In 2008 I decided that I would buy a record that I loved, and it was Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A#∞, an experimental album of post-rock and field recordings. Why did I chose that album? Well, it was at the time my favourite album, and still ranks highly up there as one of my favourite albums to play, but also it came with a comprehensive package – not just the actual record it’s self, but a range of post cards, notes, different photographs, and other bits and pieces that added to the whole concept behind the album. It was the first time I admitted to myself that music and the actual object that I owned was an important distinction. I am old enough to have grown up actually buying music – I spent weekly £10 on albums in Fopp during my late teens, and have an extensive (but poorly maintained) CD collection at my parents that at some point I will obtain, catalogue, and purge.
Buying vinyl seems like a polarising thing to do now a days. It’s seen as the source of much derision – many people marking it as the final moment where the music industry becomes self parody. The advent of streaming sites and MP3s killed the CD but in my eyes has reignited the vinyl and the sales figures suggest that exact thing. There are many multitudes of reason for hating this, and even more for thinking it is great. But my own personal reasons might be different to what many other people think or have said, and they might actually seem more pretentious than some – for I only very recently received a turntable on which to play my vinyl records on this past weekend.
You will immediately ask me why I was buying vinyl when I don’t own a player on which to spin them. It’s a very valid question – I mean, why the hell would someone buy MP3s if they didn’t have a MP3 player! It sounds mental, and I appreciate that. So here goes my attempt to explain it – I like owning something.
See, most of the music I listen to is on my Google Play Music account, or via Spotify, or via music I have downloaded and then synced to my phone. These methods of consumption have eroded what it means to own an album. Back in 2000 before Napster was something I really understood or had internet capable of downloading music my CDs were what I owned, and they were physical. I loved leafing through the inlay as I played it for the first time on my Walkman on the bus home (Christ, how nostalgic does that sound?). But now all my music is not consumed that way – so buying a CD is wasted, because I don’t use it beyond ripping it on to the computer.
It then makes more sense, to me, to have the vinyl. If it comes with a download code I’ll download the electronic stuff and then I have the large format artwork and the actual object of the record. It feels like I own something else, and it adds more to the experience.
I have no opinion on whether or not the vinyl sound is better – that is all down to the equipment used – but the romanticism of turning my phone off, closing the PC, and listening to music via the record player as an event rather than just something that is on in the background is a nice idea.
So yeah, this might not make sense to a lot of you reading this, but it’s my personal take on it. And I love getting the massive 12’’ packaging through. I bought the most recent Boards of Canada album on double LP and can’t wait to listen to it.