The Best of 2021

And so we reach the end of another year. The older I get the faster they fly by, the monotonous routine of COVID living adding to the Groundhog Day feel that is sometimes more like existing than living. Fortunately things are opening up a bit so we’ve been able to get out and enjoy some events like Seattle Kraken hockey games and meals with friends. A weekly Dungeons & Dragons game on Zoom gives us something to look forward to every week and our dog Evie won’t let us get too lazy, insisting on her morning walks and play sessions in the yard. Plus there’s the music. The music is always there, a way to be transported away for a while. There’s never enough time to listen to all the music I want to hear.

I didn’t blog much in 2021, only seven posts prior to today, and I’m not sure what the future holds for Life in the Vinyl Lane. We’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, I listened to a ton of great music this year, and hopefully these lists may point you toward a band or artist that you will fall in love with.

Top 5 New Releases In 2021

1. Generation Loss – Steve Summers (US)
2. Mobile Home – GusGus (Iceland)
3. Ashamed – Mad Foxes (France)
4. Music Library 02 – Hvörf (Iceland)
5. Nightshade – NAOS (Iceland)

If you’ asked me at the start of December which album would top this list, I’d have said Mobile Home. But then a box of records I bought on a Bandcamp Friday from the L.I.E.S. label arrived and Steve Summers blew my mind. I’m not sure I can explain precisely why I love Generation Loss. I just know that when I put it on, I enjoy every single thing I hear, and if I play it on Spotify I also like almost everything the algorithm throws at me once the album is over. I suspect in 2022 I’ll be digging into his catalog and grabbing some of his earlier 12″ singles.

GusGus is one of my all-time favorite groups, and Mobile Home did not disappoint, the duo of Biggi and Daniél adding Vök vocalist Margrét Rán to the lineup to give an ethereal quality to the new album. This is the first time since I started doing these year-end lists that GusGus put out a new album and didn’t take the top spot on my Top 5. Don’t let that fool you – they’re hardly slipping, and GusGus remains a group I go back to time after time after time.

I first heard about Mad Foxes thanks to Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, who texted me when she heard one of their songs on KEXP and said I needed to check them out. By the time she got home a few hours later I had already ordered their new album Ashamed as well as their 2018 CD Desert Island Wish. A bit punk-ish, a bit post-punkish, their sound orbits a lot of styles and bands I like. Hvörf made my Top 5 “New To Me” list in 2019, and their electro-library music is great for just chilling out. NAOS rounds out the list with his edgy, techno Nightshade cassette. This one is tough to find, and I don’t think any of his stuff is on Spotify either, but it’s worth the effort to track down.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

1. Jeno Void
2. Algebra Suicide
3. The Ruts
4. Hoodoo Fushimi
5. Laserdance

I could have easily included three artists from my Top 5 New Releases list here, but that seemed a bit too obvious.

I first heard about Jeno Void from, of all places, Instagram, when Seattle’s Selector Records posted about some old school Jeno cassettes that had just come in. I managed to snag three of these by mail, and later a fourth at the shop, and I have to say that I could play these sets over and over and over again. it’s like having a rave in your living room. Hoodoo Fushimi also came to me via Selector with the re-release of the funky ケンカおやじ.

I can’t remember how I learned about Algebra Suicide, but I got hooked on their quirky indie/post-punk/no wave weirdness. The Ruts came to my attention thanks to Henry Rollins’ Stay Fanatic books – with how much he raved about the band I figured I needed to check them out, and I’m glad I did. Laserdance was a shot in the dark – a rewards program at work was shutting down and I converted those points into an Amazon gift card, so I decided to look at some box sets. One that caught my eye was Laserdance’s The Ultimate Fan Box, because who doesn’t want some 1980s Euro synth-pop? I know I do. So I did. And it’s pretty great.

Top 5 Purchases/Acquisitions

1. B.Q. Wave – Vector
2. Realm of Chaos – Blot Thrower
3. Jeno Void Cassettes
4. L.I.E.S. Records
5. V 1/2 Performed Live In Seattle – Led Zeppelin

Vector’s B.Q. Wave was actually the least expensive item on this list, but it will always hold a special place in my collection as it was the 1,000th Icelandic release (across all formats) I acquired. Funny that it came to me not from Iceland, but instead from Seattle’s own Selector Records. It’s hard to believe I’ve amassed that many items from Iceland. And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t slow down with my Icelandic purchases after picking this up – the count currently stands at 1,058 releases, with more already in the mail.

Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos has been in constant rotation on Spotify since I came upon it for the first time last year. Plus as a fan of Warhammer 40,000 fiction the idea of a Warhammer concept death metal album appeals to me. It also has quite an odd backstory. Games Workshop originally allowed the band to use the painting on the cover, but when the label approached GW about a later re-issue the company and it’s IP had grown much bigger and more valuable, meaning there were more lawyers, and ultimately they refused to extend the license. The band did not want the album re-released with a different cover, but the label went ahead and commissioned the same artist who did the original to do a similar-but-not-too-similar new work, which was then used on later releases, much to the disgust of Bolt Thrower who have told fans not to buy it. I’ve coveted copies with the original artwork, and I finally broke down and bought a gatefold original pressing.

Jeno Void and the L.I.E.S. label came into my orbit thanks to Sherman at Selector. Since then I’ve picked up 4-5 Jeno cassettes and at least a dozen L.I.E.S. releases, including my pick for the top album of 2021, Steve Summers’ Generation Loss. As for the live Led Zep, I love the band and have always had an interest in any of their stuff live from Seattle, so when I ran across this at a location that shall remain nameless I just had to pick it up. The sound quality isn’t the best, but it’s still a cool artifact.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

For the second consecutive year we didn’t see a single live show. Which sucks immeasurably. On a positive note, we have been to a few larger events, most notably a handful of NHL games to cheer on our new team, the Seattle Kraken, so at least we’re starting to feel comfortable enough to go out in group settings. We’re moderately optimistic about 2022, enough so that we already have tickets for the Swedish House Mafia show here in Seattle later in the year. Fingers crossed.

Top 5 Artists on Spotify

1. GusGus
2. The Ruts
3. Beastie Boys
4. F-Rontal
5. Space 92

A lot of folks post on Facebook and Instagram when Spotify produces its year-end listening summaries to each user. And like last year, there were a few surprises fon mine. First and foremost was the sheer amount of time Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane and I spent streaming – 134,469 minutes, which equates to 2,241 hours or 93.4 full days. With both of us working from home and streaming individually in different rooms, this kind of makes sense – a typical work day could involve 20+ hours of streaming. But it’s still a lot of listening.

As for the artists themselves, there were a few surprises. GusGus in the top spot was to be expected, especially with them releasing a new album in 2021. The Ruts raised an eyebrow, though I went through a pretty big Ruts phase earlier in the year. The Beastie Boys are an all-time favorite and never disappoint, so that makes sense. The last two artists, well… I don’t know that I could have named them prior to seeing them on this list. It turns out that both have tracks on a playlist called Techno Bunker that we listen to A LOT, so that’s clearly how they cracked into the Top 5.

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

1. Bandcamp
2. Selector Records – Seattle
3. Lucky Records – Reykjavik
4. Easy Street Records – Seattle
5. Discogs

I tried to shop on as many Bandcamp Fridays as I could – I appreciate the platform’s commitment to artists, and knowing that the artists would receive all the proceeds from purchases on those days got me onto the site just looking for stuff. I ended up making a few decent sized purchases, most notably from the L.I.E.S. and Intellitronic Bubble. Discogs, as always, was also a great online source.

As for bricks-and-mortar, this year I “discovered” one of Seattle’s newer record ships, Selector Records. Selector specializes in electronic and DJ music and my man Sherman has curated a great inventory of labels, genres, and artists into a relatively small space. I don’t think I’ve walked out of there with less than 10 records (and a few tapes) in my bag after any of my visits this year. Easy Street continues to be a local favorite as well, though the closure of the West Seattle Bridge made it harder to get to. And while we didn’t travel to Iceland this year, I believe I had three boxes arrive from Reykjavik courtesy of my friends at Lucky Records, with another box being assembled for January shipment.

I bought a metric ton of music in 2021, and while space is stating to become an issue, I don’t expect to slow down in 2022.

