About a year ago I took a liking to vinyl. I’m not sure what set it off, but I wasn’t getting the same experience I used to have listening to my favorite albums on FLAC files. It seemed so temporary, listening to bit-by-bit perfect recreations of my favorite records I used to listen to on physical CD’s back in the day. I haven’t listened to any compact discs in years, most of my collection worn out and scratched beyond playability. Any day my hard drive could crash and all those zeroes and ones would be lost forever. An earthquake could rattle my computer just enough to damage the two hard drives that store my music collection. What would I do then? Listen to those songs on my iPod? It could just as easily be destroyed. It’s great if you’re on the go but the frequencies are so lacking and hollow, even on the highest bit-rates. There is a superior and more permanent format available, and it stands the test of time.
Vinyl offers its listeners a fuller and more dynamic method of listening to music, along with large shiny gate-folds and big pieces of wax. I can tell when I listen to it that the waveform of a song is more pronounced and less compressed compared to its digital counterpart. The physical medium gives the frequencies room to breathe. I can feel the music when I hear it coming from the needle of a turntable that just doesn’t compare to a CD or a computer file. I like holding the music in my hands and knowing that as long as I store it correctly—away from dust and heat and keeping the records vertical and not horizontal—they’ll last a long time, much longer than a CD which turns into a coaster after ten years at best.
So it’s official I’ve been bitten by the vinyl bug, and after a year or so of collecting I’ve amassed thirty-six records adding up to fifty-three discs altogether. These are tracks engraved in wax that I care enough about that I want to be able to hold them and listen to them on the best commercial format available. It could be even better if I listened to it on magnetic tape, but my local record store doesn’t sell anything on magnetic tape, or even a magnetic tape machine.
Click here to see my record collection on Imgur, and a description of each one will be listed in the order of left-to-right, top-to-bottom.
The Flaming Lips – Here It Is: The first Flaming Lips album, full of the Butthole Surfers inspired fury that makes for good rock and roll. Early hints of the psychedelic and experimental sounds of later works by the band can be heard with sudden stops and starts, and the tense jams that end in freak out bonanzas.
The Flaming Lips – Oh My Gawd!!!… The Flaming Lips: The second Flaming Lips album that ups the ante on the ferocity of the previous effort. It’s got ups, downs, and new instrumentation used by the evolving band. The clear vinyl is a nice touch, the only one of its kind in this collection.
The Flaming Lips – Telepathic Surgery: The third Flaming Lips album where the band starts to get really bold. It’s trippy, it’s rocking, it’s classic Flaming Lips.
The Flaming Lips – In a Priest Driven Ambulance: This delicious pink vinyl is the fourth Flaming Lips album. I bought the first four Flaming Lips albums at a music festival the band was playing as the headliner act. I had a passing familiarity with them before, but after one of the best shows I’ve ever seen I had fallen in love. Owning these albums brings back good memories of that concert.
The Flaming Lips – Once Beyond Hopelessness: Christmas on Mars OST: The loud yet distant sounds of outer space are on this green vinyl. The music from the film Christmas on Mars is at once inspiring and terrifying. This also came with a 45 RPM 7-inch record with the Flaming Lips rendition of “Silent Night”.
Vangelis – Blade Runner OST: Another soundtrack to a film I adore. Vangelis makes heavy use of synthesizers to make future music that not only sets the tone for the movie, but stands on its own quite well. The quality of this pressing is exquisite. My copy has the numbered stamp of “No. 2497”.
Various Artists – Django Unchained OST: This snazzy double LP is the only compilation record of my collection. Not only an awesome soundtrack full of old western tunes and hip hop, but it’s pressed on white vinyl with a mock blood splatter that always brings a smile to my face. The new Ennio Morricone song “Ancora Qui” alone is worth it.
Joy Division – Still: A collection of studio and live tracks from Joy Division, and as you can see I have a thing for Ian Curtis’ poetic prose backed by the three out of four members of New Order. If you want to know what Ian’s life was like back in the early days of punk rock, check out the movie “Control”. Anyways, this record contains some fierce Joy Division tunes, and the only recording of the band playing “Ceremony”, later remade as a New Order song.
Joy Division – Substance: Some of my favorite Joy Division songs are on this album, including “Atmosphere”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and the alternate version of “She Lost Control”. This is essential listening for any Joy Division fan.
Joy Division – Closer: The second Joy Division album full of raw emotion and unconventional new wave songs. It’s a strange, unique record and Ian’s voice shines beautifully.
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures: The first Joy Division album that sets the mood for Ian’s powerful vocals and the bare bones arrangements of drums, bass and guitar with a little synthesizer thrown in.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories: You can hear the big budget productions of “Random Access Memories” so clearly on vinyl. Every nuance of the live performances can be heard, a really brilliant offering from the realm of electronic dance music.
Neutral Milk Hotel – Box Set: This set of seven records is a hipster’s wet dream. All the pressings are high quality, and the packaging is gorgeous.
