Still Necessary

The Daily Vault at 20

by Benjamin Ray

20_150Musical fads come and go, always have, always will. But the Vault endures.

In 1997, we listened to Hanson, the Spice Girls, and Celine Dion on pop radio, while rock had moved into serious post-grunge and nascent nu-metal territory with Creed, Matchbox 20, Limp Bizkit, and Korn. Hip hop was booming across the country, not just in urban areas but out to the suburbs; I couldn’t go a day in high school (1997-2001) without hearing my mostly-white Michigan classmates bumping Nelly, Eminem, Sisqo, DMX, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and even early Beastie Boys.

I wrote about this year – and many others – in a 2013 essay series for the Vault, noting that it was among this climate that Christopher Thelen started this site. Through that year-by-year series, I touched on the biggest albums of each particular year, both critically and commercially, to paint a very broad overview of 1963-1999, the years that albums were really a driving force (as opposed to 45 RPM singles in the late ‘50s and digital singles from 2000 forward).

Those dual philosophies – album as art form, and breadth of genres – are what I have always admired about the Vault. It’s what drew me to the site in 2004 and, after a brief hiatus, back to the site in 2012. You will read elsewhere about the history of the site and its day-to-day operations and philosophies, so I won’t expand too much on that here. Suffice it to say I have been proud to be part of this family for more than a decade.

Much like my high school years noted above, every day was full of a large variety of music if you cared to seek it out. The Vault embodies this philosophy each day. You never know what to expect. Will David Bowling cover a bluegrass album tomorrow from a 1960s band alongside my review of the new Metallica disc? Will Jason Warburg write about a thrilling barely-discovered indie band alongside Pete Crigler’s review of a great ‘80s alt-rock album? Or is this the day that you read about a great folk album reviewed by Ludwik Wodka and then flip over to Tom Haugen’s review of an electro-pop disc of the type you hear in a Starbucks?

You just don’t know. Hell, I don’t even know. Our writers follow their muses. We stay current on many fronts, keeping pace with your larger outfits like Rolling Stone and Consequence Of Sound, but we don’t clog up your page with ads and we sure as hell don’t condescend to you or make you feel inferior because you like ‘80s arena rock or ‘90s pop or Dierks Bentley. We simply strive to cover as many genres as possible, as many albums (not singles) as possible, twice a day every day for 20 years.

The final beauty of this approach is its philosophy of discovery. If you mainly listen to classic rock, that’s great. Music is subjective – like all art – and what you like is personal. But you may be missing out on something you will really enjoy just because it doesn’t get played on the radio or covered on your larger Web sites or appear in your iTunes Hot Download folder (or whatever it’s called). I have been turned on to so many artists that I never would have heard about otherwise since discovering the Vault, and I suspect many of you readers have, too.

Artists will come and go, of course. Genres will surge and fade. But as long as there are albums, the Vault will endure. It’s what we do.

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