Vinyl vs Streaming: The Lowdown

At this juncture in history, we all know that CDs, cassettes and MP3 are more or less moribund – vinyl and streaming make up the auditory elite. The ongoing debate between vinyl and streaming falls into two camps: those who advocate the ritualistic and sensory satisfaction of playing vinyl, versus the supporters of the effortless simplicity and convenience of streaming.

The resurgence in popularity of the vinyl record shows no signs of slowing. Sales of vinyl have not been this high since the early nineties and, according to the RIAA, vinyl record sales increased by almost 30% in 2020. One in five albums purchased last year were purchased on vinyl. Year on year, the plastic black disk continues to defy logic. It’s somewhat of a surprise to many, given it’s almost awkward appearance and space-saving inefficiency; however, love it or hate it, vinyl is here to stay.

The aesthetic allure of the vinyl record is irrefutable to many a music lover. Firstly, there’s the “it’s a large piece of art” argument. The sleeve’s artwork can be enjoyed in all its ocular glory – something that cannot be replicated by the modern-day screen, no matter the quality and clarity of said screen. Then comes the jovial sentiments, described by many, as they lift the record from the sleeve; waves of gleeful nostalgia crashing over the anticipatory listener. The placing of the record on the player, and the initial scratching as the needle fumbles the plastic, only adds to intensify that nostalgic crescendo for the LP aficionado. Finally, the music. LP lovers will question, “how can one metal needle, touching a single piece plastic, sound so good?”

One of the backbone arguments the vinyl fan often retorts, is the quality of audio output. Vinyl-heads vehemently argue in favour of the auditory superiority of the vinyl record; however, that’s another rabbit hole and a discussion for another day. For a detailed inspection of audio comparisons, check out this link .  

Importantly, there is the novelty of being part of an exclusive club when one operates exclusively in vinyl. Sadly, a certain snobbery often afflicts the avid vinyl audiophile. One can imagine the inclusion of vinyl sales at fashion clothing outlets is viewed with disdain by the disc junkie. With that said, the vinyl industry has produced many benefits, including employment opportunities in the production and selling of the commodity, more money for the performing artist, and the enrichment of many music maniac’s lives.

Streaming – unlike vinyl – is the modern way, and as history has exposed, modern is usually transient and ultimately replaced. However, at this point in time, how can music be made any more accessible? A chip implant in the skull that pumps out music as quick as a thought? Perhaps? Digressions aside, with streaming you pay your subscription – or not in the case of YouTube – and the world of music is at your fingertips, which is a pretty sweet deal for the music enthusiast. Perhaps streaming will be the music medium that sticks? 

There’s nothing fancy about streaming, it’s just simple. And it’s this simplicity that will never be usurped by nostalgic audio mediums of yesteryear. You certainly don’t feel important for buying into a streaming service but you know that for a very meagre subscription cost, you have access to millions upon millions of songs. A month’s subscription to Spotify is about the cost of half a vinyl LP, which is quite a trade-off. When one considers that the purpose of music is the experience of sound, using only vinyl seems odd.  

Most vinyl junkies have a streaming subscription, whereas most streamers don’t purchase vinyl (at least not in the long-term). Streaming ultimately prevails as the essential audio medium, triumphing with its convenience and immediacy. However, the charm of the LP will likely remain – for the time being – due to its nostalgic appeal. The argument boils down to the bang for buck and convenience vs the prestige and appreciation. The fact of the matter is vinyl junkies probably have more of a view on streamers than streamers do of vinyl lovers – in fact, most streamers probably couldn’t care less about vinyl. 

Track Review: Jungle – Talk About It

Funk-soul brothers, Jungle, impress with their freshest feel-good number, Talk About It. A sound steeped in heritage and nostalgia is given a modern treatment by Jungle.

The duo have a well-established funk style, and fans of the outfit will relish this latest effort. Opening with a soulful drumbeat and pulsating baseline, before settling into signature Bee Gees-inspired vocal performances, the sound is familiar, friendly and innately Jungle. This sound runs throughout the number, and the listener knows they are in for a fun time!

Optimism resonates in both sound and lyrics, and the timing of the track’s release is very welcome. With COVID-19 restrictions coming to a close and the weather seeming to be on the up, the smiley number was released at just the right time. The aesthetics of the track conjure images of pool parties in far flung exotic locations; something that has been missing from many individual’s lives for the last year and a half.

