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re: stacks

re: stacks

When I still lived with my parents, I was actively resisting buying records. Collecting something you had no means of playing seemed like a waste of money, not to mention a hipster move.  And then I found a batch of records by The Band for fifty cents each at a library book sale, and I caved, and then it snowballed. I started going to the "local" record shop (it's 40 minutes away) and buying what I wanted while keeping an eye out for the right turntable. I was insistent on direct drive, not belt drive. I figure that's one more thing to break, and the sound is, to my ear at least, better with direct than belt drive.

I settled on the Denon DP-47 when I saw it in the case at the record store. Sleek, dark, heavy. Those are my initials. It seemed like a good decision. I lugged it home, set it up in my bedroom. I'd have friends over and we'd lounge and sprawl across my bed, in my armchairs (yes, even in a small bedroom, I had two armchairs. #priorities.), on the floor, and we'd listen to Zeppelin really loud. 

Then I bought a house. One of the first things I did was have the stereo system installed — I bartered with a previous employer for a CD changer, amp, pre-amp, bookshelf speakers, and subwoofer, and as I've said before, putting speakers in the bathrooms was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Listening to a record while showering is glorious and I don't care what you think about it. The other night I was cooking, unhappy about what I could and couldn't find on Spotify, and realized I had a new-to-me Robbie Robertson album. It was faster to put it on the turntable than it would have been to pull it up on Spotify.

I don't go to that record store anymore (they're not friendly) — now I buy used from shops I can visit when I'm out of town, and new records mainly at shows, and some online. I also crowdfund a few records a year and it's really nice to get them in the mail after you've forgotten about it. Back before I had a smartphone, I used to punch record stores in the GPS. More than once it has directed me to residential neighborhoods. Just a word of advice...don't go in anyone's basement looking for records by yourself. Take a friend.

I've pruned a bit. The $30 set of Robert Johnson records bought during a brief infatuation with old blues went to someone on Amazon for 3 times that amount (?!).

The Zeppelin records are all still there. My John Hartford collection is out of control (the man was prolific!). I've started getting into Warren Zevon. I've got almost all of the Band's records now, and accidentally bought Stage Fright twice due to an organizational error, but there are worse mistakes to make.

It's really hard to find anything by Faces in the shops, so if you have 'em, hang on. Same with a lot of the classic rock canon - people who had them beat them to death. If you have listenable copies, keep them, if not, be okay with the amount of surface noise and move on.

As I found out by looking everywhere, you're not going to find used Son Volt/Uncle Tupelo/Wilco records. There aren't any. Most music made in the nineties is just now being pressed, and that means it's pricey, but it's nice quality, with extra tracks.

Most bands put their web stores on sale once a year or so — it's a great time to scoop up an artist's entire discography if you want.

My organizing system is my own, and it makes sense to me. I straighten it out every six months or so. As of last time, the order of sorting was: 

> 60s & 70s southern (Allmans, Little Feat, The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd)>
> Outlaw country verging into blues (Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, Wrinkle Neck Mules, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt & Emmylou Harris... I should make a country section)>
> Bluegrass (Seldom Scene, Tony Rice)>
> Folkgrass (The Dillards, John Hartford)>Modern singer-songwriter/folk (Joe Pug, Josh Ritter, Jeffrey Foucault, Bon Iver, Sam Amidon, Tallest Man on Earth, Ben Sollee)>
> British invasion (the Stones, Wishbone Ash, the Yardbirds)>cosmic (Bowie, Dr. John, Donovan)>
> Classic and British Folk (the McGarrigles, Dylan, Pete Seeger, Silly Sisters)>
> Pop(ish) (Linda Ronstadt, Lake Street Dive, Punch Brothers)>
> New Southern Rock (Phil Cook, Hiss Golden Messenger, Jason Isbell)>
> Heavy Folk/New Rock (Steve Gunn, Jack White, Brendan Benson, Deer Tick, Black Mountain, Black Keys)>
> Classic rock (Zeppelin, ZZ Top)>
> 80s stuff that fits nowhere (Springsteen, Paul Simon).

There's a lot more. There's a bunch I haven't listened to yet. I don't have any Ryan Adams on vinyl (?!!!). Just in writing this up, I discovered a dozen items out of place and had to force myself to finish this before getting into it.

The CD sorting method I use is less complicated (first pile: listened to frequently. second pile: less frequently. third pile: even less, but I paid for them. fourth pile: should consider sending to Goodwill), but the LPs deserve better. 

The point - thanks for sticking with me this far - is that collecting LPs, even on the most casual of levels, is about not being able to ignore them. They are here, highly visible, and you must be careful with them. Too hot, they warp. Too cold, they are fragile. Stacked wrong, they get damaged. I do not appreciate nor care for my digital music, CDs, or even cassettes, the same way. There is something really alluring about the LP format for me — like you're really getting your money's worth. Periodically I like to take a look at myself to see if I'd still like me if I was someone else (Pinterest, twitter, etc. - it's a good exercise), and let's just say, the record shelf passes muster.

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