Top 5 Music Books Read

1. Avant-Garde From Below: Transgressive Performance from Iggy Pop to Joe Coleman and GG Allin by Clemens Marschall
2. Once Upon a Time in Shaolin: The Untold Story of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Million-Dollar Secret Album, the Devaluation of Music, and America’s New Public Enemy No. 1 by Cyrus Bozorgmehr
3. Love In Vain – The Story Of The Ruts & Ruts D.C. by Roland Link
4. GusGus 25 Ára
5. A Pig’s Tale: The Underground Story of the Legendary Bootleg Record Label by Ralph Sutherland and Harold Sherrick

Only two of these books were newly released in 2021, but no matter. Avant-Garde From Below profiled a small number of musicians and performance artists and forced me to think a bit about the question of “what is art”. And now that I think about it, so too did Once Upon a Time In Shaolin; I always saw that one-off Wu-Tang album as a bit of a stunt, but it was actually much more than that, it was an artistic statement. Honorable mention to the crowdfunded GusGus 25 Ára photo book, an exquisite piece of publishing if there ever was one.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Hope to catch you here again in 2022.

50 Years, 50 Albums

I turned 50 today (OK, technically I will turn 50 just before midnight… but whatever). Somehow that seems like it should be in some way meaningful, but really it feels more like any other Thursday, other than that I took the day off and had drinks during lunch.

I have been alive for 18,263 days. Which, when you consider how fast the days (and weeks, and months) seem to fly by as you get older, is both a lot, and not a lot at all. It seems impossible to believe that 2021 is half over already. When you’re young, being a week away from something exciting like Christmas or a vacation feels like an eternity, every minute of the day a battle against the glacial pace of the clock’s second hand. By time you’re in your 40s, it just means you have one more week of work to put up with, a week that will be so full of responsibilities and deadlines that you barely have time to eat lunch, your battle against the clock one of fighting against how fast it moves instead of how slow.

The first time I bought a Led Zeppelin album, a cassette copy of Led Zeppelin I, was in 1986. At that point the mighty Zep had been disbanded for six years, and it had been seven since their last studio album. At the ripe old age of 15 they seemed like old hippies who were part of the ancient past. Rock ‘n’ roll as a genre was, at that point, 35 years old if you consider “Rocket 88” to be the first rock song. By way of comparison, as of today Kurt Cobain has been dead for 27 years and, well, rock ‘n’ roll is exactly twice as old, heading into its seventh decade. Someone who is in their mid-20s today was born after Nirvana put out their last studio album.

When you’re young you don’t understand why your parent’s friends, who you don’t remember ever meeting before, tell you, “I knew you when you were a baby.” You swear you will never say stupid shit like that. And inevitably you do. Because it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that, frankly, you don’t feel that different today than you think you felt back then, while the child grew from a baby to a teen (or older). It’s almost hard to fathom. You have a connection to them through their parents, and therefore feel like there’s a sort of relationship there. But to them you’re just another old person who doesn’t have a clue. It’s impossible to understand aging until you have aged yourself. This is the truism of aging.

Anyway… I thought a bit about what I might write today. Some of it was deeply personal, and ultimately I talked myself out of that because really it would have probably been self-indulgent crap. So instead I landed on 50 albums that are in some way “important” to me. I’m intentionally not defining important. It is what it is. The one concession I made is that I won’t have any artist listed more than once. Of course, this is arguably every bit as self-indulgent as my earlier ideas. But whatever. Maybe one of these will pique your interest and you’ll go check it out. Maybe you won’t. But putting together the list was kind of fun for me, and it’s my birthday, so if you don’t like it, too bad.

So here they are, in no particular order, 50 albums for 50 years.

  • Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II
  • Metallica – Master of Puppets
  • Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
  • John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
  • Gusgus – 24/7
  • Ratt – Out of the Cellar
  • Pink Floyd – The Wall
  • Van Halen – 1984
  • The 3 Tenors – The 3 Tenors in Concert
  • Agent Fresco – A Long Time Listening
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81
  • The Kills – Ash & Ice
  • Tad – Salt Lick/God’s Balls
  • Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
  • Sammy Davis, Jr. – I’ve Gotta Be Me: The Best Of Sammy Davis Jr. On Reprise
  • Bob Marley – Legend
  • FM Belfast – How to Make Friends
  • The Devil Makes Three – The Devil Makes Three
  • Legend – Fearless
  • Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu
  • Warsaw – Warsaw
  • Mötley Crüe – Shout at the Devil
  • Def Leppard – Hysteria
  • Sir Mix-A-Lot – Swass
  • Run-DMC – Raising Hell
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far
  • The Doors – The Best of the Doors
  • Kiasmos – Kiasmos
  • Ghostigital – Division of Culture and Tourism
  • Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
  • Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos
  • Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  • TZMP – Anthology: Simply the Best
  • Kuldaboli – Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016
  • Hatari – Neysluvara
  • Robert Plant – Now and Zen
  • Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System – Tackhead Tape Time
  • No Stayer – Rogue
  • AC/DC – Back in Black
  • Quiet Riot – Metal Health
  • Duran Duran – Seven and the Ragged Tiger
  • Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
  • MC 900 Ft Jesus with DJ Zero – Hell with the Lid Off
  • Bloodgroup – Dry Land
  • Spinal Tap – This Is Spinal Tap
  • Dream Wife – Dream Wife
  • Madonna – Madonna
  • Huey Lewis and The News – Sports
  • Masters of Metal Compilation (US version)

