With the obvious exception of concerts, there are few forms of music more social than a vinyl record. You have a party, you let your friends dig through your collection, and you throw an album on that will drive conversation more than some Spotify playlist thrown on shuffle. I've actually written about this notion before in a somewhat adjacent sense
. Music meant for private consumption has its purpose (as does music that you consume in a more casual way) but it's also an inherently social medium, and the vinyl record is the perfect way to curate that sort of social music experience.
And I'd actually sadly stopped buying as many vinyl records as I was buying when I first bought my turntable cause the opportunities to share that social element of music begin to present themselves less often the older you get. When was the last time you invited a friend over just to listen to music? But sometimes you get lucky, and the people you can share that love of the experiential elements of music with find their way back into your life, and record club/curation service VNYL
is a wonderful tool to orchestrate those moments in your life.
I listen to a LOT of music every year. It comes with the territory of being the Managing Editor of a music site. And that also gives me anxiety about which records do I want to buy. There are so many that I'd like to own that minus my absolute favorites of the year, I get paralyzed from the amount of choices I have at my disposal. VNYL takes that choice anxiety away and delivers a carefully curated record experience driven by your taste.
VNYL is sort of like a hybrid of Netflix and OKCupid for vinyl record lovers. You answer a couple questions about what bands/genres you like, you can connect your Spotify account (and some other social media accounts), answer how willing you are to get adventurous with what records they send you, answer one final question about what you want that month's "theme" to be (I was able to choose between "dinner party" and other basic music ideas as well as artists like Lapsley and Bieber), and then they'll send you three records each month that they think match your tastes/wants. And although one month makes it difficult to judge how consistently excellent VNYL's decisions are, month one was a resounding success.
Here's what I wrote in the (very truncated) favorite bands/albums box that VNYL asks for: "The Beatles, Kid A
, Arcade Fire, A Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar, Van Morrison, David Bowie, The Shins." And every one of the three records that I was sent fit somewhere in that spectrum of bands that I talked about without feeling like lazy pandering.
The records that I got sent in that initial bundle were Talib Kweli's Train of Thoughts: Lost Lyrics, Rare Releases, and Beautiful B-Sides: Vol. 1
, Caveman's Coco Beware
, and Fool's Gold's Flying Lessons
. Talib Kweli hit the checkmarks of the best of classic and contemporary hip-hop that was implied by Kendrick Lamar and A Tribe Called Quest but with a delightfully unconventional package of B-Sides. Caveman lives in the baroque indie pop roots of Arcade Fire & the Shins, and Fool's Gold also fit comfortably within the realm of established indie rock while having depths and layers that were surprising in the best way.
These records were an opportunity for my roommates and I to hang out in our living room and listen to the records and discuss the things that we loved about music. The Talib Kweli record reminded us that not only was Talib Kweli one of the best rappers of the last twenty years (his album of B-sides is better than half the actual records I heard last year) but that he was from the same part of Brooklyn our apartment is in (Park Slope). It made me throw on the Black Star album once we finished Kweli's solo record.
In a completely coincidental moment, the Caveman record arrived just as I discovered that we here at Baeble were going to be shooting the Brooklyn rockers at a studio session in Austin, TX, during SXSW this year, and their understated, lush approach to synths and strings and the indie pop wheelhouse got me excited all over again for the session that we have in the books.
And then there was the most surprising delight of the box which was Fool's Gold's Flying Lessons
. I had never even heard of the band when it wound up in the box that I was sent, but I fell in love pretty much immediately. Imagine if Vampire Weekend were raised by Parliament Funkadelic and then taught how to play guitar by Amadou from Mali world music duo Amadou & Mariam, and you sort of get the gist for how it sounds. One of my roommates had a friend in the house, and he immediately stopped what he was doing to sit down and listen to the rest of the album through. If you've ever needed a psychedelic funk pop world music hybrid in your life, Flying Lessons
and Fool's Gold are it, and you need to listen to them STAT. I've been listening to this album nearly nonstop since.
VNYL's first choices for me are so good that I'm pretty sure I'm going to subscribe for a second month. The service is expensive ($40 a month) but that's actually a pretty solid deal for three new records. That's just significantly more money than I usually spend each month on new records (I must admit my sin that my primary method of music consumption is Spotify and I don't buy physical copies of albums nearly often enough). And who knows, maybe if they continue to impress me with what they think I'll like, I might do a monthly feature diving into the vinyl vault that they send my way.