Melbourne, October, 2021

Where do CDs go to die?

Spotify, obviously. YouTube and iPods before that. Well, they are the cause of the demise that sees CDs collecting dust on forgotten shelves, in opp shops, in garage sales, in boxes tucked under beds.

And in this instance, found in a park on a rainy day.

The cardboard cover a fraction warped by the weather.

The compact disc itself? Fine. Safe and sound.

And, so, amidst the cooking, the crossword and the dishes, I listen to ‘15 tracks of the best new music for 2015’.

Nearly all the bands are new to me. No surprise there. The Decembrists. Pond. Sons Of Bill. Natalie Prass. Jessica Pratt. Viet Cong. Africa Express. Most of the songs are kind to my ears.

And then, the final track. A piano. A male voice. An orchestra. The BBC Philarmonic. Applause. A love-gone wrong lament, as far as I can tell. A love-gone-nowhere, blinded by beauty. Or something much darker? A very nasty put-down?

Where do dreams go to die? Well, take your pick. Car fragments on the road. Emergency wards. Family disputes. Raised voices. Bitter silences. Glass shattering. Ashes of homes after bushfires. Twisted corrugated water tanks. Floods. A doctor’s diagnosis. A pandemic. A war, civil or otherwise. Unemployment. Broken hearts. The eyes of a former lover. A letter. Seaweed on a lonely shore on a windswept day. Bikes vandalised down laneways.

How did the CD end up in the park? Dropped accidentally, and now missed? Slipped out of a backpack while running for the bus? Tossed away in anger, as a dream got washed away in the rain, in the grass? Had it been a gift of sorts, now abandoned? Were the songs a soundtrack for lovers? A kind of mix tape?

There’s one word in the John Grant song that takes the soaring lament into an awkward corner. I didn’t notice it the first few times. Too swept up in the melody and the orchestra, and the dishes. Only when I looked up the lyrics did I notice it. One word. You kind of flinch. But dark themes wrapped inside sweet tunes can be intoxicating. And discomforting. Unsettling. Are you game to listen again? You can’t unhear what you now know.

Baby, you’re where dreams go to die/And I regret the day/Your lovely  ——- caught my eye

I don’t regret the day I happened upon a CD in the park but I do weigh up the balance between melody and lyric, between being caught up in the tune and being side-swiped by a word.


Stereo Story #689

Vin is founding editor of Stereo Stories and director/MC of Stereo Stories In Concert.