Monday, April 18, 2011

Let the Record State

On a dreary Saturday afternoon, I'm feeling a little antiquated, so I throw on my blue corduroy jacket and head to my local record store.

When I walk into the building that is the re-purposed shell of a 1930's auto-dealer the smell of vintage overwhelms me. The music of some indeterminate indie up-and-comer floats through the atmosphere, not quite loud enough to recognize, but familiar enough to enjoy complacently. Old 45's sit stacked in musty cardboard. Clothing from the 40's, 50's, and 60's hangs limply from aluminum racks. I sidle past hipsters wearing skinny jeans and Chuck Taylor's, and peruse the stacks of pressed vinyl that sit inside worn pasteboard covers, encased in tired plastic sheaths. On the transparent plastic coats are hastily scrawled numbers, sharply haggling with my sense of worth as I look for a bargain. I find some guilt pleasure in placing my hands upon a couple obscure albums by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. As I pull them from the box that they've been sharing with the likes of Stevie Nicks, I slide the black vinyl discs from their casing and review the grooves imbedded in the album. A few marks mar the surface, but they are virtually untouched. I get lost a moment in the circling lines that move ever inward, guiding my eye toward the center of the disc.

I am bumped by an older man, who upon seeing my album selection, scoffs. I look at him with equal disdain for his judgement, and head toward the counter. On the way, I notice a Simon and Garfunkel album that I'd never experienced. It brings back memories of listening to the two poets' Bridge over Troubled Water. In middle school, my sister and I would listen to those men spin visions of things unknowable to our naive minds. They called him "baby driver", that only living boy in New York. Cecilia shook his confidence daily, but he still kept his customers satisfied. And we were satisfied, despite the fact that we got the album as a fluke when my sister had requested a Beatles album from my father. It was the best mistake he could have made, confusing two New York hipsters with four teen pop stars from Liverpool.

The album was five dollars. I added it to the pile with The Dirt Band albums.

Near the front of the store was the new vinyl. I am always leery of this section, because the new trend to record albums to vinyl. I fear this is a fad that will blow over, and most of the albums are twenty five to thirty dollars, as compared to their sixteen dollar compact disc counterparts. But I took a look. To my surprise I found two albums that I was interested in. The Smith Westerns 2011 release "Dye it Blonde" and Iron & Wine's "The Shepherds Dog". Both were under fifteen dollars, and included digital versions of the albums. They piled on.

I paid in cash and returned to my car. Nestling the brown paper bag full of music into the passenger seat, I got home and pulled the Smith Westerns from the bag.

I slipped my pen knife into the slot and, with the precision of a surgeon, ran the blade along the cellophane seam. Then ever so slowly, the album, shrouded in a dust jacket bedecked in smiley faces, emerged. I slid it into the phonograph and loosed the metallic arm from it's repose. Dropping the needle with the utmost care, I spun the dial and heard the earthy crackles of silence before the first guitar lick dropped. And then the music came.

And it was good.

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