For the last few weeks, I’ve been in thrall to another man’s object of affection. A large CD wallet that belongs to a Welsh guy who used to DJ at Colour way back when, which contains a breathtaking array of English and Welsh folk music and Americana. Everything from Euros Childs, Alasdair Roberts and Fairport Convention to Lambchop, Magnolia Electric Co. and Smog.
Maybe there’s some kind of emotional or spiritual connection between the hills and dales of Cymru and the dusty plains of the American south west, I couldn’t even speculate. What really got me thinking while in possession of this small chunk of someone else’s CD collection is how personal a journey music is, and how the definition of a ‘record’ collection is evolving as music becomes something you store on a hard drive rather than a physically imposing part of your life.
I’ve avidly bought music since I was about 13 years old. Every Saturday I would undertake a tour of Walsall’s record shops on a trek that became a routine in my unconscious. Each shop offered its own experience, from trawling the budget section of the neat and tidy Sundown Records (RIP) to the cigarette smoke and sweat funk of the shabby Bridge Records (RIP). All of this is forever ingrained in the collection that clutters my shelves.
What I loved back then, and continue to love, was how a new addition affected the context of my collection; how a spur of the moment purchase could alter the way I felt about music and the world at large. I’ve gone through phases of being broke and relying on a half decent broadband connection to enable me to dip into the near-infinite supply of music out there, but I’ve always gone back to the physicality of CDs (Purists may scoff at the experience not being on a par with vinyl, but it’s what I grew up with). When you go out and buy the actual item, you make an investment of time and money and you have the item right there in front of you, begging to be enjoyed. I just don’t get the same feeling with the passive presence of a file on a hard drive. There’s also the buzz of coming across something you have wanted for ages, especially if it’s a fiver.
It’s clichéd to bring up High Fidelity when writing about music, but Rob reorganising his CDs into autobiographical order is such a perfect illustration of how music is intrinsic to our memories of the past. I remember listening to Ben Folds Five and moping around after my first heartbreak (yes, really), or the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers soundtracking the sulk that followed being slung around by the school bully (honestly), or the songs that were playing when I asked Katie to marry me.
The internet offers many exciting prospects for the relationship between artists and fans, but when CDs and records become just pictures in a history book, I will feel like something’s been lost.
And now, as a reward for making it through/past my outpouring of nostalgia, here’s some of the revelations I found in the CDs I borrowed (delivered to you digitally, of course).
Magnolia Electric Co. – What Comes After the Blues
Smouldering, dramatic Americana with a raw immediacy and vocals that powerful yet fragile. I was already all over the Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co. record, so this just further confirms that I have to get hold of pretty much everything Jason Molina’s ever done.
Smog – Dongs of Sevotion
Bill Callahan’s dry wit and velvetine vocals are at the height of heir powers on his sparsely arranged but consistently brilliant ninth album, from 2000.
Papa M. – Hole of Burning Alms
David Pajo’s 2004 collection of instrumentals spans a period of five years, but feels pretty consistent as a whole. The highlight for me is ‘Wedding Song No. 3’; it’s guitars positively glisten and the layering of melody sustains its beauty.
Lambchop – Thriller
My previous experience of Lambchop didn’t go much past the meticulous arrangements of the slightly snoozy Nixon, so to hear their earlier, noisier album Thriller was great and has made me revisit their other work. ‘Your Fucking Sunny Day’ is a definite contender for a future Colour anthem.