Mar 29, 2008

Record Shop

Circa 2001. I'm working at a regional music chain in Jackson, TN. This is both the best and worst job I've ever had. My musical vocabulary and frame of reference increases ten fold in the year or so I spend there, and I meet many people who positively influence my knowledge and taste. I also encounter countless "morons" who grate my nerves with their questionable taste and inane questions. Worst of all, I become a cultural elitist (partially due to the film education provided by a roommate and a video production course), a personality trait I have only wrestled into submission in the last couple years.

Present. Inspired by my newly acquired speakers, I've u-turned away from the internet as my primary source of new music. Over the last decade the mode of transfer from my music has shifted in much the same way as yours (you being the ubiquitous blog-reader) likely has: from exclusively CD to almost exclusively mp3 (or some other digital equivalent). Although I'm completely confident in the ability of a digital audio file to deliver an experience equal to that of CD, I'm not confident in the ability of my computer or iPod or internet storefronts to consistently deliver that experience. What follows is a list of my praise and gripes:
  • The iPod classic and PC, while good in storage capacity, portability (iPod), and user friendliness, require add-ons (external DAC, controler/line-in adapter) for optimum performance.
  • BLEEP, 7digital, Anthology Recordings, and similar sites have the quality right, but their selection is limited or caters toward a specific market.
  • Amazon and iTunes (the two biggest digital music retailers) are headed in the right direction, but still aren't the perfect solution.
  • Nine Inch Nails had a great idea with their latest release, but bandwidth was a problem early on.
The--possibly foolish--reaction has been to invest almost embarrassing amounts of cash on CDs, occasionally of tracks that I'd previously acquired (legally or otherwise). Not since my time at the CD store have I so haphazardly consumed round, silver plastic. In the last two weeks, I've popped into Barnes & Noble (of all places) to look for CDs. The first time I was hoping they might have the new Kills album, and last night I was taking advantage of their 40% coupon. Both times, I hoped--fruitlessly--to see my friend/acquaintance who works there.

During his appearance on All Songs Considered, Thom Yorke stated that he missed the experience of record shopping. My time shopping the decent-but-inadequate CD section of our local B&N became about an attempt to reclaim that music shop experience, and even though there was no one around who's taste I would turn to, I picked up the Nick Cave album that sat in my friend's recommendation slot by the counter.

I realize that the try-before-you-buy nature of mp3s and music blogs are a more efficient and streamlined method of achieving the same effect. But there's a unique experience in filing through rows of CDs or vinyl while chatting and listening to someone else's selection. I don't want to give up all that technology hath wrought, but I don't want to throw out the indie shops either.

In the spirit of that idea, and the upcoming Record Store Day, here are my favorite record stores:

Grimey's Nashville, TN
If I ever move to Nashville, this place will have something to do with that.
Memorable purchase: DJ Shadow Preemptive Strike (used vinyl)

Euclid Records St. Louis, MO
I've only been there once, but the layout, selection, and staff were all top-notch. I'll be making a visit soon.
Jason Molina Let Me Go, Let Me Go (vinyl/CD)

Last Chance Memphis, TN
Memorable Purchase: Hot Snakes Audit in Progress (vinyl)
Shangri-La Memphis, TN
Memorable purchase: Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (used? vinyl)
hen I lived farther down the Mississippi, these places (especially LC) were weekly stops.

The Disc Exchange Knoxville, TN
Another one I've only visited once . . . over five years ago, but they had a nice variety and friendly staff.
Memorable purchase: The White Stripes White Blood Cells (CD, original Sympathy for the Record industry release)

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