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Review: Needle finds its groove in engrossing, obsessive 'Vinyl Nation'

Filmmakers examine the ups and downs of the vinyl record industry and the fans who are keeping it alive

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's not hard to go to a record store and find someone to extol the virtues of vinyl records. 

"Vinyl Nation" goes much deeper on the subject, covering the rise and fall of the record industry, the manufacturing of records, their collectible nature, their imperfections and fallibility, the myths about their sound superiority, their excessive production costs and the gene inside fans that makes them want to own and display walls full of records. Like a really good record shop, "Vinyl Nation" is a one-stop shop for everything vinyl. 

A scene from "Vinyl Nation."

Filmmakers Christopher Boone and Kevin Smokler spend most of their time talking to the "passionate weirdos" who love vinyl records, who break their backs lugging their collections from home to home and who make up the lifeblood of the vinyl industry and its resurgence. 

In doing so, they go after a wide selection of people — young and old, male and female, black and white — rather than sticking to the typical long-haired, middle-aged white guy types who tend to be the stereotypical vinyl consumers.

In reaching beyond that demographic, they provide a well-rounded picture of who is collecting vinyl — from the aging hipsters to the Gen-Z Billie Eilish fans to the pre-K set just starting their collections with Disney picture vinyls — and why.

It's a warm, inviting look at an industry that has improbably survived, and even grown, as much easier ways to listen to music have come into our lives. Fans are actually drawn to the inconvenience of it all, as well the tangible nature of vinyl. As so many things have become passive or have slipped away from us entirely, "Vinyl Nation" shows why sometimes you just want something to hold onto. 

'Vinyl Nation'

GRADE: A-

Running time: 92 minutes

Not rated: nothing objectionable

At Cinema Detroit's Virtual Cinema

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama