Words and photos by Alex Capper
Record Store Day is any audiophile’s favourite day of the year. It is the celebration of music and music production in the purest form. Every year, on the third Saturday of April, music lovers and artists across the globe support the vinyl industry with this annual shopping bonanza. The day sees new and rare releases made available on vinyl, which can be savoured by music punters for a lifetime.
It goes without saying that the phenomenon of the internet and the digitalisation of media have fundamentally affected the music industry. Any artist’s music can be accessed on an infinite number of platforms by anyone. As a result, the days of the CD are dying. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a Sanity store?
But today’s music industry is simultaneously progressing in two contrasting directions. Record labels and artists primarily rely on the relatively new-age wonder of streaming platforms (Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud) and digital transactions (Bandcamp, ITunes) to sell their music directly. In fact, 2013 was the first year in Australian music that more albums were downloaded than physically purchased since ITunes launched in 2005.
Running concurrently alongside the digital music revolution is the market’s renewed interest in the production of vinyl records. The vinyl record represents the culmination of the art in the aural and visual medium. This fact is undoubtedly a key reason for the increase in popularity of vinyl in the MP3 era. According to Digital Music News, from 2007-2012, Vinyl sales in the USA increased from 988,000 to 4.6 million. In that same span, the net worth of the vinyl industry grew from $55 million to $171 million. On our own shores, total vinyl sales were up 77 per cent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to ARIA.
With this increased attention towards records and vinyl music shops, a syndicate of Record Store owners conceived a special day to celebrate vinyl and independent music stores in 2007, aptly named Record Store Day. Since then, there are now stores participating in Record Store Day from every continent on earth.
Simon Karis, co-owner of Fitzroy’s Polyester Records, believes the day is all about a “fun and exciting way to celebrate music”. While he acknowledges that the increased support is nice, the day is by no means driven by financial incentive. Karis deems that the rise of vinyl pre-empted and catalysed the inception of Record Store Day, which has only reinforced the growing popularity of vinyl and independent music stores.
Karis values the aesthetic difference vinyls offer, stating they are simply “nice to collect and treasure”. MP3s, which he notes offer the same aural quality as CDs, have become the new throwaway, saturating the market and almost becoming worthless in sentimental value. Karis added that vinyl records are the “boutique alternative for the mass music market”, citing the rising statistics possibly to the fact that music lovers favour quality over quantity and are seeking distinctive and retrospective avenues to enjoy and appreciate music.
While Karis believes the vinyl market has always been an underlying presence and that vinyl will continue to expand, he does feel that this surge in popularity has a ceiling and will eventually plateau. However, for whatever new form of musical listening emerges in the future, Karis is a strong believer that vinyl will always remain a valuable and retroactive presence on the music industry.
When 19 April came around, I decided I better make good on this unique opportunity and personally check out what Record Store Day has to offer.
I discovered that the day was, as Karis described, simply dedicated to the art of music. Special and rare releases coming out on vinyl and cassette; live music from artists in-store; and a jam-packed rush by music junkies to grab their favourite record before it was snatched up. Record Store Day had achieved its wider aim. A flurry of people flocked to their favourite record store to show that adoration for quality music and independent music stores was at an important and resurgent high.
While I was heartbrokenly deprived of some of my desired releases (absolutely gutted I missed out on the reissue of MGMT’s Congratulations and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 Singles), Record Store Day demonstrated in abundance that music is more than throwaway MP3s, a YouTube video, or solely a commercial entity. It is an art that can be a reminiscent portal to your memory, taking you to experiences etched with nostalgia. Or a form of art that purely grasps you in a moment that perfectly captures your present feelings. It is these irreplaceable experiences through music that Record Store Day ultimately celebrates the most.
Polyester Records is located at 387 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Get around it.
Words by Scout Boxall
Recorded on the edge of the Texan desert, Post Tropical has a quiet wildness to it. Its simple acoustic hooks and harmonies are glazed in hoarfrost. Each key change is warm enough to thaw out a wind-beaten travelling salesman leaning over a hearth. Sometimes, the ever-restrained James Vincent McMorrow will allow the music to swell for a few seconds. It’s like the brave little last rays of the sun seep over the horizon, before sinking into a beautiful grey dusk.
McMorrow – a former airport trolley attendant – has the dry-lipped, breathless voice of a lover. You can barely decipher the lyrics, but that doesn’t really matter. Each track is brutally, beautifully simple – no more than two instruments accompany his voice at any one time. He lulls you to sleep. Then, his signature sky-scraping falsetto pierces the music like a needle through felt. You shudder up in awe. (In live shows, even the most seasoned audiences gasp at the power of his voice.)
Post Tropical is a palate cleanser, best listened to on the tram with closed eyes and cold hands. Even though it runs just under an hour, it’s difficult to swallow the entire album in one sitting. The opening to Post Tropical “Cavalier” combines unresolved piano chords with quiet clapping, reminiscent of fellow Briton James Blake. But the music’s heartbeat remains constant. McMorrow manages to punctuate the monotony with a few tricks. “The Lakes” pulls together fifty mandolins to mimic running water. “Gold” soars into a muted trombone and a swan-necked clarinet. “Repeating” has a crackling snare drum underneath what sounds like children singing on a merry-go-round, swinging in and out of focus. “Outside, Digging” has a distinct gospel feel. Nonetheless, after a while, the hollow drum, haunting vocals and trembling steel guitar makes you restless.
His debut album, Early In The Morning, placed him squarely in the folk-indie-rock camp. It was an innocuous collection of strumming guitars and lilting bridges; nothing special. But McMorrow’s sophomore effort has teeth. If his first album was saccharine, then his second is caramelised and salted. McMorrow sounds half as coy, twice as wistful. Imagine Mumford And Sons, stripped of the incessant ukulele and predictable foot-stamping chorus. Combine this with Justin Vernon’s hermitage and Fleet Foxes’ haunting confessional harmonies. Strain out any Alt-J-esque sweetness. Serve raw and cold. There you have the humble and honest music of James Vincent McMorrow. It’s not ground-breaking or revolutionary, but it’s damn good.
Must listen to: All Points, Gold, Repeating
Record company: Believe/Dew Process
Release date: January 3rd, 2014