Record Store Day is my favorite holiday. My blood boils for April 20th. I’ve spent the last few here in Syracuse, dragging myself out of bed at 6 AM to line up in front of the Sound Garden. The crowd that pools around the brick building is ever growing, and always full of friends. We compete light-heartedly over the limited quantity of these new 7”s, reissued classics, and label compilations. We also divide and conquer. It’s equal parts a group effort and every music lover for themselves. The Record Store Day exclusive releases are always placed in the back of our store, in a small peninsula by the adult videos. Employees allow customers in groups of 15 or so to scrounge. I’ve never seen it get ugly, but minds are certainly racing. There is an adrenaline that seizes your limbs as you scoop up fruits from the most special grocery list you’ll ever make.
There are quite a few special pieces I’ll be seeking out this year. Some I’ll beeline for, undoubtedly little gems like Ra Ra Riot’s 10” release or the previously unreleased Elliott Smith tracks. Some I will cradle gingerly, surrounded by the hysteria of customers flipping through the displays. I’ll stare at my ceiling for the rest of the day and let them effervesce on my Audiotechnica. The records released on Record Store Day are all rare and highly coveted, but some of them get my heart beating a little bit faster than the rest.
I hadn’t heard anything about Now, Now Every Children for a couple of years. I eventually stopped searching around, and just hoped I would catch wind if they ever reconvened. Then, while I was visiting my hometown of Greenwood, Indiana one summer, I heard the news. They had changed their name. They were releasing new demos. They were starting to play more shows. I was thrilled! I was finally getting my footing in college, and was happy to hear one of the bands who had ushered me through my teen years was back in action. I reminisced on Myspace messages I had sent them, and features I wrote on them for every publication in my high school.
It all came full circle with Neighbors. It remains as one of my favorite releases of 2010. I would travel to New Jersey in the winter of 2011 to see them for the first time, finally, after years of missing them, longing for new tunes. They were opening for Hellogoodbye and a couple other relaunched acts of that year. I sang along to songs old and new. It was lovely; it was like getting coffee with an old friend who you hadn’t run into for a while. They would go on to join Trans Records, release a full-length, and head out on a series of successful tours. My heart sings for them.
I was sitting in the living room of my first boyfriend’s apartment. I was waiting for Jordan to return from his residency at University of Dayton, making public art on campus. Most days I spent in this position, I’d browse through Hulu or watch music videos. He’d get home in the early afternoon, and we’d go eat a Subway sandwich. We’d watch a movie, usually some DVD I’d purchased at Blockbuster. Usually something he didn’t care for. But this week was Jordan’s choice. He wanted to watch the Daniel Johnston documentary together. The Devil And Daniel Johnston would be my initial crash course in the story of this esteemed musician. I had a couple songs Jordan had sent me, mostly from 1991, but was undereducated about the world in which this artist created his music.
Jordan walked through the door, and I had been searching for links to watch the film. Throughout the movie, he’d make little references, adding edited details to anecdotes. He would scoff, occasionally, rearing over an over-simplification of Johnston’s lyrics. I think Johnston, though, is heavily up for interpretation. The beauty of his lyrics, especially those on Fun, is that they are flexible. He may be singing about something specific, like his obsession with Laurie. However, the words he says are fluid. You can experience his lyrics in many different ways; “that girl” can be anyone. “Someday I’ll find that girl,” he serenades. It’s amazing how he can love someone or something so strongly without even knowing where it is. It’s crazy.
I’m not terribly fond of most of my ex-boyfriends. But, to their credit, they have all taught me a hell of a lot about music. The year that Andrew and I were together, I learned about Pavement, Harry Nilsson, and Jens Lekman. He also taught me about Big Star. We’d drive around in my car, listening to The Replacements‘ “Alex Chilton,” sharing quick kisses at stoplights. I learned what the Weezer song was referencing. One Valentine’s Day, he made me a mix with “I’m In Love With A Girl” on it. I continually claimed to have listened to the original version of “Thirteen” before the Elliott Smith rendition, though I’m not even sure if I knew it was a cover before.
The soundtrack to the forthcoming film about Big Star will include unissued versions of Big Star classics that are a part of the documentary. These deep cuts should be added to my library with ease. Still, I imagine I won’t hear the new versions. I’ll hear the sounds of summer from a car window, embarking on one final exploration of a town I was growing further and further away from. In the midst of it all, I never noticed Andrew and I were also growing apart. Eventually, he stopped sending me new music. He stopped teaching me things. We’d lost something along the way. You can always smell a break up the moment someone stops making you mixed CDs. The newly remastered songs will still hold the same weight. Remix them all you want, they will assuredly blow off the dust that has gathered on the original sound.
My friend Karen and I spent my last week living in Clinton Hill running around to as many shows as possible. I met her at Kellogg’s Diner above the Lorimer stop on the L line. We got burgers, and headed over for a show featuring a couple of bands she had been talking about. My contact kept falling out of my eye; pre-moving preparation had left me a bit weary. But sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, accept a lost contact, and tell yourself you’re going to have a good time. I can think of few bands better to help facilitate this mind set than Nobunny.
Luckily, I didn’t need both contacts to bask in the glory of Nobunny’s classic moon move. I’ve seen a couple bare butts in my day, but none have sizzled so longingly in my mind as Nobunny’s. He wore a pair of handcuffs attached at the hip of his skivvies, assumedly so he could hold them up if any adoring fans were too impatient to wait for his prank. Despite being under slept and overwhelmed, I danced the night away to groovy tunes like “Blow Dumb” and “Nobunny Loves You”. After their final song, Karen and I ran to the ATM across the street. I wanted to gather as many albums as I could with the last of my New York savings. I asked which record I should get; Love Visions or First Blood. The girl at the merch simply replied, “Get all of it.” I nabbed two CDs and a 7”, hoping to get the most mileage out of them for the time being. I still don’t have Love Visions, but come Record Store Day I hope to add this very special singles collection to my box of 7”s. Nothing says a good time to me like spinning “Mess Me Up” around on continuous play.
