I was eighteen when I got my first record and player for Christmas. The album was ten years old – The Strokes’, Is This It. I hadn’t listened to them much before, but something about watching the record spin as the grainy guitar riffs melted through my speakers got me hooked; on both the band, and vinyl. Don’t get me wrong, there is no way in hell I’ll ever give up my Spotify account or get rid of all the music I’ve downloaded since I was a teenager, but ever since I sat for hours listening to my first record, it’s the only way I listen to music when I’m at home. Aside from the fact that when it comes to music I am a self-righteous wanker, here’s why you should be listening to records.
Since listening to vinyl, my taste in music has grown. Most of the records I own are older, like The Jam, Nirvana, The Who, and Stiff Little Fingers. The kind of stuff you find by spending hours browsing through second-hand record stores. That’s not to say I don’t listen to anything new; I bought a few recent albums – Best Coast, Circa Waves, even the latest Twin Atlantic release. People who listen to vinyl tend to be quite picky about their taste in music, and prefer artists who write their own songs and play their own instruments, so it’s a lot easier to walk into a record shop and find ACDC than it is to find something by One Direction. The majority of vinyl charts is still made up of The Stone Roses, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Smiths – Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York” seems to be a permanent fixture there; a lot of whom have reprinted their records since vinyl resurged. However, since this happened, combined with hipsters who like “edgy”, “I’m-off-my-face-on-MDMA” dance music, you can walk into HMV and find the latest piece of synthesised crap someone I don’t care about made.
Physically going into record shops and buying records is a huge part of the whole experience. It’s relaxing, spending hours flipping through faded albums, admiring the artwork, the sleeve notes, even just the weight and musty smell of albums that are a lot older than I am. That’s not to say I won’t find something I really want and just buy it off Amazon – I’m as guilty of this as the next person (and if you’re sitting there saying ‘I don’t do this’, you are a liar), but there’s still something great about browsing, finding albums you’d never have thought to buy. In Glasgow, you really have no excuse for not going out and buying records – the city is a treasure trove of second-hand record shops. My personal favourite is Love Music on Dundas St (right next to Queen St station), but there are a few dotted around the West End. Oxfam Music sometimes has some good finds in it, and as a charity shop it’s pretty cheap and for a good cause.
Whether you think it sounds better or worse, the sound created by a record is completely different to digital audio. When tracks are produced for streaming online, the file is compressed, which means it loses a lot of the original quality that makes songs so great. Tracks produced for streaming are often altered to make them louder than they should be, which is extremely detrimental to the quality. The only problem vinyl has in terms of sound quality is that the record makes little crackles and pops where something has interfered with the needle; personally, I love them, and think it makes the music sound more authentic. Scratches on records are the only thing I really hate, but that can be easily avoided if you’re careful with them (trying to play records while drunk is a really bad idea).
Economically, buying records benefits both you and the industry. Support bands selling records at gigs provides them with a higher income than putting their music online does. That’s not to say that the internet isn’t incredibly beneficial for underground bands looking to get their big break, but physically buying records supports the vendors, the artists, and the labels in a way that downloads just don’t. As for your benefit, records are an investment; the majority will only increase in value after you’ve bought it, and sometimes you can find older, valuable records for a fraction of what they’re really worth.
Just get yourself a record player. Even Urban Outfitters do decent, fairly cheap turntables, some with USB ports which can transfer the music onto your laptop. Combined with a good pair of speakers, it transforms the way you listen to music. It bonds people, swapping records, sharing your favourite bands, hearing really amazing music for the first time that you’d never have thought to listen to before. Plus, getting up every fifteen minutes to change the record really breaks up long hours studying.