April 16, 2011

Record Store Day

Today marks the 5th annual Record Store Day, a celebration of independent record stores. As a music lover, I think this day is of dire importance.

As we move further into the digital age, music is being blessed and cursed at the same time. With the advent of digital downloads, not only can fans access millions upon millions of songs within seconds, but independent artists are able to have their music heard by people all over the world. Musicians who are constantly seeking new music like myself have been able to greatly expand their pallets thanks to digital downloads, internet radio and websites like Myspace and Facebook.

While these are all great things for the cause of music, albums become commodities and less of an experience as more people shift to digital formats. When I was younger and I had to save my allowance to buy CDs, after I’d buy them, I’d get home, go to my room and close the door. I’d listen to the album from beginning to end and either read the lyrics as it played or look at the album art and linear notes. This provided a very meaningful first listen, and I got a feel for what the band is about by reading their lyrics and absorbing the album art.

I’m afraid this is getting lost in the age of digital music. While most downloads from iTunes come with album art, I doubt that many listeners to time to really look at album covers or read the linear notes if the download even comes with them. While iPods are great for giving us the ability to have an entire library of music at our fingertips, the music becomes all too disposable. It’s easy to not listen to albums all the way through, and I find I get the most out of songs when I hear them in the context of whole albums.

This brings me to my main point, that records provide the ultimate listening experience. First of all, you are forced to look at the album art, it’s enormous and the record is inside it. Records basically force you to listen to whole albums, unless of course you feel like trying to drop the turntable’s needle on the exact spot a song begins, which is a hard task. Lastly, for some reason, records just tend to sound better. Maybe this is an elitist music geek mentality, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks so.

So go out today and buy a CD, or better yet, buy a record. Just sit and do nothing but listen to it. Check out the album art, read the lyrics and the linear notes. I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

A ton of bands are releasing special records for Record Store Day. The one I’m most excited about is The Fall, the new Gorillaz album they recorded on their recent North American tour this fall. The album was recorded using iPad applications and features several of the musicians that were on tour with the band, including Bobby Womack and Mick Jones and Paul Simonon from The Clash.

Independent record stores a few and far between in the area, but you can head to Trax on Wax in Catonsville, where there will be live music, limited edition vinyl and giveaways. Go out and get some music.

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