There’s a lot to hate about hipsters — I get it. The coffee is never good enough, the beer selection is lacking, we’re poor but always wearing expensive clothing.
Also, we love vinyl records.
Get out of here with your Spotify, Apple Music, MP3s and compact discs. That’s all dirty, digital dope. We want the pure stuff.
Side Note: Yes, I used “we” in the above sentences. Results are in — I’m a hipster. I know it, I can’t help it, it’s what it is. I’m 29 now. The theory is once I turn 30 I’ll graduate to adulthood and can forget about all these silly labels.
Anyway, today is Record Store Day (RSD). Find your favorite local record shop and go buy a few things. They’ll probably have free coffee. You’ll love it. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with RSD. I always go. But to engage an overused cliche, RSD was great before it went “mainstream.” Typical hipster drama. Let’s just say the romance left once 14 year-old girls started stealing records out of my hands (long story for another time).
This year, however, was fun. The lines weren’t too long, everyone was friendly. And best of all, I got mostly what I set out for. As my friend Jake says, “The wax gods were in my favor.”
Here’s the loot:
- The Vandals — Sweatin to the Oldies (Live)
- The Get Up Kids — Red Letter Day Ep
- Robert Johnson — 10 inch repress (1936)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Picture Disc 10 inch
- Violent Femmes — Memory/You Move Me (single)
- Death Cab for Cutie — Tractor Rape Chain/Black Sun (live)
Back to the Quick Defense
I admit it: there’s a lot of showyness about vinyl collecting. It’s great to showcase your collection with a fancy shelf and brag on social media. For me, however, being a vinyl lover (there’s got to be a better name for it?) is about more than just pretension and affectation.
Vinyl records are a treasure hunt. You find the one you want, say an old record you used to love, and it’s like striking gold. In some cases, the prices are so high, you might as well just buy gold, but I digress. Record hunting is also a great way to discover old (but new-to-you) music. I’ve gambled on many dusty, used LPs at yard sales that have later become personal favorites.
Vinyl records are a deeper listen. People have been saying (for the past 10 years) that the LP is dead. Maybe that’s almost true, but I still prefer taking in the whole album. A good record will carry more than just singles: there’s atmosphere, cohesiveness, ebbs and flows. Sure, you can skip around from song to song if you’d like, but I don’t. Give me the deeper cuts.
Vinyl records are an investment in music. What do I mean exactly? Put it this way, when you buy a record you are making a commitment: “I want you in my life and I promise to take care of you.” You can delete the Spotify app anytime without much consequence, throwing away a physical vinyl record, however, takes much consideration and deliberation.
Vinyl records are a shared experience. Swapping records with friends is an incredible way to both share and discover new music (it’s also a good way to get rid of records, i.e., see above). Music swapping like this can only be done with physical products — sharing a Spotify link doesn’t count here. Call me a Luddite, but there’s just something more meaningful, I think, about handing over a tangible good.
Vinyl records are a family heirloom. My grandfather gave me (or let me borrow?) a batch of his old records: Sam Cooke, Elvis, Fats Domino, etc. Etched into every record with a pen is the word “Carr.” Some of these records are 40 years old. He’s given me gifts my whole life, but those records are the most precious to me. One day I’ll pass them on, maybe.
I could argue the sound quality is better, but that’s when I start losing people.
Anyway, there you go. Records are about more than just being a hipster. In fact, today — at Coeur d’Alene’s record shop, The Long Ear — I was pleased to see a different type of crowd than the usual RSD milieu. Young and old, dads with kids, punks, everyone participated.
So go find your local shop, or maybe a yard sale (hell, even Amazon Prime) and purchase something tangible that you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste. Take it out of the sleeve, blow the dust off and carefully set it onto your player.
Press play and remember that music is always worth the effort.