The medium that carries the message matters just about as much as the content it is carrying. If you had an old tape cassette that you played in your car, it would sound different from playing a CD containing MP3 audio files, which are highly compacted digital formatted songs. In other words, listening to digital is very different from listening to analogue technology. Recording onto vinyl is an entirely different beast altogether. In many ways, vinyl records created the album format, which shapes how a songwriter writes a song and places it within a specific context of the larger body of work.
Listening to an album, like recording the album, is a whole experience in itself. In this way, the medium is extremely relevant, as well. When putting a vinyl record on, you let the needle hit the wax and let it rotate its revolutions until its very end, flowing from one song into the next, glueing the album into a concise story.
Recently, vinyl has made a significant comeback since tape cassette, and digital formats took over the market. Technology’s progress has made physical copies of music almost obsolete to this day; most people download audio files or burn CDs onto their computers now. Since the beginning of the new century, the lack of physical copies created a demand for something tangible in addition to the digital files listeners have on their electronic devices. In today’s fast-paced society, most people are on the move, for which their phones have now become the ideal mp3 player with capabilities of unlimited music streaming and downloads.
When listeners are at home, the ideal and probably the ‘coolest’ way of consuming music now, are record players. By 2014, there was a 200 per cent increase in the demand for vinyl since 2009. Its appeal has only grown throughout lockdown.
Listening to vinyl is arguably the best way to listen to music; while some may disagree, analogue is still superior to digital despite the conveniences that digital technology provides. Analogue does not limit audio bandwidth; once digital audio is recorded, the bandwidth is set in place. On the other hand, analogue audio will not lose its quality when improving an already high-resolution file. It’s no wonder vinyl has made a serious comeback.
When new artists and bands release music in 2021, it is almost expected for them to release it on vinyl in addition to digital format. Each week we will be delving into the best new releases on vinyl that you’ll definitely want to get your hands on.
Best new vinyl releases and reissues this week:
Medicine at Midnight – Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters’ tenth studio album has been in the works since 2019 and was initially slated to be released last year. David Grohl said of the album, “I knew the vibes were definitely off, but the sound was fucking on. We would come back to the studio the next day, and all of the guitars would be detuned. Or the setting we’d put on the mixing board, all of them had gone back to zero.”
“We would open up a Pro Tools session and tracks would be missing. There were some tracks that were put on there that we didn’t put on there. But just like weird open mic noises. Nobody playing an instrument or anything like that, just an open mic recording a room.” Whether there was weird energy or not, the album still came out nicely and is worth getting a hold of this vinyl.
Highlights – The Weeknd
The album is a throwback to 80s synth-pop, and Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a The Weeknd, does a hell of a job with it – his songs are catchy and intelligent, as it collates the singer’s work from across his career. As an artist, he is brilliant, and he knows what he’s doing. As a commercially savvy musician, he also knows a hits collection like this will be an unmissable opportunity.
He’s won many awards, including grammies, American Music Awards, Billboard awards, Juno awards and others. He is an artist to be reckoned with and has influenced contemporary music as we know it today. The album is worth listening to and, perhaps more importantly, worth picking up as a trophy.
Shore – Fleet Foxes
The Fleet Foxes’ fourth effort which in short, is another masterpiece, was released online to coincide with the Autumnal equinox on September 22nd of 2020. The album was released on vinyl on February 5th of this week.
Robin Pecknold, the band’s singer and chief songwriter, said the album is a celebration of life in the face of death — referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fleet Foxes does a phenomenal job of making a record that sounds like autumn: it is brighter than their previous records and is full of colour and life.
You’ve heard the songs now pick up the go to piece of your record collection for autumnal days indoors.
Good Woman – The Staves
The Staves consist of three sisters from Watford, and they deliver nice indie folk-pop numbers with a steady and strong backbeat. On top of their well-crafted heartfelt songs lay a multitude of harmony, of which only three entwined sisters could deliver. Good Woman is their fifth album and highly recommended as an essential piece of their catalogue.
Their sound is definitely inspired by that reverb-drenched shimmering sound of the Fleet Foxes, but they also have a certain poignancy and clarity that cuts through their harmonies’ denseness. It’s an album with one eye on the future, and this LP is a timeless piece.
For the First Time – Black Country, New Road
The hype machine around Black Country New Road is whirring and their new release on vinyl this week is a must. The album kicks off with an instrumental, aptly named ‘Instrumental’, and it is a bit deceiving; you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get when the song starts with a slightly dissident, computer-game like, treble guitar line.
Then a saxophone kicks in which throws the listener off, as it provides a little maturity to what one might think will be an immature and whiny rock band. The album explores interesting song structures, riddled with fascinating lyrical stories. The singer’s voice is a mix of an pop-punk vocalist and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.
Ignorance – The Weather Station
Fronted by Tamara Lindeman, they released their debut in 2009. The Weather Station’s fifth album was released this week on vinyl through Fat Possum Records and is an interesting mix of jazz, experimental sonics, and pure pop. This particular album has seen some significant commercial acclaim and attention. The New York Times has called it a “piercing new album”.
Lindeman’s voice is slightly reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and some of her lyrics are commentaries on climate change. The music walks a fine line between jazz easy-listening of the background, and an ear-catching, swift pop melody lines, that grabs one’s attention in the forefront.
Detroit Blues – Danny Kroha
On this great new vinyl release, Kroha lives and breathes what the title suggests, the Detroit blues. Kroha has been involved in the Detroit music scene for years and works as a musician and record producer. This record is supercharged with the sounds of the city.
He brings the blues back to life with this record; his guitar fingerpicking is definitely a nod to the old-timers of the delta blues and while he has a unique voice it is slightly similar to another son of the city, in The White Stripes’ Jack White, though still flecked with singularity.
Uppers – TV Priest
The album is post-punk reminiscent of The Fall and certainly sounds like they’ve been listening to a lot of IDLES. Nevertheless, the record is great and definitely sounds better on vinyl, with the palpable crackle of anticipation only pipped by the band’s raw sound.
TV Priest are a fairly new group, in fact, they are so new that they only played a single gig before the pandemic forced us all into lockdown. A majority of the songs are based on a driving fuzzy bassline and fronted with the quintessential singing and shouting that makes post-punk so essential.
September 78 – John Prine
This is a vinyl reissue of Prine’s live record that is sure to bring back the buzz for his fans. Some of the songs included on this are, ‘Angel from Montgomery’, ‘Please Don’t Bury me’, ‘Sweet Revenge’, and ‘Often is a Word I Seldom Use’. It’s the kind of tracklisting that showcases the singer’s impressive talent.
John Prine was a country-folk singer that was highly revered in the music community. He passed away from complications from COVID-19. According to his wishes expressed in his ‘Paradise’ song, half of his ashes were strewn across Kentucky’s Green River. This record acts as a reminder of why he was so dearly loved.
Common Turn – Anna B Savage
Savage is a London based singer-songwriter. Her album, Common Turn, was released this week on vinyl. Known for her strong vocal compositions and a tender use of sonics, Savage has found an audience for her unique mood and expertly crafted songs. It’s made her one of the most essential artists around.
The songs on this new release certainly prove this. They are beautiful vignettes of heartwrenching warmth. It seems that retro rock, folk and pop are making a serious comeback, and if this is the case, then Savage is definitely a performer on the front lines of this revival.