How to Organize 1000 Albums: A Conversation with Locked Groove
I spoke with record collector and TikTok creator Locked Groove about their giant record collection.
If you read this newsletter regularly, you’ll know that it consists of two sections. First, I talk about some musical topic - maybe why artists are selling their catalogues - and then I recommend a new song and an old song. Part one this week is a fascinating conversation that I had with Locked Groove, the prolific TikTok creator who has a remarkably giant record collection for such a young person.
Part two is a bit different, though. Rather than recommendations from me, my friends over at Songletter chose this week’s new and old songs. Songletter is a newsletter searching for exceptional musical experiences and sends you the best of those experiences every Friday. Give them a follow for songs that cut through the noise.
Record Collecting & Judgement Free Listening with Locked Groove
Thanks for chatting. Could you give my readers an introduction to who you are and what your relationship with music is?
My name is Bryce, otherwise known as Locked Groove on TikTok. I’ve been on TikTok for about 8 months, and I’ve amassed close to 100,000 followers. I think what distinguishes me from other folks on music TikTok is that I’m more focused on appreciation and vinyl rather than criticism. I don’t ascribe things a number rating beyond giving them my general recommendation.
The reason that I came to enjoy your content is not only your appreciation for music but the breadth and the depth of the styles you appreciate. How many records do you currently have in your collection?
Over 1000 records between 12-inches, 10-inches, and 7-inches. I’ve been collecting since 2007, and I feel very proud to have created something purely within my tastes.
What I love about your recommendations on TikTok is how unexpected and obscure they are. To give my readers a taste of that, I want to play a little game. I’m going to give you an era or style, and you’re going to give me an album you love that fits that description. Does that sound good?
Cool. First, let’s start with an experimental electronic record.
Let’s go with A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure by the electronic duo Matmos. The conceit of this album is that it samples various medical procedures or instruments in the medical field. The opening track, for instance, features the sounds of liposuction. One song is performed on a xylophone made from a rat’s ribcage. There are hearing tests, bone saws, and some of the most terrifying instruments you can think of. But they are used to create melodically and rhythmically interesting music.
What about a folk record?
I’m going to recommend a compilation of folk music called Native North America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985. It was put out by a Seattle reissue label called Light in the Attic. It is an incredible mix of exactly what the title states that might have gone unheard otherwise.
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How about something from the last year?
I’m going to take the opportunity to shout out my favorite vinyl record that I purchased in 2022: Bewitched by DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ [laughs]. That is a house music release. What makes DJ Sabrina’s music very interesting is that it is built around nostalgic sound clips from commercials and sitcoms. It is continually building upon itself to create songs that get progressively louder and more rhythmically bouncy. It’s music that instantly puts a smile on my face.
That sounds super cool. How about a record by a non-Western artist?
I’m going to shout out an album by a Japanese indie pop, shibuya-kei artist named Cymbals. It’s their album Love You, and it’s a great blend of western musical styles mixed with J-pop. You’re getting garage rock. You’re getting electronic music. You’re getting brilliant jazzy, pop songwriting. The lead singer Asako Toki has this very rich, soulful voice that is to die for.
A record you didn’t expect to enjoy?
[Long pause] Growing up, I was never a fan of grunge music. Though I was alive during the heyday, I did not appreciate it. Recently, my partner put me through a guided listening experience of Alice in Chains’ music. Layne Staley [the band’s lead singer] had this heart-wrenching way of writing about his life experiences. It is tragic knowing the ultimate fate of the band because of his passing. I’m surprised by how much I’ve come to love not only Alice in Chains but grunge generally.
I’ve admittedly never been super into grunge, so I might have to dive into their catalogue.
Let’s close with a hip-hop record from either the 1980s or 1990s.
I’m going to shout out a very left-field choice: Mack Daddy by Sir Mix-a-Lot. You would not expect the album that contains “Baby Got Back” to be a compelling hip-hop record. It’s bouncy, Pacific northwest hip-hop music that’s wall-to-wall fun.
