My father’s first pressing of Roxy Music’s Country Life was the first time I ever saw breasts and bush. Merry Christmas from the White Stripes was my first seven-inch, gifted to me back in the Christmas of 2002. Eventually, when I moved in with my first long-term boyfriend, all 680 of my parents’ records came with me. Those albums were probably the only thing I took care of. For the remainder of our stay they lived in milk crates in the living room, between the rows of VHS tapes whose ribbons were adorned with bootlegged Simpsons episodes and the futon which harbored the shittiest cat on the planet. The Mothers of Invention’s We’re Only in It for the Money would soundtrack our 420-friendly dish cleaning routine, and at least once Bob Dylancalmed us down after a fight. While the needle dragged across the grooves emitting his crackling croon, we came to the realization that maybe, just maybe, adulthood isn’t what we thought it would be.
There are a lot of those big round discs strewn about my past. Vinyl records were always there, and they always will be. The now-ragged boxes have made their journey farther and farther from home, from apartment to apartment; their number has almost doubled thanks to the revival of vinyl. Who would’ve thought, some 26 years ago, that records would be experiencing one of the most fascinating resurgences in musical history? Sub Pop, a Seattle record label known for signing grunge band Nirvana, celebrated its silver jubilee this year and takes pride in the fact that it never stopped pressing records, not even once. Richard Laing, the head of sales over at Sub Pop, explained that although there was a time the medium’s popularity waned, “it’s been steady and has increased since I joined [seven years ago]. Particularly in the last three or four years I’d say it’s become a bigger part of the makeup of our record label.”
Many other labels are reintroducing or upping their production of vinyl too. Record sales increased 33 percent in the beginning of this year alone (about 2.9 million sold in six months, compared to the 3.6 million sold in 2011) while the CD, knocking on death’s door for years now, diminished by 14.2 percent. Some chalk it up to a fad, but phono lovers attribute the recent rise to records’ stellar sound quality (which blows CDs out of the water). This year’s Record Store Day drew its biggest crowd to date, pushing vinyl LP sales numbers higher than they have been in 22 years, with Nielsen SoundScan recording 244,000 vinyl LPs sold on the week of April 21st. “This pales in comparison with the 765,000 albums that were moved by indie retailers last Christmas,” MStars News reminds us, “and only one Record Store Day release broke the Billboard Hot 200. Mumford and Sons’ ‘Live at Bull Moose’ sold 3,000 copies to land at 174.”
But in a world where immediate consumerism runs rampant, why is this finicky niche expanding?