Ever thought the music coming from your iPod sounds a little flat? Ever wondered why you don't get goosebumps from listening to your favorite music after a while? It could be a case of "L.O.V.", or lack of vinyl, as audiophiles call it. This column just might be the cure for what ails your ears. But why should one listen to a format invented in the 19th century that sound nerds claim to be far superior to all of our fancy new technology? Let us break it down for you:
First, vinyl's quiet. Silence on a vinyl record is true silence, meaning no sound waves. In digital formats, silence is digitized to make up for the noise during the recording process, so you actually hear a sound for the silence.
Second, computerized sound. Quantization is a fancy word for computers encoding everything in mathematical beats that our ears are actually quite good at picking up. It makes all music sound like it came out of a computer, with everything being far too mathematically precise and cold feeling.
Finally, the album as a whole. Records have a tendency to be listened to all the way through when on vinyl, primarily because there is no skip button. It makes you sit, relax and accept what an artist has created for what it is. Chill out. Listen to the music.
Grizzly Bear's "Yellow House"
Grizzly Bear and the modern vinyl industry are practically synonymous, with the Brooklyn-based group's sophomore album, "Yellow House" (2006), remaining one of the present day top selling LPs. Recorded on low-fi tape in the Cape Cod abode of band creator Edward Droste's mother, "Yellow House" was directly transferred to vinyl, allowing for the full capture of its gloriously rich tone. Each of the ten ethereal, folk-psychedelia tunes has the power to mesmerize with their symphonic and hauntingly beautiful melodies. This album is at once awe-inspiring, with its hazily floating rhythms and spectral vocals, evocative of woodland walks taken in childhood. Simultaneously elegant and rustic, "Yellow House" is magical and yet at times ominous, like a Grimm fairy tale. Best listened to on vinyl, it is certainly a must-have for any record enthusiast. The entire thing was recorded analog on a 4-track tape recorder in a yellow house. If you want to talk about character, this is a record meant to be heard on wax. Many vinyl enthusiasts would agree, considering the pre-order for the new pressing is still top ten on insound.com, along with the preorder for their new album, "Shields." Grizzly Bear continues to put out respectable material. Listen to "Yellow House" if you spend too much time in the Arts and Architecture building, drink too much coffee, or feel like you're too postmodern for postmodernism.
Telefon Tel Aviv's "Fahrenheit Fair Enough"
Telefon Tel Aviv is an electronic duo from San Fransisco that melds physical instrumentation and diced "found sounds" in a way that will never be replicated again, one of the rare instances in electronic music where every track is a masterpiece. There are no bangers, just every song being as obsessive as the last when it comes to quality. From top to bottom, all of Telefon's dynamics in their samples have a lot more bite on record, since everything takes on a percussive presentation. Being able to have those brief dead moments of air between how fast their sound is makes it essential for maintaining the calm, almost embryonic instrumentation. Plus, each side is killer the whole way through, so there's no need to skip tracks. Listen to "Fahrenheit Fair Enough" if you are a physics major, enjoy sleeping or think the printer sometimes sounds like it's making music.
Sixtoo's "Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man."
Sixtoo's albums are noted for its noir-tinged melancholia and measured, deliberate beats. "Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man" (2007) is Canadian DJ Robert Squire's latest release in a series of dub-infused, experimental hip hop albums under the alias Sixtoo. The album was crafted by Squire as a compilation of favored sounds from live performances at various places and times. Despite the sporadic source selections and patchwork creation, Jackals and Vipers still manages to somehow sound wonderfully fluid and cohesive. At first listen, one may be given the impression of having encountered elevator music on drugs, or the background tracking to a video game of the post-industrial, apocalyptic order. Further listening reveals a depth of sound both gloomily intense and slightly menacing, a trance-inducing work made all the more hypnotic by its lack of vocals. This is definitely one for the turntables. Sixtoo is known for his massive vinyl collection, which is where he gets his awesome alive-sounding samples. This music already comes from vinyl, so it's worth listening to in the medium in which it was born. Those drums just sound so good. Listen to "Jackals and Vipers in Envy of Man" if you enjoy studying, went to Homegrown, or think Etta James would sound awesome as a hip hop artist.