Every day should be Record Store Day -- a love letter

The fifth annual Record Store Day was celebrated Saturday, April 21, 2012, at more than 700 independently owned shops nationwide -- a feisty circling of the brick-and-mortar music retail wagons in our iTunes era. I'm a lifelong record store junkie. In my early 20s I also enjoyed a part-time gig at a record store (The CD Shoppe in Urbandale, Ia.) to supplement my fledgling journalism career. And I still mourn the loss of numerous other Des Moines metro stores such as Peeples, Archives and Music Circuit. Don't get me wrong: I love Pandora and its Music Genome Project and other online connective music services/apps such as Spotify. But no digital solution thus far for me has replicated the experience of immersion in an actual store. Because what I already like shouldn't always dictate what I'll like next, and recommendations made in person by trusted clerks and strangers alike in the record store aisles have been some of the best. So to paraphrase Dickens, we should honor Record Store Day in our hearts and try to keep it all the year. God bless us, every one; kick out the jams; no sleep till Brooklyn; whatever. Just had to Storify this off my chest ...

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  1. My current anchor shop in Des Moines is Zzz Records. I've followed owner Nate Niceswanger from former locations in a Masonic Temple and in the resurgent East Village to his current cozy home along Ingersoll Avenue. (Des Moines also counts Red Rooster Records and Wayback Records as indies, while the Record Collector in Iowa City is another retailer around the state that has persevered.) I trust Nate, and not just because we're two of the most ardent Church fans in Iowa. ... One example: A couple years ago, he implored me to buy the reissue of Swervedriver's "Mezcal Head" when I noticed it in the bins and inquired. I lived through the '90s and spent a decade of my professional life as a music critic; I don't know how I missed this shoegaze classic, but I did. "It's more than 70 minutes' worth of music, you just have to hear it," Nate finally said, or words to that effect. I bought it, loved it, have kept it in my regular rotation ever since.
  2. Zzz Records also was lauded in a new Pitchfork roundup of indie shops around the nation:
  3. As an impressionable teen I cut my record store teeth in the shops of Omaha, Neb. -- at Homer'sDrastic Plastic, the now-defunct Dirt Cheap and especially the beloved former Antiquarium that reigned as a multi-level bookshop/music store/art gallery/coffeehouse/lounge run by Tom Rudloff, with onetime journalist Dave Sink (who died earlier this year) as the master of the stock of LPs and CDs in the basement.
  4. If you're a music geek who still hasn't recovered from the recession, perhaps this is the business opportunity you've been waiting for:
  5. On a related note, God bless Neil Young for sticking up for high-end audio fidelity in the era of digital portability. I realize that we music consumers always have agonized over pristine sound versus convenience and typically choose the latter. So I look back and marvel at the industry evolution that led to the "quadrophonic" 8-track tape player installed in the dash of my first car, a 1976 Lincoln Town Car with 200,000 miles, handed down from my uncle; yes people once were so desperate for road tunes on demand that they tolerated the whir and click of a track switch in the middle of "Hotel California." The great thing about Neil is that you know he's not just being a grump. He's never been afraid of a new (or old-fashioned enough to qualify as new) idea -- sometimes to the detriment of one of his dodgier albums. He's simply a good and faithful warrior on behalf of quality:
  6. Similarly, I appreciate how Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker frontman David Lowery this year has gone on an extended rant to help us stop and think twice about the Utopian (?) economic underpinnings of the new digital music marketplace. The issue usually is murkier than it seems:
  7. This all spins back around to the preservation of brick-and-mortar record stores: Bottom line, is recorded music still important enough that we carve out actual physical space in our communities and take time to stop and smell the vinyl?
    Or is this all a load of crap, and I might as well be lamenting the decline of parlor pianos and Hammond organs in American homes while I'm at it?
    WWJD (What Would Jack Do)?
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