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: The first Rage Against The Machine album, it’s the perfect way to piss off the neighbors. For a picture disc pressing, this record really surprised me. It sounds just as bombastic and heavy as I remember it.
7 Shot Screamers – Keep the Flame Alive: This record is some local St. Louis flavor of music, affectionately known as psychobilly. This band was active during the early 2000′s. They came out with three albums, but this is the only record they put to wax. It was hard to find—I ordered it from Germany. “Keep The Flame Alive” makes me very nostalgic for one of my favorite bands during my teenage years. If you want to know what the lead singer of the band is up to now, look up “Clownvis Presley”.
MC5 – Kick Out the Jams: An original pressing of the 1969 live concert performed by the Motor City Five, one of the jewels of my collection. This pressing is the censored version with no “KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHERFUCKER”. I would have preferred the uncensored version, but it’s only one phrase. It’s the music I care about, the raw proto punk that the MC5 pioneered.
Black Flag – The First Four Years: A great collection of punk rock songs by Black Flag good for letting out some steam. The raw power of analogue is apparent when listening to it.
Bad Brains – Bad Brains: The first album by the all-black punk rock group Bad Brains, mixing two of my favorite kinds of music together—reggae and punk rock.
Bob Marley – Legend: Some of Bob Marley’s best songs, and it makes for a very pleasant listening experience.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes – Up From Below: A heavily layered folk rock orchestra that sounds like Bob Dylan meets Pink Floyd. It has a very lo-fi feel to it with lots of ambiance and studio noise.
Sun Ra – The Magic City: The oldest record in my collection, pressed in 1966. So old in fact, it’s in monaural. The title track is a sweeping journey through the highways, streets, alleys, slums and suburbs of the magic city.
The Sonics – Introducing the Sonics: Another one of those early proto punk records by this low-key Pacific Northwest band. It’s gritty, raw and loud, just the way I like it.
X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents: A high octane British punk rock record with some quirks, like a spunky female lead vocalist and a horn section.
Parliament – The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein: Funk never sounded so funky before it came out of my turntable. George Clinton’s starchild shines bright on this record.
Sun Ra – Space Is The Place: One of the records I just had to own on vinyl. This crown jewel of my collection is my only quadrophonic recording I own, a wild journey through outer space with many contrasting dynamics. I think this is free jazz at its finest.
The Cramps – Stay Sick: A fun and catchy psychobilly record with the Cramps’ best known song “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns”.
Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power: The last recording before the breakup of the group, a visceral recording with screeching guitars and Iggy’s demented voice. It sounds great, but on vinyl it’s quite apparent how they mixed out the bass on this album. I would also own a copy of the Stooge’s “Fun House” if existing copies of that record weren’t so stupid expensive (one of the drawbacks of wanting to own vinyl).
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain: A very soulful jam marks the beginning of this album. Every guitar aficionado should hear it. The rest offers up some classic funk.
Tool – Lateralus: Although a wonderful heavy-yet-meditative album, I was disappointed by the quality of this pressing. The pictures on these discs looks fantastic, but I can hear some lacking in the high and mid frequencies on “Lateralus”. It’s plenty bass heavy though, so the rocking out parts stay rocking. The more dynamic bits sound too quiet for my liking.
Television – Marquee Moon: This first album by Television is a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece with lovely dueling guitars and a very tight groove.
The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols: The first Sex Pistols album raises the bar on what loud and furious rock ‘n’ roll is, and the Chuck Berry inspired guitar licks and Johnny Rotten’s adolescent vocals sound so incredible.
Jimi Hendrix – Live at Woodstock: The legendary concert on a three LP vinyl. Need I say more?
The White Stripes – Elephant: One of my hauls from Record Store Day 2013. The all analogue presentation is a glorious thing to behold.
Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love: And on the flip side, I have a synth pop album from Record Store Day. The warm tones of vinyl complement this album nicely.
Rob Zombie – Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown: A reverse groove 10” and another Record Store Day acquisition. The vinyl is red like blood, a good choice for Rob Zombie. The A side “Dead City Radio” is a fist pumping anthem rock song, not too bad. However the B side, “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy”, is very meh. The numbered stamp on my copy reads “No. 1357”.
Johnny-O & the Jerks / The Vultures – Spirit of St. Louis: Remember what I said about only having one compilation? I lied, this is another, and also some more St. Louis unique recordings. It’s a 7” with two psychobilly bands playing each others songs. I actually got this record for free from the drummer of Johnny-O & the Jerks outside the Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop. Although I was totally stoked I got a free vinyl, I actually didn’t own a record player to play it on at the time, so I had to wait for years before I could listen to it.
Owning all these records, I can be confident they will last a lifetime and sound just as good as the day I opened the shrink wrapped seal, or lack thereof. My wallet hates me but my ears are in heaven. It’s only a matter of time before I will want to upgrade to new hardware like a better cartridge or a more expensive preamp, but my AT-LP120-USB has enough knobs and dials to keep me preoccupied.