Meg Remy US Girls

Meg Remy on an Essential Album Right Now and What It Means to be a Record Collector

The other day, I posed a hypothetical to my husband: “What if vinyl records get recalled because the material is needed for human survival?” I was imagining records being turned into some fuel or heat source. He didn’t find this very likely. I tried another: “What if the record collectors of North America are forced into migrant status? Are we going to carry our record collections and stereos around with us from place to place?” I was imagining Toronto being ravaged by some climate catastrophe, us being left with no choice but to flee with, at most, the necessities we can carry, shutting the door on our apartment and our record collection forever. This forced me to realize that we are only able to have a record collection because we have a steady place to live.

Years ago in some small northeastern U.S. town, I was granted access into the apartment-sized record collection of some Old Head who shall remain nameless. This was not the place where this person lived. This was where their collection “lived,” as if it was a human being that could appreciate the tall ceilings and old wood floors. Kind of like how, legally, a corporation is recognized as a “person.” What is the impact of viewing a collection as a living entity? And what about the ecological footprints of our collections? Each record is shipped somewhere, and that imprecise statistic alone frightens me. I sometimes wonder if we are a community of music lovers or a community of fossil fuel-addicted, private-property beneficiaries? The truth is that we are both, and that’s okay. Life is an incessant paradox.

A package arrives at my door containing Ted Hawkins’ Watch Your Step LPand I forget all the hypotheticals, statistics, and impotent guilt. I’m absorbed in the nutrition of good music. I’ve needed this record in my collection ever since I was on tour lying in some Berlin hostel bed with a swollen sprained ankle and my dear friend, Chris, sympathetically sent me the song, “Sorry You’re Sick.”

I’d be your doctor if only I could. What do you want from the liquor store? Something sour or something sweet? I’ll buy you all that your belly can hold. You can be sure you won’t suffer no more.

I became obsessed with the tender humor of this song and the way Ted sang like he was bleeding to death but had accepted it. When I gave the whole album a try and heard the song “The Lost Ones,” I became the one bleeding to death. It’s a song from the perspective of a scared young boy trying to take care of his sick mother and younger-than-him sisters with no help from any adults.

I am not working because I am not old enough. My sisters are too small and they cannot help us. We’ve all tried praying but I don’t know how to pray.

How often do we get songs from the viewpoint of a child? What is more important than children and their well-being? I can only think of one thing of equal importance: Earth. I hear the Ever-Giving Earth pleading with us,

You wouldn’t force me to live like you if you knew the agony that I am going through. Oh please, stay close to me.

Meg Remy is the artist behind U.S. Girls. Her newest album, Heavy Light, dropped in early 2020. She lives in Toronto, Canada. All italics are Ted Hawkins’ lyrics from the album Watch Your Step. Feature image by Karen Alonzo.

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Meg Remy
Meg Remy is the artist behind U.S. Girls. Her newest album, Heavy Light, dropped in early 2020. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
  • Jul 13,2020 at 22:22

    The point raised in this article “Are we only able to have a record collection because we have a steady place to live” Stirred a memory in me. Around 8yrs ago l sold a large portion of my record collection, partly out of need and partly because l wanted to be a little more discerning with what records I had and collected. Little did l know that shortly after the selling of, that l would meet the love of my life, move out of my then rented home and we would go on to buy a house together. So l was pleased that l did not have the trauma of moving what would have been a hefty weight of vinyl, but still what l had was a load.
    In my new world l would continue buying and collecting records with a discerning ear, but every now and again. The pang of missing those sold returns. Music is nostalgic.

  • Jul 12,2020 at 15:43

    15 years ago my LP collection topped 1,200 records, which was a personal high volume mark. I have been downsizing ever since, and am currently at about 350 albums. Yes I have given up some good records, but my collection is more meaningful. Fewer records has translated into more enjoyment of my LPs. My goal is to get down to 333 before I have to move again.
    It’s easy and common to refer to the value of one’s collection in terms of size. Through my vinyl, I have discovered that small is beautiful. The question is no longer “how many records do you have?”, but instead “how well do I know my own collection?” I spend less time counting and organizing, and more time enjoying the music.

  • Jul 12,2020 at 15:00

    Your story and experience with discovering new music is something we as record collectors can all relate to.

    We never forget the first time we hear something that truly leaves an impression on our soul. The memories and feelings associated with those songs drives us to own a piece of that history that we can touch, feel and interact with.

    Collecting records is collecting moments.
    Thank you for sharing yours!

  • Jul 12,2020 at 08:22

    I am just glad that there is still a part of the world where music really matters and that classic titles are discussed like the important pieces of art they are. Plus you just write so lovely.

  • Jul 12,2020 at 04:49

    Well meaning article as only a true Torontonian would project from emotional experiences.
    American-turned-canuck for sure.
    Never heard of [a1129912], oh man where have i been and shame on me but I mean to check out the artist’s releases.

    Discogs describes most of her music as ‘Experimental’.
    I loathe that description – what does that actually mean?
    I tend to be one of those believers that in a weird sort of way all forms of music have begun at one point as experimental for the artist or band but in the end the roots of most if not all music is based from what is known as the Blues.

    The blues is essential to any music lover because although it can tear apart your heart as you listen to folks like muddy waters and robert johnson, it will also leave you fully nourished in the end.
    And after all isn’t music a wonderful nourishment for your soul?

    Yet, among the 100s of personal favs in my collection, i truly believe that i would carry only around 20 titles if i became a migrant.

    Yup, a record collector like myself sees my collection as a giant materialistic thingy (after all it is only acetate) but it is the music embedded within that is attached to my sentimental heart. What does that make me then – the record collector or a music lover? Who knows the difference, if any?

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