For those who are unaware, Whole Foods now sells vinyl.
I discovered this one Sunday afternoon while I was visiting my neighborhood Whole Foods market. While waiting in line to check out, I was allured by a display of vinyl records. Though I could envision myself lying in bed listening to all of these albums via the Web, the irrational music lover in me said I needed a copy of Arcade Fire’s latest release.
Then, just 15 seconds later, I found myself completing one of the more bizarre grocery transactions of my life: kale, popcorn and an LP of Reflektor. When I got home, I gave the record a listen and tried to think of a relevant reason for why owning that particular album on vinyl was significant. Yes, I did enjoy hearing it, because it reminded me of happy times. Then again, those times occurred long after the days of pressing vinyl were supposedly over. What made owning it so special?
After dwelling on it for the remainder of the evening, the peculiar connection between health foods and vinyl had dawned on me — they both make you feel good inside. I then began to wonder: How had we managed to resurrect a nearly extinct format?
The resurgence of vinyl can be accredited to many different factors. Some claim that the sound quality makes it enduringly special, but the unfortunate truth is that vinyl’s quality is only slightly better than a cassette tape that’s been buried in your glove box for the past two decades. After all, tape recorders were the essential stepping-stones between LPs and iPods. Made up of thousands of tiny bumps and grooves, records aren’t meant to play music as smooth as many born-again vinyl enthusiasts may suggest. Perhaps the static provides a sense of nostalgia to some, but most people who buy freshly pressed records weren’t even alive during vinyl’s glory days. More ironically, the majority of records people purchase weren’t released until recent years. Regardless, it’s no surprise our generation hopped on the bandwagon and bought into it.
Just as with most trends, musics cyclical, and records are currently the format du jour. Therefore, it’s fitting that Jack White, the Arctic Monkeys and Lana Del Rey put out the top three selling LPs of 2014.
But people choose vinyl for various reasons. Whether they have more to do with the desire to own something tangible, or just the overwhelming influence of Urban Outfitters — currently the largest vinyl retailer — record sales are at an all-time high. Oddly enough, there seems to be a great disconnect between vinyl sales and the rest of the music industry. Almost all other music formats except for vinyl have been hit hard. For the first time ever, even digital downloads are declining thanks to the emergence of music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Tidal and SoundCloud. I personally enjoy collecting vinyl because it replaces the worry of expensive streaming membership fees or my computer unexpectedly crashing. I know that the records I own will always be mine.
Whichever format you listen to, be sure to appreciate it. Music is one of life’s finest pleasures. I don’t know if anything will ever compare to the feeling I had while standing barefoot in the grass watching Arcade Fire perform. So perhaps next time you unexpectedly come across some vinyl, whether it’s at Whole Foods or wherever, you should consider adding it to your cart.