Crossing the streams

In this day and age, I still buy CD’s. I like them. I like that I can put them on the shelf at home and, when I look at them in years to come, they’ll spark a memory from the time when I first listened to the music on them. I like that I can rip the music from them and stick it on my phone, my laptop, my NAS drive at home, or any future device I might choose to listen to music on.

It’s that last bit that highlights a problem, though, in that for the most part I rip CD’s one time at a reasonably high bit rate and then they sit on the shelf gathering dust with the others. So, as much as I like buying and owning CD’s – not to mention the thrill of the chase in various music stores – they are but a conduit in terms of getting the music to me.

A few years back I bought the odd single from 7Digital – more because I either couldn’t find a CD in the shops or online, or it was too expensive when I did. Then, one day, I bought a whole album. I thought I’d miss having a physical CD with a nice booklet, and that I wouldn’t be happy with the quality unless I’d ripped it myself with my own settings.

The reality was that it sounded just fine and, as it only cost £5, seemed like a reasonable trade off in terms of convenience versus the lack of physical album. In the last three years I’ve gone on to buy quite a few albums under the condition that they’re worth it if they cost a bit less than the album would in the shop. £5 or less is the sweet spot – any more than that and I start doing all sorts of price-per-track and price-per-good-track calculations to figure out what business strategy folk would probably call the value proposition.

Continue Reading

Toca’s Miracle

There are certain songs that instantly pull you from the present and whisk you off down memory lane in an instant. Toca’s Miracle by Fragma is but one of many that can initiate instant time travel for me, with a memory so vivid that it’s hard to believe the moment it takes me to is nearly 11 years ago at the time of writing.

It’s Saturday, March the 4th 2000. The very dawn of the new millennium and my first day in London after flying down to Luton the day before to start a new job on the Monday. Until then, I hadn’t spent any appreciable time in the capital, save for a brief visit when I had been a child.

To say it’s an overwhelming city is an understatement to a newcomer. But there I was on Oxford street with Cousin Iain, shortly after emerging from Oxford Circus underground station. It’s like that scene from The Matrix where Morpheous is with Neo in a simulation of the matrix, walking effortlessly through the crowd as Neo negotiates and bumps his way through the oncoming tide of pedestrains. Not that Iain had spent a huge amount of time in the city himself, but he knew his way around and wasn’t trying to take everything in to the same extent as I was.

So Cousin Iain is forging ahead while I struggle to keep up, until he pauses at a clothes shop opposite HMV. We go in to browse the jeans, t-shirts, and winter clearance items on sale. They have Capital Radio on loud, and soon enough Toca’s Miracle comes on. It had been around for a while by that point, having been a late summer hit in Ibiza, but was gaining the domestic airplay that would see it peak at number 8 in the charts in April.

As the song builds to the first chorus I find myself just being really aware of, well, everything in the here & now. The music, the store, the crowded street outside, and the unknown path I’m just setting foot on, all come together. Somehow I know it’s a moment I won’t forget, despite the fact we’re not doing anything particularly memorable aside from browsing in shops when we should be finding me a place to live.

I stand for a while immersed in my thoughts, before Cousin Iain approaches and asks if I’m ready to go.

“Yes.” I nod, and we leave the store as Coco Star continues to sing about needing a miracle. I still smile at the sentiment, but for me I knew it wouldn’t come to that. All I needed was a little luck and my London adventure would turn out fine.

Just the way it did, in fact.

Continue Reading