Like all the other contributors to this site I am a huge nerd about a lot of things, not the least of which is music. Over the past months this aspect of my nerdiness has only become more intense as I have gotten in listening to music on vinyl thanks to a turntable and speakers my dad gave to me. Now almost every time I go into New York (or anywhere else for that matter) a search of the area for record stores becomes part of the agenda. While this has proven to be a clear and present danger to my bank account, it's been a lot of fun as well. While it's not for everyone, this post is another list (because lists are fun and easy to write, especially when they are in no particular order), this time of reasons to get into vinyl.
1. It Actually Gets You To Listen to the Album
Some say that the album is an outdated way to get music out to people and that now that we have shifted as listeners from albums to songs, artists shouldn’t waste their time with albums considering people only listen to select songs for the most part anyway. Artists nowadays may not always be trying to make a coherent statement with albums but it does still happen sometimes. One of the top albums from last year (it won a Grammy which we all know are very important), Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” actually had consistent themes that dealt with well, growing up in the suburbs.
Even if an album doesn’t have an underlying theme, message, or whatever it’s nice to sometimes get out of the habit of just listening to certain songs over and over or shuffling all/some of your music. This is coming from someone who is as guilty of this as anyone. Hell, I’ll even sometimes go back to an earlier part in a song while listening to it just to hear it again. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the last 1:30 or so of Handsome Furs’s “Memories of the Future” this year, I just know it’s a lot and I’m going to add to that total right now.
2. The Record Store Experience
Nobody loves the fact that you can type the name of whatever artist and album + mediafire and have said album playing in your iTunes within fifteen minutes more than me. But it has removed the record store from the music acquisition process (I’d say buying process but...come on...). I never felt this way about CD’s but I find the act of going into a record store or fair and flipping through rows and rows of vinyl very enjoyable. It’s even better when you come across something you’ve been searching for a while. Just a few weeks ago I found a copy of Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Harlem Square Club” album that I’ve been looking for. It was awesome.
"I want that purple stuff"
3. You Actually Appreciate The Album Art and Liner Notes
Let’s face it, the mp3 age has essentially killed album art as we know it. When iPods first hit the scene they didn’t even have color displays so much as display the album cover. Now that people have iPhones and iPod Touches you can sort of appreciate album art but it’s not the same at all, which is too bad because a lot of album art is very cool and/or interesting. Until last week I never really knew what was going on in the cover to Animal Collective’s album “Feels”, it just looked like the vomit of someone who had some bad Chipotle. Turns out it’s kids with some animals, most of which have weird purple stuff oozing from their orifices. How about that?
4. Buying The Albums Supports The Artists
This is an obvious one but for someone like me who listens to a lot of music it’s nice to have a way to support the bands I listen to outside of buying tickets to their shows. I often made the argument that despite the fact that I don’t purchase music, I myself am good for the music business since I go to a decent amount of concerts and like to introduce/suggest new bands for my friends. Buying records is a more tangible of supports the bands I love and that makes me feel like slightly less of a pirating piece of shit.
5. The Sound Quality Is Better
I’m not going to get into the science behind it but music just sounds better on vinyl. Speaking solely from a visceral perspective I find music to sound, for lack of a better word, warmer when I listen to it on vinyl. The sound almost surrounds and envelops you in a way. You also hear things that you just wouldn’t pick up on when listening to an mp3 no matter how nice a pair of headphones you have.
6. You Get The mp3’s Anyway
Nowadays pretty much all new releases on vinyl will come with a download code for high quality mp3’s of the album so not only do you still get something to put on your iPod, it’s most likely better quality than the mp3’s you’d download from iTunes, Amazon, or wherever you acquire music.
Getting into vinyl means you now get to look down upon other people who exclusively listen to mp3’s or just stream music from YouTube or Spotify and who doesn’t like looking down on other people? I’m pretty sure it’s one of the core tenements the Internet is based on. Kids these days are really missing out by not listening to the latest Ke$ha album this way, when played on vinyl you can almost smell the whiskey and cigarettes on her breath.
8. The Colors
East Coast Bias (you know, from www.ecbias.com) co-host “The Butcher” aka Meola often cites the “colors” as one of the reasons he enjoys watching NFL teams square off every Sunday. You may think that sounds like he’s on drugs but colors are cool and so is colored vinyl. It’s even cooler when it’s a limited edition release type deal so you not only get a nice looking LP, you get a collector’s album that you might be able to sell for an unreasonable amount of money down the road. I love listening to Deerhunter’s “Halcylon Digest” LP not only because it’s a fantastic album, but its white vinyl also looks sweet when it spins on my turntable.
9. Vinyl Appreciates Value In A Way Mp3’s Can’t
If you didn't already know you probably won't be surprised that there is a huge vinyl collecting scene. As a result, a lot of records become more valuable over time for a variety of reasons. I'm sure none of this comes as a shock to you but the point is there will never be a limited edition or rare mp3. That's not the case with records, to the point of frustration sometimes. If I wanted to acquire either of the first two Modest Mouse albums ("This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" and "The Lonesome Crowded West") I am looking at paying at least $200 and more likely $300. I think it's safe to say there will be an mp3, or album of mp3's approaching that cost. Yeah it sucks if you’re me and you want those albums, but those who got in on the ground floor are pretty lucky so good for them.