Monday, June 14, 2010

Put the needle on the record

I like vinyl. Guess I'm sort of a music snob, really. I've been qualified as a "hipster" before and I suppose I can see that, being that I have been to see bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Rilo Kiley. Thus my penchant for vinyl probably comes as no surprise to those who know me even a little bit.
My vinyl kick started when I was in high school when I discovered my parents' old records collecting dirt and dust in the garage. In the collection I found albums by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Cat Stevens and more. I decided to rescue the treasure and claim them as my own. (I left some things like Loggins and Messina to continue their decay process in the garage). I found an old record player that barely worked and started my music education with albums like "Desire", "Hunky Dory" and "Teaser and the Firecat". I also began buying my own records at that time, starting with little 7" ones by bands like Pavement and Velocity Girl that I found at Fantasy Records (where I still buy vinyl from time to time).
I still have all of the records that I salvaged plus perhaps hundreds more. I love vinyl, I love the size of the album covers and the artifacts themselves. I love the sound of the pop as the needle first drops down onto the record.
My husband and I owned one record player, a basic Sony component model that serves us well. However, I've been on another vinyl tear lately and I wanted a little portable thing that I could drag upstairs to my little room where I like to read and practice my guitar and have time alone. It seemed like a simple enough task, there are plenty of portable models on the market right now. We were shopping at Target and decided to pick up a basic Crosley portable record player.
Don't buy a Crosley portable record player. At least not if you care about how your music sounds. Now, for $75 I didn't expect great things. I expected barely adequate speakers and plastic parts. That's fine, no problem. However, the problem was that the speed of the record turntable was wrong. The player spun the records too slow. It wasn't even immediately noticeable. However, when I was trying to learn a long buy playing guitar along with the record, something was definitely wrong. I checked the tuning on my guitar and eventually my husband confirmed that the records were playing just a bit too slowly. So we decided that perhaps it was just a bad item and we decided to swap it for a different one, same model and everything. We got that stupid Crosley piece of shit home and immediately tested it. This one played just a little too fast. Back in the box, piece of crap Crosley! No more Crosley, period.
Perhaps I am a snob and a music elitist, but I believe that the music should be heard just as the artist intended, in the key and tuning that the artist intended. It seemed that the manufacturing of a small motor that causes a turntable with a record on it to spin at 33 1/2 rotations per minute wouldn't be difficult being that record players have been around for quite some time now. However, Crosley apparently isn't concerned with such trifles.
After some thrift store hunting and debate about the pros and cons of ordering online, we decided to go with what we know. We chose another Sony, the exact same basic model that we already owned and loved. We hooked it up to a radio and it works like a charm. Not necessarily ideal as it's not that easy to lug around the house, but it serves its purpose and it plays records at the desired intended speed. I think it will last a good long while, too.
With the resurgent popularity of vinyl, I'm surprised that a decent player isn't easier to access. Perhaps I'm just too picky. Nevertheless, I'm appalled at the poor quality that passes for acceptable. A company like Crosley that claims to specialize in radios and record players should have some concern about the quality of the sound of the product, no matter the model or cost. At least I now know what NOT to look for when I'm in the market for another radio or record player and I hope that you vinyl fiends will take this into consideration, too.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

NYC and May 2010

My trip to NYC this May to visit lovely Leah was outstanding. I can barely muster the words to describe how visually and aurally stimulating the Massive Attack show at Terminal 5 was. I can say that Martina Topley-Bird is one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on and she's got a voice that can render a crowd speechless. Massive Attack played a good selection of songs from their new album Heligoland as well as a handful of "greatest hits" from Angel to Karmacoma. Fabulous, jaw-dropping, glorious.

The Buzzcocks were amazing- particularly since I think they're probably eligible to collect Social Security. They kicked ass, serious ass. They played the entirety of Music from Another Kitchen and Love Bites, then launched into an encore featuring their best-loved songs including "What Do I Get?, "Harmony in My Head" and "Orgasm Addict".

I got to visit Tokyo Rebel and it was so lovely and the owners are friggin' awesome. Big love to Tokyo Rebel! If you happen to be in the East Village, make a point of paying them a visit.

Also got to catch a screening of the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time. Highly recommended, particularly for art aficionados.