Thursday, May 20, 2010
Forty years from now when people look back on our generation’s music consumption (providing we haven’t all drowned in oil by then) I wonder what musical artifacts will be remembered fondly… I certainly can’t imagine anyone lining their shelves with old iPhones, iPods and external hard drives and proudly saying “I stored a good 2,000 songs on this bad boy and another 10,000 on this one here! If it still turned on I’d play you Lisztomania, I used to love that song and the cover looks great at 600x600 pixels!”
On the flip side, anytime a friend comes over to my place they always gravitate towards the shelves lined with vinyl records in my living room. They enjoy taking the time to look through them, admire the cover art, peruse the liner notes and make a conscious decision (keep that thought in mind, I’ll come back to it in a bit) of what music they’d like to listen to.
The White Album, a favorite of mine and my guests, is certainly more striking at 12”x12” with it’s yellowing corners, pullout headshots of the Fab Four and my mom’s maiden name inscribed on the cover in blue ballpoint pen (yes, I did appropriate it from her) than it is on my iPhone. Sound quality aside–as we all know how delicious vinyl sounds–when I take The White Album off the shelf and hold it in my hands I get it. The juxtaposition between the minimalist art offsetting the fact that The Beatles had caught Ryan Adams syndrome some 35 or so years early in India circa 1968. That kind of immediacy certainly isn’t there in digital form, no matter how quickly it can be acquired. Hipgnosis’ darkroom tricks on Houses of the Holy and Ummagumma are drastically more impressive when they don’t look like photoshopped thumbnails. Ralph Steadman’s art for Oasis’ latest Dig Out Your Soul comes to life in the vinyl size and Emma Richardson’s paintings not only adorn Band of Skulls’ album cover, but also now hang on my wall in the form of a poster kindly included in the vinyl release… and all of that, well it makes me love music even more.
Okay, so I’m talking a lot about “art” and not “music”, but I think it’s quite unfortunate that the two get separated. As “zenned out” as I’d like to imagine I am, I like physical things. I like sitting down with a record to digest it and I like the concept of an album as unified work, a complete thought from start to finish; sonically, lyrically and the same goes for its visual accompaniments. I like to see the whole package, the whole picture presented in the way the band intended rather than fragmented pieces floating around in some high-tech little enclosure. Sure, I’m guilty of downloading some stuff illegally (thanks Vuze!), but the albums that I love I need to have on vinyl.
To continue a thought that I started earlier, something else that I truly appreciate is people making conscious decisions. For example the conscious decision to put on a record and listen to it from start to finish as an entire piece rather than to hit shuffle in iTunes or bounce from track to track as the chorus ends at a minute and nineteen seconds to another tune for the outro at two minutes - thirty eight. As we all know, we’re the ADD Generation: between the tools at our fingertips and all that we’re constantly bombarded with via these tools, it’s increasingly easy for our experiences to be fragmented.
At this point music is essentially available a la carte, take a piece of this and have a piece of that. Even individual songs have been marginalized to 30-second clips with their value determined by whether or not they can be used in a promo spot. *Note to anyone who would like to license our songs, yes they are available as we need to pay off our van, but please be trying to sell something chill. Yet at the same time as the musical landscape becomes more and more fragmented, it’s both fascinating and encouraging as a music lover and musician to see how many people still do appreciate “the record” as a complete piece of work.
Every morning when I wake up I check my email on my phone while I listen to music. When I get to my computer I’ll have one tab open for gmail, one for YouTube and another for Facebook. I’d like to think of it as multi-tasking, but in reality it’s all part of the constant stimulation that I think we’ve all grown accustomed to, where one thing at a time is never enough and the realms of music, art, commerce and socializing have all blended into one. Every once in a while it’s nice to step away from this and enjoy music for being music as a complete all-encompassing experience and for me vinyl certainly helps do this. No offense dear iPhone, because I do love you, you make my life very convenient, but when I want to get serious about some music there’s nothing like putting on a vinyl record.
With love to everyone, especially those who love vinyl.
—Ben Rice | Blackbells, Guitar/Vocals
Blackbells play DC9 on Tuesday (5/25) with Crash Kings and we've got a pair of tickets just for the asking. Get at us in the comments to this post, tell us why we should pick you, and the most convincing get in on us. Remember to leave us some contact info! We're closing this one by noon on Monday (5/24.)
Blackbells - This Is Home (Mp3)
Blackbells - High Healer (Mp3)
Blackbells - Young Again (Mp3)
Blackbells - Before the Flood (Mp3)
Posted by Jon at 9:47 AM