Vinyl. It can be a fun flick through dusty cardboard spines, a blast from the past, a preferred way to obtain a recording, or simply just a sit-down escape from reality for an hour or so. Many say that a circle of black wax still sounds way better than CDs or any MP3 you could download to your phone. Does it actually sound that different, or are we all just enticed by the romantic ideal of it?
In York specifically, vinyl is thriving and some dedicated places to buy it are The Inkwell, Earworm Records & the Heart of Wax and Banana Moon stalls on the Shambles Market. Harry Clowes - from band The Black Lagoons, who specialise in everything from heavy psychedelic sludge to spooked garage stuff - says that The Inkwell is particularly good because they often put on live bands - including his.
The owner of Inkwell Records, Paul Lowman, thinks "money should be invested in new music on vinyl, not reissues of old releases. That’s the way forward."
For many, the story that vinyl tells plays a large part in their love for it, whether it transports them back to their formative years or just feels, looks and smells right. Albums are quite significant in this category: the body of eight to twelve songs tells a story that many will be able to relate to in one way or another: a personal time machine. The whole experience of what the songwriter intended you to hear on the album creates an escape for the listener, a journey that just doesn’t quite unfold the same way on vinyl’s digital cousins, the CD or the sound file.
Nigel Rogers, a DJ who specialises in making music with vinyl, feels that vinyl is "a way to reminisce on a memory you made yesterday, or ten years ago. It’s a tangible format which can bear the battle scars of moves and parties which therefore provides a document of its use and ownership." Even scratches in the record you are playing could bring back memories of good times, or maybe bad times from which you have since moved on.
"Vinyl is a way to reminisce on a memory you made yesterday, or ten years ago." - Nigel Rogers
Is this why we love vinyl? Is it because it acts as a metaphorical box you can hide your memories in and play over and over, yet remains something you have to make time for, sit down and pay attention to rather than hit shuffle or play all and digest almost subconsciously? In a world full of technology and downloads, vinyl has made a huge and popular - and a few years back, some would have said surprising - return. Recently the ‘new thing’ is to have a record player in your house - perhaps a stylish, cheap-as-chips Crossley Cruiser plugged into a good set of speakers, sitting proudly next to your Blu-Ray player.
After years of sleek CD players and shelves of shiny plastic jewel cases, now it’s more common to see a hefty chunk of slim cardboard sleeves containing black or coloured wax discs in your average home. Even niche genres like film soundtracks have started releasing exclusive versions on special edition vinyl, with striking artwork to lure collectors into obtaining releases on vinyl when they’d usually buy a CD: in the shadow of that larger format, CDs seem somehow clunkier and a bit less special, perhaps.
Whatever your opinion is on vinyl, take a trip down to your nearest record store and decide for yourself whether it really does have a different sound and if you prefer it to the standard CD: for personal, aesthetic or kitsch reasons. But most of all, enjoy the resurgence of this wonderful format.