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Best Songs for Vinyl Records

July 26, 2011

Ready to dust off Dad’s old records? How about heading to the local record store and showing some support?

In Part 2 of our “Format Series,” we take a look at vinyl records, or more appropriately known as “gramophone” records. The gramophone record enjoyed its heyday from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. Along with its successor, the cassette, both were the final analog formats of audio playback until the advent of digital technologies in the late 1980s.

The vinyl record's recent resurgence is no mistake; this format is as mesmerizing as it is vintage. The groove and needle is an ideal tribute to analog technologies in sound reproduction.

Today, vinyl records have enjoyed a stunning, even perplexing resurgence, with over 2.8 million units shipped in 2008; the format’s highest since 1998. Mostly ceasing production in 1991, the vinyl record is now an attractive, hip outlet for musicians to market their music nowadays. Vintage and stylish, records provide a warmer, more personal sound that is often described as the closest recording will come to an actual live sound.

So how can you take advantage of vinyl’s exquisite sound? We have five suggestions for you; a list of songs that we feel truly epitomize vinyl’s spectral offering.

Superstition — Stevie Wonder

Talking Book (1972)

One of funk’s all-time classics, Wonder’s soulful utilization of the model C clavinet has left listeners forever asking ‘what the hell is that anyway?’ The densely layered track is distinguished by disciplined bass, a powerful horn section and some disco ready drums. With so much to hear, vinyl is an excellent choice to deliver you with the ultimate serving of this soulful song. (And that ain’t no superstition.)

I Will Sing You Songs — My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves (2003)

My Morning Jacket’s third studio album was perhaps their most brilliant, with each track serving a greater purpose and elevating a familiar feeling throughout. The raucous more country songs take a backseat to this slow tune however; a lullaby-like love song suspended with dominant jazz drums, starry keys and later, the thunderous return of the guitar which lead this entire record. Melancholy and ethereal, this song is tranquility recorded; no more beautifully embraceable than on vinyl’s warm emissions.

Hurts So Good — John Cougar Mellencamp

American Fool (1982)

Perhaps penned for drunken, heartbroken fools in barrooms and saloons everywhere, this classic rock staple is one of Mellencamp’s most lively. Pumping with some heavy bass drums, the wrecked, rockabilly guitar tears right in, as the bubbling bass reels it back bar after bar. Like beer tops popping, Mellencamp lends his Americana vocals on top, rivaling the best of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty or Bob Seger. This is one underrated party song, with hooks that stick and instruments that pop on every turn and it’s all captured brilliantly on the vinyl.

Everything in Its Right Place — Radiohead

Kid A (2000)

The “live setting” effect of vinyl is extremely powerful on this reflective track by English greats Radiohead. The dissonant sound of Thom Yorke’s keyboard is as much haunting as it is reassuring, while his vocals are put on the pedestal with absolute clarity. Vinyl will celebrate this groove, which is part house music, part electronica, with an unusual 10/4 time signature. No weirder place than on the record player.
Burning Down the House — Talking Heads

Speaking in Tongues (1983)

Often considered one of the Talking Heads’ most accessible hits, “Burning Down the House” is a very fun track ideal for bringing down the house. Singer David Byrne penned many abstract lyrics that were eventually pieced together for this tribute to musical anarchy. The echoing stadium drums flow around chopping, new wave guitar riffs, while Byrne plays the jesters in the distance. You might miss the punchline of course, unless you try it on vinyl.

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