How do you organise your music collection? Let's assume for a moment that you don't have an MP3 player and rely on old-fashioned stacks like I do. What sort of system do you use?
I know this is a bit of a 'Hi Fidelity' line of questioning, but it struck me the other day that in my otherwise chaotic world there are small islands of order. One of which is getting to work. There's nothing worse than having no system for getting out of bed and into a tie. If you haven't got your act together by the time you're walking into the office you'll be having bad days every day of the week.
My sock and undie drawer on the other hand? Chaos. Some days just trying to find a pair of socks to suit the weather outside is infuriating. Likewise my dinner schedule. There is none. It's a "stand in front of the fridge scratching my belly and grunt and coo alternately till I settle on something" kind of situation.
My music though? Another story. Somewhere around the house I've an old box that still has the address of the first place I lived in Auckland written on it. There are tapes in there from the 80s, some from the early 90s, and more than a few bad mix tapes for, 'the ladies'. But, those tapes are well and truly organised out of the way.
Ok, confession time as an aside. The very first tape I ever bought was Crowded House, 'Crowded House'. So, so damn catchy. The first vinyl? A rare single of 'Harold and Joe' a Cure song off christ-knows-which album. I've never actually bought an LP, but I did pinch a copy of Dire Straits, 'Making Movies' when I was 14 or so. My first CD though? Digital Underground, 'Sex Packets'.
I mention all this because I was reflecting the other day on albums that I just can't stop listening to. I like for instance to put a CD on when blogging. I'm listening to the Delgados 'The Great Eastern' at the moment for example.
What I tend to do is to keep all of my CDs in the one place with a little system I evolved. Luckily there's only a couple of hundred of them, so there's little chance of them getting lost under piles of paper or assorted junk, but enough to make them a presence. Even better, I found a perfectly good CD tower on the street during the hard rubbish collection in my neighbourhood in Melbourne, and it lets me keep most of them in what amounts to a bookcase on my desk.
Crap. Delgados finished. On goes Roots Manuva 'Run Come Save Me'.
The good news about the CD tower is that it holds all the CDs I can't do without. Although having back-ups of albums I legitimately own is good, because it increases the range of music I listen to (you know, when someone says, 'you really need to listen to this'), it's not the same as having the colour and presence of a decent stack. Even better it serves as a decent leaner for the albums I listen too so frequently that putting them back on the tower is a hassle.
So here's the way it works. In front of the CD tower are two sorts of albums. The ones I've recently acquired, and the ones I play non-stop. Then, behind these (and therefore inaccessible without a slight reorder) are the artists I've stopped listening to, e.g. The Avalanches, Jeff Buckley (though not because they're bad, just not permanent). At the top of the CD tower and slightly out of reach when sitting in front of the PC are the slightly more frequent albums, and then in the middle, the 'rotation' stock. A few I still listen to, which can be brought out if an 'A-list' CD needs to be pushed back in the stack, to then gradually work it's way up, then waaay down the tower.
Thing is, music is incredibly important. Not only does it reflect who you are, but it reflects your ability to discern. Do you just buy whatever you see advertised on TV? I don't. Naturally this is a hassle when I'd like to listen to something like the Arctic Monkeys, but some time ago I convinced myself that anything advertised on the telly will be shyte. Why? Because these are the albums that aren't selling on the strength of the music alone. I reckon the music should be so good you can listen to 10 seconds of a single, and then know the album will be great.
That rule has lead to me buying some really, really bloody awful albums. The International Noise Conspiracy being an example. On the other hand, it has lead to some great ones. The Stone Roses, The Moldy Peaches, and The Teaches of Peaches are just such a product.
But, before this blog degrades into me being one of those record-store dickheads all to happy to condescend about your taste (as happened to me in Polyester in Melbourne at least a couple of times, for example), let's move on. So here's my list of albums that just never really cycle out of the A-list and into the tower. I can recommend all of them. In no particular order:
Gillian Welch, Time (the revelator)
Make Up, Save Yourself
McLusky, Do Dallas
Mojave3, Excuses for Travellers
Doves, Last Broadcast
Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
Supersuckers, Must've Been High
The Bees, Sunshine Hit Me
The Sleepy Jackson, Lovers
Dimmer, I Believe You Are A Star
The Hives, Veni Vedi Vicious
Augie March, Sunset Studies
The Wedding Present, Seamonsters
Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy
Bressa Creeting Cake
Life Without Buildings, Any Other City
The Drones, Here Come the Lies
Hilltop Hoods, The Calling
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
Radiohead, OK Computer
The Frames, For the Birds
The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Souad Massi, Deb
Cat Power, Moon Pix
Matt Ward, The Transformation of Vincent.
Jesus... I just realised how damn white I am...