The perfect bookstore soundtrack

At ABC you won’t hear marketing department selected muzak piped in to both stores. You won’t hear any Kenny G or Whitney Houston and you probably won’t hear anything from the weekly top 40.

We like classical music, but we don’t want to hear it all day long. ABC staff are lucky: management doesn’t pick our music. We do. Take a stroll through our Amsterdam store and you’ll hear Andrew Bird, Billie Holiday, Thievery Corporation, Andy McKee, Plan B, David Grey, Kurt Nilsen and Elvis.  And if Tiemen‘s working, you might have to listen to Rick Astley or Elton John.

We know that what we play might not be to your taste. If it’s too loud, ask us to turn it down. If it sets your teeth on edge, ask us to change it. If you like it, come and tell us! One of ABC Amsterdam’s resident music addicts, Ward, told us about his bookstore soundtrack.

Finding the right balance as far as playing music in the store is concerned can be a tricky thing. On the one hand, you don’t want to scare away the customers with too much distortion and overloud guitars (we don’t sell choppers, after all). On the other, you don’t want to put them to sleep or bore them to death either. Add to this the fact that quite often it turns out that the music that works at home or on your headphones doesn’t seem to work as well in the store, and the challenge for us music-loving booksellers is set. This list, therefore, should be viewed in its context, and is not so much my definitive Top 5  (although some of these albums are definitely in there) as an overview of what I’ve played at work over the last year or two.

The Black Keys – Brothers

Another down and dirty blues-rock album from this dynamic American duo. Opener “Everlasting Light” wastes no time in displaying their brand of economic and infectious songwriting, and pretty much continues where their last album left off. Funky and tight, catchy and accessible, these songs are as strong on the fiftieth listen as they are on the first. If you want to get an idea of what you can expect, check out the excellent first single “Tighten Up.”

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart

This band shares more than just a color with The Black Keys, as both display a keen ear for the past. But where the former channels the blues, Black Mountain wouldn’t stand out on a 70s comp with its mix of psychedelic rock and heavy guitars. Standout tracks are the slow-burning and organ-heavy “Old Fangs” and “Let Spirits Ride,” the latter of which almost manages to sound more like Black Sabbath than Black Sabbath itself. An excellent match to Brothers, I’ve often played these two albums back-to-back.

Bob DylanThe Original Mono Recordings

Next to volume 9 of his ongoing Bootleg Series, 2010 saw the rerelease of Dylan’s first eight albums as they were originally recorded, in mono. Sucker that I am, I of course fell for this obvious marketing ploy, and shelled about 80 euro’s for a bunch of albums I already owned. Then again, this is Dylan we’re talking about, and I’ll take any excuse I can get to listen to any of these gems. Simply put, the best string of albums to have ever been released by one of the most significant artist of the 20th century.

Midlake – The Courage of Others

Following up the absolutely fantastic The Trials of Van Occupanther (without a doubt one of my favorite albums of the noughties), Midlake chose to take British folk rock—complete with flutes!—as their main source of inspiration for this, their third record. Though not as strong as Van Occupanther, The Courage too is quite beautiful in its bleak desolation, and, like its predecessor, continues to grow on you with repeated listens.

The National – High Violet

Beautiful, just like their last one was beautiful, and the one before that, and the one before that…

What music do you think would belong on the perfect bookstore soundtrack?  Share your love of music and blog about it for us. You can pick a mix of albums or songs, or write about one album that you think is perfect for browsing books to. If we use your submission, we’ll send you an ABC gift voucher! (Read the submission rules first!)