Part of the reason I wanted to play this game is to show people who aren’t familiar with your TikTok how wide-ranging your tastes are. Having seen that, I think there are two natural questions. First, how do you go about discovering new music?
I first start by going to the record store and flipping through everything. I will visit the store for hours at a time. The artist, producers, artwork, mastering engineer, and who cut the vinyl are context clues that I’ll use to determine if I’ll like the music or not. If I’m thinking about buying something I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll usually pull it up on YouTube and take a quick listen.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how much discovery I do online, though. The internet is this wonderful tool to help you find information on some of the deepest subcultures and subgenres in music. My favorite online sources are Anthony Fantano, Pitchfork, Exclaim!, and AllMusic. Oh, and I get recommendations from friends.
So, there’s a ton of work that goes into discovering all of this music. But the work doesn’t seem to end there. How are you able to organize and keep track of all of the music that you love?
So, I keep track of things physically and virtually. Virtually is the easy question. There is a website called Discogs that tracks vinyl releases across all genres. You can use that as a tool to find specific pressings of basically any record. I use that to keep track of my collection. However, I also keep a manual spreadsheet.
That spreadsheet is organized the same way that I organize my collection physically. First by genre and then by band name or artist last name within that genre. You can get hyper-specific with genre signifiers, but I’ve found that if I get too specific, it makes things more confusing. I don’t want to have to look for the acid jazz section or the minimal techno section. That would be too much. So, I stick with broad genres.
What are those genres?
I’ve settled on Country/Folk, Electronic, Hip-Hop/Rap, Jazz, Minimalism/Classical/New Age/Concrète -
Wait, what’s that?
Lots of soundscapes and things you wouldn’t consider music in the traditional sense.
Interesting. Sorry to cut you off. Please tell me the rest.
Pop, R&B/Soul/Funk, and Rock. Then comes the only hyper-specific genre section: shibuya-kei. That’s the 90s Japanese music we talked about before. Then after that are soundtracks.
Earlier you said you’ve been collecting since 2007. What is it about vinyl that is appealing to you as a physical format? Why not collect CDs or cassettes?
I’m attracted to vinyl for the artwork and the tactile nature of the medium. I found with CDs that I would purchase them, rip them onto iTunes, put them away, and never touch them again. Whereas with vinyl, there’s the ritual of pulling out the record and inspecting the gatefold, liner notes, photos, and lyrics. Then you have to get up out of your seat and flip the record halfway through. I think there’s something very special about that that makes you engage with the music you are listening to very deeply, perhaps more so than streaming.
I want to close with one final question. A recent report claimed that 50% of people who purchased vinyl last year did not own a record player. Do you have a particular issue with that?
I take no issue with folks that do not own a record player or only own an entry level turntable. Life’s too short to judge people for not owning something. You can still engage critically with music without a record player. You can listen to an album on streaming and have the artwork, liner notes, and contextual information from the vinyl open beside you.
That’s a great attitude. I think people sometimes assume that if you listen to obscure music or collect vinyl that you must be snob.
Totally. What I love about the community on TikTok is that they are less focused on gatekeeping and more focused on enjoying the music.
A New One
"The Girl In The Mirror" by Emmit Fenn
2023 - Ethereal Acoustic
Emmit Fenn is an immensely talented artist from California whose music style encompass electronica and cinematic soundscapes. As longtime fans, we have been following his work for years. Just a few days ago, he released this phenomenal piece. We highly recommend immersing yourself in the world of Emmit Fenn's artistic creations.
An Old One
"Walk On By" by Isaac Hayes
1969 - Psychedelic Soul
It's rare to find a song that can match the raw emotional power of Isaac Hayes' rendition of "Walk On By" released 54 years ago. From the gripping introduction to the spine-tingling build-up and unforgettable melody, the use of natural instruments and vocals adds a level of depth and authenticity that is hard to replicate. It's painfully beautiful.
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