywhere to rip them to. There was no realistic way to make room for them on my rig without doing serious damage to my various playlists. That’s not to make mention of the many CDs that are currently still in my Amazon cart (some buried so far down and for so long that I call the section of my cart in which they are contained the Deep Cart, as in, “Wow, I forgot that that CD’s been in my Deep Cart since 2005.”), unpurchased for the same lack-of-hard-drive-space problem.


So there the CDs were, accumulated, roughly, over the last year, in an ever-filling bag on the floor.


I had ordered my new rig 26 June 2009 and expected it to arrive while I was on a short trip to the coast. I wasn’t getting e-mail one from Apple about the status of my order or about tracking info. I just assumed that because I had tricked out my new rig with some extras that it was perhaps taking longer to put together and to ship.


But then, to my great astonishment, at the end of my coastal trip, there was a box at the place where I usually take deliveries. Inside that box was my new laptop.


It took me a few days to get everything transferred from the old rig to the new rig, which was an overwhelming process for me, though I should say that I’m easily overwhelmed and if I had gone in with a plan it would have gone much more smoothly than it did. Finally, on 5 July 2009, I decided that it was time to burn that bag full of CDs.


And at that point I wasn’t exactly sure what was in the bag into which I placed newly arrived CDs. One makes a purchase here and there, and the bag fills. Of course, by the time that I started getting the CDs unbagged, I discovered that I had multiple copies of two CDs: M.I.A.’s Kala and John Mellencamp’s Life, Death, Love & Freedom. I don’t even want to guess how many times that’s happened to me over the years, but at least I get to give away the duplicate CDs to my people.


But now for the point: the collection of CDs that I burned on 5 July 2009  (from now on to be formally called the 5 July 2009 New Additions) was the best group of CDs that I have ever burned at any one time. Well, I need to immediately clarify that. I did add an amazing group of CDs to my collection in May of 2008, when I burned that last big batch of CDs (close to a hundred of those bastards, if not slightly over). But the actual transfer took place over a number of days and on to a few different drives, and then I transferred the contents of those drives to one master drive, and then I transferred the contents of that master drive to my old rig. It was all very complicated and a little unnerving.


But that transfer was of a little over twice as many CDs as I burned this July, and even though that transfer was also of a great group of CDs, this last batch was truly stunning in terms of what a high percentage of the CDs did turn out to be just lovely. The concentration of beauty was almost unbelievable. It makes me ache to know how many new songs have come into my life (and also to know that that means that they could have come into my life if I had gotten a new rig a little earlier [but, then again, I wouldn’t have had time to add them to a new rig, and by waiting until this summer, when I knew that I actually would have time, I also timed it so that my new rig would be the latest and greatest 15” from Apple]).



Below, you will find the list of the 5 July 2009 New Additions:






Badu, Erykah

New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago

Donnas, The


Drive-By Truckers

Brighter Than Creation's Dark


The Reminder

Ghostface Killah


Ghostface Killah

Big Doe Rehab

Harris, Emmylou

All I Intended To Be

Iron & Wine

Around The Well

Kings Of Leon

Only By The Night

Lil Wayne

Tha Carter III

Lynne, Shelby

Just A Little Lovin'




Before The Dawn Heals Us


Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts


Saturdays = Youth

Magic Numbers, The

Those The Brokes

Mellencamp, John

Life, Death, Love & Freedom

Mellencamp, John

Mr. Happy Go Lucky

Mellencamp, John

Whenever We Wanted

My Morning Jacket

Evil Urges


Seeing Sounds


From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah

Plant, Robert & Krauss, Alison

Raising Sand

Queens Of The Stone Age

Era Vulgaris

Randolph, Robert & The Family Band


Rapture, The

Pieces Of The People We Love

Sonic Youth

Rather Ripped

Tunstall, KT

Eye To The Telescope

TV On The Radio

Dear Science

TV On The Radio

Return To Cookie Mountain


No Line On The Horizon

Wainwright, Rufus


West, Kanye


Williams, Lucinda

Little Honey

Winehouse, Amy

Back To Black

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Show Your Bones


(One CD that was purchased during that year-long period mentioned above but that didn’t get burned along with the 5 July 2009 New Additions was Blonde Redhead’s 23, but that was because I immediately unwrapped it and put it in my ride’s CD player. I want to say here that it is also a great CD, though, technically, it doesn’t count as a 5 July 2009 New Addition. I know that that means absolutely nothing to anybody and that it matters not all, but I just wanted to clear that up. I’ve no idea why.)



The 5 July 2009 New Additions Top Addition: If asked which of the above CDs to purchase, I’d say all of them. (Well, perhaps not the Sonic Youth. I've been trying for years to like them, and, for years, I’ve been failing. I’m just going to say that I don’t get them but I get that other people get them, though I’ve no idea how. So this purchase was one in a long series of attempts to finally get religion on the whole Sonic Youth question. Didn’t happen. Also, The Donnas didn’t make it happen, either, but I really liked their two previous CDs. But that’s it; I’d recommend every singe one of the other CDs.) But not everybody is going to be able to make that kind of commitment in terms of money or music or time.


If specifically asked to name just a very select grouping from this already select group, I’d say to get the Iron & Wine (though I have to say that I’m far from objective on Iron & Wine), the Lil Wayne, the My Morning Jacket (my favorite American band of the last few years), Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale, the Lucinda Williams, TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, all of the M83s (yes, all of them; their Teen Angst was an iTunes discovery, I did some research, saw that they might be worth a listen, sampled a few tracks, was convinced, and am now utterly convinced), and the Bon Iver.


And if asked to pick only one, it wouldn’t be that hard. In fact it would be pretty easy. I’d say to buy Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago as quickly as you can and to then be ready to have your molecules rearranged. At least the ones related to love and sorrow and longing and loss. In other words, the important molecules. The ones that make life miserable and unbearable and sweet and so goddamned lovely. Of course, anything that can produce that kind of molecular rearrangement has to do with a girl, the semi-fictionalized Emma of the album’s title.


How’d I find it? No clue. Probably in the reading around, probably some time in late 2008 or early 2009. When I finally did purchase it, on 10 February 2009, I purchased two copies. I gave one away a few days later and put the other copy into the one-day-to-be-burned bag.


And that was as far as that went. I didn’t give the CD much thought after that. Then I was in the passenger seat of the car of the person to whom I had given the other copy when she turned on her car’s CD player. A song came on that sounded pretty, very pretty, perhaps a bit too pretty. And I was perhaps not in a pretty mood, which might explain my disparaging question to the driver, something along the lines of “What the hell is this lame-ass crap?”, but the specifics are lost to time. That was when she said that it was the CD that I had given her.


It was then that I thought that I had perhaps been wrong about how good the Bon Iver was going to be. But then came the 5 July 2009 New Additions and the molecular rearrangement. A guy and a guitar and his voice and his pain.


I’ve been incessantly listening to this CD everywhere: at work, in my ride when I run my iPod through the stereo, and when I’m in front of my rig (once, embarrassingly, while I read the lyrics on LyricWiki and sang along [terribly, so terribly, but with great emotion] to every song). I’m listening to it now.


Particularly lovely are songs like “Skinny Love” (and now all your love is wasted/ and then who the hell was I), “The Wolves (Acts I and II)” (with the wild wolves around you/ in the morning, I'll call you), “For Emma” (go find another lover/ to bring a…to string along), and “Re: Stacks” (this is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization/ it's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away/your love will be/safe with me).


The unlocking and the lift away. Goddamn. Good luck getting through that song, and this incredible album, unscathed, undone.