My friend Kaycie and I stood at the corner of the stage at Music Hall Of Williamsburg. There were few artists who would inspire us to drive all the way to New York City, but Sharon Van Etten was certainly one of them. I had spent the summer before packaging promos for her then forthcoming album as an intern for Ba Da Bing Records. I was excited to be back in Brooklyn, even if it was only for a night. I had missed setting up the merch table at Music Hall of Williamsburg and futzing around by the waterfront. Kaycie and I sat on the benches, counting the windows of buildings in Manhattan, talking about future career paths and our families. We only checked the time when we could feel the sun going down.
Shearwater opened. I would try to type up the lyrics to certain songs on my phone in between songs, hoping it would help me decide which record to purchase. I found my old supervisor from Ba Da Bing Records in the crowd to occasionally ask if he knew “the title of the last song they played,” or “what was the one that went dun dun dun dun dun dun duuuuuun.” I made the decision to get Animal Joy before Sharon took the stage and was relieved to have that decision made. I spent the moments before her set, musing to Kaycie about the best moments of Shearwater’s set. At one point, a patron in the balcony moved their chair abruptly during a quiet build in the middle of a song. The chair’s muffled screech echoed throughout the entire venue. The keyboardist even heard it. He could stop laughing. There’s nothing like a good-humored band.
Sharon took the stage. She was wearing heels, she mentioned for the first time ever at a show. She had a stylist, make up, and was also learning to count in to her own songs. Before, when I had seen her, she had donned a flannel shirt and jeans. Now, she was dressed to the nines. At first, I was very slightly put off by these changes. I felt as though it was somehow less raw, close to my heart. After returning to Syracuse, though, I finally purchased her new record, Tramp. I went to Sound Garden and rounded it up. I was convinced that I wouldn’t relate to the songs the same way, they wouldn’t resonate with me the same way “Tornado” or “Love More” had so readily done; thought, undoubtedly the music would be as beautiful. When I put the record on, I realized that I was right. It didn’t resonate with me in the same way. I didn’t feel the way I felt when I listened to her first two records. I stared at the spinning record. It was different, how I felt, what she was saying, the story she was telling. I could relate to it, but in a new way.
Sometimes artists go through changes. A lot of times, you change as well. It’s not always easy to articulate, or even notice, at first. Sometimes you just have to be patient. You might really want to say goodbye, but, perhaps, you just want to be your own girl.
I owe a lot to Mac McCaughan. I’ve never considered myself someone who took to idol worshiping, or anything like that. I think it’s just important to thank the people who’ve helped you, even if it was unknowingly and from afar. Reading Our Noise completely changed my life. One summer afternoon I spent some quiet moments in Square Books, a nice little spot in Oxford, Mississippi, thumbing through the pages of the Merge Records memoir. I realized I didn’t need to wait for school to be over to figure my life out, before starting my own label. I just needed the talent and the friends and the tender loving care for records, the same that the kids from Durham possessed. With my friends, there was no shortage of talent. So, I went for it.
A few months later, I was given the book as a birthday gift. It’s one of the most thoughtful presents I’ve ever received. I read through the interviews with my musical heroes, rereading every detail. I lent it to my parents and they read it as well, despite my mom being exceedingly grossed out by the name “Superchunk.” But, both far removed from the world of the music industry, my parents took the opportunity to learn about my passion. They understood what I wanted to do with my life. Being thrust into a world and culture that you don’t know anything about other than you love it and you want to be a part of it is wholly terrifying. Learning that this feeling is pretty universal, though, allows you to enter with confidence. I believe the saying goes, “fake it til you make it.” However, I far prefer the mindset of throwing your heart into something for all it’s worth. It’s far more comforting. It also helps when convincing your parents that you can make some sort of life for yourself by promoting your friends’ bands.
Record Store Day is sometimes criticized for being largely a marketing tool for major record labels and Jack White. I’d argue that anything that gets folks into their local shops not only stimulates the local economy and strengthens the surrounding music scenes but also spreads interest in analog media. You don’t have to have a fine-tuned ear to appreciate the vinyl; for most folks collecting vinyl these days, it probably has less to do with the superior sound quality and more to do with the tangibility of a vinyl record. Flipping through a record bin, purposing the needle drop, holding the physical piece of artwork as it was meant to be held all create a sensory experience that tethers your heart to the music you’re listening to. It allows you to create concrete associations with memories, pieces of your life. When you embrace a vinyl record, when you see it, when you maneuver around the grooves, it’s easy to become sentimental. You’re holding pieces of your life, and they’re staring right back at you. The moments following your visit to your local record shop can be spent marveling at your finds and mourning those missing in action, no matter what day of the year you go. Undoubtedly, you’ll spend the evening soaking with whatever you did happen to get your hands on. And you’ll exist somewhere else, somewhere between sides A and B.
Other cool stuff to look out for on RSD 2013:
Various Artists – The Taste Of Burger Records
Miles Davis – Milestones
Blind Melon – Blind Melon + Sipping Time EP
The Joy Formidable – A Minute’s Silence
The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
Sharon Van Etten – We Are Fine B/W Hotel 2 Tango 7”
Misfits/The Lemonheads – Side By Side: Skulls 7”