Miranda Lee Richards,
The TVD First Date

“I grew up in the mid seventies, the era of the LP. I discovered Blondie’s Parallel Lines when I was three years old, barely old enough to operate the record player and not scratch the record. I had this strange habit of playing the album and running around a rocking chair in my living room. There is no logical explanation for this repetitive behavior, but it was before the labels of autism, OCD, and ADHD had come onto the scene. I was a fairly normal child, and it was pure joy.”

“There was definitely a stylistic musical polarity in our household, and to this day, my own taste and expression reflect a bit of that schism. My mom was really into new wave and punk records of the late ’70s, such as the Sex Pistols, Kraftwerk, the aforementioned Blondie, The Clash, and the Talking Heads. And my dad was into Southern Rock bands like Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, and Jerry Jeff Walker. We had Beatles and Cat Stevens records, and I had two audiophile uncles who basically had everything from Kate Bush to Captain Beefheart.

I played the heck out of Blondie’s Parallel Lines when I was three, Beatles Rubber Soul when I was nine, and XTC’s Skylarking when I was eleven. When Michael Jackson and Madonna were popular in the mid eighties, I proclaimed on the playground that I was into XTC, which garnered a few quizzical stares. Rubber Soul helped comfort me during a childhood depression at the age of eleven. So you could say music has always been a big part of my life.

My musical taste was more than just a preference; later on it became a lifestyle. The coolest kids were sophisticated when it came to aesthetics, quietly winning scholarships to art schools and scoring high on social and fashion IQ. A lot of the people who would be classified as “alternative” lived on the edge—they had very little money, but were rich in youth, beauty, style, and mystery. Those were the people whose record collections I learned from.

I got really into Opal and the Paisley Underground bands, and more obscure Baroque sixties folk and psychedelic rock: The Kaleidoscope, Pentangle, The Fairport Convention, Syd Barrett, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Melanie, Marianne Faithful, Mary Hopkin, Nico, Vashti Bunyan, among others. Most of those records weren’t released on CD or tape. A fun thing to do was buy an LP because of the cover art or the name, and see if it was any good. I decided at that time that I wanted to play music professionally and began writing songs.

Vinyl listening for me hobbled along through the early 2000s. My husband still had his record player, and we combined our music collections. CDs had a stronghold at that time, and they served their purpose fine. I was initially intrigued by the convenience of not having to flip side A to side B and being able to listen in the car. But what I hated most about CDs were the plastic jewel cases and packaging (thank God for today’s wallet-style, nostalgic of a mini gatefold LP).

Just when I had re-bought my favorite classic records on CD, along came the MP3 and iTunes. We were the generation that had to load everything into our computer—it was a massive undertaking that took months (for some, years) to get our CD and vinyl collections into our hard drives.

And just when that dust had settled, then came YouTube and Spotify! I believe the value of music diminishing may have had more to do with the digital experience and sound quality than the music actually being less valuable. Most people listen through computer speakers (in digital binary code) while multi-tasking, answering email and messing around on Facebook. When you listen to a record on vinyl, not only do you get hit with the warmth of true analog waves that sound better, it gives you an opportunity to just listen and be present with the experience.

Contained therein is the act of reading all the lyrics, and looking at the album art and credits. Who produced, mixed, mastered, wrote the songs, played on the tracks, drew the cover, designed the packaging, took the photos, released the thing? The convenience, portability and access to music on Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube is amazing, but the regression of sound quality, the disappearance of artwork and credits, and artists not making any money isn’t so amazing.

The thing that vinyl also got right: our human attention span. It’s an amount of music and a focus that we can digest, even in the midst of our ADD digital gluttony. Even the CD playlist length has crept up through the years, becoming stiflingly long in some instances. Listening to a record on vinyl makes me feel sane. It pulls me into the moment and allows me to reflect. I ponder the words; I make some correlations in my own life. If I do multi-task, it’s to do something I can still pay attention to—music while doing, like tidying up or making dinner.

Also different is the fact that there is no filter now, there’s just so much “noise” out there amongst the really good releases, and the market is flooded. It’s a musical renaissance in the sense that musicians can make albums relatively inexpensively with 100% creative control, but that also means that it’s less valuable with potentially very little quality control. And often times there aren’t budgets for real players, producers, and arrangers, so there’s a loss of artistic mastery. There’s also more competing for people’s attention: social media, TV, movies, videos, gaming, the Internet in general. So phew, you wrap this all up and things have really changed, and fast!

I think all of this hyper progress has led people back to vinyl: the simple experience of listening to a great sounding album, one record, the whole way through. And I have a DJ turntable, so I have to get up and flip it to side B (that previously dreaded action), which keeps me in the same room and engaged and participating.

It’s interesting that the things we were trying to “improve upon” with technology, we’ve come back to: reading a physical book, watching a movie in the theater, cooking a home-cooked meal, going to see a live performance, and of course, listening to a record on vinyl. It’s arguably for the better!”
Miranda Lee Richards

Miranda Lee Richards’ Echoes Of The Dreamtime arrives in stores worldwide via London-based indie Invisible Hands Music on January 29, 2016.

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PHOTO: ELENA BALSHEM

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