What is it about a record I absolutely adore? There should be nothing about the format to like; impracticably large, difficult to rip, hardly portable, degrading over time, susceptible to damage - the list of flaws sounds worryingly like the first adverts for compact discs. A boy raised in that embarrassing phrase "the digital age", who first began to appreciate music during vinyl's darkest hour, I should be totally shunning the old black discs in search of optical media instead.
And indeed I do own a growing CD collection. But I hold no love for them; any I particularly treasure I only feel for due to other attached memories, like being the first I ever owned, or being given to me by certain beloved individuals. My CDs feel sterile and unloved, sitting glistening on the shelves but attracting attention only when played. Today upon purchasing a CD album I put it in my laptop, import it into iTunes, then slide the case onto the shelf to sit imperiously overlooking the room. I insist on CDs for their lossless nature and the inherent backup they offer me - one can always re-rip should hard drive failure strike. (Not the perfect solution but it works for me.)
Ah... but vinyl. Now this is a format I simply adore. Its large size offers a sense of ownership to me, as if I've actually bought something with my precious few pounds. They're abundant, popping up in charity shops nationwide, with new records appearing in my local music stores, sitting within their shrink wrap just waiting to be opened and gazed upon. Their large covers can hold wonderful artwork - ask any fan of Peter Saville's work, or look at any sleeve designed by Morrissey, or the legendary work of Hipgnosis. While the work can be replicated on a 5-inch CD sleeve it can't ever be the same.
Even the size of the record feels impressive - one can see the music etched into its surface, and read the occasional comments scratched into the runoff. Popping it onto the turntable and lowering the needle feels almost like a ritual. You can envision yourself sitting down with a friend, smiling to them as the initial pops and clicks crackle over the speakers, grinning, "this is going to be good," before the music flows out into your ears.
As I write this, I've been spending the past few minutes frantically refreshing eBay, celebrating the successful acquisition of a few more records to add to the collection. The fact that I already own a couple of them in some other shape or form is irrelevant; to have them on LP feels uniquely special.
Life, as John Peel once said, has surface noise.