Gardening, home-brewing, dusting off the ol’ ivories and re-learning Moonlight Sonata: it’s no hyper-classified secret that isolation has rekindled our interests in especially tactile activities, and the palpable pleasures they grant us. One of these worthy joys is the experience of vinyl, and the way it encourages a slow-fi approach to consuming music.
Just as meditation compels us to slow our thought processes, limit our external stimuli, and connect with our bodies, the vinyl experience can shape a more considered interaction with music – which, let’s face it, many of us have become used to devouring in a rabid hustle of scrolling and queuing.
Social distancing and generally avoiding surfaces spelled an initial ebb in vinyl purchases – we were understandably hesitant to go into a store and flip through LPs in the way we hadn’t given a second thought to a few months before – but several weeks into isolation, the market saw a huge upswing. We weren’t able to connect with artists in the live arena any more, so we looked to long-trusted methods to get that tangible thrill.
In an interesting parallel, the actual method of a vinyl’s journey form pressing plant to your hands has come to mirror the slow-fi approach. Most vinyl arrives in Australia from pressing facilities in Europe and the US via aero-freight – but the all-but-cessation of international flights quickly made that option prohibitively expensive for record companies. Therefore, the number-crunchers at the labels decided to return to an old school method of transportation: sea-freight. Where a flight from the US could deliver stock to our shores in as little as five to ten days, a shipping container making the same from- and to- will haul itself into port in approximately two to three weeks. That means that even though stores have a pretty educated idea of what is going to sell well, at this time you’re less likely to be able to find the exact title you want in-store – and that’s quite aside from the unexpected rise in sales.
On that subject of titles, you may be interested to know that ‘rediscovering vinyl’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘rediscovering the dusty sounds of Ancient Mesopotamia’. Of course the classics will never die: Bob Marley’s Legend, Nirvana’s self-titled debut, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and Best Of collections from Queen, ABBA, Bowie and Cold Chisel have been shown enduring love over iso.
But according to JB sales figures, you’ll also find plenty of recent classics in the top-sellers on vinyl: The Killers’ Hot Fuss, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks times two, Adele’s 25 and Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die are all in there. And also amongst the best-selling camp you’ll find a possibly surprising number of brand newies (released in the last 12 months): Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush, Tyler the Creator’s Igor, Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?, Harry Styles’ Fine Line, the Dunies’ Hurry Up & Wait, and Lady Gaga’s Chromatica – on beautiful JB-exclusive silver vinyl – are all being shown a ton of adoration.
Speaking of coloured vinyl, that extra dollop of visual beauty is proving desirable for many collectors, with several coloured iterations of titles doing phenomenally well: Taylor Swift’s 2019 smash Lover on baby pink and baby blue (double LP), Gang Of Youths’ brilliant 2015 debut The Positions in bright orange, Halsey’s Manic of early 2020 in JB- and Australia-exclusive coke bottle clear, Ocean Alley’s 2018 sophomore effort Chiaroscuro in opaque pink, and The Teskey Brothers’ recent #1 record Live At The Forum on jewelled blue.
The vinyl experience creates space for comfort and contemplation, of which we can all do with an extra serving right now. Long may it reign.