Monday, August 9, 2010

Pop! Pop! Pop! and, crackle, pop some more!

No, not Rice Krispies.  (I prefer Special K & Cheerios, anyway.)

It's the sweet sound of vinyl.  Especially if you're like me, and you have a handed-down record player with a needle that was cheap to begin with and not very well maintained.  Not that I know really what to do to keep a record needle in good condition.

Sometimes, to be honest with you, that's just the way some records are meant to be played.  Or, rather that, meant to be heard.

MP3s are terrific because they are so very convenient.  And that's about it.  The digital method is no way to hear an album.  Sometimes I make mix discs which include 1990s Tori Amos & Smashing Pumpkins tracks that I uploaded from long held cds, with their beat up cases and torn inner liners - not trashed because they have not been loved, but trashed because they've been loved too much, and listened to and poured over.

But suffice to say, I mix those up with digitally purchased Stars and Mates of States tracks, and the difference in the compression absolutely blows my mind.  It's really, really hard to listen to, and it makes me sad.  With the computer at the DJ, it really makes no difference.  But once you move away from the glowing screen, it's pretty pathetic.

As Paste tells us (and they freaking tweet enough to keep anyone occupied most days, including that day earlier this summer where they posted that list of the creepiest kids movies ever, and gave me existential nightmares all summer) the cassette tape is making a comeback.  This, kiddies, is a good thing.  Tapes, in my opinion, were far more durable than cds - you could surely melt them or unwind them, but you couldn't scratch them.  I have a cassette tape that I was "interviewed" on when I was about 2  years old and still talked nonsense, that my mother and I added onto every few years or so up until my brother and I messed with it circa 1997.  I played it in an old handed down boombox a few months ago and it sounded perfect.  We're lucky we have mp3s mostly because our scratch sensitive cds will probably not make it another 10 years.

But vinyl is still king.  The least convenient of all recorded medium, there must be a reason that vinyl has resurged in the way it has.  I mean, come on.  Who wants to change one side of a record while you clean your house?  If you are also like me, and obsess over one track repeatedly (once listened to SP's "1979" for about 3 hours on repeat when I was 14), it's frustrating to move the needle over and over again.  (Unless you're dealing with 45s.  I totally did that with a Keith John Adams song on a 45 - "Lydia", the single of which I got directly from the fine folks at Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records!)

However, records have survived, been preserved possibly more lovingly than any other physical medium, and are showing great signs of maybe saving the music industry?  At least for real music lovers.  Have you ever been to Record Store Day?  I have.  I was also waiting in line for a Kmart to open on Black Friday this year so my friend could get a cheap, candy apple red bicycle, and I will tell you, Record Store Day at my local shop was so so so so much more packed, from open until close.  We're talking not the usual wanderers in a store, thumbing around at 10pm, but a packed record store until the owner begged them to finally leave, like 2 hours past closing.  It was pretty unusual, to say the least.  I was in there for 10 minutes and easily dropped $100, hardly even thinking about it, and could have dropped at least $200 had I stuck around a good half hour.  (Not that I can afford to - and that fact maybe even emphasizes my point.)

I could tell you more about my own personal romance with record albums, about how I inherited the "put the needle back disease" from my mother, who used to sit in her basement and do so with "Elanor Rigby" until she got called up for dinner, or how I bought an Adam Ant record at a record collectors show once and nursed it back to health after it'd been warped, or how my favorite band is so wonderful because they really do it right for their vinyl buyers, or how I'm still longing after that clear vinyl Neko Case Middle Cyclone 2 LP set I missed out on during Record Store Day, but that's not what I set out to talk about.

It's no secret that Orlando-based artists Marc with a C is a close friend of mine.  And it's even less of a secret that he loves vinyl way more than I do.  I've never written a song cycle about it.

And it's not even a secret anymore that he's pressing his latest album, the concise and rather brilliant Pop! Pop! Pop! on vinyl, and starting to sell it, um, now?

What you really might not know is how absolutely incredible this album sounds on vinyl.  I've heard these songs live, on mp3, and on a test pressing, and I can tell you without hesitation that these songs are meant to be heard on a record.  Preferably on a record player in your bedroom.  It'll remind you of being a kid and being reminded (often very loudly) to turn that blasted music down.  And it makes those reminders a good memory.

Seriously, what you need to do first is download the tracks from Marc.  He'll give them to you, for free.  Not kidding!  In the great tradition of excellent musicians who give their music away for free (even in the olde age of "Money Good!  Napster Bad!"), you can download the album at - just click on "Record Store" and you'll be good.  You can download any of his other albums there, too.

BUT don't stop there.  Because if you do I will be forced to smack you.  You should listen to it digitally.  This only makes the comparison that much more amazing if you've already heard it in a pleasant, easily accessible, if not completely sub-par format. 

If you truly consider yourself a sophisticated music listener, you MUST order this album on vinyl.  It's not expensive.  And if you don't have a record player?  Listen to Marc's song "RetroLowFi" (which pretty much sums up his attitude on life) and he'll instruct you on that, too.

Alright.  I will promise you, if you have ever had any interest in lo-fi power pop, or just really like it when people reference Holly & the Italians, listening to the first side of the album will be a religious experience for you.

DO IT!  ORDER IT ON VINYL NOW!  You will not be disappointed, I promise I promise I promise! 

[Author's note: hey Ms. Magpie, you went awhile without posting stuff - what gave?  Well, dear readers, I was out of town for a week and a half or so, sampling delicious microbrew beers and helping an old friend with crafty items and such.  I also had an experience where I was lured into writing for something shiny that turned out to be not so great, and gave me some anti-motivation for writing anything down for awhile.  I'm back though, for the time being, inspired by lots and lots of musical rants that are echoing in my head.  Oh yeah!]

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