Although Talk About It may not go down as one of Jungle’s greats, it’ll do for now. It’s a perfect reminder that summer is here, and will make many short-listings for summer soundtracks.


20 Years On: Muse – Origin of Symmetry

For many, Muse are musical saviours, providing an endless flourish of inspiration. Their faithful followers observe the band as one of rock’s very best, with 2001’s seminal album, Origin of Symmetry, sitting pride of place.

Fresher than a wide-eyed university fresher at a fresher’s fayre, Muse welcomed the globe with their second – and more commercially successful – studio album. Critically acclaimed at the time and, with the passing of two decades, heralded as one of the greatest rock albums of the 21st century, Origin of Symmetry sounded so vastly different to Muse’s contemporaries of distortion and overdrive. the Teignmouth trio did things their way, and did so with aplomb.

First track, New Born, comprises an opening bass line and keys phrase so simple yet irrefutably insidious, it evokes the feeling of a stranger walking behind you in a pitch-black night – unnerving and exciting in equal measure. The guitar riff and big drums then resolve and engulf the intro with such gusto, the hairs on the back of your neck will not only stand up, they’ll fall out! Never relenting, New Born thrashes on until the end, producing a six-minute marvel.

Bliss, is indeed a blissful listen – the synth tones and pining lyrics beautifully guide the song in a sensual manner. The heavy guitar riffing – one might think – could detract from the emotion of the number, but it simply adds to the power. Bellamy’s siren-like voice completes the piece. Follow-up track, Space Dementia, is another belter. Operatic in essence, and showcasing Bellamy’s virtuoso skills as a pianistic, and architect of imaginative Prog and Space Rock.

Hyper Music starts with a scratchy and frantic, Tom Morello-esque guitar display. The evidence of Morello’s inspiration is further presented in a chorus comprising a high-pitched riff, before settling into a hard rock, early 90s renaissance. The instrument of note on this track, however, is the bass; propelling this number with its helter-skelter timbre. Despite just over three minutes in length, Hyper Music packs a lot! A song worthy of recognition.

As the first single release of the album, Plug in Baby would have been many people’s introduction to the band – the lucky devils! The sinewy opening riff goes down as one of the greats. Imitated by an army of aspiring guitar-playing adolescents, the track is instantly recognisable, and unabashedly Muse. The desperation in Bellamy’s trembling tenor is felt with such authenticity, even the Muse sceptics could appreciate its appeal.

Standing at more than seven minutes in length, Citizen Erased is perhaps the pinnacle of the album. The main riff is as raw as it is catchy. The track very much feels like a cutting-of-teeth for Muse – parts of the track bear semblance to later hits Hysteria and Stockholm Syndrome.

Micro Cuts is, unfortunately, a bore fest. The continued high-pitched vocals plague the track – the number is irritating at best, and painful at worst. The only saving grace – if you can even call it that – is the full throttle riffing that closes the track. If the end of the track was the focal point of the song, Micro Cuts might have amounted to something.

Experimentation is the name of the game in Screenager. Feeling strangely placed, it’s Eastern influence is perhaps a step too far for the album. Although its inclusion isn’t enough to derail the album, it is enough to confuse.

Heading towards the end of the album, Darkshines is a strong enough effort; however, by this point, it feels as if the song has made an appearance already. It’s certainly skippable, yet the sincerity and bite of the chorus carries it along; plus, there is a shrieking, reverberated guitar that is interesting enough to satisfy the air guitarist within.   

Feeling Good is a solid cover, treated by Muse in a very different yet palatable way. Dare it be said, the quality of this number supersedes the original? It could be argued that the collective talent of Muse is enough to cover any song convincingly, and this is more than the case with Nina Simone’s hit. It’s not just a cover, it’s now a Muse song. It’s a tragedy the album did not cease there, but a nine-track album is too bold a move for a second album; someone should have culled Megalomaniac, and Futurism offers no more than a forgettable nothingness.

Despite the two final tracks, Origin of Symmetry is musical enlightenment for the aesthete. The band would go on to expand on the style of the album for many years to come; always remaining relevant and never stepping backwards. The album plays as strong now as it did then.


Skip to: New Born (don’t bother skipping, as it’s the first track)

Bulletproof your ears with noise cancelling headphones!

