In a past Record Store Day, I wrote about what independent record stores mean to artists and about a wonderful store in Italy, Caru’ Dischi. Let’s head back to Europe to discover another gem of a store…
Last summer, my family and I went on an amazing vacation in Iceland. It’s a wonderful country full of breathtaking landscapes with amazing consonant-filled names that I can’t pronounce. At various times, it looked like Ireland, Norway, Alaska, Arizona, and even the Moon.
Believe it or not, one of my favorite memories from that week doesn’t have anything to do with icebergs, hot pots, or waterfalls, it has to do with records. On a quaint street in the town of Reykjavik, there is a store called 12 Tonar, and it sells albums. Remember what they are? These days that word feels like an anomaly in our world of digital singles and one hit wonders. But there are some places where the listening experience can still be found, and in honor of Record Day, I would like to tell you what happens behind the door of 12 Tonar…
You walk in and immediately find yourself in a cozy record store, browsing the stacks and stacks of cds. 12 Tonar isn’t a large space, but despite its size, they offer music from all over the world. My husband and I were looking to soak in some music from Icelandic musicians, and the helpful guy behind the counter made some recommendations. Here’s where the magic happened. At 12 Tonar, if there’s an album that you want to listen to, you’re welcome to go into this equally cozy room that’s full of cd players with headsets. The owner will make you any kind of coffee you’d like, and you sip your latte while sitting on a comfy couch or chair and just listen. Remember enjoying music through good headphones? It’s a pastime that has gotten lost somewhat with folks only listening to music through their Mac speakers.
But even more importantly, remember just listening to music? I’m not talking about multi-tasking, interacting on social media, and streaming a video while music is playing in the background. That isn’t really listening, is it?
Now, it’s not that listening to music while doing something else is bad. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy listening to Stax or Motown while cooking. I think singing along to a favorite song certainly makes the actual cooking experience sweeter and tastier. But way back before the world became so interactive, I know that one of my simplest pleasures was sitting on a chair in my room with my headphones on and just listening to an album from top to bottom. There were definitely songs and even sides of records that I loved more than others. (For example, I prefer side A of Willy Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, and I like Side B of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors)
Listening to music was just that. It was about the pure listening experience. Eyes closed, the music filling in the empty chambers of my head, I felt transported to a different sonic place. It’s a glorious experience to give your self over to the music. Today is Record Store Day. So, go buy an album. A whole album. Not a download. And bring that album home, open the packaging, and enjoy the artwork. Read the lyrics, read the liner notes. And above all, put on some headphones and take the time to listen to it.
And if you happen to be in Iceland today, stop by 12 Tonar. I recommend the latte and a little Sigur Ros.