snap judgements and sweet deals

Working at record stores nearly all my life has been good to me. I've amassed a ridiculous amount of music over the last 13 years - most of it free. But this also has a downside. You see, when I was just a wee lad with a paper route I had to pay for my cherished cassette tapes. Usually I would get one per month, and it was not unusual for me to pay for most of my purchases in large amounts of change (sorry mom for dipping into your quarter jar). Because my music purchases were so sparse, I had no choice but to listen to them again and again and again. Even if the first listen didn't really do it for me, after a couple weeks I would come to know and love Side A. After I got sick of Side A, I would finally get to Side B (unless the single was on side B, then it would be the opposite). I would know all the lyrics, be able to air guitar any solos, and I would have poured over the liner notes to reveal any possible insight into the band. Some of these first albums were "Strange Days" by The Doors, Led Zeppelin 4, "Earth Sun Moon" by Love and Rockets and the 1st Sugarcubes album.

But times have changed. With the constant influx of free music(about 10-15 a week) I don't have the luxury of time to digest the songs. Instead I usually sit down with a pile of albums and make snap judgements. It usually goes like this:

1. Check out the band/artists name and the album cover/packaging. If the band has a picture of themselves on the front or back cover looking all artsy they're already doomed. Every once in a while a group can overcome this and still make the cut, but it's pretty rare. If the album has an ugly cover I might put off listening to it. For instance, Animal Collective's "Sung Tongs" sat in a pile for almost a year. I am actually listening to it while I write this.

2. Pop in the album. If the artist/album is something I've read about and think I'm going to like, I will let it play up to about track 5 or 6, unless it reveals itself to be not at all what I expected. Then it might get ejected by track 2. If it's a good album it will get played all the way through and probably get replayed immediately to ensure that it truly is that good. I love when this happens. The recent ones have been Mobius Band's EP, Daniel Lanois' "Bella Donna", Sam Prekop's "Who's Your New Professor?" and surprisingly Annie's "Anniemal" (total guilty pleasure).

3. If it's a band I've never heard of it will get the Snippet Treatment. This poor band gets a mere 20-30 seconds of the first couple tracks to win me over. I usually feel pretty guilty about this, especially since I'm in a band and would hate to think that someone could listen to our music the same way. But than again, most bands are pretty crappy. Or the band will be playing a type of music that I know is not "my thang". Emo, punk and garage bands usually fall into that category. Not to say I don't like any of those genres, but most bands will just be shamelessly ripping off the genre. I definitely don't need to hear a band that's ripping off Rancid who ripped off The Clash ten years earlier. Sometimes a band will confound me. The Snippet Treatment won't be enough. Part of me just wants to dismiss it and move on, but I just can't, yet I'm not quite up to hearing the whole album out. So it returns to a stack of CDs that I will eventually return to. I think it's especially amusing that some of those albums may just kick my ass 6-8 months later. I've held onto albums for years before I finally discovered them. This happened with both Pere Ubu and The Wipers.

I miss those days of limited choices. I miss when my tape collection easily fit into the top drawer of my dresser. Now my vinyl,tape and CD collection is in danger of taking over our aparment. By the way, I want to give a shoutout to my girl Jessica for not only putting up with this obsession, but for encouraging it. She's the only girlfriend I've had who can keep up with this sickness and sit in on those snap judgement sessions. In fact, many of those albums I dismiss upon first listen she will give a second chance to. I have a dream that someday we will have a place big enough to accommodate our habit. We will have a "Listening Room" that will just be all our albums, a sweet stereo, and a couple of comfy chairs. Ok, maybe a mini fridge to stock with beer and Orangina. We'll be sure to invite you all over.

Now as I said before I work at a record store, the Virgin Megastore in Union Square to be exact. Many of you have visited me there which is very sweet, but most of you leave without buying anything. This saddens me. I know you're all hip and savvy and can download whatever you want for free, and I also understand that most of the stuff we sell is overpriced. So I thought I would use this forum to tell you about a couple cool bargains that we have coming up. Perhaps this is crass, but I truly love my job and want that store to return to being the coolest corporate record store it used to be. So here's a little list of great albums that will be only $10 from August 12 to about the end of September. Maybe there's something there you haven't already had your friends burn for you. Consider the following:

1. Belle and Sebastian- "Fold your Hands..."
2. Belle and Sebastian- "Push Barman to..."
3. Big Star- "#1 Record/Radio City"
4. Blonde Redhead- "Misery is a Butterfly"
5. Cat Power- "You Are Free"
6. Stephen Malkmus- "Face The Truth"
7. Mars Volta- "De-loused in the..."
8. MF Doom- "Live From Outer Space", "Special Herbs vol. 5 & 6"
9. Mountain Goats- "The Sunset Tree"
10. New Pornographers- "Electric Version"
11. Portishead- "s/t"
12. The Roots- "Do You Want More?"
13. Sigur Ros- ()

...as well as a 250 more titles. Either way, I've done my job. But don't worry, you can still swing on by and say hi without me trying to sell you something. It's all good.

By the way - I didn't really like the Animal Collective.


Blogger d said...

I purchase all my music there actually. mainly because on friday's I usually pick up the monkey & usually have a little dough to blow on my music addiction. but interestingly, I've yet to see you there...ARE YOU HIDING FROM ME?!?!

just playin'. personally, I like the animal collective. not all of it but some is pretty nifty. I need to give that belle & sebastian collection a listen.

1:24 PM, July 29, 2005  
Anonymous Jess said...

It's a crazy thing to think that we have too much music to listen to, but it's true. Our massive not-yet-listened-to stack seems to grow and grow, and sometimes it holds me back from checking out the newest it record for feeling that the pile would be neglectled. We've just recently chipped it down considerably, I've almost come up for air but not quite. Because we've still got those that I'm going to give a second or third chance to.

3:39 PM, July 29, 2005  
Blogger liz o. said...

I have a very similar problem with listening to music for the same reason (although nobody would ever hire me at a record store, I always got jobs that involved free music). It's like flipping through cable channels in search of that one image that makes us stop and stare, except in this case it's one guitar or one vocal or something.
BTW, is the Virgin sale just in NYC or at the Virgin in W. Hollywood as well? If so, I'm there.

9:23 PM, July 29, 2005  
Blogger george said...

That sale will be happening at every Virgin. And by the way, there's actually a pretty cool sale that runs until the new one starts that has a lot of older albums for $7-8 bucks. Stuff like Devo, Joy Division, Cure, New Order, Nick Drake.

2:28 PM, July 30, 2005  
Anonymous Tina said...

Hmmm, I could use some more Joy Division. Thanks George! And I will hit up that $10 sale.

Does anyone else feel that the Ipod, while wonderful, is deteriorating your listening process? I don't know the lyrics to half of the music I listen to anymore.

11:30 AM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Tavie said...

YES, I've thought the same thing. I love the iPod but I think it's ruining how I "get to know" things.

6:01 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Pete Galub said...

But even better than that sale at Virgin are CDs you can get at the bargain bin, specifically all of the 27 Various CDs ($1.99?!) and an import comp by the great Spare Snare (under $10 I think)

6:43 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger d said...

does everyone work for virgin? we're gonna have to start charging for all this publicity!

7:15 PM, August 04, 2005  

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