Thursday, July 21, 2011

On The Record

by Brendan Cavanagh

Of all relevant mediums by which people listen to music, my personal favorite is the vinyl record. In addition to a portable turntable that I have adopted as my own, my mom has a sizable collection of albums and 45s from her adolescence and young adulthood. Over the past few years I've purchased records of my own, which I keep in a large milk crate with selected albums of my mother's. I prefer listening to records on vinyl for numerous reasons.

For one thing, it's a very physical process. I like being obligated to set down the needle in the appropriate spot and flipping the record after each side is through. I like admiring album art when it's right in front of me, a physical and visual manifestation of the music I am listening to.

CDs, sure, are hand-held and have much more use- you can play them in your car or stereo, you can burn them on your computer and thus transfer the songs to your iTunes or your iPod. But there are just too many CDs to buy if I want to keep up on current and past music and transfer all that to my iPod. I can much more simply and cheaply borrow any desired album from the library and return it when I've burned it onto my computer.

I don't even really want to venture into the discussion of today's music industry and the rise of the mp3. I just think it's dangerous and too available and annoying and boring and blah blah blah.

Cassette tapes are fun, albeit obsolete nowadays. None of my tape players work anymore, and I'm not going to carry around a newly-purchased walkman when I have an iPod. Former Thursday Classic Brian blogger, Cory, releases all music on his independent record label on cassette tape only.  An admirable business venture, but a fiscally unsound decision all the same. I'm glad he is now further able to assert his hipster status, but even hipsters have to realize that cassette tapes are inferior to virtually all available music-listening mediums.

The records I buy on vinyl are typically- though not solely- older albums, ones that I have a personal stock in. These are albums that I want to set up and play in my bedroom or dorm room to fill up the room with that inimitable, rough, nearly palpable sound. It's sort of like an invisible concert is being played while I put away laundry or read a book.

Furthermore, if I were to choose one type of music-listening medium to hold onto for years to come- something to come across and reminisce about fondly- then I choose vinyl records. They're just cool.

Some records that sound great on vinyl:

Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
The Band - The Band
Various Beatles' LPs - Sgt. Pepper's, Abbey Road, Rubber Soul (US version, duh!), etc.
Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (saw them in St. Louis the other night, fantastic!)

Today I just got Paul McCartney & Wings' Band On The Run, and from previous listening, it's fascinating when played on vinyl. Namely "Mrs. Vanderbilt," followed by "Let Me Roll It." Here's hoping old Macca plays those songs when I see him live at Wrigley Field on August 1.


  1. I preordered the new Bon Iver album on vinyl, and I have to wait until mid-August, when my friend with the record player moves in, to listen to it. arggggg