By Jake Mooney
When I saw that Best of C-VILLE was bringing back its best-record-store category, I was excited, because boy, do I like buying records. But I can’t pick a favorite; I think the right answer is that the town needs them all. Charlottesville is changing in many ways, some for the better. But what I really like is living in the kind of place that can, for now, support multiple record stores—and not just because I like to shop there.
There’s no one more boring than the guy who wants to tell you how much cooler, or funkier, Charlottesville used to be. I have been that guy, but it’s a pointless exercise: Your idea of chill is not universal, and it leaves out a lot of people’s lived experiences, and besides, there’s always some other time cooler than the one you’re idealizing. No, we don’t have Trax anymore, or the Pudhouse. But we do still have places in town where you can go and talk about music, and learn about it, from a human being with a perspective and some background and experience that you don’t have.
Record shops are places of business, so please go and buy some things from them. That’s the deal: We have to support them so they’ll stay open, which is good for everybody. It helps preserve Charlottesville’s identity as a place that cares about the cultural artifacts these stores sell, and we’re a less interesting place without them.
I hear you saying, “But I don’t want to pay for music.” Or, “But I pay for a streaming service, and I can listen to what I want and it gives me recommendations.” I would counter that the people who sell records in this town make better recommendations than the algorithms do, and those recommendations are worth paying for.
From Gwen at Melody Supreme, I found out about country singer-songwriter Gene Clark; long-overlooked garage soul singer Lee Moses; and apocalyptic Aussie bar band Tropical Fuck Storm. While chatting with Cal at Sidetracks, I bought a record by jazz composer Oliver Nelson because I liked the cover art (the Impulse! label had the coolest record sleeves), and in the process found a new regular listen. At Low, I learned that Tyler, one of the record sellers, has squiggly handwriting and weird taste that sometimes crosses over with my own, such as on a solo record by Can guitarist Holger Czukay that I like to listen to late at night.
The computer program that can produce these discoveries does not exist, and if it did, I honestly would be scared of it. And so, when it comes to Charlottesville’s record stores, I spread my business around, because I want them all to have long and healthy lives. The data scientists may be taking over, but in this area, at least, the real value is in analog.