From the Road: What We Talk About When We Talk About Record Stores

When I first looked at the tour schedule to promote 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, one date jumped out: An event on September 17 at Seattle’s Easy Street Records, one of the great independent record stores.

I’ve been meeting awesome people at bookstores, but this was a chance to hang out – and guest DJ – in what for me is a more “native” environment. Like many people of my generation (I’m 47), I grew up prowling the places where music is sold. In these shrines of sound, I encountered one jaw-dropping title after another, and along the way, picked up a lifelong appreciation for the crazy vastness of music.

This education is almost always happenstance, not linear: You’re flipping through the racks and something catches your eye. You wander over to a clerk, hoping he or she is not as famously elitest as those immortalized in Nick Hornby’s novel and film High Fidelity. You ask. She answers. The exchange can be brief – “he was on so-and-so’s last record” or “if you like that better check out this...” – and you move on. Then you become intrigued by what’s playing in the store. This sparks another conversation, if the terse codes of music geekdom can be termed a “conversation.” Suddenly you’re off on a different search, guided by someone who by virtue of her employment here has heard a ton of music. Your curiosity is activated. A record you didn’t know existed an hour before is now a part of your consciousness. And just might become your next obsession.

Easy Street is a place where people wander in and make those discoveries every day. In every genre, the selection is deep – these shelves are stocked by people who know music and are dedicated to sharing it. I cued up Lo Borges (1000 Recordings, pg. 106) and began a lively conversation with the extremely knowledgable staff and some patrons that touched on Fleet Foxes, Karen Dalton (pg. 203), TV on the Radio (about how the astonishing new album actually exceeds the hype surrounding it), Mother Love Bone (pg. 526), Professor Longhair (pg. 616), Charles Mingus (pg. 504) and much more. As usually happens, I encountered electrifying stuff I didn’t know and might not ever have found through an Internet search. Don’t get me wrong: I like those automated “genius” recommendation services just fine. But nothing digital can replace the record store experience.

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#1 from Domingos Silva Neto, Miami, FL - 09/20/2008 10:26

Hello Tom,

Congratulations on your book - got it as a gift from my wife on 9/12/2008 and it has become a favorite since.

Just read your latest post on Easy Street Records.  So far I do not see you coming to the Miami area in this tour.  Please consider coming to Sweat Records:

Check also my profile:

With best regards,

#2 from Anastasia - 09/21/2008 1:50


Great meeting you here in Seattle.

When we were checking out of Easy Street you were recommending a bunch of what I think were female artists to the woman working there. Do you remember what they were (they sounded really interesting as I overheard you describing them)?

BTW, if anyone has an opportunity to spend some time with Tom in a record store, it’s lots of fun!


#3 from Tom Moon - 09/22/2008 4:45


Thanks for writing. I used to live in Miami and would love to have a work related reason to visit. Speaking of independent retailers, I also love Books and Books in Coral Gables….anyway I’ll post an update if we can put something together there….


It was so great meeting you and Jay last week. Love your city! When we got to the counter, we’d been listening to an awesome Seattle singer/songwriter I’d never heard before named Star Anna. (her latest, which I picked up, is called Crooked Path).
It’s a really beautiful country/rock/Americana sound, and it reminded me of a few other Seattle-based artists—Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter and Laura Viers. My favorite Jesse record is Oh My Girl, and with Laura, whose sound is less overtly “country” but very grounded/connected to the earth, it’s Year of Meteors.

And earlier we touched on another crazy talented Seattle-ite, Heather Duby. She did a record for Subpop probably a decade ago called Post To Wire. spooky shadowy electronic textures with intense imagery and great singing…

Thanks for asking! Hope you enjoy them.


#4 from Jeremy Haynes, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut - 09/22/2008 4:47

Tom - I can’t say enough good things about this book. I subscribe to the “two kinds of music philosophy” and this remarkably eclectic list, crossing all musical boundaries is the perfect new map for the broadening and re-invigoration of my musical pallete which had grown a little stale!

Thought you’d be interesting in hearing about how my wife and I are using your book as a way to re-connect to music (she is a music education major, I am a self-taught musician) and each other a little. We are going through the book, in order, listening to 3-5 pieces per week together and actually documenting our thoughts (some very visceral, some more theoretical) on each track in a pair of notebooks. We are thinking that we might do a podcast where we share a little about how this joint listening exercise is bringing us closer together and discuss our individual “reviews” of each piece.

I’m wondering if this is something that might interest you in any way (perhaps a vehicle to promote the book!). Feel free to contact my by email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) if you have any thoughts on this.

Keep up the great work!
Jeremy & Lee

#5 from Mike - 09/23/2008 9:16

Congrats on your book, but I have several problems with your list.

Some (of your many) inexcusable admissions:
- at least one early frank zappa album.
- some indie hip-hop (Madvillian, Aesop Rock, Deltron 3030) take your pick.
- a Kyuss album
- you have a huge “world music” section but don’t have Exuma - Exuma
- Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
- Kid A
- Boards of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children (probably the most important electronic album ever)
- something by Built to Spill
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor
- Slint - Spiderland
- Talk Talk albums
- a few more original ideas. It’s better then a Rolling Stone list, but…

#6 from Mike - 09/23/2008 9:31


#7 from Brandon Stout - 09/27/2008 7:34

Hi,Tom. Thanks again for the remarkably entertaining event at Changing Hands Bookstore on Wednesday. One of our booksellers, Rachel Tavares, posted a short piece about your appearance on the store blog, Flap Copy. Hope you enjoy it:

#8 from Jeff Surtees, Calgary, Alberta, Canada - 10/04/2008 5:24

Thanks for the book. I’m looking forward to a bunch of unexpected “shiver down the spine” monents. They arrive less often than they used to, but are still magic when they do.

In Calgary this week, we lost a music store hero when Mike Pleau passed away. Mike was the owner of Megatunes, the best record store I have ever been in. He was one of those old style record store guys who supported local artists and could tell you something about every artist he stocked. He would see what you were looking at and say “Have you ever listened to . . . . .” and you would be off into something new. He will be missed.

#9 from Peter Knutson, Shenzhen, China - 10/12/2008 1:57

Oh my!  I’m so glad to hear that your conversation about Lo Borges touched on the Fleet Foxes.

I’ve been thinking all summer long about how the Fleet Foxes record sounds so much like a reprise of the great Clube Da Esquina record, or a little less like the first Lo Borges solo record.

One of the things that drew me so much into the Fleet Foxes was the depth and diversity that I find in those old Brasillian records.

So Great!!!

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