35. Song No. 186: “All My Friends,” Counting Crows
This Desert Life, 1999
If that Goo Goo Dolls album is a guilty pleasure, Counting Crows is proof that some popular ’90s music wormed into my heart in a pure and beautiful way that I don’t feel like sullying with an ironic qualifier. And I was recently reminded how basically all my favorite people love the Counting Crows but never talk about it, despite none of us having a fuck to give about being or appearing cool. But those moments of joyful revelation and “Wait, you love them, too!? I thought I was the only one!” are lovely moments of connection that make me even fonder of this band.
This Desert Life isn’t my favorite Counting Crows album (that’d be Recovering the Satellites in a rare instance of me adoring ANYTHING even remotely winter-sounding, because it is just that good) but it is home to an awful lot of songs that make my heart so happy. August and Everything After was just a perfect album that benefited from being the sum of some incredible parts and Recovering the Satellites is a thing of aching beauty, but they both felt like complete, cohesive units that need to be enjoyed completely from beginning to end to best appreciate them. This Desert Life always felt more like most other albums do, a collection of good songs but not necessarily songs that need to be grouped together, and I think it’s largely because the divide between the songs I liked and the songs I looooooved was a little wider than that of its predecessors. That’s not an unforgivable musical sin by any means, but this album definitely got eclipsed by its siblings.
I am proud of where my musical taste has gone and how it’s grown over the years (even if it is incredibly white), and I do love obscurity being its prevailing theme: All these songs and bands I love feel more earned that way. I feel righteous in my mistrust of Top 40 radio and popular music trends for the sake of listening to what’s cool, especially because it’s freed me to find music that I love for its intrinsic merit, whether it’s because of loving how a song sounds, what it reminds me of, its place in a musician’s discography, a snippet of lyrics, whatever. There are plenty of shitty things about this world–no need to add worrying about the optics of one’s music taste. Music’s about escaping the mundane, not getting beating down by its most superficial artifices.
Sometimes, something I love is something everyone else seems to love, too. And the older I get, the more I appreciate the built-in bond that comes with finding common ground through just-popular-enough music, especially where there’s as much to love as the bounty Counting Crows gave us in the ’90s.