Diving into Music: From CD Piles to Spotify Playlists

This is my first article so bear with me, and also this is a topic that I just thought would be interesting and I do not have much to offer that has not already been shared by people older than me. That out of the way, I think I ought to preface this by saying I was born in 2003, so take my perspective with a grain of salt. Also I get of on tangents a lot so sorry for that.

I love finding new music.

Who doesn’t I suppose, I really only got into it within the last few years, probably early 2020 or late 2019, and as such my experience was maybe fairly unique as compared to those coming before. At the time, and even now, CDs are being made less and less it feels like and the record stores I visit showcase less and less local artists or small artists. Record stores in general seem few and far between, there is only one in my town I live in now and they only carry major artists, and even then the selection is limited. They haven’t had Bjork’s Post in the month I’ve been here! I could get it online, I’m sure, but I feel like there is some different joy you get from going to a record store and physically digging through the piles of CDs and vinyls to find something you like.

I had that recently with the latest Angel Olsen album, Big Time. I traded in some old SEGA Dreamcast games that I didn’t play anymore and got the album with in store credit, and it really did make me happy to pull back a vinyl to find Angel tucked away for me to find. I bought it and walked home hugging the vinyl all the way back to my apartment. Sadly, the vinyl is printed in a way that my record player is not completely compatible with, the player does not have the proper playing speed to play the record correctly. I get a little nightcore when I put it on, which is something nice I guess.

This is all to say that I enjoy the CD finding experience but that seems to be disappearing in front of me! Some of the thrift stores I’ve been to have no CD section at all, like Goodwills! The search for new music has turned to something like a Spotify expedition. It was Twee that started my Spotify expeditions, I discovered the genre through the album Betti Cola by Cub. It was a discovery that immediately was followed by me thinking “I need more of this. Now.” and so off I went to look up the genre, and while on this little bubble of the internet might seem like a commonality, but going to a record store and looking for a twee section or something is impossible and even a little silly.

Instead, I turned to Spotify and searched Twee, and there were few and far between playlists that guided me into going into the “similar to” of the “similar to” of the “similar to” of my favorite Twee band, Boy Crazy. It’s addicting to tour these different pages going deeper and deeper into these bands with hundreds of listeners a piece, looking for a diamond in the rough that could be yours. In fact, I’m a little hesitant to say my favorite band because I have some sort of territorial feeling over them and I wish they wouldn’t blow up, but maybe if they did I could maybe see them live? Off track again, but I got much the same experience as flipping through records. I didn’t have to pay money for each album either, I got a free look into these artists without having to gamble on whether I would listen to it. Lord knows if I saw “#3” by Suburban Kids With Biblican Names on a record store shelf, I wouldn’t pick it up for $15 dollars, but here I am listening to them on my little Spotify account and aren’t I glad I am, they don’t make Twee like this anymore.

I say all of this maybe to whine over how things are with some nostalgic lens over the past. I remember one year for her birthday, my sister received Britney Spears’ “In the Zone”. I wish that I could get something like that now, music is less of a physical thing these days which makes me sad. I think I would really enjoy getting CDs from friends as gifts. Like, give me a piece of your soul by giving me your favorite album on CD now!!! My parents see it as a waste since I pay for a premium Spotify account but like… it’s just different! I want to hold that one Faye Wong album in my hands and put it into my boombox while I play a game on the TV! Talking about it all seems like a romanticization of technical limitations, and maybe it is. Music was just different in the early 2000s.

In the early 2000s the punk scene and emo scenes were very active and there were lots of underground scenes and concerts to attend, and there are some now but it feels a little like roleplaying something that once was to try and keep it alive. It’s much the same as when you move out for the first time and you do things around your domicile in a roleplay of home. Mom always did laundry on Sundays, so I’ll do laundry on Sundays. It’s a little prescribed and sad to me, but when I went to my first punk show here, I could forget about and just rock my head to these guys with long hair screaming at me over loud guitars and a drummer who knows how to fuck up a cowbell.

I wish I wasn’t a baby in the 2000s, I wish I were one of those Tumblr emo boys that my sisters showed eachother on the family computer when I was little. It was a culture of it’s own: music, fashion, socially acceptable behaviors, movies, events, dances, even a little place for them to shop. I miss music culture that wasn’t TikTok hashtag circles. MitskiTok is a fuckfest and I wish it did not exist. Where are the Fiona Apple album launch parties! Concerts and record stores are like a portal back into spaces where people could connect over music. Music doesn’t seem as important anymore, now that you don’t have to pay for CDs or go out of your way to pirate the MP3, it’s just whatever to most people. Easy come easy go I suppose.

I don’t wish that there were some paywall again, but I think that the physical music community or whatever shouldn’t be exclusive to hardcores and white guys with money to throw around. I want everything on CD bad, I love my collection and I wish that was something everyone did. It’s something about a physical manifestation of a person’s interests and being able to look at the CD rack and open that person up like a book to see what’s really going on inside. Looking at someone’s Spotify playlist is more like a representation of passing thoughts and what seems right at the time. I personally will just chuck songs onto playlists like nothing, but when it comes to choosing what CDs I want, there’s some deliberation. Maybe I wish music was deliberate again. It’s become background noise, and I think that sometimes you need to have something that you’re able to sit down and close your eyes to. I can’t help but feel like I’m just bitching over the same thing over and over again, but it’s all true!

I obviously can’t change anything for others but I think in the future I’ll ask for CDs from friends as gifts for birthdays or holidays. I’ll keep music alive for myself and flip through my little CD booklets, and I’ll buy my overpriced Sheena Ringo imports. Maybe email me some of your guys’ favorite albums or pictures of your CD collection, I’d love to see it all!