Music lovers find their groove at Gerosa Records
photo by Ryan Lavine
The emergence of MP3s at the dawn of the 21st century had a profound impact on the way people listen to and buy—or don’t buy—music. As iPods became ubiquitous and CDs became obsolete, vinyl records seemed well past their prime—relics of a bygone era kept in boxes next to bell-bottoms and VHS tapes.
But thanks to a 260-percent increase in sales of vinyl records nationwide since 2009, record stores, once thought defunct, endure in small numbers. Gerosa Records in Brookfield, open 29 years, is one of Connecticut’s few remaining sellers of vinyl.
The window of Gerosa’s small storefront is covered with posters of album art, shrouding the interior from outside light and unsuspecting eyes. Inside, a 1950s jukebox looms at the front entrance. The walls are adorned with album covers, a mosaic equal parts Billie Holiday, Rolling Stones, and Frank Zappa. Plaid-shirted hipsters, baby boomers, and wide-eyed teens flip through stacks of records. The absence of natural light, the sensory overload of album covers, and the ceaseless soundtrack of classic rock have an almost hallucinatory effect. It is like entering an alternate dimension in which the passage of time is marked solely by the changing or records.
According to owner and life-long vinyl collector Brian Gerosa: Quite simply, vinyl sounds better. Vinyl converts and purists alike all echo this sentiment, citing the “purity” and “rawness” of music on wax. Says Gerosa, “When you hear the sound of a record as opposed to an iPod, it’s totally mind-blowing.”
Many factors go into producing sound on record, and any deficiencies in the equipment, or in the vinyl itself, can distort the sound in ways that are often blissfully, authentically imperfect. For nostalgia-seekers, these imperfections are part of vinyl’s allure. Gerosa remembers when Beatlemania swept across American, and he played his first Beatles record, “Love Me Do,” until the grooves wore out. For many people, as for Gerosa, records evoke past eras that would be inaccessible otherwise.
The tangible aspect of vinyl is another important factor in this age of digital music. “People want to have the physical thing,” says Gerosa. “The album covers, the liner notes, it’s all part of it.”
There is an intimacy in the experience of holding a record, savoring the intricacies of the artwork, and even admiring the dog-eared corners and coffee stains on the covers. The best album covers satisfy a human desire for aesthetic beauty that no computer screen can match. They are decoration as much as they are entertainment.
But most of all, in Gerosa’s eyes, records are meant to be enjoyed communally. “Guys in their 20s are starting to understand how cool it is to have vinyl. It’s gotten back to hanging out in your friend’s basement and turning each other on to new records,” says Gerosa of the social aspect of vinyl. “There’s nothing like walking into the store and hearing something playing, or seeing someone’s reaction to what’s playing.”
KEEP SPINNING AROUND
There were 9.2 million vinyl records sold in 2014, up from 6.1 million in 2013. The amount of vinyl sold annually has increased for seven consecutive years. In fact, 3.6 percent of album sales in 2014 were vinyl, as opposed to only 0.2 percent in 2004. Groovy.