According to the Nielsen Soundscan (which, it should be noted, only tracks album sales at stores that report back to Nielsen so lots of tiny record stores and merch booth sales don't factor in to the numbers), 1.9 million records were sold in 2008 and 2.5 million LPs were sold in 2009, a 33% increase from year to year. As vinyl enjoys its huge resurgence, sales for 2010 should likely surpass even that. And while we're at it, here are some other interesting facts: Radiohead
sold the most records in 2008 (61,000) with Metallica
, The Beatles
, Elliott Smith
and Bob Dylan
rounding out the top 5 vinyl artists respectively. The New York Times and tons of music heads who know what's up have written articles and essays about why and how vinyl has reemerged as a vital media for listening to music in the last few years.
Cassette tapes, while not boasting some of vinyl's numbers (and these numbers still aren't particularly high &mdash vinyl still only constitutes 1% of all album sales), has also enjoyed a higher profile over the last few years as the DIY music scene has exploded and young artists release new material on the format. There have even been some more notable cassette releases including indie heavy-hitters Dirty Projectors who released their break-out Bitte Orca
last year on cassette, vinyl, and CD.
This feature, more or less, is about the way we listen to music now &mdash how it's changed, how it could continue to change, and how it's stayed the same. And who better to ask than the artists releasing things on these formats and engaging with the medium? Of course, if you've grown up in the last twenty years with CDs and mp3s as your primary means of music consumption, some of the technical and cultural talk about vinyl and tape can be a little daunting or confusing so I've also asked the artists in this feature to drop some knowledge on some releases on at least one of the two formats that they think are essential for you to hear.
For the first edition of this feature, I talked to Crocodiles lead singer Brandon Welchez via email. Enjoy!
: Some technical questions: What headphones do you use? Have a soft spot for any particular pair? Why? Do you own a cassette player? Any particular cassette or record players you would recommend for people who want to break into all the new music being released on these formats?
: I'm not really that picky actually about this kind of stuff. If I'm listening to something on headphones, it's most likely going to be on ipod earbuds because that's the only pair I have besides some free ones I got on an airplane. Those sound pretty distorted though. I don't really listen to much music on headphones to be honest, it's almost all on my stereo or off shitty laptop speakers if I'm checking stuff out online. I have a cassette player in my car and we have one in our van so we do tend to listen to a lot of cassettes but we also both listen to vinyl predominately at our homes. I don't have enough money to care too much about nice stereo equipment. If the music is good enough, the point will get across even with less expensive equipment.
: Cassette and vinyl have been making a (relatively) big comeback the last few years have had the most vinyl sales since they started tracking them in the early 90s. What, in your opinion, is especially attractive about the format now?
: I think the fact that vinyl is a physical, tangible medium makes it attractive. They are something you have to take care of if you don't want them to get destroyed. CDs are more durable and at least with me, I treat with with way less respect since I'm not as worried about them warping or getting scratched. Plus CD packaging is so small and boring. Records have big, beautiful covers you can stare at while you listen. MP3s have no romance either - the point gets across but the pops and hisses of vinyl add something really beautiful and down to earth to the music. I'd chalk up the resurgence in tapes to the fact that they are so cheap to produce. It's much more populist than any other medium in that it takes very little money to make a tape. In reality, I don't think tapes ever really went away - punk bands in San Diego were always doing demo tapes and cassette versions of their albums and stuff when I was growing up.
: Because of blogs and the general hyperactivity of the internet (among other reasons), there seems to be a renewed emphasis on single songs as opposed to full-length albums &mdash How important do you think full length albums are to your own artistic ambitions? To how you listen to other bands? Do you think, as some claim, that the full-length album as a format is dying?
: I don't think the full-length album format is dying but I agree that the hyper acceleration of music media has made the single important again. There will always be bands that need the length of an album to really stretch out artistically. I would hope that we write decent singles, but we still gear them towards fitting into good albums. That's probably how every band feels anyway. I enjoy new bands that write good singles, but I'm often disappointed to find that their albums are boring. I really fall in love with bands when they write a near perfect album.
: What are some essential releases on vinyl?
: Hmm that's a hard question. Any albums I'd consider to be in my top 5 musically I own on vinyl. If you are talking about music and packaging I'd say some of my favorites are:
1. Sonic Boom
, Pete Kember's first solo record before Spacemen 3 broke up and he stared performing as Spectrum. The cover has this great, movable plastic kaleidoscope that probably cost the label so much money to make and the music is absolutely perfect.
2. I also love the Studio One Rude Boy compilation. The cover is a badass photo of mid-60's era Wailers silk-screened on cardboard and there are so many great songs within the 2 records that make up the compilation. Check out Mr. Foundation "See Them A Come" or Johnny Osbourne's "Murderer" &mdash two perfect songs! That's all I can think of for now!
There you have it. Crocodiles have a new album, Sleep Forever
out September 14 on Fat Possum and if their new single is any indication, you'll probably want to add it to your new vinyl collection too. -ben krusling
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MP3: "Sleep Forever" (Sleep Forever)
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