John Carden groans then smiles as he is put on the spot.
The owner of a massive collection of around 2,300 vinyl records is asked the dreaded (and cliched) question: If you could only keep three albums, which would they be?
Carden has asked himself this question before.
“And I don’t know if I’ve answered it yet,” Carden said.
Carden’s love for vinyl goes beyond her extensive dedicated collection, which spans four floor-to-ceiling shelves in her home and makes anchoring three favorites a daunting task. He opened Carden Records in the 1904 building in Braselton almost three months ago, fulfilling a long-held dream of owning his own record store – a store where other vinyl enthusiasts could carefully add to their own collections. organized but enjoy a common space to talk about music, too.
He recalled the experience of visiting long-gone record stores, like Turtles, that once populated the Atlanta metro area.
“You pretty much knew everyone there because you saw them when you were there,” Carden said. “And it’s a bit like that here. It’s gotten to the point where if three or four people are here at the same time, they probably know each other because they’ve been here together before.
Carden, 46, formed an eclectic musical palette as a child when his mum played his favorite Neil Diamond records ‘turned up to 11’ while cleaning the house, while his dad spun records from Marty Robins or George Jones all weekend, loud enough to hear from the porch if he went out for a beer.
“So I have two different ends of the spectrum,” Carden said.
Carden owned his first record player at age 13, while his first vinyl purchase was a copy of Metallica’s seminal 1986 album ‘Master of Puppets’, followed by thousands of vinyl purchases over the three decades. following. Eighties metal makes up a good chunk of his collection — think Metallica, Slayer and Megadeath — but Carden has an affinity for everything from blues legend Muddy Waters to “overseas heavier music.”
“It’s everywhere,” said Carden, who also plays drums.
Carden had considered owning his own record store for nearly two decades — around the time he married his wife, Tracey — before opening the doors of Carden Records in January.
The arrival of a local record store was welcomed with open arms by vinyl enthusiasts like Lee Baker, one of Carden’s earliest and most loyal customers.
“I love that you can know the owner of your record store — they’re like a pharmacist or a bartender,” Baker said.
Baker, a 43-year-old musician and sound engineer from Hoschton, owned his first record when he was 5 – a copy of ‘Thriller’ given to him by his parents – and started collecting vinyl again a while ago. about seven or eight years old. He has about 400 records in his growing collection (he noted that his cousin had about 10,000 records, requiring an expansion of his household). Carden’s store allowed Baker to pick up vinyl gems, from a Keith Richards reissue to albums by ’80s favorites Vixen and Night Ranger.
“There’s a lot in a small space here,” Baker said, during a visit to Carden’s store on a Wednesday afternoon.
Baker said her own children, aged 14 and 11, had their own record players and were now addicted to vinyl. One of Baker’s main motivations for returning to collecting vinyl and visiting stores like Carden’s is to physically pass music on to his children, something lost in the digital age.
“Being able to share a physical copy of music with someone adds value to them,” Baker said. “Music isn’t as valuable to people anymore because it feels disposable.”
Carden shares Baker’s view that music has become disposable with the emergence of streaming options. Once upon a time there was a thrill in buying an album that offered an experience in itself, sometimes going beyond the music.
“There’s something about the artwork on the front of an album that, for my generation and the generation before, the artwork meant a lot to us,” Carden said. “Some people bought albums, they didn’t know who the artist was, but they bought albums for the artwork.”
As for the unique sound of the vinyl itself, Carden said the appeal was hard to articulate.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s almost soothing when you hear it. You watch the turntable spinning in circles and you hear the crackle between songs when it’s all silence.
Baker, with his expertise in audio, helps explain the appeal of music on vinyl. Analog music has no slices, unlike a compact disc with 44,100 sliced samples per second.
“So that makes it more appealing to our ears,” Baker said.
He also explained that when digital music is created, “you compress it and you augment it.” Baker added that today’s music is so compressed, “it tires our ears when we listen to digital music.”
“But analog music, because it’s a lower volume, it’s more dynamic and punchy and more emotional,” Baker said. “And, so, people like it. It doesn’t tire our ears and it’s more emotional because it’s so much more dynamic.
Carden’s store opening comes at a time of renewed interest and purchase of vinyl music. According to a December 2021 article from New Music Express (NME), vinyl sales in 2021 hit their highest levels in 30 years.
Carden estimates that 75-80% of mainstream artists release vinyl versions of their albums. Carden keeps her shelves stocked with 150 to 200 records, mostly those of popular acts over the years — like Janis Joplin and Bob Marley, among other luminaries — mixed in with offbeat musicians for customers to inquire about.
Although he sells a few second-hand records, 90% of his stock is new pressings.
The response at her local record store came as a pleasant surprise to Carden.
“I thought because we were kind of coming out of COVID when I opened, and people were always, ‘Are we going out or aren’t we?’, I was very skeptical,” he said. he declares. “But I was shocked… I could open up a bigger space and still get through it. It was crazy.
The opening of Carden’s record store also comes at a difficult time for his family. His wife, Tracey, is battling stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
Carden said going to the record store provides a few hours of escape from what the family is dealing with.
“It’s not that I don’t think about what’s going on with her, but it gives me four or five hours a day to talk about music and talk about other people’s families,” he said. “Because I’ve met people, and now I know their kids.”
And that sense of community and conversation around music is what Carden envisioned when he opened his record store and located it near his home in Braselton.
“These are people who live around me and are close to me and I know they come because they love the music,” said Carden, who lives in Hoschton. “And then they meet their neighbors and they find out what their neighbors are going through and they become friends.”
It’s one of the reasons Baker drops by Carden’s store.
“Part of it just comes from hanging out in the record store and talking to people who like what you like and meeting people,” he said.
And when it comes to music, which three records would Carden choose?
“One of them would be ‘Master of Puppets’, for sure,” Carden said. “One of them would probably be ‘Hot August Nights’ by Neil Diamond because it’s live and it’s all on it. And then probably…it’s a draw, but I’ll probably go with ‘Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis.
Carden Records is located at 9924 Davis St. Suite 1 upstairs in the 1904 building.