notes from
the MUCK . . .

How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.

Monday, January 12, 2009

In Vinyl Veritas

Vinyl has always been touch and go for me. As a teenager, a friend introduced me to the music of The Beatles via an old Pioneer turntable and a souped up yard market sound system. A Day in the Life has never sounded as good as the day I heard Lennon's weird, haunting inflections floating out of these monstrous speakers in my friend's cluttered double-wide. Until that moment, records were an anchronism, an inferior medium from my childhood. Now I began to see them in a new light. My friend and I would spend hours studying cover art with a dusty copy of Let it Bleed cracking and popping in the background.

My own player had been sitting in the bottom of a closet beneath some old sweaters when I dug it out again. Around that time I inherited a small collection of records from my parents when they moved on, like the rest of the world, to cassettes and CDs, and my aunt gave me a crate or two of some discs that had been sitting in her basement for a decade. A friend and I took a couple of trips to the flea markets looking for good deals, and I ended up with some decent stuff. Then my player broke, and when my friend took it to have it repaired by his handy father, he got into a car accident. The other driver slammed into my friend's car in the exact spot where my turntable was riding shotgun. I had no job and no way of replacing it. After that, I stopped buying records.

Several years later, I decided to invest in a new player and get back into the hobby. I coughed up a couple hundred dollars for a new model, which worked great until a drunken party guest stepped on the thing, breaking the arm. He refused to buy me a new one, so that was that. I got addicted to mp3s and forgot all about music you can hold in your hands.

Then, I wrote a screenplay for a screenwriting class about an aging record collector and his quest for a legendary acetate. I did a little research as I was writing it, and I came across a book about obsessive vinyl collectors (Vinyl Junkies, by Brett Milano) that really piqued my interest. Reading first hand accounts of mind-blowing listening experiences and Holy Grail style fanaticism left me itching to take one more stab diving into that world. I know I'll never be as much of a nut as Thurston Moore or the characters in High Fidelity, but a nerd can dream can't he?

Thanks to Niki, I have a brand new turntable and I just spent some money I don't have on a couple of low end speakers. There are two decent record stores in Wilmington, Gravity and CD Alley. A lot of times you can find good shit at both of these places for just a couple of bucks. This solves the problem I've been having since I'm a) broke and b) a reformed music thief. All the old vinyl I started with is back at my parent's house, so it's kind of like I'm starting over. When you don't have a job, things like this tend to get you really amped up.

I took my first record shopping trip to Gravity over the weekend. My first record purchases, this third time around, were as follows:

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel

Paid full price for this reissue because it's one of my favorite albums, and it's one I know well. I wanted something that I could compare to its digital equivilant to see if all the reports of vinyl's superior sound are true. After several listens, I can't confidentally say that I could tell the difference in a blind test, but who cares? This thing sounds glorious, and it's as close you can get to the way they sounded live in the studio.

For Adults Only, Bill Cosby

Niki found this one. I love comedy albums. I love Bill Cosby. I love the way Cosby's voice sounds on a record. This is a copy from the 70s, so a lot of the grooves are dirty or slightly scratched. For $2, you can't beat it, and I'm one of those people who thinks the pops and hissing add a little something to the experience. Something vintage and inimate like this a great showcase for that phenomenon.

Songs From the Big Chair, Tears For Fears

Thanks to some long, late night music conversations with Paul, this was a no brainer. A classic album with Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, and Head Over Heels. I'm listening to it for the fourth time as I write this and, again, it was well worth the $3 I spent on it. Originally, I had a shitty set of computer speakers hooked up to my player, but this album, with its perfect balance between pounding beats and high vocals, demanded that I get something better.

Something happens and I'm head over heels, I never find out till I'm head over heels...

On top of these, I came across a big stack of hip hop singles in the free and dollar bins at CD Alley. Nothing spectacular in there, but I picked up a couple of early Raekwon singles, some Guru, and a track by Big Daddy Kane. For some reason, they all smell like incense. Incense makes me think of hippies, which makes me think of my friend who first played A Day in the Life for me. And so it comes full circle.