Why I love listening to music on vinyl
I love live music! Whether it’s seeing a local artist in my local bar, a touring act at a soft seat theatre, a multi-day music festival or an international artist appearing at a large stadium, I simply can’t get enough. I try to see as many shows as I can, either with family or friends and, in a few instances, even by myself. I often return with the artist’s latest album, sometimes autographed and almost always on vinyl.
I love vinyl records! I’ve spent countless hours scouring record shops from coast to coast in search of yet another must-have album from a seemingly ever-expanding want list. I didn’t have a large music collection when I came of age in the early ’80s, but I’ve certainly been making up for that over the last 15 to 20 years.
While I’m a proponent of vinyl, perhaps surprisingly, my appreciation has very little to do with the quality of the audio and nothing to do with the resurgence in popularity of vinyl records. I love listening to vinyl records because it’s inherently inconvenient.
Let me explain.
At the end of a particularly stressful day, I find myself standing in front of my record collection, focusing on how I’d like to feel. Who’s hauntingly striking melodies or cleverly-crafted lyrics will transport me where I feel I need to go? I flip through the stacks of vinyl in search of the perfect record to fit my desired mood. Sometimes I get distracted when a particular album takes me down memory lane. Nothing wrong with that. Finally, I make a selection.
A vinyl LP is large. It takes up space, not just on my shelf, but in my life. It exists. Its large format affords the artist space to further express their vision through exquisite cover art and informative and sometimes humorous liner notes. It has weight. It weighs in my hands but also in my heart. It has a story. It reminds me why I bought it, where I bought it and sometimes who I was with when I bought it. It’s become our story. I can even smell the vinyl and sometimes a hint of the old record shop where I discovered the gem while leafing through stacks overflowing with previously-enjoyed records.
I walk over to the stereo and turn on the receiver. I carefully remove the record from its sleeve and place it on the deck of the turntable. The stylus falls gently onto side one, and song one begins to play. I sit on the floor in front of the stereo, album cover in hand, eyes focused on the liner notes, and I listen. I listen with intent, and I take my time.
I carefully chose this record. I made a commitment to listen to it. It will take time. The music will stop halfway through the record, and I will have to actually turn it over! It’s inconvenient. There are no continuous play or shuffle options on a turntable. Compare that with selecting music by simply placing a fingertip on an icon while grocery shopping or waiting for the bus, resulting in a list of songs selected by a computer algorithm based on a generic and single-word description. Is this how you envisioned consuming art?
The act of listening to an album on vinyl forces me to slow down and actually listen to the melodies and lyrics and to learn more about the artist, their music and who made it all possible. Try that next time you place your finger on that icon.
Music is art. It deserves to be enjoyed. Why not take the time?