Vinyl is Refreshing

Beyond its cyclical appeal as a retro collectible, vinyl is a compelling buy. In its anachronistic failure to permit random listening, vinyl provides a different listening experience. Vinyl rocks and herein we explain why.

There are three compelling reasons to collect vinyl: it’s cheap, it sounds great, and it changes the way you listen to music. It requires time and dedication to find the stores with vinyl, but once you’ve found the two or three shops worth frequenting, it’s like a vodka tonic on the porch. Vinyl becomes obsessive and your collection will grow quickly.

A great book or a great album coheres. It may not cohere in a simple or obvious way, and it may only be clear in retrospect. Listening to vinyl underscores the difference between a sterling, cohesive LP and quickly produced songs. It is more apparent on vinyl because you listen to a side and usually to the whole album straight through. The experience is richer. But it is different in a crucial way from listening to songs on random play or on the radio. The artist or somebody at the label chose the songs you listen to and they chose the order in which you hear them. There is stuff to be learned from that order and from what comes out of it. There is control to be ceded to the artist in this kind of listening. It is the same control ceded to a band playing live. They’ll play whatever they want and you get to drink your tallboys and cherish it all.

Over time your collection starts to show your leanings and you find yourself building up pockets of depth: maybe you track down eight Emmylou Harris albums from the 70s and 80s or you succeed in collecting all of the Nirvana releases, 7″ releases included, or maybe you get up and put together an ABBA effort. Now you are able to compare the LPs and see how the artist changed over the years. The success of multi-cd compilations has made it easy for us to gain this appreciation from somebody else’s curatorial perspective. But there is something fantastic and mesmerizing about finding the obscure late 60s/early 70s Stones releases that sound ridiculously fresh and daring now. Listening to an LP like the Stones 1965 release December’s Children, or the 1979 Clash double LP London Calling, or the 1981 Human League release Dare captures artists at a certain time and place. There is an immediacy to vinyl tied up to a degree in its technological naivete. Playing a record and being told a story share something. And it is refreshing to learn history from the concerns, focus, and sound of a band recorded many years ago.

Some Refreshing Vinyl
# Stones, up to 1980
# James Brown
# Van Morrison, pre-Born Again
# Luscious Jackson, early releases
# Etta James
# Emmylou Harris, 70s and 80s
# Clash
# Nina Simone
# Nirvana
# JJ Cale
# Psychedelic Furs