I rang in this numerically significant new year (or century/millennium, if you will) by nervously coming out to my parents. I returned to Boston, jobless and in love. Both states color this year more profoundly in my memory than any music I acquired. Oh, I could systematically rattle off a list or reminisce over the new albums I anticipated fervently (such as Aimee Mann’s Bachelor # 2, or the Last Remains of the Dodo, which I bought off her website months before you could get it in stores), but none of it would have a meaningful context. I didn’t explore any new genres or make any major changes in the way I discovered music. I did buy a new table-top stereo to replace my five-year-old boombox, but really, how exciting is that?

I had precious little in common with the guy I fell for when it came to musical tastes (among far too many other things to mention). He exclusively listened to top-40 radio; thus came my reintroduction into that arena after years of aloof semi-avoidance. Apart from the numbing repetition, it wasn’t all that bad. Within weeks, I found myself humming along to (if not exactly anticipating) hits of the day from radio-friendly unit shifters like Enrique Iglesias (though not Ricky Martin) and the Backstreet Boys (though not N’Sync).

My favorite thing about top 40, always and forever is the one-hit wonder, that fleeting novelty that gets under everyone’s skin for a few weeks until it inevitably wears out its welcome, forever relegated to time capsules and flashback shows. Five years on, one might not remember songs like Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” or Sonique’s “It Feels So Good” by title alone, but hearing them conjures up a giggle or a groan (depending on the mood), transporting one back to a painfully specific time and place. I know it’s the inverse of an album with timeless appeal, but I’d argue it’s nothing to scoff at. I love having that option to emotionally go back in time, just for an instant, not getting stuck there for good.

The boyfriend also loved to go clubbing—it’s how we met. I usually joined him on Saturday nights at Man Ray in Cambridge. The theme was all-around retro: the front room (which he preferred) skewed dance/disco, with lots of vocal-heavy contemporary selections and new remixes of classics like Petula Clark’s “Downtown”, Manilow’s “Copacabana” and even “Xanadu” (!). The back room (which I preferred) was heavenly ‘80s/new wave. On any given week, you’d hear The Smiths, Depeche Mode, New Order, The B-52’s and The Clash, all in a row (with the odd Patti Smith or Violent Femmes track lithely thrown in). We’d move back and forth between the two rooms until last call, securing a spot in the front room for the final song of the night, Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”, an obvious, corny but effective choice.

This year feels more distant to me now than 1995 for a variety of reasons. Though fresh-faced and stupidly happy (to quote one of the year’s best unsung singles, from XTC’s Wasp Star), it alarms me now to see how quickly I was willing to settle for a remarkably challenge-free life—one teeming with pleasure and happiness and yes, love, but not a whole lot of depth. Maybe that explains why this year seems so stagnant in memory: in this new, all-consuming relationship I jumped feet-first into, I ended up muting a small but significant part of who I really was. The music geek within, forever sprouting off obscure trivia and urging friends to listen to something that could CHANGE their LIVES was temporarily out to lunch.