I’ll admit it. I am a troglodyte in some respects. I will only read actual books made of paper. I don’t even really like to read the news online, preferring instead to read the newspaper (which could have something to do with the fact that I used to be a newspaper reporter, but I digress). I still have an overflowing bin of CDs in my car to play. I refuse to digitize my biggest passions because there is nothing like being able to hold that book or piece of music in my hand and experience it. Alas, we live in a world where it’s getting harder every day to find any type of hard copy of music, in particular, and it makes me ridiculously sad.
I happened to be in Omaha, Nebraska, last weekend with my best friend. Omaha is where I truly discovered the immensity of the musical universe: Homer’s Music & Gifts in the Old Market. Of course, we had to stop by and bring her kids in so they could start experiencing music in the same way we have been since we were 14.
The first time I walked in that store was 1996. I was on a field trip to the Joslyn Art Museum with the Art Club. A few of my friends and I were walking around Old Market and happened to see this quirky looking music store in the middle of the block. Posters for new releases like Soundgarden’s “Down on the Upside” and local concert flyers were plastered on the windows. The minute we stepped inside, we were greeted with a two-pronged assault on our senses, the strong smell of patchouli and loud music playing on the speakers overhead. It’s pretty much the same 25 years later, except I think the incense has changed.
I recall wandering through the aisles in awe of the stacks upon stacks of CDs from every genre imaginable, mostly artists I’d never heard of. I drank in everything I could, rummaging through everything trying to find a few gems to bring home. I knew I had found my “happy place.” I’m pretty sure one of our chaperones had to extract me from the store by yelling that the bus was going to leave without me. Every visit since then has gone pretty much the same way, with me trying to look through every molecule of the place before I have to be practically dragged out.
To celebrate the awesomeness of local record stores like Homer’s, here are selections from five of my favorite albums I have purchased at that store over the years. All of them have changed my life. If you haven’t visited Homer’s or another local record store lately, DO IT. You don’t have to be a troglodyte for it to be your “happy place” too.
K’s Choice, Paradise in Me
This was one of the CDs I bought during my first visit to Homer’s. I think I heard the first song on this album, “Not an Addict,” on MTV or something. I thought the “oooh ooohing” during the song was pretty cool, and of course a song about drugs would appeal to a dorky suburban teenage girl whose most rebellious act was joining the Art Club so she could go to Omaha without her parents. Turns out the rest of this album is pretty good too! Check out “A Sound That Only You Can Hear” and “To This Day.”
“I’m not an addict, maybe that’s a lie”
This was the other CD I bought on that first trip. I’m not sure if I had heard of Poe before I went there, but this CD cover appealed to my teenage angst. I remember listening to the opening track, “Hello,” on the bus coming home using my trusty little Discman and being totally blissed out. Poe has only ever recorded two albums, but she’s terrific. My favorite song on this album has for a long time been “Fingertips.”
“It’s in the way they move and
They catch that simple groove and
They tell a story all their own about the human heart alone
I try to get a grip but I find I always slip on fingertips”
Aimee Mann, I’m With Stupid
Aimee Mann is one of those people who should be super famous but isn’t really, probably because her lyrics are a little too clever and multidimensional. I got lucky enough to pick up a used copy of this for $2 at Homer’s one day. Even though I had already been listening to a copy I burned from the library years ago, I would definitely rather have the original artwork and lyric book. “That’s Just What You Are” got a lot of airplay from this album, but the last song here, “It’s Not Safe,” has to be one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s just so true.
“All you want to do is something good
So get ready to be ridiculed and misunderstood
‘Cause don’t you know that you’re a fucking freak in this world
In which everybody’s willing to choose swine over pearls”
Lucinda Williams, World Without Tears
The first album of Lucinda’s I ever heard, and it’s still my favorite. My boss at my last newspaper job introduced me to her, and I bought this at Homer’s after he burned some sort of live concert of hers for me. She’s a good road companion. I think it’s something about the gravel in her voice. I absolutely love “Righteously,” as it is strangely sexy. Also check out “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings” and “Ventura.”
“Arms around my waist
You get a taste of how good this can be
Be the man you ought to tenderly
Stand up for me”
Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes
There are few albums as good from beginning to end as Tori’s Little Earthquakes. I’ll admit, I skip “Me and a Gun” frequently because you really you have to be in the mood for it. However, from “Crucify” to the ending title track, it is absolutely immersive. I was so excited to snag a cheap used copy of it at Homer’s on my last trip because my original version is more than 20 years old. I don’t want to keep that one in my car anymore because I stood in line for 8 hours before a concert to get her autograph on the booklet cover. I only got close enough because I had brought enough Funyuns to share with the rest of the crowd, and they passed it up to her. Anyway, I love this live version of “Leather” and the song fits my mood right now.
“I could just pretend that you love me
The night would lose all sense of fear
But why do I need you to love me
When you can’t hold what I hold dear
Oh God, could it be the weather
Oh God, why am I here
If love isn’t forever
And its not the weather
Hand me my leather “
Where did you buy your favorite music? I want to know!