Thursday, December 24, 2009

A look back at this decade in music, according to my music collection

It's been a long time since I cared about anything in my corner-CD tower. It's trapped between the bookcase that holds my record player and the wall. It's not at all accessible except for the top few tiers. Today I wrangled it out to snag my Pet Sounds album, since I discovered that Mono is indeed better, and wanted to revisit the album.

I can't remember the last CD that I bought that wasn't from a brick and mortar store that didn't belong to a friend or The Hold Steady. The newest additions are, of course, Stay Positive, and last year's Emilyn Brodsky's Greatest Tits, but aside from those, most everything on this rack was purchased sometime during high school, the 2002-2006 era. I remember trips to Tower Records, with about $40 in my pocket. I'd stack up four or five CDs and my understanding, saintly stepfather would make up the difference.

I devoured records then. I distinctly remember using my portable CD player on the bus, choosing one album a week with care. I'd listen to half the album in the morning, half in the afternoon. All week long. One album in particular I remember doing this with was Ryan Adams' Gold. I think that album may have turned me from music lover into music worshiper.

Looking back at this tower of forgotten media, I can outline the decade. Well, almost. For me, at least. There are the CDs that lived in that Walkman: Ryan Adams' Gold, Demolition and Rock and Roll; Josh Joplin's Useful Music; Rhett Miller's The Instigator. Then there are those that nearly warped from the heat after sitting in my car stereo for months on end: Streetlight Manifesto's Everything Goes Numb, The Smiths' Louder than Bombs, Motion City Soundtrack's I Am The Movie. It's a time capsule not just for the great artists of the 00 decade (Belle and Sebastian, Modest Mouse, Beck, Ryan Adams, Interpol), but also a tribute to every discovery from the near and distant past that I made in the past 8 years or so (the aforementioned Smiths, Phil Ochs' discography, Randy Newman, The Blues Brothers, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith--the list goes on.

It's a shame that, well, frankly no one gives a damn about CDs anymore. They served their purpose. They were my gateway drug into finding the music that I loved, and putting a proper value on it (an ideal that I held dear, then departed from, but find myself slowly returning to). But, I am confident that the music industry will streamline, adapt, and renew itself as it always does (did you see those nifty Apple records-shaped Beatles anthology jump drives?) My fiending for vinyl more or less came and went; every record that I truly LOVE currently sits in my collection. Except perhaps for Paul Simon's self-titled number, but that will be easy enough to track down.

After all of the changes that the industry has endured, nothing refreshes me more than to discover an excellent album, preview it on Lala, and if my funds allow, purchase it instantaneously on iTunes. No wonder our generation is so impatient for everything.

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