For a while it has been mostly used vinyl, old records, that I've been after. Then a couple months ago my friend and I went to Albany for a show, stopped into Last Vestige Records, and I went through every record in the rock and jazz sections twice but couldn't find a single one to buy. Some of that is due to luck — there's no telling what I'll find on any given day — but a lot of it has to do with having built out my collection to the point at which the used albums I might want are too pricey and rare. There's just not that many old albums I need right away. Sure, I'll find some time to time as I have since that trip to Last Vestige, but I've reached a kind of tipping point.
This morning I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen's Western Stars on my turntable and thinking that it is one of several newly-released albums I've bought lately. There was Brad Mehldau's spectacular Finding Gabriel (which seems to have been mastered much better for vinyl and CD than it was for streaming), and I've preordered Mehldau's Live In Tokyo which is one of my top five desert island albums. There have been others and more are on the way. This is the way to listen to new music.
I stream these albums too. Or at least, I do until I buy the records and they come with an MP3 download. Then I copy the MP3 to my computer, spare hard drive, and phone so that I'm listening to something I bought. (I'll stream them too just to make the streaming company pay the artist a cent and a half or so, but I prefer to play the copy I own.) Streaming is fine. I'm not going to complain about something so convenient, but today I walked into The Sound Garden, grabbed Springsteen's Western Stars out of a display right up front, talked with the clerk about the album, drove home, put the album on the turntable and sat down to listen. My daughter rode with me to the record store and looked at stickers and t-shirts while I paid for Bruce's album. We talked about prom and stopped for coffee. Streaming's fine, but doesn't touch this kind of experience.
I just finished side D of Western Stars, pulled the album from the turntable and put side A back on. I'll listen again and again and again because it sounds and feels so good. Anyone who isn't raving about this album isn't listening. Or maybe they're listening to the stream and just aren't paying attention. Digital can have that effect on a person. Even as I'm typing this, I pause and savor what's playing. It's so good I have to stop writing now and go listen. I'm curious: What album will be next? Will it be old or new? Who is it going to be and where will I be when I find it? How will I be feeling when I let it spin for the first time? I wonder all these things, but for now this album is about all I need and answers all the questions I need to ask.