Tom Whalen Poop 2019

My first CD collection was a single black plastic Laserline shelf—you know the kind, with the notched spaces for each case—wrapped in a padded case with a handle. It was a present from Santa.

Around this time I had 6 CDs, maybe 8. The case fit 12 and it wasn’t full. I had Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Spin Doctors, Smashing Pumpkins… Sheryl Crow? Am I remembering this correctly? I do absolutely remember that I carried them with me everywhere. I recall schlepping them to a family gathering at my grandmother’s house—why?? Because I always wanted to be near them, to look at them. I loved them so much.

I pretty clearly don’t love my CDs anymore. I still have them, but it doesn’t feel the same. I’ve sold some. The rest are mostly in boxes in the basement. I’ll shift a box of CDs awkwardly to get at something underneath, and I’ll hear the cases crunch and crack, and I won’t really care. Lugging the boxes when I move seems mostly like a chore. Very small me, totting his portable shelf, would have considered this collection a grand fortune. Now a select few litter the floor of my car, cases mismatched, discs wrecked, serviceable but not in any way cared for.

Is this sad? I’m not sure. Part of me thinks the shabbiness is something inherent in them as objects—all that plastic, the fogging and cracking, the glint of cheap silver. But that doesn’t make total sense. I collect Blu rays and DVDs now, and they’re made of the same basic stuff. Spending so much time around used CDs for my job has certainly obliterated the aura of scarcity, the magic of discovery… to say nothing of the streaming thing.
Whatever the case, something changed. I try sometimes to think of my CDs and summon the spell they had me under when
I first started collecting. It’s hard to do.

I have this lame pithy thing I find myself saying sometimes, that I was alive at the wrong time, collecting the wrong medium, that I wish I had one LP for every 10 CDs in my collection, or whatever. Sometimes I throw in the word “equity”, as if loving music was some sort of investment scheme… I’d be somehow vindicated if my Hot Water Music LPs were worth money today in place of the CD copies in cracked cases in a basement. Pretty lame.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the turn of the decade, putting my lists together. I didn’t really have much to say in that expansive mode other than, hey, this is the stuff I liked, and so this is where my mind went instead: thinking about how much love went into collecting CDs, how proud I was of my collection, seeing the collection as, in effect, me, and how now they’re strewn about or boxed away. And thinking in turn about why this all doesn’t phase me that much—why it doesn’t seem like some sort of defeat or waste of time. Should it? Not really a rhetorical question. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I came across what turned out to be my favorite album of 2019 on CD. It’s in my car rotation—I play it all the time. I can’t say that the disc is always in the right case, there on the floor of my car. But I like having it. It’s certainly not the same glow that those Pearl Jam CDs gave my younger self, but it’s something.


Favorites albums of 2019

1 Angel Du$t – Pretty Buff
2 PUP – Morbid Stuff
3 Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
4 Devil Master – Satan Spits on Children of Light
5 Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling
6 Darkthrone – Old Star
7 Tomb Mold – Planetary Clairvoyance
8 Dead Heat – Certain Death
9 Funereal Presence – Achatius
10 Concrete Winds – Primitive Force

The decade
1 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2 Sun Kil Moon – Benji
3 Burial – Kindred
4 Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
5 Robyn – Body Talk
6 Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
7 Sheer Mag – Need to Feel Your Love
8 Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
9 Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
10 Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit

Favorite movies of 2019
1 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
2 Uncut Gems
3 The Beach Bum
4 Parasite
5 Midsommar
6 In Fabric
7 Climax
8 High Life
9 Hustlers
10 Monos

The decade
1 Phantom Thread
2 The Witch
3 Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
4 The Handmaiden
5 Under the Skin
6 We Need To Talk About Kevin
7 Mad Max: Fury Road
8 First Reformed
9 Inside Llewyn Davis
10 Toni Erdmann