First, let’s get the obligatory 9/11 story out of the way: like hundreds of thousands of people, I’d just arrived at work when it happened. I was the first person in my department to see the company-wide e-mail informing all of us about the planes crashing into the Towers, but the immensity of it didn’t register with me right away. Within minutes, everyone else saw the message, and we all congregated into a teeny tiny conference room with a television, and watched the horror for two hours. Then, I rode my bike home along the Charles River. That afternoon, I didn’t want to watch any more television. Instead, I re-strung my guitar and listened to Bjork’s newly-released Vespertine, seeking solace in its gentle, introverted laptop-created soundscapes as if they were an ocean of calm.

Eight months earlier, I’d first stumbled across weekly weblog-cum-music review column The War Against Silence after seeing an article about its author/creator Glenn McDonald in the Boston Phoenix. At that point, McDonald had been dutifully posting one 1500+ word “issue” per week for six straight years. Each one consisted of reviews—usually covering two or three albums, occasionally just one, sometimes even ten or twenty singles. I spent much time at my barely-challenging office job sifting through back issues of TWAS. Although I didn’t share McDonald’s love for prog-rock, Scandinavian death metal or Rick Springfield, I enjoyed his reviews of artists like Tori Amos and that forever criminally underrated Swedish pop duo, Roxette. I also first heard about wonderful Canadian singer/pianist Emm Gryner on his site.

Furthermore, I admired how McDonald incorporated autobiographical essay into his music criticism. Sure, he could be pretentious and a little self-indulgent, but his personable style undeniably influenced me. Midway through the year, I decided to quit the free-form nature of my journals/writing notebooks and focus entirely on music and film criticism. My guidelines were simple: if I saw a movie or acquired a new CD, I’d try to write at least five pages about it in my notebook. Paging through these reviews now, some of them are unreadable (if not illegible), but others aren’t that bad—they lack polish, but clever ideas run rampant through them, taking me back to what impact an album or even a particular song had when it was still fresh and new in my mind.

I always meant to rewrite some of these reviews and develop them into publishable pieces other people might actually want to read, but I never did. As the year wore on, I moved, for the first time in my life, to an actual suburb (though it wasn’t much less urban than anywhere else I’ve lived). At 26, I was more than willing to settle down into a life of domestic bliss with a romantic partner. Musically, the only advantage of this was that it gave me access to a whole new slew of libraries to borrow CDs from. Otherwise, it wasn’t all that blissful—rather boring, really.

Redemption came weeks after 9/11 when I picked up a used copy of Ivy’s Apartment Life at Record Hog, a cute corner store blocks away from Porter Sq. in Cambridge. I had never purchased an album I hadn’t heard a note of before that I’ve loved so much. After that, I returned to Record Hog often in hopes of making another glorious discovery. Even though I usually left the place disappointed and empty-handed, the thrill, the desire, the tenacity was back to stay—it would really prove invaluable through the difficult year that lay ahead.