Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Trick to be humble enough to acknowledge your weaknesses, yet proud enough to improve on them.

Marcus Singer

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tonight's the Night for Vinyl

Holla Holla Blogga Blogga Reada Reada!
Good good to see ya!

Sorry, I'm listening to Kanye West. He makes you wanna hippity-hop.

So the other night I was drinking a fine glass of Scotch and listening to my recently purchased vinyl copy of Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night". It is an incredible record and unlike any album I've ever heard. The vocals are ragged, drunken, and often despairing. The playing is a-few-drinks-too-many loose/perfect. But as a whole, the album is unflinchingly honest, emotionally raw, and listening to it from front to back gives one the sense that they are right there in some middle-of-nowhere smoky dive bar taking in one of the greatest bar band performances of all time. I had heard a few of the tracks on a compilation called "Decade" but until I heard the songs in the context of the album, I didn't find them all that remarkable. Which brings me to my point. An album as heard on an actual piece of vinyl is a different and in many ways superior experience to hearing it on an Ipod or anywhere else.

So after a few Scotches and a full album's worth of inspiration from Neil Young, I wrote the following by hand in my trusty notebook. With a few exceptions and corrections and grammatical improvements, here is that text...

There are now those who only get their music from digital streams, on a computer, on an Ipod, or over a satellite radio service. These inventions allow you to hear exactly what you want anywhere anytime anyplace, and offer a mind-boggling numbers of choices at the click of a button. As someone who owns a discman I certainly appreciate the near-magical ability of music to completely transform your surroundings into a more hospitable and less alienating environment. However, there are certain drawbacks to the Ipod/portable/random shuffle/$.99 a song experience of music. I would argue that the plethora of choices and instant availability of nearly any song off any album from any artist you choose in some ways cheapens or devalues the experience of music. The Ipod/Itunes shuffling on random way is too easy. It doesn't require you to choose, engage, or even listen to the music coming through. It can all be simply absorbed like just another gazillion jingles or slogans.

On the other hand, the act of carefully pulling a large 12" diameter piece of delicate black vinyl from a nice perfectly square sleeve covered in artistry, (sometimes quite beautiful, othertimes really bad, truth be told) and placing it on a table to be spun at just the right speed, then resting the needle on the already spinning tray gives the magic/music therein a "buried treasure" or "priceless antique" type of feel. The discs require the occasional soft cloth cleaning. The turntable can not be bumped even slightly while the disc is spinning or it will skip quite nastily. Any bit of dust on the needle will result in a skin-spelunking buzz on each and every note.

I realize the last few aspects of vinyl listening could unapologetically be considered botherances and actually rather irritating. Even still, the whole delicate nature of the process serves another purpose. You feel privileged to hear the music. The effort involved makes you appreciate fully what you're hearing. The melodies take on a richer resonance and the flipping of the disc half-way through reminds you to actually LISTEN to the tunes, and not just let them drift idly through your conscienceness. And if you happen to care about such things, the sound of vinyl is in fact, somewhat "warmer" than the sound of a digital stream or a CD. (For a good introduction to the great Vinyl vs CD debate, go here.

Not only that, but like a fine wine, well cared-for vinyl sounds better with age.
So in conclusion, I won't say that vinyl is hands down the better format, but that the experience of listening to an LP on vinyl is richer and more rewarding.

For those without a record player, you should try it. For those who know already, Cheers!

Marcus Singer