By DYLAN BROWN of Inland 360
Vinyl is now a few years into a resurgence spurred by cool kids supposedly pursuing superior sound. The only LPs left in formerly dusty boxes at Goodwill are Barry Manilow, Engelbert Humperdincks Christmas album and 28 copies of Neil Diamonds greatest hits.
I have a confession for a musical hero of mine, Neil Young, in the midst of a crusade for his ultra-high quality pono audio format due out next year. Aside from a direct play-for-play comparison, even the difference between vinyl and MP3 doesnt register on my probably deaf ear Im trying Neil, Im trying hard.
Physically owning 12 inches of polyvinyl chloride has come full circle from being Dads thing, to passe in a digital age, to the highest sales numbers in 15 years in 2012, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Its the other argument though sound quality aside for going to the record store that is feeding my compulsion to tangibly hold music: album art. You cant think of Dark Side of the Moon with the prism and thousands a year risk life and limb trying to find a gap in Abbey Road traffic art can be instrumental to an album.Okkervil Rivers The Silver Gymnasium compact disc, wrapped up tight in that infuriating plastic.
Tucked inside the album is a map of lead singer Will Sheffs quaint little hometown of Meriden, N.H., a hand-drawn guide lovingly created to help navigate you through Sheffs memories of a simpler time growing up in a town of 500. With the map and the lyrics on its opposite side as reference, Okkervils songs spring to life as Sheff tries his damnedest to objectively recall the hometown hes romanticized despite himself.
The wish just to go back when I know I wasnt ever happy. Show me my best memory its probably super crappy, Sheff sings on Pink Slips, a song so self-deprecating that he appears to call himself a prostitute paid in pink slips.
All of a sudden The Silver Gymnasium is one big coming-of-age tale almost anybody can empathize with. Sheffs Cutlass cruiser of time speeds ever onward, but in a way that isnt tired or overwrought, the albums message is basically carpe diem.
And without the map, youd probably lose it. Brown is a deejay for the University of Idaho student radio station, KUOI 89.3 FM. He can be contacted at dbrown@lmtribunedotcom or (208) 848-2278. Follow him on Twitter @DylanBrown26.