Record Stores Break Your Heart
I once wrote an article about my first love where I express my immense love for music with the intentional clickbait title. It’s sort of a truth, though. Music is my love, so then record store must be the embodiment of the love. I hate the idea that the disappearance of record store may be a metaphor of my love dying. But record stores are definitely, undoubtedly changing.
People had been tending to download music into their devices whether a walkman, mp3, or iPod since I was old enough to care about music, or say, mentally mature enough to feel that I was in love with music. Foxy, an illegal yet popular application for pirate music, was what most people used at that time. The sound quality was terrible, but it’s handy and easy. With the convenient access to music and getting to collect it all in one place, who bought CDs anymore? Do you really want to walk around carrying a CD player? Okay, it’s cool in a way, but still. No one bought CDs, and so record store went in crisis. Nothing good came up in the next few years. If anything, the situation only deteriorated. The streaming platforms came along, the smartphones become a necessity, the social media makes music get trendy easily but too easily that the bubbles died out very soon. People like music but don’t like it to the extent that they are willing to spend much money on it. CDs are now almost extinct, though weirdly vinyls make their way back, becoming a symbol for hipsters. However, record stores didn’t revive as more people buy vinyls.
I guess that’s part of the reason why I felt like walking into the past when I stepped in the record store I’ve known for years but haven’t had the opportunity to visit until recently. The rock music coming from the speaker loudly, the posters of iconic bands and artists, the CDs in Taiwan version where there’s a long paragraph describing this particular record, and the DVDs of music films — the documentary or the drama about a punk band, a boy with brit-pop dream, a journey of an EDM DJ. The whole place was like a time capsule where everything from my teenage years was archived and now presented to me. I felt a crush of nostalgia, and it made me want to cry.
Then more things kicked in. Music is so important to me in terms of not only entertainment but also memories. One of my best friends was the one who inspired my music taste, who introduced me some artists that no one else would know let alone tell me at that time, who set the foundation of my passion to music. We almost lost in touch now for she was not the kind of person who’d suggest we hand out, and I wasn’t feeling ready to reach out, for some reason. Perhaps I am too busy (which is not true). Perhaps I am still waiting a good timing. Perhaps something was better off remaining in memories. When the nostalgia was tearing my heart off, I was thinking it’s about time to make the first move eventually. I know it wouldn’t be difficult. I miss her so much.
My heart cracked, and so another thing got in easily. It was the reminiscence along with a sense of contradiction, and maybe a little bit of confusion. Contradiction? Why does self-indulgent nostalgia get you that, you ask. There are many kinds of record stores: vinyls only, second-handed records only, western pop music, alternative (to the extent that I barely heard of any band they introduced), and the time capsule — they have a bit of everything, but they also have everything about Asian (i.e. Taiwanese and Japanese) music. My music mentor friend had taken me to one of the time capsule record stores, and I found one or two similar ones afterward. You can hardly find newly-opened record stores with such an atmosphere now. They can’t copy the feeling even if they attempt to. I watched the Taiwanese version of western records, read the description in the back, and felt intrigued by the translation of the band names. The posters on the wall stared back at me which featured the popular artists/bands in 2010s. The picture of my favourite singer-songwriter back when I was thirteen was exhibited on the wall, every of her early albums locked in the shelf so you know how precious they were. I loved them all, but I don’t love them at all. They are the memories to me, they are my childhood, and they are part of what the country and the culture I belong to. Now that I grow up, I found myself go a separate way. I hate that I have the feeling. I hate that I seem to desert my culture and my identity. What could I do? I could’t force myself to fall in love again with something I’d decided to fall out of love with. I couldn’t pick up the worn memories and say, it’s okay, I’ll pretend it’s brand new. I couldn’t be who I used to be anymore because we all have to grow up. But who I would grow up into?
It is at the moment that I felt, again, I’ve got to run away. I’ve got to escape the tiny island. I’ve got to leave behind what I hold on to. Maggie O’Farrell wrote in her essay that she always felt the urge to run away, so she fled to Hong Kong, another side of the earth. That was the first time I read something that was so close, almost identical, to what I had in mind. It was so precise that it triggered my panic attack. From then on, I see clearly my need, the urge, the reason why I felt unsatisfied all the time. A new life must be set. A new country is waiting for me to explore. A new me dare to take every and any challenge. Who should I be, I can only answer it when I run away from here, but what saddens me is that I can’t see, in years to come, that it could happen soon.
My love might really be dying. A different kind of love for different things might then grow. The record store symbolises the love in the past, and the love for the past. The fact that it is vanishing and evolving reminds me that sooner or later, it is time to move on. I spent an afternoon dwelling on the period of time that had long gone, and when I left, I took my broken heart, heading to the world of unknown, somehow feeling confident that I’ll be doing fine. I’ll be fine.