I remember a spring afternoon in 1997. I was standing in Strictly Discs, as fine of a record store as can be found in Madison, Wisconsin, as a learned music fan was browsing the new releases and chatting with the guy behind the counter, as learned music fans are wont to do. And the shopper’s stack grew larger, he was talking about the upcoming releases that he’d already had a chance to somehow hear, declaring that Something to Remember Me By, the sophomore full-length from Ben Lee was a masterpiece. I was filled with envy.
I’d happened upon Lee while I worked at the commercial radio station. I certainly didn’t hear his music on those airwaves. Instead, I bought his debut, Grandpaw Would, as part of my constant and haphazard plan to keep filling my collection with the sort of overlooked wonders that defined my college radio days. He was still a teenager when those first couple solo albums were released, but he had a way with language that I appreciated. While I was drowning in the leaden imagery of Pearl Jam and Live, Lee’s offhand, unassuming cleverness was a salve.
So I didn’t get to hear Something to Remember Me By early, but I did buy it the day it came out. At Strictly Discs, of course. I don’t know that I agreed it merited quite the superlative that I’d heard assigned to it, but it served as a pretty good summer soundtrack for me. And when certain lyrics really clicked — “I’m gonna tear down the main city street in a stolen police car/ Record the world’s trashiest song and make myself a star,” on “End of the World” — I was genuinely grateful that I’d managed to find Lee’s music in my exploring.
Listen or download –> Ben Lee, “End of the World”
(Disclaimer: Look, this song and album may very well be purchasable from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the owner of the store in question and the original artist. If it is, you should do that. It’s really good. I’m sharing this here not to discourage you from supporting the artist, but indeed quite the opposite. Though I mean no harm, I know the rules. If I’m asked to remove this file from my little corner of the digital world by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request, I will gladly and promptly do so.)