Vinyl Nation

Vinyl Nation ★★★

my review for cine-file

Recently I’ve found an odd comfort in experimenting with low-tech electronics. I’ve been writing letters to friends old and new on an electric typewriter in attempts to be more offline. I cancelled my music streaming service in favor of an old iPod Nano and a weathered tape deck—anything that gives me a semblance of pause in an increasingly accelerated and hyper-online world. Vinyl records, naturally, seem like the next step in that journey. Christopher Boone and Kevin Smokler’s documentary VINYL NATION is a thorough examination on vinyl’s second wave and why we keep coming back to formats previously rendered obsolete. Featuring a wide array of interviewees—from music critics and historians, to DJs, musicians, and music producers—VINYL NATION chronicles the rise and fall and rise again of the record industry. It serves as a useful guide for those unfamiliar with the format's history: its origins, its popularity amongst consumers and musicians from various subgenres, how it differs from other audio formats, and how it’s adapted to a digital world. The film heralds the conception of Record Store Day—an annual consumer holiday featuring exclusive pressings and other limited-edition ephemera—as the thing that brought vinyl back into the mainstream. But sometimes the lines between how the film depicts saving a dying industry and outright glorifying capital—like Urban Outfitters’ commodification of vinyl, or the ever-Instagrammable Crosley’s—are a bit murky. Where VINYL NATION is most necessary is in its analysis of how the consumer culture of vinyl has changed. Young people, especially young women, are rapidly gravitating towards this format in large swaths, effectively changing the face of the industry. VINYL NATION is nothing if not a love letter to the community that brought a seemingly dying format back to life—and an enthusiastic look at its future.