Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Lost Art of Vinyl

When I was younger, I found a console turntable and a crate of records in the back room of our house. I became an instant vinyl junkie. My first albums were pretty limited, but my first favorites were Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and The Vapors’ New Clear Days (ironically, two albums that I still really love).

It was both a hobby and an obsession. I could spend hours digging through musty old bins, crates, and boxes of records at resale shops and flea markets. I amassed quite a collection. I thought that it was just because it allowed me to buy lots of music on the cheap in a time of my life when I was solely dependent on my allowance. Somewhere around college, which coincided with the rise of Napster and digital music, I decided to get rid of my turntable and most of my records (heartbreaking, I know). I didn’t think that I was going to need them again. If you had any idea of the amount of music I have now, you probably wouldn’t think that I need anything additional either.

A few months back, I got what was left of my vinyl from my parents’ house and started framing them as artwork. I have always loved the album art and the way it connections with the music. They look amazing, but as I sifted through them, I realized just how much I longed to listen to each album. The Cure’s Head on the Door was taunting me from its frame. I hadn’t realized how much of a ritual it was. I missed shopping and collecting.

Without fail, I visited a local store and was sucked right back in. I have also been buying stuff on eBay (If anyone is out there with random Smiths, Cure, R.E.M., or Depeche Mode albums hidden in a box somewhere, call me!). Then, I bought myself a new turntable, which arrived a few nights ago. When I got the first record on (a safety even, the Grease soundtrack), it was like a revelation. I found my way back. A time each night of solitude to worship to the gods of music genesis at the audiophile alter.

Don’t get me wrong, I still seriously love love my iPod. It’s always with me and ready to shuffle my entire library as needed. It houses a bit of my soul. I still felt like something was missing from my musical life. With vinyl, there is a ritual to listen to music. It invests your heart and mind in a way that just pushing play on an iPod doesn’t seem to capture. Listening to vinyl is an active art. It is time spent digging through musty old album covers, taking in the album art, studying the track list, and listening to a sequence of songs in the way that they were intended. There is a sense of pure satisfaction when I place the needle to the record, that slight bump, and then an imperfect start of a song. Each album, sounding a little different, tattooed with a pop or scratch here or there, letting you know that you are really listening to your copy of that album. It is something involved that somehow makes the music more special again.

Songs from an R.E.M. day...

With the sad news that R.E.M. officially broke up this week, I thought that I would pick out a few of my favorites as a thank you for 31 years (my lifetime so far) of completely awesome music. Picking favorites is a difficult task because there is such an amazing list of tracks to pick from. This list is a random picking of what has resonated with me a lot today, but tomorrow’s list could be dramatically different.

Oh My Heart
I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I’m always so emotional after hearing this song. It strikes me with a kind of beauty that makes me want to put it on repeat and listen for hours. This is a pretty cool video with the lyrics too.


This is one of those songs where I can turn up the volume and just get loud and mad to let all of my aggression out. New Adventures in Hi-Fi is one of my favorite R.E.M. albums. The album art alone kills me.

Strange Currencies

I was never a huge fan of Monster (there are some great songs), but this track in particular has always been special to me. It is fun.

Pale Blue Eyes

I have always loved this song. R.E.M. introduced me to the wonderfulness of The Velvet Underground through it. Peter Buck’s liner notes claim they butchered it, but it always sounds just right to me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Songs that have been giving me vinyl fever… (The Smiths, The Cure, & The Vapors)

A few weeks ago (the day the car frenzy began), I went to a small, local record shop. When I was in high school, I lived for digging through crates of vinyl and had a pretty interesting collection. Somewhere around college, I gave most of it away. I didn’t think that I wouldn’t ever be interested in it again. Grrrr, me. Seeing the price of some of those albums now about kills me.

My trip has completely rekindled my passion. It has quickly turned into a feverish crazy, which has also caused me to become obsessed with eBay. I am particularly obsessed with finding Smiths albums, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll have better luck convincing Marr and Moz to get back together and record some new songs.

The Smiths – A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours

My first Smiths album was Strangeaways, Here We Come. I bought a cassette copy of it from the previously mentioned record store. It was only fitting that my first Smiths vinyl would be the same. I could come up with some pretentious, long-winded reason why I love this song so much, but really it’s all about the growl. My love is simple like that.

On my first website, I wrote an ode to Morrissey and The Smiths with particular emphasis on this song. It actually got me my first weirdo, internet stalker email proposal.

The Cure – Let’s Go To Bed

It would be redundant to express my emotions for The Cure again. This song has some significantly bad memories attached to it (think 14, Freshman year of high school, an immature boy, and a super emotional girl that worships The Cure), but I still think it’s completely hardcore awesome. Robert Smith… also still completely swoon worthy.

The Vapors – Spring Collection

So, we all have things in our life, small indiscretions that we’re not so proud of… mine was, *ahem* borrowing a few records from my brother’s DJ collection. We have polar opposite music tastes, so I’m not sure how he ended up with The Vapors ( a great, underappreciated new Wave band), but I’m glad that it ended up with me.

I would play this album constantly. I was obsessed with their accents and the idea of that cool British world where they lived. I particularly loved this song because he talks about blue hair and in my pinnacle of coolness, I had just dyed my hair blue. Probably not the most positive song to associate with myself, but whatever.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Songs that are on my permanent record... (Violent Femmes, The Smiths, R.E.M)

The last few weeks have been a little insane with the holidays, a miserable stomach bug, and some car trouble. After the car issues, I decided to buy a new car (an earth friendly Prius to fill out my hippie persona) and I ended up with a free trial of Sirius satellite radio. I never thought that I would want to pay for radio, but the 90-day free trial has definitely woo’d me harder that I would like to admit. My favorite channels are Lithium and 1st Wave. I’m not sure that I could make better playlists. Today’s selections are based on the time spent listening to 1st Wave.

Violent Femmes – Kiss Off

It is impossible for me to listen to this song and not dance and sing to all of the awesome parts, which basically constitute the entire song. I don’t know if it’s because it’s something that I grew up loving or if it’s just really that awesome of a song, but I love the humor and drama. Good times, good times.

The Smiths – Panic

Speaking of drama, Panic makes me want to dance and sing with complete conviction about the demise of radio today. I realize that the song was written more than 20 years ago, but in general, the quality of popular music has continued to decline. There are certain little pockets of alternative awesomeness, but mostly it is dismal. Mozzer falls in the category of awesomeness.

R.E.M. – Driver 8

Early R.E.M. (especially the Velvet Underground covers) blows my mind. I love all R.E.M., but the early stuff is especially gritty and fun to rock out to. It feels young and experimental. No one else sounds like R.E.M. They are so distinct and interesting.