My Christmas albums (again), and Lex’s failing hard drive

Normal service resumes with yet more navel-gazing solipsism about music.

Just over a year ago I wrote about how each year I buy a “last album of the year” just before Christmas. There are two simple rules: it must be by an artist I have never bought music by before, and I must be able to buy it in person in a record shop in Exeter. (Actually there’s an implicit third rule; it must have been released for the first time that calendar year.)

I had intended to blog about 2011’s Christmas album back, well, at Christmas time, but I have a confession to make: I didn’t buy a 2011 Christmas album. Not one, anyway, and not in person from a record shop in Exeter.

This is partly because there aren’t really any record shops left in Exeter anymore. I could have ventured to the independent shop that seems to sell only second hand vinyl and has a miniscule and dull selection of new music. I could have gone further down the hill and into the arcade to buy some dance vinyl. But neither of those shops would actually have sold me anything I’d have really wanted. I wanted D by White Denim. Or the Cults album. Or Toro Y Moi. Or Braids.

But I was left with HMV. Which, to be fair, did have Toro Y Moi and Braids. For £14 each. So I bought both online for a combined sum of £16. And I bought the White Denim album too. And Em bought the Cults album. And the Wild Flag album. Because she’d enjoyed them both at ATP. (Which is why I wanted the Toro Y Moi album too.) And I also bought Burst Apart by Antlers after Rob played it at record club. So, in a way, between us we bought half a dozen ‘Christmas albums’.

So I feel like a bit of a fraud, or like I’ve broken a tradition, or a new year’s resolution, or some kind of weird family voodoo thing, or something. Which is obviously ridiculous, because the whole purpose of this idea is a; to expose me to some new music I’d otherwise not hear, and b; as a side effect to help prop-up the ever-ailing music industry just a little bit more, and I’ve done both of those things in spades by buying more albums than usual.

And my favourite of the new records we picked up? The Braids is special, delicate, somewhere between Luke Sutherand’s sensual Bows project and Feels-era Animal Collective. The Toro Y Moi I wish we’d had for summer, to stick on in the car and drive along winding coastal roads to. But it’s Antlers that have made the biggest impact; I’ve played Burst Apart over and over again, and I’m not tiring of it; it’s pitched and paced perfectly, just enough “song”, just enough “sound”, to tempt you in but never leave you feeling bored or over-exposed (as some “song” songs do; hello Coldplay, et al, with your melodies so forthright and oft repeated that they become headaches). I’ve been back and bought Hospice, which I like, but need to explore more.

As an aside, the Lex has suffered a disastrous hard drive failure which has robbed him of a huge chunk of his collection of music. I’m hoping he’ll write something about it; watching him tweet about it has been a mixture of sympathy and schadenfreude; there’s a long-running thread on ILM about maintaining a digital music collection which I occasional drop into, and always come away from feeling that iTunes and the like, whilst great for running an iPod or iPhone as an adjunct to a physical music collection, would be like the world’s worst data-entry temping job to keep your entire collection on. I’ve often fantasised about what I’d do where fire, theft, flood, or act of god rob me of our stacks of CDs, once concluding that I’d take up a completely different hobby, like fishing. I can’t see Lex doing that. Or, in reality, me either.

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