The Best of 2020

Like almost everyone else on the planet, I’m glad to see the end of 2020 rapidly approaching. All things considered I certainly can’t complain – we’ve stayed healthy and safe and are both still working. Sure, it’s been stressful. We’re getting a little stir crazy since we’ve both been working from home since March, and we had a number of events and trips cancelled, but with a COVID vaccine coming out maybe, just maybe, we can get back to some semblance of normal in 2021.

If you follow the blog at all, I’m sure you noticed a lot less activity in 2020. I’d have thought lockdown would have made me more prolific, but after something like seven years I sort of lost focus a bit – I just wasn’t sure I had much interesting left to say. I also started playing Dungeons & Dragons again (via Zoom), and that resulted in an entirely new blog that is basically a novelization of our weekly game. It’s called Defenders of Phandalin, so check it out if you’re interested in RPGs or just fantasy-style fiction.

So here’s to hoping your 2020 was safe and as sane as could be, and that maybe I’ll run into you at a record store or concert somewhere in the world in 2021.

Top 5 New Releases In 2020

1. The Ghost Choir – The Ghost Choir (Iceland)
2. Farmacia – Farmacia (Argentina)
3. The Rise of India (Deluxe Edition) – IndiaBoy & Pési-B (Iceland)
4. So When You Gonna… – Dream Wife (UK / Iceland)
5. Neyslutrans – Hatari (Iceland)

Most years selecting my favorite release of the year isn’t hard. Sorting out the rest of the Top 5 can be a bit tricky, but generally there’s one album that hits my like a lightning bolt and rockets right to the top of the list.

That didn’t happen this year. In fact, I didn’t decide on the order of the first three spots until I sat down on Christmas morning and listened to the three albums one more time, and even then it was still tough. What it came down to, ultimately, was this – not only have I played The Ghost Choir a ton, but it’s also the album I recommended to people the most often, and all those folks told me they liked it. Stylistically it reaches across categories – electronic, classical, jazz, soundtracks… there’s something there for almost everyone. It truly is an outstanding record.

Farmacia dropped on December 23, so I have only had a few days with it, but man is it killer. As always, brothers Ariel and Diego Sima stretch the boundaries and expand my mind with their electro compositions. Had this been around for a few months would it have taken the top spot? We’ll never know. My understanding is that this will be coming out in a limited vinyl release soon, so be on the lookout for that, and I’ll likely do a blog about it soon. The Rise of India was probably my biggest surprise Top 5 entrant being that I’d never heard of anyone involved in the album prior to playing it for the first time. It’s a ton of trap fun.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

1. Disciplinatha
2. King Ani Mal
3. Captain Syrup
4. Latimore
5. Idris Elba

This is a bit of a mix of old school and more contemporary stuff, and it covers a wide range of genres. I feel like i didn’t listen to as much new-to-me stuff in 2020, or at least not as albums. Working from home certainly allowed me to listen to more music than ever before, but much if not most of the time I found myself playing Spotify playlists, in which case I knew almost all the music (80s metal and pop) or I didn’t know any of it (Techno Bunker). I guess the difference between 2019 and 2020 was that I was less intentional about what I played. Plus not traveling meant not exploring new record stores, and new scenes which was a major bummer. All that being said, the above are all excellent and recommended.

