Whenever I’m having a particularly horrible day, I come home from school and immediately retreat to my bedroom, lay on my floor, stare at the ceiling and lose myself in the sweet crackling sound of a vinyl record. It’s like ear therapy.
My obsession with records started after I watched (500) Days of Summer. In the movie, Zooey Deschanel and her co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt visit a record store. I love her, so it struck me as the coolest thing ever. I’d never been to a record store before and I felt like I needed to go there right then to discover what made records better than listening to music on your iPod.
A few months later, two weeks before Hanukkah, I had no idea what I wanted gift-wise. After hours of poring over every pair of jeans, sweater and shoe known to man (actually woman), I stumbled upon something interesting in the middle of the Urban Outfitters December catalog. As soon as I saw it, I knew that this was what I had spent so long browsing and clicking for. From its sleek jet-black buttons to cute mint green exterior, it was perfect. This was unlike any holiday present I had received before: a turntable to play the records that had captured my interest that summer.
You might be thinking, “You bought a what? From where?!” I would just like to say that I am fully aware that Urban is no place to purchase a turntable, but I was in eighth grade and didn’t know any better.
The first vinyl I listened to came with my turntable. It was Arcade Fire’s Funeral, one of my favorite bands and an album I had already in my iTunes. I swear I must have listened to that thing 20 times by the end of the week. It got so bad that my mom would scream at me from the kitchen to turn it down because she was “sick of hearing the same songs play over and over again.”
Listening to that album put my iPod to shame. The clearness of the instruments, the just so audible crackling in the background of each song, the sound quality. The crackling is my favorite part of vinyl. It resembles the comforting cooing a fireplace makes, except more muted. The grooves (the lines the needle traces while the record is playing) on the Arcade Fire album are especially deep, which gives it a fuller sound.
I went on a vinyl-buying rampage the first few weeks after receiving my turntable. I stalked all the flea markets and record stores near my house, flipping through every record. I knew to go to the flea markets from my pre-vinyl-loving days, except then I was more interested in the floral dresses than the records. I went up to this old man with a ZZ Top cover band-worthy beard and looked at his vinyls for sale, which lacked any apparent order. I was looking for any band or songs that I recognized. I only knew an album by Elvis, but purchased four other random records too that proved to be hits and misses.
Not only is the sound better, but each record has its own special character. One could have amazing album artwork, like Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion album, which if you stare at long enough appears to be moving. With vinyl, you buy the entire album and listen all the way through. I’ve discovered amazing musical gems between more famous tracks, such as “O.N.E.” by Yeasayer.
I never know what I’ll find
I buy most of my vinyl from Freakbeat Records, a record shop that’s only a 15-minute bike ride from my house. Thanks to their convenient 99 cents section I’ve purchased several dozen albums, like the Star Trek soundtrack and The Puppies, a 90s child rap group. Spare me the judgment: it’s a fun album.
I can commonly be found sitting on the floor of the 99 cents section alone or with a few of my friends, searching for new additions to my ever-growing collection. I’m on a quest for Elvis’s Greatest Hits album, which I have yet to stumble upon outside the Internet. It’s gotten to the point where the owner of the store knows me and my hunt. Each visit I receive both a hello and news regarding my Elvis search.
Although vinyl sound quality is best, it is possible to accidentally purchase a bad record. I think the worst record I ever suffered through was one that was recommended by a fellow vinyl addict at a flea market. I was doing my usual browsing when he approached me, insisting that I purchase this odd-looking album with what appeared to be a robot on the cover. I was hesitant, but felt uncomfortable resisting and since it was only 89 cents, I bought it. After returning home and listening to it, I was distressed to discover it was a collection of horrifying “robot” noises. I couldn’t believe there were no words on the songs, just grunting and beeping. I sold it to Freakbeat. Perhaps someone with erm … different taste than mine now appreciates it more than I had.
I have two milk carton cases full of records from Peter Frampton to Wu-Tang. I guess you could say that I’m obsessed, but I look at it as a hobby—something I love doing. Before I stumbled upon that record player, I couldn’t have said the same about anything else.