Top Ten Music Geek Accessories
et’s not beat around the bush; if you’re reading Stylus you’re probably a music geek, even if you’ve not yet fully admitted it to yourself. Casual music fans don’t give two figs for reviews, think pieces, and Top Tens, and they’re all the more well-adjusted for it. Stylus is for geeks, by geeks. And if you’re a geek, you must love geeky stuff. You probably own some vinyl toys and a load of graphic novels.
Music geeks in particular thrive on geeky accessories, and I’m not talking about iPods here; mums and teachers and footballers and accountants all have iPods = they are not geeky anymore. Maybe in 2002 they were, but by 2003 they were subversive, by 2004 they were cool and by 2005 they were completely and utterly passé.
No, if you’re a real music geek, you need obscure, even anal accessories. (I’m not talking beads or butt-plugs.) You need handmade headphones from a company who only sell online. You need rare, logo-tastic t-shirts that only other geeks recognize. You need devices to keep your CD collection in order. You need exclusive indie band badges doled out only by PR people. You need equipment to demonstrate your undeniable alpha male status in the highly competitive world of the music geek.
Because of this, here are ten key, nay, essential accouterments for the ambitious music geek about town.
01. Alphabetized CD Dividers
Friends who aren’t as music geeky as I am have often, perhaps always, poured half-hearted scorn and derision on the fact that I keep my CD collection alphabetized, and have since I was about 15. My answer then as now was simply “HOW AM I MEANT TO FIND ANYTHING?” I’m certainly not using Dewey.
To aid my fastidiousness, I recently acquired these rather fantastic A-Z CD Dividers, black polyvinyl constructs that are surprisingly heavy when you hold a whole set in one hand, and which list a pleasingly geeky array of letter-specific artists on each divider. I have two sets; one for jewel cases and one for digipaks and other awkward packaging devices, because I keep them separate. You can’t out-geek me.
02. Kick-Ass Headphones
My geekiness is nothing compared to the guys at Head-Fi though, who enter whole new realms of geek concerning frequency responses, rolled-off highs, mid-bass thumps, DIY cables, and mahogany “resonance chambers.” If you’re after advice about headphones there’s no better place on the whole world wide internets. Just cut up your credit card first.
It’s from Head-Fi that I discovered what might be the perfect headphone for the discerning indie rocker. Renowned headphone specialists Grado manufacture a series of headphones for Alessandro, a guitar amp company run out of NYC. The Alessandro Music Series 1 headphones are, of all the headphones I’ve heard (which is quite a few), the very best when it comes to guitars, quite possibly because they’re tuned especially for guitarists. Try The Argument by Fugazi or the latest Spoon album with these babies and they’ll blow your mind. That Alessando ship anywhere in the world for $99 makes them even better, considering they outperform many other headphones costing more money. I could talk about mid-bass humps and sweet treble and excellent separation, but you’re best off just buying some.
I’d recommend some AKG K601s too, for the more expansive and intricate side of things, but fear this may be overkill for some, as you really need a dedicated headphone amplifier to run them properly. No, really.
03. Headphone Hangers
Once you’ve got your kick-ass headphones, you need somewhere to keep them. I know people who swear by keeping their headphones on banana hangers. This is stupid, and far too pragmatic to be geeky. I also know people who just leave their headphones lying around wherever, and thus break them with alarming regularity. This is also not geeky. Geeks never, ever break their toys. Not even when they take them apart to see how they work.
No, a true music geek needs somewhere specialist to keep his cans, and Koss’ Holdaphone is perfect; an S-shaped plastic cast, it clamps onto the edge of a shelf or desk or whatever, and lets you hang your headphones safely and securely. I have three, almost one for each pair of headphones I own...
04. Tape Measure and Protractor
For positioning your speakers. Think I’m joking? At least eight inches free of side and rear walls, please (preferably a foot), and toed in slightly so you’re at the apex of a triangle. A dab of Blutak is also about the most effective device for coupling speakers to stands / desks / whatever, believe it or not. It has sonic damping properties. Supposedly.
05. The Manual, or How To Have A Number One The Easy Way by Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty
Bar Nicholas Cook’s excellent, if somewhat dry, Music: A Very Short Introduction, this is, simply, the best book about music I’ve ever read. Not that I read much, to be honest, and certainly not about music. I like that Vonnegut dude. Plus, The Manual is tiny, and tiny things are always covetable. Ask a magpie.
06. Swiss Army Knife
Never mind music geeks—everyone should have a genuine Swiss Army Knife, preferably a Victorinox bought in Geneva airport; I don’t know how I’d manage without mine. To relate it specifically to the music geek, though, a good Swiss Army Knife will enable swift removal of annoying cellophane and security tags, and the bottle-opener’s edge doubles as a handy flat-head screwdriver for assembling…
07. “Appropriate” Shelving
Proper music geeks haven’t sold their physical CDs and stacked terabyte externals everywhere; they still have thousands of discs in an assortment of packagings, and need somewhere efficient, sturdy, and flexible to keep them. As such, IKEA’s Billy bookshelves very kindly stack rows of CDs in jewel cases two-high between equidistant shelves, while a Benno CD tower should comfortably deal with easily-damaged digipaks and other such flimsy nonsense.
08. Oblique Strategies Box
Eno & Schmidt’s box of Zen-like creative solutions is frighteningly covetable. Widgets, websites, and applications suffice as far as getting the actual ideas across go, but nothing beats having a real faux-leather box full of the Community Chest-like cards. Not that they’re much use to music geeks unless said geeks are also writers / musicians / etc; regardless, it’s an incredible cool thing to own, and is available direct from the Eno Shop.
09. Moog T-Shirt
Beats any band t-shirt you may try and wage the cool war with.
10. Electrelane Badge
Preferably a round pin badge featuring the ship logo from current album No Shouts No Calls, sent to you by the band’s PR person alongside a review copy of the record, and pinned to your Eastpak backpack. If you want to be cool, that is.