As much as I am sometimes bothered by the incredibly high price of vinyl these days, I’m generally able to justify purchasing it, in any number of ways. For one, there’s the simple fact that I know it’s far more expensive to produce than CDs. And if you’re crazy and careless enough with your money to put together a decent quality home stereo with a well-maintained turntable, it obviously sounds better than anything.
Another big one, though, is that having spent the past decade receiving boatloads of CDs in the mail because of my job, I’ve come to view CDs as somewhat disposable, literally, which is sad, considering the important role they once played in my life. Even as the huge CD collection that took up so much of my past few apartments got bigger and bigger, I felt less connected to it, because I knew how much of it I’d probably never listen to again. People who came to visit were always impressed by it, but deep down, I just wasn’t.
On the other hand, because no record label in its right mind would send out promo copies of albums on vinyl due to the cost, my collection of it has an entirely different feel, in that it’s made up exclusively of records I decided I cared about enough to purchase. If this were, I dunno, 1998, you could say my vinyl collection is just like every other non-rock critic’s CD collection in that way, but it’s not. This isn’t news, of course, but since the rise of file-sharing, even casual music fans have found themselves with more music on their hard drives, and on scratched-up, unlabeled CD-Rs, than they could ever possibly listen to or keep track of, much of it acquired for free. If their hard drive crashed, the only real loss would be the time it would take to download everything again. I like that my vinyl collection has actual monetary value, even though it’s generally higher than I’d like it to be. Childish though it may be, I like that there’s something separating me from every other asshole with 800 gigs of super shitty-sounding music at his disposal.
Also, though? It’s so fucking pretty.
Take, for instance, the new album by Austin-based post-rock trio Explosions in the Sky. It’s called Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, and it’s currently available for pre-order from Insound for a whopping $32.98, which, yes, is an awful lot of money—even compared to the $18 CDs everyone’s always complaining about. But take a look at what you get. First of all, it’s a 2XLP, and I’d be willing to bet it was pressed on 180-gram vinyl, so that would be enough to make it pretty expensive on its own. But then you’ve got what appears to be the craziest packaging ever. Through some hard-to-follow combination of inserts and complicated gatefold covers, you somehow wind up with this thing that looks like a free-standing 3-D house in the middle of a jungle. with doors and a fully illustrated outside and inside. Your MP3s may have been free, but they certainly can’t do that, can they?