Record Stores Revinylize OC

The vinyl boom is fueling a resurgence of record retailers

"Just trying to keep up with it all is something I'm working to be disciplined about," he says.

Macy, whose father was a non-denominational Christian pastor, grew up in a strict household that frowned on rock & roll music, though he does remember his dad having an LP of Led Zeppelin IV, which Macy keeps on a shelf at home. "I treasure that," he says, "my dad's fucked-up sin." He estimates he has around 5,000 LPs in his personal collection and a penchant for vintage records featuring trumpet players posed next to sultry, curvaceous women. As a kid, he remembers wanting to own a record store: "I wanted a store with velvet bins."

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Dorris, left, and Melanie Lynn Thompson browse Creme Tangerine's selection of records inside 
its trailer
Miguel Vasconcellos
Dorris, left, and Melanie Lynn Thompson browse Creme Tangerine's selection of records inside its trailer
Creme Tangerine co-owners Parker Macy, top, and Jonathon Staph turned a refurbished vintage trailer into a record store at The Lab
Miguel Vasconcellos
Creme Tangerine co-owners Parker Macy, top, and Jonathon Staph turned a refurbished vintage trailer into a record store at The Lab

Rand Foster opened Fingerprints Music in Long Beach 19 years ago, and he continues to run it today. His store represents the epitome of hi-fidelity cool: hip digs, well-stocked, knowledgeable staff.

An open space that lets in a flood of natural light through skylights, the high ceilings sport criss-crossed two-by-fours; an assemblage of autographed posters signed by bands who have played in the store adorns the exposed-brick walls. Though the aisles are full of new and used CDs, LPs and kitschy rock & roll action figures, the space more closely resembles a trendy SoHo loft than a music retailer.

This past Record Store Day, the Foo Fighters played here for a small crowd of fans granted access after pre-ordering the band's new LP through the store. And though he's riding the current wave of interest in vinyl, it's clear from Foster's store's history, even after the format was eclipsed by other options, it never completely went away.

"About 10 years ago, my staff came to me, thinking about getting rid of all the records, that it would give us so much more room for CDs," he explains. "I said, 'But then we can't say we're a record store.'"

Both Foster and Factory Records' Dave James have their own theories on the resurgence of vinyl.

James—who ran Costa Mesa's Noise, Noise, Noise until 2005—says the rise of the CD occurred at a unique time in music history. "I opened up Noise, Noise, Noise in 1991, and right after that, the rave movement came around, which really brought vinyl back in a big way. The DJ got really popular again, the underground hip-hop movement exploded, and the third wave of punk kind of brought vinyl back. Vinyl's really been a punk-rock thing also."

Foster attributes the boom of vinyl to the digital age. "We've entered an age when so much music is consumed digitally. If you don't want to consume music digitally, the LP makes so much more sense. It's a much better experience from what you hold in your hand to the sound experience to the larger artwork."

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Other experts attribute the phenomenon to a mixture of factors.

In Los Angeles, Infrasonic Sound Mastering co-owner/mastering engineer Pete Lyman has worked with numerous indie artists who've released albums and EPs on vinyl for the past 10 years. He has worked on recordings for Matt and Kim, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and People Under the Stairs, among others. He admits there's an element of novelty at play—but, he adds, going the vinyl route has a lot to do with artistic control.

"When we're mastering the record, artists are pretty specific about how they want the tracks to flow—the order, the spacing between the tracks. A lot of that gets lost when people are just putting their iPods on shuffle," he says.

And then there's selling the LP. "For a band on tour, it's another way to make money," Lyman says. "It's something to sell at the merch table unless you're selling a tiny drop card for MP3s, which is a great thing to do—it's just not as exciting as leaving with a slab of vinyl."

Christina Rentz, publicist for Arcade Fire's label, Merge Records, says it's usually the artists who insist on releasing records on vinyl. Still, it's been beneficial for the company. Vinyl releases by Mountain Goats, Telekinesis and Wye Oak were all very successful. "We're excited as music fans in the resurgence of vinyl," says Rentz. "It gives you more satisfaction to hold. Especially with the free digital download you get. You're still getting your iPod fix."

Exciting as it may be, new vinyl sales make up less than 1 percent of today's music market. If you look at graphs produced by the Recording Industry Association of America going back to 1973, the visual representation from vinyl at its peak to the current day fell sharply after 1982. That's when Sony Phillips developed the compact disc, effectively smashing the LP's supremacy. But for more than a century leading up to the year when Abba's The Visitors was mass-pressed on a 16-bit rainbow-infused disc, records were the bee's knees.

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According to the Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound In the United States, the earliest device capable of recording and replaying audio was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. The machine featured a brass, grooved cylinder around which metallic tinfoil containing audio information was placed. Though there's some discussion regarding the first audio recording to be played, many agree it was Edison's warbled voice singing the words "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

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