Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Disappearing Pleasures of Used CD Browsing

Yesterday I spent a good hour or so browsing in what may be, for all I know, the last great used CD store in Manhattan: Academy Music on 18th st. It's been so long since I had a used CD shopping spree that I went a little bit crazy. Academy Music is primarily a classical music store, so to start with I picked up a number of classical CDs. The one which has made the biggest immediate impression on me is Wagner's opera Siegfried. I'm not particularly familiar with Wagner, and didn't bother trying to listen to him for a long time, partly from the casual prejudice that I was dubious about somebody that the Nazis liked so much. But as with so many of the artistic discoveries I've made over the past year, Proust liked him, so I decided to give him a shot. On listening to Siegfried once all the way through, I'm too overwhelmed with it to say anything besides the fact that it's very good.

Academy also has a small but decent popular music section, and I picked up some old Bruce Springsteen albums that I'd never gotten around to owning, as well as Metallica's so called "Black Album"...which is exactly the kind of CD which I'd never seek out on my own, but stumbling upon it used for $2.99, I was more than happy to pick it up.

I'm pretty well a convert to the convenience and available variety of online music shopping, but I do miss the congenial atmosphere of a crowded record store, and the surprises and discoveries you can make flipping through the used music stacks.


drischord said...

I actually do still buy some used CDs... but almost all via the Amazon marketplace.

LA thankfully still has one amazing music store-- Amoeba-- plus the usual cool kid vinyl stores that you also see around New York. But I agree: The pleasures of diving through used CD bins have greatly diminished in the past half-decade, and it's quite sad.

As for your picks, here's my own two cents:

Favorite Wagner: Tristan and Isolde

Essential Springsteen: The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; Born to Run; Darkness on the Edge of Town; Born in the USA. He's got many other great ones, but those (plus Nebraska, in a very different way) are his classics.

And I haven't heard the Black Album all the way through in about 15 years, but I'd be curious to hear how it holds up.

Eric said...

Dude, don't even get me started!
I will say, another great used store in New York that I only recently discovered (thanks to Groupon of all things), is Permanent Records in Greenpoint. It's small, and about half vinyl, but it has a really well curated used section and excellent prices. I almost always find great stuff, often stuff I'm actively looking for, in their new arrivals section.
Re-reading your entry, I see that you actually specified "in Manhattan," and that is actually completely true. The St. Marks corridor is completely decimated (though Sounds still lumbers on, its selection is shit and the prices aren't even that great). The only way to get an Amoeba-like experience is at the annual WFMU record fair, which, if you haven't been to it, is worth checking out at least once.

texplush said...

Guys: Vinyl. This is like hearing a vegan complain there's nothing good to eat.

Quinapalus said...

Honestly, Tex, vinyl just wouldn't be compatible with the way I listen to music...which is almost entirely on headphones, either while out-and-about or at work. A CD to me is just an extra step in the process of getting something onto my iPod...which is another reason why I don't go shopping for them much anymore. If I had a record player I would never use it, and I would very quickly get tired of buying records I couldn't easily put onto my iPod. When I'm at home I'm much too busy reading all the books I don't have time to read...I'm almost never closely listening to music.