Smile Politely

Get your vinyl on

Ask an audiophile (including yours truly), and they’ll tell you – “Vinyl is the way to go…”

“Vinyl is simply a better representation of the sound of the music, including all the little nuances…”

“It’s impossible to effectively duplicate an analog sound wave in a digital format, no matter how high the bit rate…”

(Alright, maybe that last one exposed a bit more of my audio “nerdery” than most music hounds generally express, but there it is.)

In any case, there’s more to the vinyl-vs.-mp3 argument than overall sound quality. Modern listening devices have gotten pretty good. So has modern recording equipment. Thus, the music that most of us listen to digitally is of very high quality. I’m certainly no stranger to mp3s, and I’m guessing most of you have extensive collections as well. The portability is fantastic, and I won’t take that away from them.

But it’s not the same; it lacks something.

It’s not active listening. To me, the experience of listening to music trumps the arguments about quality, even if ever so slightly.

When you’re listening to an album — a true, pressed vinyl album — you’re listening actively. There’s no convenient way to skip tracks. (Which may be one of the reasons why so many classic albums seem to be monumentally better than the bulk of music being produced in the “skip-and-shuffle” era of pop — but I digress.) Further still, you have to get up, meander across the room, and turn an album over in order to enjoy the complete work. To experience an artists’ entire product involves getting your own hands into the act, at least in a manner of speaking. It may seem like a thin connection, but there is something more substantial to the overall listening experience when you have to genuinely listen, even if just to know when one side was finished. It elevates the album beyond background music for drowning out your noisy neighbors or obnoxious cubicle mates; it becomes art to enjoy, to take notice of.

That spirit, along with an overall love of engaging with music, is one of the driving forces behind Record Store Day, an event that takes place the third Saturday in April each year, beginning in 2007. This Saturday, April 16th, Record Store Day descends on the handful of still-present mom-and-pop local record shops in cities and towns across the U.S., including right here in Champaign-Urbana.

Record Store Day has grown to quite an event, and dozens (if not hundreds) of artists issue re-releases, special editions, and even exclusive or brand-new albums to coincide with the occasion. Here in Chambana, both Exile on Main St. and Parasol Records will be participating, and both have events and promotions planned.

(In case you’ll be out of town, you can find a complete list of other stores in Illinois and across the U.S. who are officially participating at the official Records Store Day website.)

While you’re at the official website, be sure to check out the releases scheduled for this year’s event. There are simply too many to list all of them here, but take some time to browse the complete listing. From Death Cab for Cutie, to Daft Punk, to Bruce Springsteen, to Bad Brains, to Crowded House, to… Well, you get the picture. Not every one of them will necessarily be available at your chosen record store, but hunting them down is part of the fun.

The releases for Record Store Day are not all exclusively vinyl, but the bulk of artists take the record part of Record Store Day seriously. For instance, I’ve already staked a claim to vinyl reissues of Pearl Jam’s Vs.and Vitalogy, and I’m looking forward to picking them up. (Disclaimer — I already own the compact disc reissues of the same albums from a couple of weeks ago, but that’s just not the same.)

Record stores here in Champaign and Urbana are fully embracing the occasion, as both Exile on Main Street and Parasol Records have some special plans for the day. Sales, special releases, limited editions, and more will be available at both shops, and both locations will have live performances throughout the day. Wiz Khalifa will be doing an in-store appearance (though not performing) at Exile on Main Street from 2 to 3:30 p.m., then performing at Assembly Hall that evening.

Here’s a sampling of scheduled artists appearing at each location as of this writing (click on the link to go to each store’s official Facebook event page).

Exile on Main St:

  • DJ Mertz: 12 p.m.
  • Kilborn Alley Blues Band: 12:35 p.m.
  • DJ Legtwo: 1:10 p.m.
  • Common Loon: 1:45 p.m.
  • The Palace Flophouse: 2:20 p.m.
  • Hathaways: 2:55 p.m.
  • The Fresh Kills: 3:30 p.m.
  • Ezra Furman and the Harpoons: 4:05 p.m.
  • Elsinore: 4:40 p.m.
  • Delta Kings: 5:15 p.m.
  • The Dirty Feathers: 5:50 p.m.
  • DJ Belly: 6:25 p.m.
  • Kirkwood West: 7:00 p.m.
  • Withershins: 7:35 p.m.
  • Take Care: 8:10 p.m.
  • DJ Bozak: 8:45 p.m.
  • Mingram: 9:20 p.m.

Parasol Records:

  • Palace Flophouse 11:00 a.m.
  • Fresh Kills 11:30 a.m.
  • Anna Karenina/Anna Karina Noon
  • Evil Tents 12:30 p.m.
  • You & Yourn 1:00 p.m.
  • Leadership 1:30 p.m.
  • Grandkids 2:00 p.m.
  • New Ruins 2:30 p.m.
  • Panel Van 3:15 p.m.
  • Withershins 4:00 p.m.

For even more information on the event and what each store has planned for the day, tune in to Smile Politely Radio this Friday at 5:30 p.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM. We’ll have representatives from Exile on Main Street and Parasol Records in studio to talk about the event, favorite releases scheduled for the day, special items and appearances, and more.

And if you don’t already have one, I would suggest investing in a nice turntable. Your ears will thank you later.

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