Day Tripper: For the Love of Vinyl

Day Tripper

“Day Tripper” is a new column of reflections on music and their connection to important times, places, dates and memories by A.T. Bossenger.  Each entry will use a relevant date on the calendar as a reference point for these discussions. Mark your calendars and queue up your soundtracks.

Date: February 14, 2014     Occasion: Valentine’s Day/ #treblerecorddaze

If my relationship with vinyl was put to film, it would stray pretty far from the typical Rom-Com setup. There was no love at first sight; no romantic high school memories; no boomboxes being thrust outside bedroom windows; and absolutely no cheesy-but-epic ‘race for your love’ climaxes.

That’s not to say I didn’t meet vinyl early in my life. My parents had a decent turntable and a good-sized library, but my introduction to the medium came via lectures from my father on how I didn’t listen to or appreciate ‘real’ music, often accompanied by a forced listen to one of his Boston records. So, besides the occasional spin of John Williams’ Star Wars soundtrack, I stuck to my handful of CDs and an army of MP3s — and that got me through eighteen years of music obsession.

Flash forward to my mid-twenties and my vinyl collection and I are inseparable. Ever since I took my first real visit to a record store (before ever owning a turntable) and bought a copy of Big Black’s Lungs, there’s been something about holding, playing, and listening to vinyl that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And, with this month’s #treblerecorddaze festivities at full blaze, I’ve been spending even more time reflecting and contemplating exactly where this personal preference and admiration comes from. Besides, I couldn’t imagine a better topic for Valentine’s Day than a music format I hold so close to my heart. Without further adieu, please join me as I dissect my love for vinyl into four easily-digestible categories.

1. Vinyl as a Mental Music Sieve

Like many music lovers from my generation, I have spent the majority of my life on a ruthless hunt for MP3s of all persuasions. Over time, I’ve even accumulated tracks I despise, keeping them around as a potential reference point (e.g. “Oh, you’ve never heard ‘Friday?’ Check this bullshit…”) At some points in time my digital library has gotten so out of hand that I’ve deleted large chunks of it to start over, only to reaccumulate a lot of the same junk over time.

My vinyl library is more of a sanctuary. Sure, there are the occasional gifted records that I like, but don’t love. But all in all, I have a pretty heavy filter as far as what albums I own. While a download happens in an instant, my record store visits often consist of long, heavy meditations over which records deserve the most to come home to my record shelves. It’s much more refreshing to browse my physical stash, since each record feels intimate in some way.

2. The Geek Factor

I’ve always worn my love for music on my sleeve; in my younger days I was draped from head-to-toe in buttons and patches depicting the names of my favorite acts. But these days — save for some tattoos and the occasional band tee — I don’t get to let my geek flag fly as often. In many ways my record collection is a way to show off the music I really love. Besides, between the epic-sized artwork, the album exclusive goodies — inserts, colored pressings, etc. — and that nice, warm sound (more on that in a second), vinyl packages are the most visceral way for a music nerd to digest an album.

3. That Fuzzy Feeling

Maybe I’m alone here, but when I put on a favorite record and lay down on my couch with my eyes closed, I feel like I’m floating in sunlight. The minor distortion that creates the ‘warm’ texture in the sound of vinyl recordings is a popular attractor for fans of the medium, and for good reason. Spin a record on quality equipment and I guarantee you’ll drift to a peaceful headspace that digital experiences can’t quite emulate.

4. The Record Ritual

More on that visceral experience mentioned above: Thumbing through your collection; Picking the best fit for your mood; delicately cleaning the record off; gently placing the vinyl on the slipmat; sending that gorgeous disc spinning and letting the needle drop. The ritual of playing records requires just enough attention and precision to put the listener in a focused mood before an album plays.

Indeed, there’s a definite sense of gravitas that accompanies listening to vinyl in our day and age that makes this ritual more of an enhancement to my listening experience than a cumbersome task. Not to mention the habitual tasks of organizing (and reorganizing and re-reorganizing) your records and taking care of them over time. For me, these extra little steps further my love and appreciation for the medium, and greater contribute to my overall listening enjoyment.

Fellow Romantics: Do you relate to any of these?  What reasons do you enjoy vinyl over other methods of music listening? Or do you prefer another medium? Let me know in the comments section, and we’ll have a little chat.

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