Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that things matter. Trust me, this is assuredly a mistake. The truth is, very little of consequence happens in my life and consequently it’s the little things that I end up focusing on.
At a MUFF Society screening a month or two back I was fortunate enough to win a spot prize. Most importantly, this landed me with $50 in store credit to Dead Dog Records on Bloor. It’s all good so far right? Well here’s the secret. This is the story of a good thing happening and the only opposition to positive tidings was me. This is the story of how I create my own problems where none exist. Here I was leafing through vinyl in a nice little Landsdowne spot and my mind began to chirp up. I had $50 to spend. I also didn’t own a record player. My flatmate does and I’ve recently taken to putting on a record or two while cooking or sharing the lounge with friends. There’s a romanticism to the process that I find charming. Slipping out the disc from its paper sheet, placing it on the spindle, lifting the arm of the needle and settling it down on the groove. It’s a ritual from times long past that feels oddly fulfilling. Hence the thought of owning a record or two sounds lovely.
As I moved through the stacks of records, I begun to quantify the titles that appealed to me. The albums were primarily new, so I could probably get two without pumping too much money into the experience. How would I choose which albums to get? I’d want records I’d be eager to rotate regularly. The act of owning physical music was something I hadn’t done in years though. People would see the evidence that I’d laid money on the line to own those two specific albums. Would they judge me? What would they think of my choices? What would I think of my choices? Did I want older records because they had the credibility of being specifically made for the medium? Or were there albums that resonated on a more personal level with me? What if I already had the albums on my ipod? Would there be any point in owning them physically too? Or would that be a waste of money?
Titles started to come and go. Courtney Bartnett’s 2015 album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit would be nifty, but could I really justify owning a fresh and squeaky album on vinyl? The same went for Jamie xx’s In Colour. Japandroids’ Post Nothing is one I’ve played repeatedly for years, but would I want to listen to it in the lounge or just on the go? A litany of albums from 2006-2010 flashed before my eyes, but wouldn’t those mark me out as worthless hipster trash? Eventually two albums became apparent as choices I’d love to make, but I had hesitations.
The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is obviously an amazing album. It’d go superbly with the aesthetic, and be a joy to listen to often. They only had a brand new copy though? Could I really own a brand new copy of Pet Sounds? Wasn’t there something ideologically wrong with that? This album has been around for decades. There’s ample supply out there. Second/third/fifth hand copies up the wazoo, but I’d need to search for them. I was tired, hungry and a little bit absent minded. I didn’t want to expend energy I didn’t have and all I wanted was a nice night to cook and hang out with my girlfriend while listening to Pet Sounds. Did that mean I was okay with spending $30 store credit for a copy? The money wasn’t a big deal, but something about owning a brand new copy of something I felt should intrinsically be vintage felt wrong. It felt like going to the store and buying a brand new pair of ripped jeans. I would be a poser, a fraud, a big fat Holden Caulfield style phony. Furthermore it’s not like I even grew up with The Beach Boys. I’d only started taking an interest last year after lapping up the film Love and Mercy. It was a question of authenticity and really I had no leg to stand on. Did any of that matter though? Really? I just wanted to listen to a record and for that to happen I had to shirk the absurd notion that pride existed in this equation. Could I do that?
The question involved doubling down as Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea stared back at me. If there’s an archetypal hipster album, this is it. I love it though. I have since I heard it and listen to it all the time. It’d be an album I’d be proud to have, but conspicuously self-conscious to own as one of two total records I’d collected. I’d judge me and I could only expect that any self-respecting person would too. Still, I wanted it. I had the power to make it something that existed in my life and I was the only obstacle to that happening. Because I cared too much about what others might think. Because I cared too much about what I might think they’d think and reflexively I’d think about myself. Because I was still trapped in some odd counterculture trap of believing that enjoyment of pop-cultural products matters beyond said enjoyment. As if authenticity was anything that existed outside of your own heart and intentions. Like any of it actually matters when the truth is that nobody else cares, so I shouldn’t either.
Plus it took less than 24 hours to drop/scratch Pet Sounds, so guests will hear the crackle and think it’s vintage anyway.