Top 5 Purchases/Acquisitions

1. Collection of funk/soul/jazz
2. Live at Red Rocks – Devil Makes Three
3. First Demo 12/29/80 – S.O.A. (signed by Henry Rollins)
4. Music for the Other People Place Part 1 box set
5. Is Anybody Listening? – Cell7

I was lucky enough to be gifted four huge moving boxes of 1960s to 1980s soul, funk, and R&B from a friend’s dad. There was some great stuff in here – James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Brass Construction, etc. Probably 75% of it is still in the garage, but the others were cleaned, played and moved inside. Live at Red Rocks was a fun pick-up since we were at the show a few years back. The S.O.A. demo was something I totally lucked into – Rollins posted about these on his Facebook page and on a whim I just ordered one right then and there. It tuns out they sold out in minutes, so for once an impulse buy paid off. The Music for the Other People Place box set was an interesting project in which electronic artists were given free rein… and we as the purchasers are not told who contributed albums to the collection. The Cell7 record was one I supported via crowd-funding, and not only is the album super cool, so is the amazing poster, which i framed.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Yeah, we didn’t see any live shows in 2020. Because COVID and all that. Which is too bad, because we had tickets to see KMFDM and Ministry, and also had our early bird passes for Iceland Airwaves. Here’s hoping 2021 doesn’t suck as hard.

Top 5 Most Played Songs On Spotify

1. “Balls To The Wall” – Accept
2. “Beepers” – Sir Mix-A-Lot
3. “World Eater” – Bolt Thrower
4. “Speed of Light” – Alex Stein
5. “Realm of Chaos” – Bolt Thrower

We decided to get a Spotify subscription early in the year. Rest assured, I’m still addicted to physical formats and will buy them whenever possible. But there’s a lot of new stuff I’d like to just check out, plus it dawned on me that there are still a lot of classic albums that I’ve never heard in their entirety. I think it was the Music Exists podcast that got me thinking about this when Chuck Klosterman and Chris Ryan were talking about Exile On Main St. and I realized I’d never listened to it.

My list is interesting. I mean, a metal song from 1983 tops it, and perhaps even stranger, I’ve never owned an Accept album in my life. Go figure. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Seattle’s own Sir Mix-A-Lot made the list, though the fact that the track is “Beepers” and not something from Swass is interesting. That being said, “Beepers” was often requested by Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane during backyard evening listening sessions, so it made it to the Top 5. Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos is exactly the kind of reason I got Spotify, and I played the hell out of it for a few months (still looking for a reasonably priced copy on vinyl with the original cover, though). As for Alex Stein’s “Speed of Light”… I was shocked when I saw this because I have no idea who Alex Stein is. I think this track is on the Techno Bunker playlist, which would explain it because we play that one a lot.

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

1. Bandcamp
2. Discogs
3. Karolina Fund
4. Direct from Artists
5. Lucky Records – Reykjavik

We didn’t get to do any travel in 2020, which sucked. We did make some visits to local area shops and have tried to do our part to help them survive all these lock-downs. But 2020 was really the year of mail order music. Bandcamp served up a number of days where all the money went to the artists, and I certainly spent a lot of time there. I also ordered a decent amount from Discogs, particularly from two sellers (who shall remain my little secret) who have some great stuff at reasonable prices and do an amazing job with their packaging and shipping. Karolina Fund is a project-funding site from Iceland, and a lot of Icelandic musicians have used it to do vinyl versions of their releases. I’ve had great success contributing to projects on the site. I also bought stuff direct from artists through their Facebook or Instagram pages. And of course I did three (or was it four?) mail order boxes from my favorite shop in the world, Reykjavik’s Lucky Records. I was bummed I couldn’t shop there in person in November, but if all goes well we’ll be there in 2021.

Top 5 Music Books

1. Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr
2. Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan
3. Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 2 by Henry Rollins
4. Rusted Metal: A Guide To Heavy Metal And Hard Rock Music In The Pacific Northwest (1970 – 1995) by James R. Beach, Brian L. Naron, James D. Sutton, and James Tolin
5. Total F*cking Godhead by Corbin Reiff

I think I read seven or eight music books this year, and Burning Down the Haus was the clear winner, a well-written and well-researched history of the punk movement in East Germany. Highly recommended. I also particularly enjoyed vinyl-nerding-out alongside Henry Rollins with Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 2.

So there you have it kids, 2020 in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in 2021!

Organizing…

When I first got back into buying vinyl, organizing my records was easy. When you only have 50 or even 100 records, you can just do it alphabetically by artist and voilà, you’re done. At that point you probably know exactly what you have, so finding things isn’t difficult. But as the hundreds start to multiply, and maybe even move into four figures, purely alphabetical loses its practicality. Sometimes I feel like reggae or jazz or what have you, and if I don’t want to look through hundreds or thousands of records it’s easier if I have them organized together by genre.