If you are reading this blog, it would be reasonable to assume you enjoy music. And you also probably like your music served often and loud.

Five years ago, I regularly found myself flying up and down the M5 motorway as part of my job. For those unfamiliar with the road, it’s a very long road – that’s all you need to know. To fill the time spent on my travels, the music was loudly projected, providing my mundane day job with its very own soundtrack. Over time – somewhat inevitably – the volume of my car’s speakers steadily rose. I can clearly recall opening my windows one hot summer’s day and being surprised at how opening them only very slightly significantly dampened the noise, permitting the sound waves to vacate my vehicle; a reprieve for my poor eardrums, certainly. However, I loved rocking out in my car, so the bass and treble stayed loud.

With the passing of time, I found myself asking my then partner if she could hear a metallic, ringing noise at night – she could not. I didn’t pay an overt amount of attention to this, and only became conscious that this was a hearing-related issue when finding myself alone and in complete silence – here I was always met with a quiet yet audible ring. My hearing deficiencies even reached the point, where friends asked me if I was going deaf, to which I swiftly replied with, “fuck off!” Unfortunately, I thought they were right; my protests were my own denials.

Since passing three decades on planet earth, I have become slightly – only very slightly – more conscious of how I treat my body. Looking after my hearing comes close to the top of my ‘things to do to look after yourself’ list. I love music and want to be able to enjoy it long into my senior years. Something needed to change.

I made a conscious effort to turn down my car audio, which, sadly, allowed the road noise to irritatingly grace my eardrums once more. Unquestionably, a less satisfying auditory experience; however, I remained resolute that my hearing needed bullet-proofing – the volume was turned down, and has been so to this day.

Current NHS guidance regarding earphone use, states: “use noise-cancelling earphones or headphones – do not just turn the volume up to cover up outside noise.” Sound advice (no pun intended). With this in mind, I figured I’d combine the two suggestions – utilise noise-cancelling headphones.

My low-mid range Sennheiser BT 4.50 Headphones

As I’m sure many music lovers can attest to, if one is walking from point A to point B, one must do so accompanied by one’s favourite artist – strolling without sound would be bordering insanity. Now I was more mindful of my consumption and propensity for decibel density, my earphone experience needed updating; I was finding that after less than thirty minutes of reasonably loud sound exposure (90Db), the familiar ringing foe would return.

Near full volume – If not full – was my way. The music was loud, and the outside world was muted – perfect. I was an advocate for the ethos: “good music must be played loud.” However, my attention turned to over-ear headphones. My interpretation of over-ear headphones, always carried negative connotations; I found the aesthetic to be gaudy and the ergonomics quite awkward, but this was an insufficient deterrent for me.

My headphones – Sennheiser BT 4.50, to be exact – are unassuming and adequate enough at neutralising unwanted sound. After a few weeks, and without truly realising it, my volume decreased far further than I would have ever thought possible. With the diminished need to turn it up to eleven – due to sound cancellation qualities – I was listening to the music at a lower volume and with more enjoyment. Granted, I am only human, and there will be new releases I anticipate so much, I will whack the volume up; but ‘up’ is still surprisingly low – my decibels never surpass 78. Anything above 85 decibels – e.g. very loud traffic – is considered damaging, especially if exposure is prolonged.  

My decibels have reduce since using noise cancelling headphones.

Do yourself a favour, splash a little bit extra and buy noise cancelling headphones. Not only are they saving my hearing, but they are actively making me more mindful of protecting my ears.

Track Review: Dropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial

The Bostonian barroom bad boys are back! Say what you want about the Dropkick Murphys, but what they do, they do well. The East Coast sextet evoke an essence of Irishness so strong, you can almost taste the Guinness.

From the Album of the same name, Turn Up That Dial is a shouty-yet-melodic number. The track is a corker and will be an instant fan hit, bearing resemblance to the infectious, The State Of Massachusetts. This one is quintessential Celtic punk!

Turn Up That Dial shows off the talent of each member of the band, differentiating them from other similar bands of mediocre musicians. The multi-instrumental talent of Jeff DaRosa offers less of an accompaniment to this punk scorcher, instead providing the driving force for the lullaby-sounding ditty.

If you’re a fan of the band, and wanting much of the same, you’re sorted. Great craic!