This Desert Life (1998) :: Counting Crows

Choosing a Counting Crows album for “My Favorite Albums” was tough as pretty much all of their albums are filled with memories and emotions to me. August and Everything After seemed like the obvious choice, at first, especially since one of my all-time favorite songs, Murder of One, is on it; a song that has a very specific time in my life and all the feelings that time encapsulates tied up in it.

Then there was Recovering the Satellites to think on, with songs like A Long December which brings to mind a very good friend, as well as a past love from my life, as it was a song that affixed itself to my memories of both of those people as songs sometimes do. The album also includes a favorite of mine, the song Catapult, which ever and always brings tears to my eyes.

And, what about Hard Candy, with the song that winds up on so many mixes and playlists I make, Holiday in Spain?

Perhaps I will write about those other albums, in their entirety, another day, but for today it was This Desert Life that I kept going back to during the consideration process, each song raising a musical hand in the air and waving to me, vying for my attention, and in the end, getting it. The songs on this album are loaded with the highs and lows of my heart, and I could probably write a pages on what each song means to me, but for now, for today, for this, I will keep it to my three sentence parameter.

So, here it is, This Desert Life, song-by-song, with three sentences of reasons why I love the album so very much:

Hanginaround

It was the weekend before we were to marry each other on our shared birthday and a small group of great friends gathered around to throw a celebration for me. We piled in a van and drove to Reno, singing songs and laughing together, enjoying the freedom and fun that only a road trip with great friends can provide. She pointed out the sound of a bong at the start of this song and we kept hitting repeat to weigh in on the noise, laughing harder over each replay.

Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby

Sleepless night battles with insomnia and comparisons of dreams to memories, and films to ghosts, hit at such a deep part of me that I feel like I am swirling around somewhere in the lyrics. I love the shout out to Maria, and how she has a piece of each and every song sung, because really, us artists have our own Maria’s, don’t we? Also, on a much lighter, and admittedly geeky note, I always think of Joey Potter, from Dawson’s Creek, when I hear this song, and tend to picture Pacey Witter singing it to her.

Amy Hit the Atmosphere

There is always at least one song on a Counting Crows album that will always make me cry no matter what, and no matter when I listen to it; this is one of those songs. The song hits on the way it feels to love someone who is fighting a disease, or for their own sanity, and how that struggle becomes such a part of you that the weight of it pulls you under, sinking like stones are tied to your arms and legs, while on other days it throws you into the atmosphere, hard and fast, leaving you gasping and waving your arms around helplessly, trying and failing at flight. All you crave is rescue, but no one ever rescues either of you.

Four Days

(recorded live from The Outlaw Roadshow)

More sleepless nights, more breathing held as you wait and hope for things to get better, even if the bottom feels like it might fall out at any moment. The daily struggle to exist, to hold on, to keep someone else holding on. This may be my stories bleeding into someone else’s song, but it is what I feel when I listen.

All My Friends

I was close to the 33 years old when this song came out, a few years shy, but it still sure hit how it felt for me then. Sometimes we go through times so rough and jagged that so many of our friends, and lovers, leave us behind because they honestly do not know how to be with us through it all. The ones that stay, though, they are the ones we learn to trust and hold close with all that we are, the good and bad and messy and messed up, all of us.

High Life

(recorded live for the “face the promised land” bootleg)

The wistful moments of looking back at times past, sometimes they are stained with regret, other times just the half-smile, half-squint of remembering. Some memories and some people from our past tug at us more than others, ever lingering over doors left cracked open, the lack of a real ending pulling us towards some kind of recognition, or at least acknowledgement. I love the line about confusing endings and beginnings, because I do that sometimes, too.

Colorblind

Oh my stars what a gorgeous song this is. Deep and lush and full of emotion, of passion, of love, of loss and of the struggele to be seen and heard and touched and loved. It is also part the soundtrack to one of my all-time favorite films, Cruel Intentions.

I Wish I Was a Girl

Sometimes it is hard to say I am sorry, I was wrong, especially when years go by and time has passed, and maybe it just does not matter anymore anyway. Except, that it still matters to you, it still haunts you, it still crawls around in your mind and in your dreams as you imagine that there will be a someday when you can say all the reasons why, and be understood, and yes, forgiven. Regret leaves such a mark sometimes.

Speedway

This one reminds me of driving cross-country. This one reminds me of the breaking-up and making-up that we did, over and over again, hurting each other in so many ways. This one reminds me of the darker parts of me, the stories I do not say, and how alone I feel sometimes.

St. Robinson and His Cadillac Dream

(recorded live in 2007)

This song feels like dreaming to me, that mixed up, shaken and stirred blend of fiction and fact, of waking and sleeping, and of the real and the imagined. In that dream state we can be anyone we wish ourselves to be. We spin, we sing, we dream and we succeed and everything, even love.

Kid Things (hidden track)

After all the emotions of this album this just makes me want to dance. This is a turn it all the way up and let yourself go kind of song, addictive and carefree. It reminds me of drinking and dancing in a dive bar with my best friends.

Leave a Reply