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The Maelstrom


The Crow (Pop-Up Version)

So I haven’t been blogging much.  Not sure why that is– probably because I’ve been working late hours.  It’s okay, though.  I figure that since there’s not really a following here, I could write whenever the mood strikes, and my writing jones tends to come in spurts.  And frankly, I could write whatever offensive, thoughtless drivel I wanted and nobody would see it anyway.  This is a remarkably freeing arrangement.

Since my last post I’ve continued canvassing four days a week, I turned 34, went to two Halloween parties (I was a teabagger, Deanna a health insurance vampire), celebrated the year anniversary of the election of President Barack Obama, went to a premier screening of “By The People” at the Carter Center, and imported a deluge of new music into iTunes.  I’m fortunate to own a lot of music, and have begun the slow process of absorbing it.  I had a lot of box sets just sitting there, and I figure listening to them on my hard drive will get them more, um, spins.  If you will.

I guess that brings me to a point: most of you who know me know I love albums.  I still purchase physical cds and, occasionally, a nice piece of vinyl (thanks for the Paul’s Boutique double-LP reissue, sweetie!).  I have a number of reasons for this.  While I’m certainly not an audiophile– I still play music on the Aiwa desktop stereo I got in 1994– I can clearly notice the difference between compressed files, uncompressed files, vinyl, etc.  And I still find that vinyl has the best sound.  I’m no scientist, I can’t explain it, but LPs seem to play both louder and, I dunno, warmer?  It’s like the record contains the entire stereo within its grooves, and whatever adjustment you make on top of that is just an addendum.  I sort of find it amusing when audio geeks use technical terms to describe sound, and while the spectrum of audible sound and the different technologies used to record and play back music are certainly fascinating, I can say with 100% certainty that I’ll never be the guy who constantly buys new components and keeps up with the evolving technology.  All I know is that on my stereo (and others I’ve heard) the records sound better.

It’s true, of course, that playing records on a home turntable is a bit of a pain in the ass, and to be honest I rarely do it.  But I still prefer cds to digital downloads because 1) most of the artists I like are still making albums, i.e. collections of songs in which the sequence is vital to the feel of the music and is in and of itself a musical statement, and 2) I’m still partial to the dwindling art of album cover design and packaging.  I’ve always liked it, even when I was a kid, and I still like to crack open a new cd and check out the way the cover was put together.  And it makes me sad that it’s become such a niche market, and such a rarely enjoyed experience.  I mean, picking out all the hidden stuff on “Somewhere In Time” and looking at the brush strokes on “Live After Death” were formative experiences for me, experiences that furthered my interest in art, and it’s too bad that’s no longer commonplace.

Sure, cds and their fancy packaging take up space (quite a lot in my case), but if an artist has written liner notes themselves (as with the new REM live album from Dublin), or if the designers have clearly pushed themselves creatively (as with the brilliant pop-up special edition of Steve Martin’s “The Crow”), then my participation in the physical existence of the disc and it’s packaging tends to cement the album in my memory, giving it a specific time and place.  So it has a value.

This is as good a time as any to give an unsolicited plug to Decatur CD in the event that you’re in the Atlanta area and also enjoy the purchase of music.  I’ve only been there twice, and have no affiliation with them, but both times I’ve been they had exactly what I was looking for (without the need for special ordering), and not only that, they knew about my items as well as info on other released albums and new stuff that will be released in the future.  This is/was common for record stores, but throw in the added bonus of a neat, clean, organized store, and you’ve got me sold.  And as a second, huge bonus: no attitude.  None.  None of the customary “I’m doing you a favor by letting you shop in my record store” dickishness that often accompanies record shops (including a more famous one here in town).  So there’s my stamp of approval, Decatur CD.  Hats off.

