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5 Albums I Can't Live Without

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Rhett Miller of Old 97’s

The Old 97's (Credit: Jason Quigley)
The Old 97's (Credit: Jason Quigley)

Name  Rhett Miller (a.k.a. Stewart Ransom Miller, Serial Lady Killer — it’s a lyric from an old song of mine, don’t freak out).

Best known for Frontman of the Texas-based rock ‘n roll combo Old 97’s, a band that has apparently reached the status of always being referred to as “legendary” when acknowledged by the Fourth Estate.

Current city  New Paltz, NY — a college town full of hippies nestled at the base of a mountain range, 70 miles north of Manhattan.

Really want to be in  The Central Building Tower Room at the Mohonk Mountain House watching the sunset on the mountain-side balcony.

Excited about  Old 97’s 13th studio album, American Primitive (released April 5 via ATO Records). 

My current music collection has a lot of  My own music (it’s my job and I love it).

And a little bit of  Instrumental music for writing prose, notably Michael Chabon’s great Melancholia playlist on Spotify.

Preferred format  Prefer vinyl because it’s fun and sounds great, but almost all streaming because the Robots won the Robot Revolution.

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without:


Low, David Bowie

Bowie’s best is hard to pin down, but something about Low elevates it for me. The combination of Bowie, Visconti, and Eno on this album, builds in layers and depth that have resonated for me over all these decades, and drive me to listen to it endlessly.


Viva Last Blues, Palace Music

I have no idea why I love this album so much. The sloppiness of the performances, the unhinged quality of the vocal, and the jagged, slipshod poetry of the lyrics — it just gets me, man. It gets me deep.


Tous les garçons et les filles, Françoise Hardy

My limited understanding of la langue française lets me experience her music in a detached way that feels merveilleux. The production is so clean and bright and her voice might be my favorite human voice.


Songs by Tom Lehrer, Tom Lehrer

This record was one of the few real bonds my dad and I shared during my childhood. Lehrer, a Harvard mathematician who sidelined as a piano-banging satirist, wrote the smartest, funniest, stupidest, greatest songs you’ve never heard. Please go listen to “The Irish Ballad” right now — I’ll wait.


The Slider, T Rex

This is the one. It’s always been the one. Nonsense lyrics and snarling, grunting vocals. Big riff-heavy guitar. An album cover photo snapped by Ringo Starr? This album should, by all rights, be as important as anything in rock ‘n roll.