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Recently, I’ve been building up my collection of vinyl albums—I’m at 179 now. About half of them came from my dad’s original collection, the rest I’ve acquired from thrift stores, Half Price Books, and a couple great niche record stores I’ve frequented the past few years. If you haven’t been to your local record store, you truly are missing out.

I just bought two Led Zeppelin albums after Christmas: Houses of the Holy and Led Zeppelin 1. I’ve wanted these for a long time, and finally caved on getting them on eBay. Records have always intrigued me, and not just for their collectibility or sound quality—I’ve been a fan of classic music my entire life—but for the mood they set when you play them in your home.

Any time I have people over, instead of playing music on my computer or iPad, I throw on a record. There’s something alluring about the slight crackles and pops you hear; the familiarity with the classics yet discovering new songs just as good. Usually, I let my guests decide what record to throw on. I’ve found that no matter what, it always heightens the mood for the better. I don’t know if there’s science behind this, or if it’s the simple fact that older music is just better, and who are we kidding here, it truly is.

If no one decides on an album to play, the ‘safest’ (I mean in a way where no one is dissatisfied if I play them) ones I put on are Joshua Tree by U2, Greatest Hits by Eric Clapton, Greatest Hits by Steve Miller Band. Those three have been the soundtrack to many parties in my home, and are pretty much guaranteed to never disappoint.

I didn’t get interested in albums until high school. I vaguely remember having a lot of people over in our basement—I think we were building the float for homecoming and hanging out afterwards—and I noticed my dad’s album collection tucked into a shelving unit in the wall. Many years earlier there had been a flood in the Saginaw area, and a lot of the album covers and cases got ruined from the water. Luckily, the albums themselves were unharmed, though they were a bit dusty and never found themselves played very often

We, being typical, snooping teenagers, dug through these strange relics and pulled out two albums: Grand Illusion by Styx and Boston’s debut album. We had heard many of the songs before, yet when we played them there that evening, it was like listening to them for the first time. It was like we were the sole owners of the only copy left of the original recording, and we had access to this strange and fantastical way of playing them. There’s a weird connection you feel with the vinyl albums you have, and I guess that tends to be the case with all music collections: in our iTunes, phones, or cd racks in our offices. You feel as though it’s a part of you, and you choose wisely who you want to share it with. It’s not just for anybody, but the people you cherish most.

I figure you can narrow down your music tastes into two categories. You got the indie, smaller bands you want no one else to discover because you feel as if they’re speaking directly to you. You tend to listen to this music by yourself or when you’re alone. And then you have the popular, everyone-and-their-grandma-knows music you listen to because no matter who you’re with, it’s an easy way to establish a connection, or start a conversation. Because if they don’t know that song then they’re not worth knowing, right?

But with albums, and I mean the physical record, not the classic rock radio you can listen to any time, BOTH of these things are happening. First, there’s the connection phase; the ability to play classic hits that everyone in the room should know. That right there will immediately drive the mood towards a positive outcome. It’s kind of hard to have Just What I Needed by The Cars playing and NOT to join in singing. Familiar songs create atmosphere, and atmosphere creates a connection between everyone.

But there’s also the discovery phase; because as you begin listening to the song, you start to hear it differently. Familiar, yet altogether new. The character Will Bloom in Big Fish has a great quote that I think applies here. He says: Have you ever heard a joke so many times you’ve forgotten why it’s funny? And then you hear it again and suddenly it’s new. You remember why you loved it in the first place. You’re rediscovering what you’ve already heard a million times, then remembering why you loved it in the first place. So, in a way, you’re getting the two best reactions you can possibly have towards music: the wonder of discovery and the joy of recollection.

I could just as easily listen to the music on Spotify or Youtube, but there’s something about owning that hard copy of the original recording; listening to it as it was intended to be listened to. Plus, I’m also a stickler for owning things (see: 300 movie blu-ray collection).

As a bonus, here are some of my favorite albums you should check out (and I intentionally picked mostly obscure ones). I’m only going to list albums that I OWN.

  • No Jacket Required by Phil Collins: I will not apologize for loving this album.
  • Hair of the Dog by Nazareth: May have one of the best ROCK songs and BALLADS on the same album.
  • Street Fighting Years by Simple Minds: most Simple Minds songs are dripping with teen angst, but this album is like a political battle cry.
  • Songs From the Big Chair by Tears for Fears: Might be my favorite 80s album, and not just because Relient K thought it was cool too. : )
  • Rattle and Hum by U2: This is probably the best live album I’ve heard.
  • Cocoon Original Soundtrack by James Horner: This is a great 80s score not many people have heard, yet has that unmistakable ‘movie magic’ sound.

Here are also some of my favorite classic albums I own.

Back in Black by ACDC, Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi, The Cars, Best of Eric Clapton, John Cougar, Rumors by Fleetwood Mac, The Graduate by Simon and Garfunkel, Raiders of the Lost Ark by John Williams, Escape by Journey, Led Zeppelin 1-4, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greatest Hits Steve Miller Band, Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty, The Game by Queen, Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds, All three Star Wars Soundtracks by John Williams, Grand Illusion by Styx, War by U2, Joshua Tree by U2, The Unforgettable Fire by U2, Who’s Next by The Who, Eliminator by ZZ Top.

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