“It’s a new way of thinkin’…” [On Vinyl]

May 31st, 2011 by | Tags: , ,

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. Here’s the seventh, which is about how I listen to music, in a way.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Aww, Mr. Death To All Print Media is buying records now? What a hypocrite.

I regularly carry around a tiny device that lets me hold two thousand songs. My mp3 collection is over twenty-five thousand songs deep, and the distance between “thinking of an album” and “being able to listen to that album” is getting smaller and smaller each day. One side effect of the rise of MP3s as my preferred format for music is that music itself has been devalued, and any associated rituals eliminated.

If I want to play an album, I flick my thumb up and down a screen that’s probably an inch and a half wide and tall. On my computer, I have hundreds of albums that I can play one after the other in a random order, and if I let it play through, I wouldn’t hear the same song twice for weeks. iTunes is Jukebox Plus, a program that can hold every song ever made and play whatever I want, whenever I want.

Music used to be something you did, in addition to listened to. You had to fast-forward through cassette tapes to get to the song you wanted, or hope you put the tape in on the right side because the text was rubbed off. I used to have a bunch of unlabeled CDs in my car that were random mixtapes. I would shuffle through them in the morning, find the one that was the least scratched, and throw it in.

There was a ritual. You had to do something to make music go. Every album was a discrete unit, rather than being part of a mass.

So, when a friend offered me the Hanna soundtrack on vinyl, I thought about it and said, “Why not?” I grew up around records, though I rarely played them as a kid. They were around, but our needle broke at some point, so they never got played. I went out, picked up a cheap turntable, spent a few hours trying to get it to work with my computer the way I wanted, and then went out buying vinyl.

I set some ground rules for myself before I went on a mad shopping spree, though. If there is going to be a ritual to my music playing, then it’s going to be with music that’s worth it. No singles and no EPs. Anything I buy would have to be actual albums that I can bump from top to bottom, rather than anything I ‘sorta like.’ I’m only buying things I already own here, in whichever format, so the outlay of cash had to be worth it.

On top of that, I decided to buy a limited number of albums a month. I would allow one strong burst at the top to flesh out my collection, but after that, one or two albums a month, max. I don’t need to waste more space in my place. I figured that setting a foundation for a library and then building slowly would be a nice way to keep myself in check and only end up with things I enjoy.

After a couple weeks, I own Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Leftfoot, Blu’s Her Favorite Colo(u)r & Celln’Ls/ GurlFriend’ 7″ (free with HFC), Camp Lo’s Uptown Saturday Night, Chemical Bros’ Hanna, Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis, David Banner’s Certified, Ghostface’s Fishscale, Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, Little Dragon’s Machine Dreams, Michael Jackson Off the Wall & Thriller, Outkast’s Aquemini, P$C’s 25 to Life, Richard Pryor Wanted, Tupac’s Makaveli, and Young Jeezy’s The Recession. A few of these I found used for cheap, a few were new, and more than a few were at rock-bottom clearance prices.

I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got, and I’m pleased with how this experiment is working out. I have to consider albums as their own thing now, which is a little different than queuing up a playlist. Fast-forwarding is a pain, and while selecting individual tracks is possible, it isn’t an exact science. Vinyl makes me look at albums as one whole, rather than a selection of songs and skits.

Skit placement makes more sense now. They tend to come at the top of a side of a record, rather than randomly throughout a set of mp3s. They feel like something that will ease you back into the music or serve as a reintroduction, rather than something somebody thought was funny once. Bonus tracks are gone now, too.

Vinyl requires active listening. I’ve got a few double LPs (and one triple), and you’ve got to be paying attention so that you can switch sides and play more songs. It’s more interactive than my iPod, which I find really interesting. I’m always aware that vinyl is spinning, rather than the fire and forget way I approach iTunes.

I wake up an hour early so that I can work out every morning. As it turns out, records are a nice way to keep time. I was listening to music anyway, but now I have one album to go through a day (or 75% of an album, depending). Switching sides or records provides a nice break between sets, and playing an album lets me accurately judge my time, too.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a vinyl nut. I prefer the digital format entirely too much. But, for certain specific situations? Vinyl is very cool. Another new way of thinking.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

5 comments to ““It’s a new way of thinkin’…” [On Vinyl]”

  1. Honestly, the best excuse for vinyl is the sweet, enormous cover art that you just don’t get in any other format.

  2. I know what you mean by uising music to work out and use it for a why to keep time. Although I don’t use vinyl to do it. Instead I have a mp3 player with a few different folders in it. each one has about an hours worth of songs in it.

  3. very cool..i forget to listen to music when it’s always just background to whatever i’m doing. might start up my own vinyl collection.

  4. You are officially the only person to purchase that P$C record.

  5. […] “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes I took a trip back home in May, and a near-lethal dose of melancholy and shattered nostalgia left […]