But how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go? Like many, I’ve definitely changed strategies from time to time. At one point I had one section for rock and another for punk/metal, but eventually got frustrated that sometimes I couldn’t remember where I’d landed with a certain band. It’s easy for Metallica or the Sex Pistols, but what about AC/DC? Is Iggy Pop’s later work rock or punk? Do you make the distinction by artist or by album? It became too much and I brought them all back together into one big section. But that’s not to say I abandoned categorization, because I haven’t.

The first “cut” is by size – I keep all my 7″ and 10″ records together and separate from the 12″ stuff, which I’m sure is pretty common. But from there I have one weird quirk. The next separation point is that I keep all my records by Icelandic artists together, and within the Icelandic section I make no further distinctions by genre. Is this logical? Clearly not. However, I’ve picked up a ton of Icelandic vinyl after a dozen trips to Reykjavik and, well, I just like to keep them separate. If I had to sell off the bulk of my vinyl, I can imagine a scenario in which all I kept was the Icelandic stuff. Because I’m weird like that. These mean something different to me than a lot of other records do. Plus I have a lot of them… 485 to be exact, if my Discogs inventory is accurate. So my Icelandic 7″ and 10″ records have their own section alongside my non-icelandic smaller sized discs, and the 12″ers fill 5 1/2 Ikea cube shelves. Which makes me oddly happy.

I don’t do any further breaking down of my non-Icelandic 7″ and 10″ – there just aren’t enough of them to bother. As for 12″, my sectioning looks like this:

  • Rock, including Metal and Punk
  • Blues, Jazz, and Funk
  • Reggae and Ska
  • Hip Hop
  • 12″ singles
  • Electronic
  • Industrial, Experimental, and Avantgarde
  • Soundtracks, Comedy, and Spoken Word
  • Box Sets
  • Stuff on the Medical Records label

The last one might leave you scratching your head a bit. It came about because of an offer the Seattle-based label made online – one copy of every item in their catalog that they had in stock, discounted by something like 30%. Whiskey may have contributed to my decision to pull the trigger, but I never regretted it. As an added benefit, the 50 or so titles I have on the label take up one Ikea shelf cube perfectly. Plus sometimes I want some random synth stuff, and when I do I can go right to that shelf and make a pull.

There are, of course, still challenges. Is the first Spinal Tap album rock or a soundtrack? And if it’s a soundtrack, what about their second album Break Like The Wind? I don’t want to have Spinal Tap albums in two different places, so what to do? (Note – I solved this problem by not buying Break Like The Wind) Bands whose styles changed over the years can be problematic as well. Cabaret Voltaire could fall into Industrial, or Electronic, or Rock. Does Snoop Dog’s album as Snoop Lion go under Hip Hop or Reggae? It can be maddening, and sometimes I’m inconsistent in my approach. All my Cabaret Voltaire albums are in the Industrial section, while Snoop Dog is in Hip Hop and Snoop Lion is in Reggae. I don’t know what to tell you. It makes sense to me.

Within the sections I simply order things alphabetically by artist, with comps coming at the beginning of the section, though even here there’s one notable exception – Icelandic vinyl is sorted using Icelandic-style alphabetizing, i.e. alphabetic by first name, while everything else uses American rules and goes by last name. This sort of makes sense to me because when I’m record shopping in Iceland that’s how I’m used to seeing those artists sorted. Then again, maybe I’m being subconsciously pretentious. I don’t know. A lot of collectors are intentional about ordering releases by a given artists in specific ways, usually chronologically or alphabetically. Honestly I don’t bother with that. If I can quickly find the Mudhoney section in Rock, I can flip through the 9-10 records to find what I’m looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a record collector – I totally get the desire to organize within an artist; it’s just something that doesn’t matter much to me, and now that my shelves hold north of 2,500 records it would take a long time to do and frankly I can’t be bothered. That doesn’t mean that I might not get bored some rainy weekend and just do it.

I’m always interested to find out how others organize their collections. I’ve seen a few with sections by label which is interesting. In my one instance of this I sort of fell into it by accident more than as an intentional strategy. Certainly there are genre specialists who break things down into subgenres – I’m sure a jazz collected could easily slice and dice in dozens of ways. The key, of course, is understanding your own method so that you can find something when you want it – however that works for you is perfect.