So now I’m off to continue looking for work while I listen to some of the great music in my queue.  It’s all either new stuff or stuff I’ve had for a while and never really got into.  I’m a lucky human being.  Currently in line (for your perusal, disdain, and inquiry):

The American Anthology of Folk Music (6 discs)

Beck: Odelay (Deluxe edition, 2 discs)

Allman Brothers: Eat A Peach (Deluxe edition with final Fillmore East concert)

Simon & Garfunkel: Old Friends: Live on Stage (2 discs)

REM: Green

Wolfmother: Cosmic Egg (Deluxe edition, 2 discs)

Leonard Cohen: The Essential Leonard Cohen (2 discs)

Black Sabbath: all 8 Ozzy albums

Led Zeppelin: all 9 albums

The Sun Records Collection (3 discs)

Johnny Cash: Unearthed (5 discs)

James Taylor: One Man Band (live)

Pearl Jam: Backspacer

The Beatles: All 13 albums (remastered), Past Masters 1 & 2, Anthologies 1, 2, 3

Arctic Monkeys: Humbug

Steve Martin: The Crow: New Songs For The Five-String Banjo

Daunting, isn’t it?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tracey O'Brien permalink
    11/07/2009 4:16 am

    I have four things to say:
    1. write more often
    2. you were the best teabagger I ever, ever seen. Instant giggles.
    3. REM live in Dublin makes me swoon. I don’t want to sound gay but that’s an awesome version of I’ve Been High. Haunting. What did Mike write on the inside, if I may? He’s my number two dude after Dave Matthews, you know.
    4. We could listen to A LOT, A LOT of music together. Not all of your list but most. Rock on.

    • mcliatt permalink*
      11/09/2009 4:29 am

      Thanks, Tracey. Peter Buck actually did the liner notes, and they have a lot to do with the evolution of the songs (since they were trying them out for a small crowd while they were putting the songs together for Accelerate). It’s just neat to hear an artist talk about how there used to be a section here, or how they used to all screw it up at the same part, etc. Of course he also talks about some of the older songs. I don’t typically think of REM as being very open about, well, much of anything, so I really enjoyed reading the notes.

  2. Billy Howard permalink
    11/08/2009 1:31 am

    You nailed the proverbial LP to the turn table. You can keep spinning em DJ Miles, on the record player and the blog player….

  3. 01/11/2010 8:14 pm

    Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Edgar Allen Poe. The title – obviously – reminds me of Descent Into The Maelstrom. It’s been a while so I’m not sure if I remember it 100% correctly, but at the end a lone sailor is spinning around the whirlpool with the ship’s remaining belongings and all seem destined to drown. That is, with the exception of a piece of paper which is not heavy enough to be pulled under and instead continues to float at the funnel’s event horizon. It’s hard to know if I’m just projecting ten years of other stories on to that one, but I always thought Poe’s point was that the things to which we ascribe so much importance – the physical, the heavy – will be the things that drown us. Conversely, it’s the seemingly insignificant items which possess our salvation; or at least a means to it. This idea was swimming around (haha) in my head when I came across the part concerning downloading vs. cd’s vs. vinyl which is a topic I’ve given quite a bit of thought to. My first reaction to downloading was HELL NO! b/c I’m if paying for something, I want “some-thing.” I then considered the environmental impact of the petrol-reliant cd case cum deforestation supporting liner notes vs. the coal-burnin engine that is web-support; it seemed both had its pros and cons. In the end, it was simply the convenience that has led me to download 90% of the music I purchase. (well, and the emergence of digital booklets) The interesting thing though it the point you bring up w/r/t the cd representing something more substantial than the download which can be done and then forgotten about with the greatest of ease simply because it occupies no space; which brings us back to Poe. What is it about having the tangible object in our hands that produces a more memorable moment in time? I know I prefer to have a book in my hands rather than read it online. Does it make it more of a bodily phenomenon due to the weight or break it causes in the space-time continuum? I’ve often felt guilty for needing that bridge from the artist’s world to mine, but I think it has to do more with adding to the mystical bond rather than the physical replacing it. So rarely do we get to hold in our own hands the things that make us feel so strongly. I also like to have them around as they serve as inspiration for my own work. Even the cd’s I download, I print up the covers and paste them somewhere.


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