Saturday, 6 September 2014

Vinyl: Purchases!

Yesterday I bought some records! The experience of going into Sister Ray Records was equal parts exciting and terrifying, a voyage to a new world with no idea whether you will be welcome or even if you'll like it. It reminded me of when I started to collect comics - rows and rows of things to buy with little real knowledge of what you wanted and whether they'd have it, all of which were being flicked through by people who seemed to know exactly what was going on and what they wanted.
"I get by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here - mostly young men - who spend all their time looking for deleted Smith singles and original, not rereleased - underlined - Frank Zappa albums. Fetish properties are not unlike porn. I'd feel guilty taking their money, if I wasn't... well... kinda one of them."
I tried not to think about it too much, not to worry too much about my collection being perfect from word go, just to relax and see what they had. First thing to note of course is they don't have the infinite range of choice that we have grown used to thanks to the internet, and then there's first/second hand to consider, again much like collecting comics. Obviously I had thought quite a lot in advance about what records I might like. I thought 3 or maybe 4 would be good to start the collection off and in no time at all I had found 4 I wanted. I briefly questioned whether I needed them all, which obviously I didn't, but I wanted them so I bought them anyway.

The National - Boxer

I first bought Boxer (on CD) on a whim, I'd never heard of, or heard anything by, The National but I wanted some new music and the cover spoke to me. This might be your kind of thing, it said, give it a go. Turns out it was a thoroughly awesome album start to finish. I have listened to it more than any other album in my collection, according to iTunes I've heard the whole album over 250 times and one of the songs 400 times, of course I've also listened to it on other computers iPod and CD. So yeah it's an album I needed to own on vinyl. Alligator and High Violet have similarly high play counts and are both spectacular albums, the pre-Boxer albums are good but don't really measure up. I haven't listened that much to their latest album Trouble Will Find Me much yet but am enjoying it greatly so far.

Beck - Guero

Beck has for a long time been a favourite artist but picking an album to have in the collection was always going to be tough! The styles of the albums he's produced are so varied it's pretty hard to compare them. Mellow Gold certainly has palace in my heart as the first Beck album I owned and obviously includes Loser but if you're looking at early Beck it's hard not to go straight for Odelay as a classic with instantly recognisable cover art to boot. Midnight Vultures despite some excellent tunes probably comes across as too electronic to really fit listening on vinyl, somehow it would seem at odds. If inclined more towards a full album experience with something more melodic to wash over the listener Sea Changes or Morning Phase are both very good options and to most people probably sound least Beck-ish.

I've only seen Beck play live once and it was a truly amazing experience, the high point of which being whilst Beck himself did a little acoustic number, Golden Age, on guitar the rest of the band sat down at a laid table and were served food as they listened to Beck play. Then, slowly at first, they began to tap along, growing louder as they chinked glasses and hit cutlery against crockery building to the massive percussive sound of Clap Hands. All of which was repeated in miniature by marionettes at the front of the stage, this in turn was filmed and projected behind the band so you could watch the whole thing unfold in triplicate! Guero was the album Beck was touring with when I saw him, it might not end up being the only Beck I buy but it's an excellent start.


Radiohead - The Bends

When thinking about buying/owning vinyl it's very hard to not give in to nostalgia. I suppose it is in its very nature nostalgic - hearkening back to a previous technology which somehow is better than anything and everything since. For me that nostalgia manifests in two ways: firstly in classic albums that were originally released on vinyl and secondly in albums that were important to me, favourites listened on constant repeat through sixth form and university. Radiohead and Portishead are both very firmly in that second category. The Bends is one of a few albums that reminds me of sixth form and uni in equal measures, for me it is the quintessential Radiohead album. Definitely worth listening in its entirety, whilst all the songs are excellent somehow the album adds up to that much more. Portishead's Dummy is still an exceptional album and I probably don't go back to it often enough. At the time it was something entirely new to me, I kind of music that was unlike anything else I listened to. Haunting and beautiful. I suspect it will benefit from the extra depth and deliberateness of vinyl.

Portishead - Dummy

I haven't listened to them yet, but that's my plan for the rest of Saturday!
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