When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was listening to music. Seriously, whenever a friend would call and ask what I was up to, more often that not I would say, “Listening to music.” and the response would invariable be, “Awesome, what are you listening to?” and the conversation would go from there.
It seems as though listening to music as a ‘thing’ has lost its way. I’m noticing more and more these days that music has been relegated to background noise while cooking or cleaning or working. For sure I have been guilty of this very behavior, though I’ve decided to make a change and go back to what I loved doing when I was younger. I remember looking forward to payday so I could go to straight to the record store and pick up a stack of new music, then head over to my friend’s house to smoke mountains of weed and do nothing but listen to records.
These days I have access to millions of songs practically at at all times, but I’ve found that I can’t listen at work because I really enjoy active listening and it bugs me when I can’t pay attention to songs I really love.
I still have every record I’ve ever acquired over the last 41 years; my collecting began when I was five years old, and yes, I still have those first couple singles I got for Christmas that year. Over the last couple of months I’ve purchased four new releases on vinyl (Hot Chip, Best Coast, Built To Spill, and Jack White), each one has received at least one dedicated listening session - just sitting in my living room with my mutts, doing nothing but taking in the music - and each time it was such a rewarding experience.
No, I’m not going to sit here and say that vinyl is better than any other format because I won’t argue subjectivity and preference, but I will say that I truly enjoy vinyl as a total experience: slitting the plastic for the first time, checking out what goodies are hidden within, sliding out the record and inspecting the label, dropping the needle. It’s about holding something physical, reading the liner notes, looking at the photos, all while taking in the sounds.
The artists we all love have put so much time and energy into these releases and I believe they, as a whole package, deserve far more attention than simply streaming an MP3 over a smartphone. Vinyl records are making a pretty big comeback, and I hope it’s not just a hipster movement, but a societal movement back to slowing down and enjoying the entire experience of music.