Record Store Day

Tons of vinyl albums can be found at Wuxtry Records in Athens, Ga. (Photo: ©2014 Randy Schafer, randy.drum.schafer@gmail.com)

While there’s no right or wrong way to listen to music, it’s hard to deny that playing an album on vinyl can drastically alter the listening experience whether you’re hearing it for the first time or the hundredth. Here are five amazing albums that you should snag on vinyl if you get the chance.

1) “Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings” by Whitney

In early November, Whitney released the demo recordings of its debut album “Light Upon the Lake.” The album was recorded entirely on tape, so vinyl seems to be its most natural state. Listening to music on vinyl is already a more intimate act than streaming or even CDs because it requires the most physical involvement through placing the needle, swapping records, and even maintenance of the turntable. The demo version of “Light Upon the Lake” expounds upon this intimacy by bringing the listener back to when the tracks were first laid down on tape.

2) “Bullet in a Bible” by Green Day

“American Idiot” is, if not the most beloved, the most iconic Green Day album. “Bullet in a Bible” is a live album recorded during the band’s “American Idiot” world tour in 2005. Half of the 14 tracks are from said album while the remaining seven include popular songs like “Longview” and “Basket Case.” Live albums in themselves are odd but engaging with the sounds of the cheering crowd and band chatter. Bringing this experience onto vinyl then becomes an acutely immersive experience—the listener brings the concert back to life by placing the needle. Although perhaps an unnatural-sounding experience at first, vinyl is an amazing way to enjoy live albums because it discourages the skipping around that streaming encourages, so instead you listen to the record like you would at a live show—all the way through, start to finish.

3) “Beautiful Lies” by Birdy

“Beautiful Lies” is an album that feels particularly at home on vinyl. Birdy’s smooth voice and singer-songwriter base has a pop sensibility that makes for an album that can be quietly listened but also bopped to. The pulse of songs like “Wild Horses” and “Lifted” make a sound that wouldn’t be played in a club, but can still be danced to. Adding the feature of playing the album on vinyl extends the movement of the spinning record and the physicality of placing it on the turntable to swaying to the music.

4) “Gregory Alan Isakov With the Colorado Symphony” by Gregory Alan Isakov

On this album songs from Isakov’s previous three albums, “The Weatherman,” “This Empty Northern Hemisphere” and “That Sea, The Gambler,” are re-envisioned, evolving from the singer-songwriter’s soothing but simpler sound to incorporate orchestral instruments. The result is an expansive album which adds an additional layer of emotional intensity to the included songs.

5) “Balsams” by Chuck Johnson

The atmospheric, instrumental sounds of “Balsams” seem made to heard on vinyl. A turntable and good speakers, or even headphones, allow the ethereal album to fully envelop the listener. “Balsams” is a transporting album, not bringing the listener to any specific location but a mind-space—a calm and reflective state of being.

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