Despite the rise of the digital download and despite the sprawling mess that is my 'Archive' (unfiled, untidy, upsetting Mrs A) I think I will always want a physical artefact to accompany my music purchase. To me collecting music is about a physical collection, about 'putting things in boxes and places'. Keeping a hard drive neatly ordered just isn't the same. And this month I have been purchasing or admiring an array of music with novel, and not so novel, accompanying packaging and physical presentation.
At the mundane end (in terms of formats) is the new Malcolm Middleton single "Red Travelling Socks" which I bought last week on 7" red vinyl single. It's not an innovative format, in fact quite retro. It may not be as convenient as a download but it feels like a proper purchase. I now OWN something. At the other end of the vinyl spectrum is the new Iron and Wine obscurities compilation "Around the Well". As well as CD you can buy this on TRIPLE VINYL with an mp3 download code. This combines the convenience of the digital with the sheer indulgence (very 70s prog-rock) of 3 LPs. In April I took advantage of the Record Store Day deal at Drift Records to buy three of their CDs for £10. One was Thirty Pounds of Bone's "The Homesick Children of Migrant Mothers" which came in a printed brown envelope with a red wax seal. It felt criminal to be breaking the seal but you don't get that kind of emotion or experience from a plastic jewel case.
Then this from Fanfarlo: "on May 25th, a beautiful, limited special edition of our album Reservoir will be available from Rough Trade. It will come in a foil-blocked, linen-covered box full of illustrated lyrics".
It IS gorgeous. But it's also bloody inconvenient. The DVD case-sized box doesn't fit in my CD racks, the postcards are beautiful but I don't want to undo the bow holding them together, the actual CD is buried beneath everything else. Will it become "Ebay gold" as Rough Trade claim, especially now this limited edition has all sold out? Who cares - it is such a lovingly put-together package I'm not selling mine for anything.
Finally there's the new compilation from Alcopop Records. "Alcopopular 3" is "13 delicious exclusively (as yet) unreleased tracks from the likes of Pulled Apart by Horses, Apples, Paul Steel, Unicorn Kid, Stagecoach and many more". More importantly it comes with a treasure map in a bottle!
"This physical glass bottle (all prettily Alcopopular) will arrive complete with ye olde map – leading you to the digitally downloadable booty that is these tracks... Alcopopular 3 costs £5 for the full map and bottle experience, or just £4 to have the MP3 download link emailed straight to you, if (for some reason) you don’t think your music collection is lacking a bottle and treasure map format". How could you say no to this?! And only for an extra pound?
There may be something tremendously frivilous or inconvient about these formats - DVD cases, triple LPs, glass bottles? - but also something equally alluring, imaginative, enduring. And you don't get that with a digital-only download.
PUTTING THINGS IN BOXES AND PLACES
The Mighty Baboo [BUY]
WHEN SHE GOES UP
Thirty Pounds of Bone
The Homesick Children of Migrant Mothers [BUY]