Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Death by shuffle mode

This past week I read an interesting article about "the death of the album." It gave me pause and I suddenly realized that lately, to me, yeah the album has been pretty dead.

I used to have quite a voracious appetite for new music. Even when I was younger I can remember trips into New York City where my friends and I would hit the shops down in St. Mark's Place, which was nothing more than a dumping ground for music company employees to rid themselves of all those promos they had sitting around their offices. A $20 bill would net you 15-20 vinyl albums on any given trip and somehow I always seemed to find the time to listen to it all. Not only would most of them find their way to TDK C-90 cassettes to listen to in the car (always seems like THE place to test out new tunes), but I would also cherry pick the best tunes for a constant revolving mix tape. It's funny how even now I remember a lot of these songs, no matter how obscure they are today. Bands like i-Ten, Aviator and Far Corporation were household names to me.

As the years progressed, CD's moved in and, while I may not have been purchasing as much music as I had been, the procedure was still the same, with cassettes eventually being replaced by spindles of blank CD's.

Then came the MP3 and suddenly things really changed for me. With Napster and Kazaa, it seemed any song was in grasp and it was probably at this point I stopped listening to albums in full most of the time. It was like I reverted to my 70's youth and became all about the single again. I would make mix CDs or just listen at random off the computer. And when the iPod came into my life, it's probably where the album began it's death spiral for me personally.

I went from listening to albums in full, whether I was in the car or work, to just hitting SHUFFLE and letting fate choose my ever evolving and quite random playlist. The iPod also made it a lot easier to make quick and dirty mixes and live inside of those rather than just plowing through new albums and listening to them they way they were meant to. I turned my weekly "new stuff" mix tape/CD into a playlist that became my primary listen, yet I have close to 200 albums on the device where 75% of the songs are now an afterthought. It seems like an almost unlimited capacity for storage has dictated my listening habits where as a smaller way of thinking used to force me to sit, take in and ultimately enjoy the ride.

It's a shame too because when I think back, a lot of times my favorite songs were album tracks that may never have received any sort of air play. Whether it's "Without Love" from Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" or the title track from Journey's "Escape," I realized that I'm probably missing out on a lot of great music lately. Hell, I even have a few albums I bought this year on iTunes that I have yet to listen to a single track. $30 well spent I'd say.

Oddly enough, it's three new releases that may be swinging me back in the other direction. The new ones from Brad Paisley and Rob Thomas have already gotten more album play than normal from me and I anticipate the same from Daughtry's impending release. With those I may be able to break my Slacker addiction, even if for just enough to find all that deeper music that I know is out there, just awaiting discovery.

So with that, I say goodbye to Shuffle...or at least until I can start to appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

  • Judd6149

    Good call.

    If you are in fact, “addicted to vinyl” you can’t ignore the album. Since I got my turntable, I have been doing the album straight shot more than I have been playing my 20k+ song iTunes library…and it has been great. Yes, it can be a pain to get up and go across the floor to filp side A to Side B, but in the end…I like that.

    I love the shuffle for parties and playlists when I am on the road. I never listen to the radio anymore. What I used to love about the radio is the serendipitous nature of “what’s coming on next”. Now that is all contrived and overproduced. The shuffle keeps me guessing . I also like shuffle for when I buy a bunch of blues reissues at once. I can throw them all in a mix and get a good listen across all the new stuff.

    But…the vinyl has me back into albums. I keep buying albums (most of which I have on CD/iTunes) that are classic albums…i.e. Quadraphrenia, Layla, Harder They Come, “The Band”, etc. That way you get the feel of the scene at the time. I always put on the vinyl knowing I am going to start on A and end on B. Yes…the album is still alive and well.

    Here’s my list to date:

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Nice one Kurt…

    I actually sold my Ipod fairly recently. I’m planning to get an Iphone soon, but in the meantime, I’ve shifted my at-work/at-home listening to an external hard drive of music. Which led to my recent road trip, where I took CDs along for the first time in a long time. Picking out CDs for the trip, I found myself digging back into my CD collection, and pulling out a lot of stuff that hadn’t been on my Ipod or hard drive – rediscovering artists that I had loved for years, but hadn’t listened to for just as many years.

    I actually miss the days (kind of) when I was a kid and had that one album that I would purchase with my allowance, and listen to for a month straight. And yet, whether it is listening to an album straight through on an Ipod instead of shuffling (as you describe,) or rediscovering physical albums in my own collection, it is quite thrilling to reacquaint yourself with your collection, and the memories in life that go with those albums.

  • Kurt’s Krap

    You know Matt, exactly what I was thinking. I remember the days of almost being forced to listen to one album, and through that you got to know it like an old friend.

    This past weekend I tried an experiment where I made a new playlist called “6 CD Changer.” Pretty simple, I chose 6 albums for the week and put them in that playlist and treat it like the CD changer in my car.

    I sure did discover a couple of new tunes from the new Green Day and Shinedown that grabbed me whereas I don’t remember too much about them before that.