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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Record Store Day

Is it a coincidence that yesterday was 420 and today is National Record Store Day? As long as it's not National Random Drug Check Day then record stores should be bustling. Throughout the day, I've witnessed bloggers and Tweeters brag about their amazing purchases and finds, and all I could say was "Goddamnit! What happened to all the record stores in town?"Well, we used to have music shops, but they've all closed. Jacksonville had a fantastic store called "CD Connection" that, despite the name, had a satisfactory collection of vinyl. I remember all the music I bought there throughout high school and college. It closed its doors a couple years ago, citing competition from iTunes. Ah Mp3s, those audio formats of laughable quality. Simply put, Mp3's weren't meant to replace CDs, they were meant to make music more portable and accessible, but they did replace the older formats. And here we are, watching as even the music/movie section at Barnes & Noble shuts down. I suppose I could always get my hands on a CD, cassette, or vinyl by ordering it online, but that defeats the whole purpose of music shopping for physical things.

Let me remind you of the record store experience, ignoring what we remember from movies like "High Fidelity," that was a work of fiction... but didn't stray far from the truth. You'd walk into a store, some new release / standard classic drifting out of the speakers like vapor out of an air vent, and some guy / girl of high importance stands behind the counter. Don't let the self-important facade fool you. If you strike up a conversation with them, you'll find that they were fine folks. Sometimes they were assholes, but they were assholes with a great knowledge of music, and that is helpful.

I still want Kathleen Turner Overdrive to be a real band.
If you remove the racks, the posters, and the glass cases from the store, then you'll realize that the space itself is usually just a grimy hole-in-the-strip-mall. There's really no difference between searching the store and searching an abandoned box of CDs in a radio station's dumpster. So what's the appeal? The fucking ambience! Now there's a fancy word. Yes, the ambience, the pretension, the love of audio. The whole experience peaks into our adventurous spirit, the hunter-gatherer essence of the human soul, where we strive to discover that rare EP, that discontinued album from your favorite band based out of Chico, CA on that now defunct label. What great wonders will we find wedged between Bauhaus and Beirut? Beach House? Perfect!

There's also something to say about Cover Art. Browsing through rows and rows of plastic crystalline cases or stacks of paper sleeves, I am reminded of rushing through an art gallery, my eyes overwhelmed by the stampede of images, of killer robots and pastel deers, of seedy neighborhoods and rolling hills, of a yellowed Polaroid and a CG spark-fest. The variety is never-ending and it's always fun to play the cliche album cover drinking game. Take a drink every time you find: a cute dog, large breasts, a singer-songwriter looking off-camera, typewriter font, the too-clean ghetto, the band posing at random points on the cover, a black and white photo, and even bigger breasts.

In this case, just drink to forget.
Ah the music shop. How I miss ambling aimlessly, discovering new artists, or rediscovering old artists. As I write this, I find The Go Team's "Fire, Lightning, Strike!" in my stack of music. I had bought that on a whim in a record store, having fallen in love with the spirited uptempo and funky disco-flavored beats. I can't replicate this experience online: there's too much to sift through! I know it sounds ridiculous to say I have too much to choose from, but the fact is I feel over-saturated by music and it all blends together, even the good stuff. I guess the reason is that it's easy to click on the next song on your computer rather than the old days where you had to physically change the CD in the player (not counting chain stores that used Mp3s in their listening stations).

So, seeing as how it's still record store day (for an hour anyways), here are some new releases that I recommend.

"Brains" - Lower Dens
"Gold on the Ceiling" - The Black Keys
"Nightswim" - Frankie Rose
"Revolution" - Doctor John
"Serpents" - Sharon Van Etten

And of course, good luck catching one of Jack White's free-floating vinyls released on April 1. Literally catch a copy of "Freedom at 21."

1 comment:

  1. This has nothing to do with your article, but I remember that Boned picture from the list on Cracked.com. The 'Mom's Apple Pie' one is the most upsetting.