Moving to Brooklyn, for me, was a long time coming. I knew of everything that the borough had come to represent—whether that be an expansive and diverse music scene or a wide-spanning cultural palette—and that’s what I was looking for in a place to immerse myself. Alas, my first two post-college years were spent living with my parents in New Jersey and commuting to midtown Manhattan, then in the city, way uptown. At first, just living in NYC was enough for me; options and opportunities were everywhere, and everything I wanted was just a train ride—albeit a long one—away. But after a while, living in a tiny room—with literally no space for anything other than a bed and my little Ikea nightstand that held a small lamp—far away from everything wasn’t doing it for me. I finally made it to Brooklyn after nearly a year of working for Brooklyn Magazine—I’m a fraud, I know—and found myself a room where I could actually fit things.
Everyone’s got a list of stuff in the back of their head that they tell themselves they’re going to do someday, but for one reason or another, never get around to: visit Europe, go to a Bruce Springsteen concert, start an epic vinyl collection, read The New Yorker front to back on a way more consistent basis. Okay, maybe those are things that I’ve always wanted to do. And while I can feasibly buckle down and book a flight or buy a concert ticket and just tick those items off the list, it takes a different kind of investment—financial, spatial, a prolonged commitment—to actually build a collection of any sort of physical object. But this spring I decided to make the jump and join the record-collecting community. The costs, in my mind, were sunk, and I began operating under the premise that dropping a bunch of money on my very first musical setup—turntable, amplifier, new speakers, and all—wasn’t just something that I wanted, but something that was inevitable. After all, I had room for it now—what the hell was my excuse?
On a Memorial Day Sunday, before I had even bought all my soon-to-be-ordered turntable hardware, I found myself roaming Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo. There, someone was peddling records out of a bin. Looking through briefly, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years immediately caught my eye. While a more seasoned collector might have haggled with the sweatshirt-clad man selling the two records, it didn’t cross my mind. I needed these.
Now I had a few anchors to my base—I had bought the Arctic Monkeys’ A.M. on vinyl a few years ago, essentially as a novelty, along with Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. I had one of those built-in-speaker turntables to technically “play” it, but we all know that doesn’t really count. A trip back to New Jersey and the ransacking of a few shelves of my parents’ collections—collections I’d once looked at with awe, treating the records themselves as relics of a bygone era—uncovered a number of gems: Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and a handful of Beatles albums among others. I had developed a small, core collection—one with room to grow, but that was starting to span genres and eras.
When my audio equipment finally arrived, and after a long couple hours getting things properly set up, I finally popped Born to Run on. As soon as “Thunder Road” started to play, my jaw dropped. Maybe I cheered (my roommate did make fun of me for my overt giddiness in the moment); I found it magical. The sound, the idea that I was listening to a relic and it still sounded this good—better than anything else I had heard on my headphones or other speakers—was something special. These horns sound amazing! Bruce’s voice sounds so clean, and gritty and… Bruce-ish! It was a next-level revelation, and it led to another: I need to get all of my favorite albums on vinyl.
Browsing through the used sections at Williamsburg’s Rough Trade NYC and Norman’s Sound and Vision is a thrill, and there’s not much like finding a gem among the fray. But starting this collection also helped with something else that, for anyone, is always a net-positive—it’s something to get excited about, and something I use to keep myself motivated. Finished a big project? Rough Trade, here I come.
If you’ve ever been part of the lead up to and execution of a big event—a conference, a festival, even a wedding—you know how mentally and physically taxing the work can be. After five wild days of working Northside Festival, it seemed only right to drop some cash on a pair of my favorite albums of all time. Neither are quite of this era, nor are they part of my parents’ musical era, what I previously had thought of as the “true” vinyl era (a notion I’ve since debunked). I picked up The Strokes’ Is This It and LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut, and listened to the songs I had heard countless times sounding like I’d never heard them before.
Everything was new. Everything is new. I’ve joined the vinyl era. And I’m excited.
Photography by Evan Romano