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Maybe we shouldn’t have gotten rid of our CDs

Liked Rob Sheffield on the Joys of the CD, Music’s Least-Glamorous Format by Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone)

Compact discs never had the romance of vinyl or the convenience of MP3s. But they’re still the ideal format for getting lost inside your music collection.

I still have a CD player in my car so I hung onto my favorite 20-30 albums, and I somewhat regret getting rid of my collection. It wasn’t ever as big as my parent’s, but I had ~50-70 jazz CDs (donated to the local HS music department so hopefully someone’s still using them) plus probably a hundred albums. Some indie shit I probably couldn’t replace if I wanted (I like to think I’ve become slightly more thoughtful about what I give away in my wiser 30s 😂).

But to be fair, my listening has shifted a lot since college, so the music I listen to most I don’t have on CD, and I got rid of a bunch of albums that I had kinda outgrown, so maybe it’s not a bad thing. I’ve only bought one or two CDs a year for the past decade, indie bands I wanted to give some extra support (and listen in the car).

There’s something about having a tangible object that makes it easier to flip through your collection and pull out things you haven’t listened to in a while. Growing up I was obsessed with learning to recognize every song that came on, so I was constantly comparing against the back of the CD. I liked looking through the liner art, and had a great visual memory for what the cover of every album was. Now it’s hard for me to remember what artist performed what song – I think that physical object of the jewel case was an anchor point for my memory. I also listen to playlists primarily these days, and know only a single song (or handful) by any given artist.

(Related? Structures of Thought)

I think there’s a place for both CDs and playlists in a musical library – I’ve benefitted from both styles of listening. But I do miss my five disc changer from my youth… hooked up to massive speakers nearly 3′ tall in my living room so they could punch some damn volume 😂 (No idea if they were any good or not 🤷‍♀️)

I also think it’s worth remembering we got rid of our CDs for a reason… they do take up a lot of space and jewel cases are shit… but now we’ve spent time without them we can recognize what we’ve lost along with them.

I keep thinking about looking up a used CD player, maybe I’ll actually get around to it once day 🤷‍♀️😂 I’m curious how much I would listen to CDs if we upgraded the music system in our car and Bluetooth wasn’t an enormous pain – would I revert to mostly Spotify playlists on my phone? 🤔

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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