It would’ve seemed like sci-fi just a generation ago, but we’re now at the point where any piece of music – from pop cheese to underground racket – is readily available to us, whenever and wherever, at the swipe of a finger.
Music streaming sites like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music have exploded with popularity over the past couple of years, and you can see their appeal: for less than the price of three pints, you get monthly access to a seemingly unlimited number of tracks. If you can’t find something that floats your boat, your boat has a leak.
But far less comprehendible than this explosion in digitised music has been the massive resurgence of streaming’s diametric opposite, the vinyl record – a defiantly analogue piece of technology dating back to the 19th century. Vinyl sales leapt an incredible 101% between 2012 and 2013, and are now up 56% again compared to last year; Jack White’s recent solo album Lazaretto is the biggest-selling vinyl album in 20 years.
And this isn’t being driven by nostalgic 50-something dads: market researchers ICM found that the vast majority of vinyl buyers are 18 to 24.
Why? Well, in an age of playlists being zapped to your phone, it offers something tangible; a physical, covetable representation of the music you love. It forces you to really listen to music, rather than absentmindedly shuffling between half-played tracks – because nothing focuses your attention on an album like dropping 20 quid on it. Finally, it really does sound better: warmer, fatter, heavier, more ‘alive’. Honestly, you’ve not properly heard your favourite album until you’ve heard it at 33rpm.
We asked Phil Barton from London’s legendary Sister Ray Records shop for seven essential albums every man needs in his vinyl collection…
“You can hear the tension in every note on this, recorded in a real prison in front of real hardened criminals.”
“A very influential but very unsung, yet totally necessary hip-hop record. J Dilla is a huge inspiration to the new school of artists.”
“It was 20 years after his death that people started to notice Nick Drake. He was one of the original chill-out artists before chill-out existed.”
“If you want a record from the last 10 years then this is a monster. They’re a band that know hard work creates great results.”
“In my opinion, this is their best album, made at their drug-fuelled creative peak.”
“At the height of punk in the UK, a reggae band from Birmingham released this perfect reggae record.”
“You need a soul album, and Stevie Wonder’s your man. This isn’t a collection of songs, it’s an album that you listen to from start to end.”