There are two types of people: those who think vinyl is awesome, and those who find the hipster hijack painful,” said my flatmate. It was a Sunday and Lou Reed had died only hours earlier. We were listening to Transformer on a vintage vinyl (obvy) on my roomie’s record player. Reed would have hated us — two middle-class east London-dwelling upstarts waxing lyrical about the beauty of vinyl. For years, record shops were the preserve of fusty-looking metal-heads with long hair and leather jackets that smelt of wet dog. It was a High Fidelity world of geeks, where the collector was king — the peak of a romantic encounter was your date showing you his Dead Kennedys records. Far better is the modern boy with the latest Sonos system and amazing Spotify playlist. Or was. The parsnip-crisp classes have commandeered the ukulele, New Balance trainers and beards — and now records. As a result, sales are on the increase. The BPI, the record-industry trade body, estimates vinyl sales will exceed 700,000 this year, the highest since 2001. Meanwhile, back in my flat there are 12in records leaning casually against our rented windows, and my most recent purchase is a Gloria Lynne recording of Try a Little Tenderness. It’s from a Bleecker Street record store in New York — or it could have been a car-boot sale in Clitheroe. Anyway, it was the Pepto-Bismol-pink sleeve that did it. I love record sleeves: the faded colours (washed out way before Instagram filters), the iconic covers. As affected as it sounds, they are a moment in time. Running my fingers along the metal zip fly on the front of my dad’s copy of Sticky Fingers was a brilliant distraction from my teenage spots and braces. Listening to the Clash and Neil Young’s Harvest in my bedroom while I pretended to smoke joss sticks was a pre-uni highlight. Fifteen years on, I’ve gone digital, of course, but I still like records. I buy the odd one (using them like ornaments around the flat, as in every other house in Hoxton), and I don’t even own a record player. The hipster haven Urban Outfitters now sells portable Crosley record players and, in store, vinyl albums by Daft Punk and the xx, and classics such as the Velvet Underground or Vangelis’s Blade Runner soundtrack. Whole Foods Market is also selling records alongside quinoa and quail. “Did vinyl ever stop being cool?” asks Simon Burd, head of music at Urban Outfitters. “With downloads so prevalent, people want a physical format for their favourite music. Nothing beats vinyl. The bigger sleeve for artwork, the act of putting a record on, listening to a record in full as the artist wanted it heard, plus it sounds better — or feels like it does. People in their thirties are starting to buy records again.” This summer, the Vinyl Library opened just off Stoke Newington High Street in east London, aka the goat’s milk mile. It’s a volunteer-run record-lending library that runs DJ classes and seminars on record-collecting. “It’s a noncompetitive, female-friendly place,” says the cofounder Sophie Austin. “It’s a reaction against the rise of digital music,” says Laurence Montgomery of Rise Records in Bristol. “Vinyl means people don’t treat music in a disposable way. It’s the same reason that people want to drink real ale — it’s the fashion for authenticity. Everything is so instant these days. Taking time out to listen to a record is taking time out to enjoy life.”
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