A couple days ago – here – I posted my musical canon, the records I own that have shaped the listener and, in many cases, the person I am today. In that post I said I’d eventually be discussing these albums, one at a time. That’s still true, but that discussion will now be subsumed under a larger project I’ve been kicking around for a while.
Here it is:
My record collection is inventoried in Discogs, a terrific site that music nerds like me can use to catalog our collections and buy and sell records from dealers and other collectors. But it also has a nifty feature in the “Random Item” search button. Click it, and Discogs pulls up a random album from your collection. For instance, I just clicked it, and out of the 1,600 records in my collection, Discogs pulled up Jay-Z’s 1999 masterwork, The Black Album.
My plan is to use this feature to talk about music. Rather than simply walk through my canon, where the narrative will probably get a little samey – “Gee whiz, this is an awesome album!” – using the “Random Item” feature will generate some different types of discussion and analysis. Some records I own because I genuinely love them. Some I own because I’m a completist, and while I feel warmly toward them, I own them mainly to fulfill a collector’s compulsion. And then there are also some that I know less well, impulse buys or records that I purchased after enjoying a cursory listen or two online. The point being, my experience with The Black Album will be very different from my experience with U2’s The Joshua Tree or R.E.M.’s Green, and I think that difference will result in what I hope is an engaging snapshot of popular music post-1965 through the lens of my obsession.
So I’ll click the button, give the record my undivided attention, and then see what kind of writing it generates. Look for this – thinking optimistically here – a few times a week, when I can find the time to put the effort into it.*
First up, to prove I’m not cheating and just clicking until I get one of the albums from my canon, I’ll tackle The Black Album, a record I admire more than love.