Sufjan Stevens and the life of a music buyer


Today the Sufjan Stevens record Illinois was released. For a couple of hours. Then it was pulled. Reasons why are sketchy but most are assuming it was due to DC Comics’ displeasure over the inclusion of Superman on the cover. (The image isn’t without reason: one of the best tracks on the album is “The Man From Metropolis Breaks Our Hearts.” Like most of the songs on the album, it’s not so much about the title but about what the title suggests (the idea that “only a strong man can be a lover”)).

I’d downloaded the album several weeks ago so I hadn’t rushed out to buy it. When the news came down that it was pulled, I felt a twinge. I WANTED that cover art. Was it going to be a collector’s item that was worth something someday? Maybe. But that wasn’t why I wanted it. Mostly, it was because it was a rarity. Something cool.

I wondered if others felt that way. How many people who’d been downloading music off of iTunes had that same feeling? The desire to have hard media in their hands?

I’ve been collecting CDs for a while now. I’m somewhere around 800 (not as many as some. but more than most and enough to make the point). Lately, I’ve been buying more music off of iTunes. And I’ve missed that physical representation of my habit, my vice. The continued proof in the physical world that says “I dig music.”

I made some peace with not having liner notes and pictures to go with my favorite CDs a while back when I bought the new Ben Folds album, Songs For Silverman. It’s a great album but I haven’t really bonded with it because I don’t have the association of flipping through the CD booklet as I’m listening to the words and music. Lately, I’ve been forgetting I have certain albums in my iPod. I have deep emotional associations with some of the albums in my collection. But I’m not really developing those with newer albums. For lack of a better phrase, they’re getting lost in the shuffle.

I don’t play sports. I don’t collect stamps or coins or anything else. I don’t even collect comics–though I do read them. I don’t collect music either. I listen to it. Alot.

Like some people who have fine art in their homes, I have lots of CDs. It says something about me. I want people to be able to come to my house and look at my CDs and say “Oh you have that Sufjan Stevens album with the Superman cover. That’s hard to get. You must be really into music.”

Yeah, actually. I am.