confessions of an archivist

Librarian. Enthusiast. Collector. Hoarder. The lines of distinction between these things can be fuzzy at best. I certainly sit in some nexus between all of them. How can I deny it? I own over 1200 records—even while limiting my vinyl collection to one-per-artist. The real crazy comes through in my digital catalog.

I am 100% certain I have things in my cloud of mp3's I have never listened to. I have every intention of getting to them, believe me. I listen to a shit ton of music. My day job lets me keep my headphones on, all-the-livelong day, but there are simply times when my rate of acquisition outpaces the sheer time it takes to listen—even once—to everything. Things are bound to fall through the cracks.

Pavement Brain Candy

If I'm honest, though, listening isn't the only point of my collecting—which is sort of weird to say. What's the point of buying music if not to listen to it?

I've come to find sorting and filing music has become an ancillary hobby unto itself. I sincerely find it fun simply pawing through my collection. I make sure it has the best quality cover images, individual songs on compilations have the proper date stamped on them, and that bands with unruly discographies are sorted, good and proper.

There is some purpose to this—beyond just dicking around in my pile of music. It's proven useful in understanding the chronology things. In our era of reissues and bonus tracks, I'm now obsessed with separating the album—as it was originally conceived and released—from the odds and sods. It gives me a more accurate image of the artists. You'd have a very different concept of the Beatles if you listened to the band's albums in order than if you slogged through all three double-CD Anthology sets from the mid-90s. Of course, being who I am, I want to listen to the wheat and the chaff, but I prefer to be keenly aware of which is which.

A weird side effect of this habit is I haven't truly dug into certain artists yet, expressly because their discographies are hopelessly muddled. Elvis, for one. You'd think a self-proclaimed music snob like myself would be well-steeped in the king of rock-n-roll; but, no. Sure, I've heard plenty, but not dived into his catalog with any zeal—as I haven't yet managed to get the whole of it into any order that makes a lick of sense to my chronology-obsessed mind.

Conversely, some bands I was deep into when before this sickness set in are now borderline obsessions. It's a full-time fucking job trying to make heads-or-tails of the Fall's discography, but I like to think I've done about as good a job of it as any US-based fan could aspire to.

I feel I must defensively note here: I've listened to every piece of vinyl under my roof. There's no point in cluttering your life with a physical object if you don't use it. In fact, I have an official policy that no record is filed (alphabetically—regardless of genre) until it has been played twice.

So, if you've ever caught a glimpse of my collection, and wondered to yourself, "Has he listened to all of that?" The short answer is: no. The long answer is: no, but lord-willing, I fully intend to—but without even hearing it, I can tell you where it belongs.