In the past few years, I've observed a once-dying medium's return to music's mainstream, and it's re-entering into the consciousness of America's youth - the vinyl record. Even after its coercion into near extinction, vinyl maintained its appeal to a small group of music listeners due to its richer sound, collectability, and space for cover art and linear notes.
In the last 20 years, it seems the same set of records has been passed between records stores and collectors, and new records have not been pressed or put into circulation. This trend seems to be changing. Bands and young music advocates have "come full circle," so to speak. Almost every popular new indie album can now be purchased on vinyl.
Of course, you need something to spin it on. Record players, too, have returned to the shelves: best Buy. That's right, no more rummaging through garage sales, searching on Etsy or buying some novelty, barely-usable record player from Urban Outfitters. A trip to Best Buy - the same place you can buy the latest plasma screen television or the newest generation iPod - and you can score a brand new turntable for less than one hundred dollars. That's genuine proof that vinyl records have made a comeback.
Tacoma's 6th Avenue District has become Vinyl Row. Some of the finest record stores in the Northwest sit on this street housing a wonderful variety of genres - on vinyl.
For people who like to geek out vinyl, House of Records on Sixth Avenue is the most approachable place to browse an incredible selection of vinyl. Vinyl experts with vast knowledge of music run the store. House of Records even has someone younger than 50 behind the counter - Alan Chalfant.
This week, I stopped in at the House of Records to chat vinyl with Chalfant, exploring the recent vinyl trend among young people. Chalfant discussed how even up through the era of CDs, music listeners had a physical connection with music. A tangible relationship was formed between the listener and the albums they bought. But that relationship has been extinguished with the domination of MP3, and purchasing music online.
"People want that physical connection with music again," says Chalfant.
Purchasing an album on iTunes doesn't compare with the feeling of buying a record, taking it home and removing the cellophane, then placing it on your turntable to listen to it.
Another aspect of vinyl we discussed is how it changes the way you listen to an album. One is forced to sit down and actually listen to the album beginning to end - in the order that it was meant to be heard.
"You're not just putting on background music while you're doing the dishes," continues Chalfant.
House of Records is Tacoma vinyl-only record store. Here, you won't find CDs, tapes or MP3 downloads available. You will find only the finest selection of LPs and 45s, along with record players and other vinyl accessories.
The owners and employees of the three mentioned record stores know their vinyl. They truly want to spread their knowledge, too. I know my vinyl collection will see a boost. Join me.
I will leave you with a quote about vinyl from the wise Nick Mason of Pink Floyd: "I liken it to the Japanese Tea Ceremony. That was part of the pleasure of an album - unwrapping it, taking it out, wiping it free of dust, and placing it carefully on the turntable."
HOUSE OF RECORDS, 608 N. PROSPECT, TACOMA, 253.272.9229
HI-VOLTAGE RECORDS, 2612 SIXTH AVE., TACOMA, 253.627.4278
ROCKET RECORDS, 3843 SIXTH AVE., TACOMA, 253.756.5186