Monday, September 15, 2008

Crate digging....

Here's a pretty funny blog post about 'crate digging', or the practice of digging through pile of used, dusty, often crap records, in search or that 'special one'...


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

the 90's...the latest great music era?

This is a really good time to be buying used cd’s, especially at yard sales. While decent vinyl stocks seem to have dried up a bit in the backyard market, casual music consumers are wither changing tactics or dumping music collections altogether. Thank the Ipod and downloading for this I guess- with some more tech-savvy folks dumping their cd’s onto hard drives, the physical media is often tossed as an afterthought (bad idea, IMO). On the other hand, with the ubiquity of shitty-sounding music out there makes listening no longer special, so folks are dumping cd’s and their bulky packaging for invisible mp3’s and DVD’s. So I’ve loaded up on a lot of stuff at garage sales this year, all for $0.50 – 1.00 each.

I picked up this Carpenter’s tribute last weekend, remembering it a bit from back in the day (and being reminded by its inclusion in “Juno”). Not being a major Carpenter’s fan, my history with their music is simply through its position on pop radio while I was growing up. I will never deny these sibling’s ability to write a great pop song. So this collection, produced in 1994, contains tracks by many bands from that era that were hitting on ‘alternative’ radio at the time (and a good few who should have). American Music Club, the cranberries, Johnette Napolitano, Matthew Sweet, Cracker, Sonic Youth, Babes in Toyland and Shonen Knife contribute tracks (along with Dishwalla, 4 Non Blondes, Sheryl Crow, and others that may not have been in my playlist at the time). Like any good tribute album, this one is held together by the songs; even those I don’t know have a familiar feel that unites the rather different artists. So listening to it on the way home last night felt like a weird time warp to 1992-1994, when a few of these characters played a not insignificant role in my soundtrack.

Which brings me to my point. I’ve heard it said that one’s musical tastes generally are set during their years from 18-25, and this little window fits in there for me. So many changes in life happen during that shift to adulthood, and those changes are accompanied by music that brings us back to that time when our eventual ‘grown-up’ selves are forming. Certainly I can very specifically identify with the music of Matthew Sweet, the Cranberries, Concrete Blonde, and American Music Club with a very particular slice in my time, and the other bands on this comp are peripheral but certainly contemporary with this feeling. And I find myself buying (and listening to) a lot of cd’s from that window, say 1992-1996, this summer. Maybe it’s that folks my age are growing up and out of their music collections, and dumping them at the garage sales along with baby books and that bike they don’t ride. I’ve been gobbling it up though, and I feel for another reason- this was the last great era of mass recorded music.

Yeah, that’s a bold statement, and one every generation makes when the new kids come along with their version of the latest noisy racket. But I but a lot of music, not just at yard sales, and feel a little tuned in to what’s playing nowadays. Just a peek at my stack of records here in the office finds The Sadies New Seasons (2007), Drive-By Truckers Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (2007), Band of Horses Everything All the Time (2006), The Kooks Konk (2008)The Cure The Cure (2004), Ray Davies Working Man’s Café (2008), Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights (2002), and Tapes n’ Tapes Walk it Off (2008). Granted these are just the vinyl LP’s I have at my office, and even represent a more adult contemporary/alt-country sensibility than a pop music one, but I do work around college kids. Sometimes they use my computer to charge their ipods. What do I find on them? Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Phish, moe AC/DC, Aerosmith (and Coldplay, Radiohead, and U2). Yeah, this is UVM, where a good bit of pop music is the music of the previous generations or its recreation thereof. But I also have working for me one of the music directors of the uber-indie college radio station, WRUV. We’ve swapped some music, and I played DJ with the week’s current review discs when he drove me to Maine for a meeting. None of the music stuck- I was just swapping cd’s and skipping tracks.

Much has been written on the indie rock explosion of the early nineties, when the underground hit the masses with sometimes great results. Today’s pop artists don’t seem to have that tension resulting from the dichotomy between these worlds. And that’s not because the underground doesn’t exist, but rather because the mass pop market is in the toilet. I really think that a lot of this has to do with the new digital distribution. I’m not bitching about downloading per se, although that doesn’t help, but rather the switch from listening to music as a social activity to listening in earbud seclusion, where our soundtracks are no longer shared, and memories no longer associated with the music. Add to this the ridiculous mastering bullshit of most modern releases, where the loudness levels make a listener want to shut the music off, as well as the poor lossy compression that listeners accept by default, and our culture is actively discouraged from actively collecting music as a cultural commodity. So the good music that is created tends to either stay in the indie circles, or make it to AAA radio (now that I’ve heard Spoon on The Point), but stay out of the kid’s hands. And isn’t that where new music belongs, playing the theme to our newest generation’s coming of age?