ADVERTISEMENT

$1.29, 99 cents, 98.5, 101.1.

These are the numbers familiar to avid fans of today's popular music; they are the prices of songs on iTunes and the call numbers of the "hottest" radio stations in Buffalo. But while some people are busy staring at these numbers over and over, attempting to keep up with the "top 10" hits of the week, another group of music lovers is focusing on two entirely different numbers: 45 and 33 1/2 . Yes, like cropped tops and high-waisted Levis, vinyl records are making a comeback.

The most up-and-coming indie/alternative rock bands including Coldplay, MGMT, Phoenix and the Arcade Fire have released their latest albums in three different mediums: digitally via iTunes, CDs that are sold in local department stores, and, surprisingly, on vinyl. Are these artists, evidently in tune with their fans' interests, picking up on our generation's recent fad with all things vintage?

Bob "The Record Man" Saxon, who has been selling LPs and 45s at Antique World on Main Street in Clarence for 18 years and is an expert on all things vinyl, seems to think the answer is yes.

"Pearl Jam even releases their albums on vinyl a week earlier and include bonus material on the record to throw a bone to the vinyl buyer," he says.

Indeed, it looks as though everything old is new again for fans of music.

Caitlin Brown, a sophomore at Nardin Academy, agrees: "It's awesome that something so 'old' is returning to style so us teenagers can experience music the way older generations did."

Modern bands, however, are not the only artists selling records. Even "vintage" music is becoming popular again. Shows such as "Glee," in which the characters perform songs from every genre and era, are drumming up interest by teenagers in songs from America's yesterdays. Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" are two songs the "Glee" cast has recently popularized.

Many other "new" songs are either remakes of old classics or have a "borrowed" melody from a song in the past. Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," for example, includes familiar melodies from both "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon.

But why, when we have such lightweight, simple technology at the tip of our fingers, are teenagers fascinated by these oversized, obsolete discs? Perhaps it is the fact that most of us, used to having all our music stored in iPods that fit in the palm of our hands, completely missed out on the tangibility of records.

Says Bob the Record Man, whose own children were each given turntables in their early teens: "Teenagers are a big part of the market. I'm always pleased to see young people getting into music -- not just music but good music. When they seek out records, it shows that they have a real passion for music, not just a casual interest."

In this digital age kids are growing up in, songs skip around and change with the simple click of a button. Young people never physically see the music playing, and it doesn't matter, so long as they hear what they want. But, there is a certain wonder to watching a record spin on a turntable and maneuvering the long, fragile needle.

Another possibility, of course, is that today's teens are in awe of the amazing art displayed on the album covers. Sure, CD cases show interesting pictures, and occasionally album covers are displayed on iTunes, but there seems to be no comparison to looking at a 12-by-12 picture that adds a certain depth to the music.

"People always tell me 'Records are really coming back in!' But records never really went away. I've always had a market," says Bob the Record Man. "Young people are always interested; there are always new consumers of records. It's no different now than ever before."

Bob, who has been interested in music his whole life, owns a collection of more than 10,000 records. He sells records every Sunday at Antique World.

"I find records everywhere: garage sales, thrift stores, other dealers," he says.

So for teens interested in music, now may be a good time to start a record collection.

Caitlin Johnston, 16, has already begun collecting.

"Personally, I've always loved the excitement of having the 'hard copy' of an album, whether it be on a CD or an LP," Caitlin says. "I really love listening to vinyl simply because that's what a lot of the bands I listen to recorded on originally. Good music should be enjoyed in it's natural state -- vinyl."

***

Christina Seminara is a sophomore at Nardin Academy.