Vinyl Special – We Don’t Need to Whisper, by Angels & Airwaves

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Released May 23, 2006

Vinyl Released September 28, 2014

49 min, 48 sec

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I do not think that vinyl is the superior medium for music, when talking in technical terms about the sound of a given track. Vinyl is archaic; a medium nearly a hundred years old, pressed in a manner that, though never as high-end and well done as it is now, still has a startling amount of room for allowing an album to sound absolutely terrible. Vinyl is incredibly fickle, and records demand a level of care that can be difficult for casual listeners to maintain. These difficulties and inherent flaws, combined with the history behind the medium, has, of course, drawn numerous people back into the fold of collecting vinyl, for a plethora of reasons, most of them probably sounding pretentious to anyone who “doesn’t get it,” so to speak.

When it comes to my personal beliefs, I think that digital music is absolutely the way every artist should go when it comes to basic music distribution. Forget CDs. Put your stuff on iTunes, put it on your own website, put it on Bandcamp, put it on Amazon.

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If you’re going to go more high-end, though, vinyl has no competitor when it comes to the presentation of physical music. Knowing full well that I’m diving straight into pretentious hipster trash territory here, the experience of cracking open a well-designed record sleeve is simply unparalleled. Record packaging is gorgeous, if you have the art to fill it all up and know what you’re doing. Every record I own either has incredible art attached to it (including the record itself), or is a “vintage” vinyl from the medium’s heyday.

I tend to joke with my friends that the easiest way to get me to buy an album I’ve never heard of is to press it on colored vinyl. I joke, but that’s also literally what happens.

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So, I like vinyl. I have…31 albums on vinyl, one of those being sealed. I’d say about a third of those were “impulse buys” – I saw them on the rack at my local record store (Mojo Books and Music on E Fowler Avenue – check them out) and grabbed them without a second thought. I’ve never been disappointed by them.

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For around 30 weeks, then, Sundays will be dedicated to the Vinyl Special. They’ll all probably be like this – interspersed with photos of the album I chose for that week’s Special. It all depends on whether the packaging is worth photographing extensively or not. Sometimes they will be, other times, they won’t. In addition, every album is considered part of iTunes, A to Z‘s primary list of iTunes albums, because all of them also reside in my iTunes library. They’re pulled out of sequence for these posts, and as such, will not be separately covered in weekday posts.

The first order of business, then, is We Don’t Need to Whisper. This is up first for two reasons: for one, it’s the most recent album I’ve bought, arriving about three weeks ago. And secondly, the packaging and presentation of it is straight up baller.

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Look at that pink record. Sick.

We Don’t Need to Whisper is the debut album by Angels & Airwaves (typically abbreviated as AVA), which was formed by Tom DeLonge in the wake of blink-182’s breakup in 2005. Though similar in concept to DeLonge’s previous side project Box Car Racer, AVA was not a punk band, or post-hardcore band, as BCR had been; instead, the band had a more alternative sound, more conducive to radio play, with a significant amount of electronics sprinkled all over the album.

Tom DeLonge was in a terrible mindset when the album was being recorded and promoted. Having injured his back in 2001, he became addicted to the painkillers he used to work through the injury when recording Box Car Racer’s only album, and by 2006 he had completely bottomed out, giving numerous completely delusional interviews where he claimed that AVA would “save the world” and that their music would revolutionize youth culture.

As you may expect, the album did neither of these.

That’s not to say the album is bad. No, on the contrary, the album is great – but it’s not the second coming of rock music, and nobody expected it to be. Though DeLonge’s vocal delivery is easy to mock (particularly his early days in blink-182), his lyrics showed a surprising amount of maturity, given the subject matter he’d previously been known for. Angels & Airwaves, as a whole, is a project focused on love, and We Don’t Need to Whisper explores the many facets that love has, the many ways it springs up and propagates. The album’s uplifting themes of companionship and hope translate to the music, which incorporates a variety of unusual sounds and samples, most notably a toy piano that DeLonge recorded himself playing in his shower, for the opening and closing of “Start the Machine.”

We Don’t Need to Whisper isn’t my favorite AVA album – that honor goes to its follow-up, I-Empire, which is a superior listening experience, in my opinion. I-Empire spread AVA’s sound out further, edging towards harder, more punk-esque songs, while also dialing back into soft ballads, creating a greater dynamic range that gave that album more impact than this one. Together, these two albums paint an interesting portrait, and they make one wonder what blink-182 may have ended up sounding like if the members had been able to reconcile their disagreements. (We saw that convergence in 2011, with blink’s comeback album Neighborhoods, but there are mitigating circumstances that we’ll talk about when we get to that album.)

The album didn’t receive a vinyl release upon its debut in 2006, as vinyl had yet to properly come back around as the indie dream medium it is now. Instead, the album was reissued on gold-colored vinyl in 2013 as part of Angels & Airwaves’s fan club package for that year, and a commercial release followed in 2014 through Shop Radio Cast in two variants, the second of which I have in the photos in this article. The initial version featured two purple records instead of one purple and one pink; I personally think that version is more boring, and I much prefer the one I have.

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The packaging is great – every bit of art from the CD release is represented somewhere, be it on the sleeve or the insert. Everything looks simply gorgeous.

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The records, though not receiving the SRC Hi-Fi audiophile certification that SRC gives to certain records it is allowed to remaster for vinyl, still sound clean and crisp. This album follows SRC’s pressing of Stomping the Phantom Brake Pedal on clear and black vinyl last year, and will be followed by a re-press of the LOVE double album in October.

We Don’t Need to Whisper is a gorgeous album that received a gorgeous vinyl treatment this year, one that was long overdue. Now, all we need is that I-Empire pressing, and things will be truly perfect. Get to it, SRC.

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(iTunes chose a strange accent color for this one.)

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