When 360°Sound interviewed indie electro-pop artist Kelly Truong AKA kelz after her standout SXSW performance in March, the conversation eventually turned to Truong’s favorite music format: the compact disc. In fact, the music video for her dreamy single “Guitar + Peaches” even featured shots of a few of Truong’s CDs.
Based in Orange County, California, the 22-year-old has been collecting CDs since she was 16. Truong released her debut album, 5AM and I Can’t Sleep, in May on Bayonet Records.
360°Sound: What was the first CD you ever bought?
Kelly Truong: I would love to say it was The Beatles’ Please Please Me or Abbey Road, but I have a very vivid memory of going to my local Barnes & Noble and grabbing a copy of Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions [laughs]. Honestly, the more I think about it, I really am unsure which came first. I was really obsessed with learning the guitar and playing along to all the songs from those respected Beatles albums.
Approximately how many discs do you have in your collection?
According to my Discogs collection, I have about 80. However, there are definitely more I have not logged since then. I’d say that number is more accurately close to 100 right now. One day, I would love to see a whole table full of my collection, just like that recent TikTok video meme (This also does sound like a nightmare to look at too, to be honest, so maybe I should be scared).
What do you love about the CD format?
Oh man, I think I just love its simplicity! Similar to a cassette tape, it’s small and sleek, but I feel its design and reach can go a bit beyond just the physical disc itself. It’s like vinyl, too, with the designs and layouts being personal and intricate. It has the sleeves, panels, and notes without the typical price of a vinyl record. In other words, I feel like it’s a great in-between in the world of physical formats today.
What genres of music do you most often buy in CD format?
I find myself having CDs that I would describe to be in the “indie” realm in a broad sense. Examples include Men I Trust, Tame Impala, and Melody’s Echo Chamber. I’d really love to have more electronic/dance music in my collection, but I think, based on my observation, it’s quite hard to find those genres in the CD format since they’re more geared toward vinyl. I would love to have more albums to dance to and hear that sub in my car!
Do you shop for used CDs at thrift stores and record stores very often?
I don’t get the chance to shop for used CDs as much nowadays, but I was so happy to find Bonobo’s The North Borders at Amoeba San Francisco last year! It’s hard again to find an electronic album that catches my ears so much to where I could listen to its entirety in my car. It was on sale, too. I am happy to be its proud owner. Music is so powerful when there doesn’t even have to be a singer. Bonobo does just that.
What are some of your most played CDs ever and what do you like about those albums?
The first ones that come to mind are Tame Impala’s Slow Rush and Japanese Breakfast’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Slow Rush was my 2020 album of the year, so it’s no surprise that during a time of isolation, I treasured this one dearly. Kevin Parker’s production and writing never cease to amaze me. I felt really connected and inspired by his more poppier, dance tunes on this record. Tracks like “One More Year” always brought me into a trance while songs like “On Track” really hit the heart. Slow Rush was and is my comfort album that makes me feel safe and know that things are going to be okay.
Soft Sounds was my introduction to Japanese Breakfast. I never really listened to her music in-depth prior, but I’m so glad to finally join the JBrekkie train a couple years ago. Michelle Zauner’s words were the moving pieces for me along with her melodies. I really love how melancholy the album is, and I feel like I am on a personal journey of grief and growth with her as the tracks progress. “The Body is a Blade,” “Till Death,” and “This House” are the standouts for me. They are very introspective and emotional tracks.
I also really love Recto Verso by Paradis. That CD arrived at my mailbox really worn out and skipping a lot, but I actually grew to really admire and play it on repeat regardless (It has character!). I don’t understand French, but their production and melodies were always so beautiful and moving for me. It’s an example of how music can still translate to others even with a language barrier.
I am a major Toro y Moi fan, but his album Boo Boo has been on repeat for me again. I keep having that record come back in my life! I love the ‘80s sound with the rhythms and the Yamaha DX7 sound being used throughout the songs, creating so much bittersweetness and nostalgia. Chaz’s writings and melodies just hit a chord within me like always, particularly with Boo Boo. “Mirage” and “Labyrinth” are my favorites, so romantic, while songs like “Window” bring in hints of today’s music while being so alluring and trancey. Ugh, I love it so much. I really admire music that allows the words to lead the way without the need for complexities in the production. The sound design carries me away each time.
What are your thoughts on the future of the CD?
I believe there will always be CD lovers. I don’t think it will get the attention and love that vinyl or cassettes do anytime soon, but I think it’ll always be an appreciated format. I think regardless of what is available, music lovers want to have some sort of tangible connection with the music. CDs are a great intro to that. Perhaps as car systems are eliminating the CD player, this might start forcing people to buy portable players like Walkmans in order to actually play the disc. I like to compare it similarly to cassettes – tape machines still exist and are still relevant (to some capacity) since people still want to find a way to play them! I don’t know, but I have hope. Long live the CD!
And here’s the official video for “My Friend”