For Christmas/Hanukah this year, my Dad and Stepmom were kind enough to get me a record player. Yes, a record player. Believe it or not, vinyl has been making a huge comeback over the last few years, and most high profile new releases are being released in the format, often including cds and download codes to get either the high-rez or the mp3 version of the album. It’s very smart marketing done by the artist and the record labels.
There’s little question that when it comes to album art, bigger is better, which is part of the reason we’re starting this column. Along with commentary about the music contained in the grooves, each edition of Drop The Needle will have photos so you can get a sense of what the art looks like.
Kicking things off is album more than two decades in the making. Check out a track or two from the new release from My Bloody Valentine, and then I’ll let you in on my vinyl experience after the jump!
Me and My Bloody Valentine
I’m far from a big My Bloody Valentine fan. Like most music aficionados, Loveless is in my collection but I don’t go back to it all that often. I was also supposed to see them a few years ago at the Kool Haus in Toronto, but I ditched my ticket when I read about how loud the band plays. For someone with hearing issues, there was no way I stepping inside a venue that was actually handing out ear plugs. My ears thanked me for it later.
Though I’m clearly a casual fan, I was definitely interested when the band released their new album mbv on their website. There were various means of purchase – the CD, a download, or a vinyl bundle, which contained all three products. While I do listen to music on my iPhone and vinyl, I don’t really need a CD at this point, so Biff Bam Pop’s JP Fallavollita and I decided to split the bundle, him taking a download and the CD, me sticking with the vinyl and download.
The album – mbv
When it comes to the music, my first mbv listen was the download, as it was going to take some time for the album to be delivered from the U.K. Truth be told, I can’t really run down all the songs for you. Yes, they have names, but in many ways the album just bleeds together into one sonic experience. Lots of breathy vocals and Kevin Shields guitars. It all sounds big and immersive, but as Neil Young said in Crime In The City, I don’t hear a single.
This week the vinyl arrived and I was anxious to hear how the album would sound. If you haven’t played a record in a long time, let me confirm the long-held believe that music does sound better on vinyl. This is absolutely true. It’s warmer and inviting to listen to. You also can’t be a passive music listener, since you’ll have to get off the couch every twenty minutes to change sides.
Here’s the thing with mbv, though. Sadly, to my ears, the vinyl was a letdown. It didn’t have the immediate warmth that I’ve gotten off the other albums in my collection, from classic and new Beastie Boys to the latest from Rush. Maybe my stereo isn’t high-end enough (it certainly isn’t audiophile quality), but mbv on vinyl isn’t that much of an improvement from the mp3 version I’d already heard. My guess is that this is more a headphones album than one to have going through your speakers, even if you crank it up to a decent volume. That was a definite disappointment for me. As for the album art, as you can see, it’s nothing special at all.
In the end, I’m glad I split the bundle, as I would have been curious about mbv on vinyl if I hadn’t. However, I’ll likely be listening to it on the iPhone than on vinyl when I feel like hearing the droning sound of My Bloody Valentine’s music.