Yesterday I purchased my third and fourth vinyl records. (The new Spoon album, Transference, which is sounding very good after my first few listens, and an EP by Battles with that song I posted the other day. I already owned an EP by Lymbyc Systym and an album by Crooked Fingers; I also have some used records from a friend of my dad's.)
It's a little surprising, including to me, that I'm buying new vinyl in 2010. Records are sort of hip these days, but I'd hate for you to think that I'm just being trendy, so allow me to lay out the pros and cons.
Vinyl disadvantages (versus CDs):
- A bit more expensive.
- Harder to use. CDs require a bit less fussing to take out, play, and put away. More importantly, I have a 5 CD changer that will serve up several albums in a row (while I'm cooking, or when people are over for dinner), but the records have to be put on individually and flipped halfway through.
- Less portable.
+ Greater attention to the music. When you have to pick up a record and put it on the turntable, as well as turn it over halfway through, the music is less likely to be background noise, and you're more likely to pay attention. It also pushes you to listen to an album as a whole work, rather than skipping past some tracks.
+ Physical connection. There's something about seeing the record spin, and putting the needle down and watching it travel the grooves that makes the music more tangible. You can even stick your ear next to the turntable to hear the tinny sound of the unamplified vibrations of the needle.
+ Richer, warmer sound. There's certainly a placebo effect here to some extent, but the sound does seem a bit richer than on CD.
+ Cover art. Have to admit I'm a sucker for the large-format cover art. (The cover of the new Spoon album, which uses a William Eggleston photo, looks really good on my new LP.*)
+ Better local selection. This is unexpected, but given the new popularity of vinyl and the waning relevance of CDs, my local record store actually has a better selection of records than CDs.
+ MP3s, maybe. A lot of new releases include a code to download a free digital copy of the album, which goes a long way toward making it more practical -- listen to the LP in the living room, and the mp3s everywhere else.
+ Hip. It's official...the liner notes for my new Spoon LP proclaim "Buying records at record stores is cool."
So while my reasons for liking vinyl records may not necessarily be practical, turning back the clock to 1960 music technology is not as weird as it might first appear. I'm not switching to buying vinyl exclusively, but I will probably be splitting my purchases between CDs and LPs.
Incidentally, I see that Crooked Beat, my record store, was featured this past spring in a local news piece about the resurgence of records...in which they interview people who say many of the same things I just said:
*Googling for a link to the Spoon cover image, I noticed that the second hit is a post on some fashion blog that provides shopping links if you want to recreate the look of the room in the cover photo. Oy.