When Salty Eggs asked me to come up with “four or five” picks among the many Record Store Day releases to tout as must-buys, I figured it was a cake assignment. Just look through the list, write up a handful that pique my interest, and call it done.
The assignment proved more difficult than I had anticipated. The list of RSD Exclusive releases, vinyl available only on April 21 in brick-and-mortar record stores, includes 174 titles. Another 89 titles fall under the “RSD Limited Release” category, which includes albums and EPs that will hit shelves on RSD and then stay on those shelves until the limited run is over. Finally, there’s the “RSD First” albums, which are basically just records that come out on RSD to take advantage of all the hoopla. At Recordstoreday.com, they count 20 of these albums.
Just within the confines of the RSD Exclusive titles, I found it impossible to narrow my picks down to the requisite four or five. So, here are 16. (I also add four RSD limited-edition runs at the end, for an even 20.) To pare it down even that far, I had to lose some pretty impressive stuff. So if you don’t see your favorite RSD Exclusive album on this list, don’t hate. Just leave a comment and tell me what I forgot. In alphabetical order by band name, I recommend the following:
Animal Collective, Transverse Temporal Gyrus
The psych-rock outfit put on the soundtrack for an installation at the Guggenheim Museum, and this is the sound it created. This 12-inch will be the only physical format on which the music will ever be released.
Arcade Fire, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
First, I’ll buy anything Arcade Fire does. But second, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” was the best song on The Suburbs, one of the best albums of 2010. (I gave it an honorable mention rather than placing it in my top 10 that year. But in hindsight, that seems really stupid.)
Buck Owens, Coloring Book With Flexidisc
Will you ever be able to get your hands on a Buck Owens coloring book again? The answer is no.
Carolina Chocolate Drops/Run DMC, You Be Illin
An interesting batch of RSD Exclusives this year is the Side-by-Side series, in which an original song is featured on one side of a 45 while an interesting cover is on the other. In one, Michael Buble and Ray Charles both do “Georgia on My Mind.” In another, the Flaming Lips and Mastodon both do the Lips’ “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.” But the most-promising 45 in the series has to be this combo of the original “You Be Illin” by the boys from Hollis, Queens, and a cover by the African-American old-time string band.
Flogging Molly, Drunken Lullabies/A Prayer for Me in Silence
A necessity because, despite my love for the band, I’ve got nothing from it on vinyl. A tragedy that will be corrected this April 21.
Garbage, Blood for Poppies
Including both the song “Blood for Poppies” and a remix by the band’s drummer (and noted record producer, see: Nevermind.) Butch Vig, this 45 is the first physical release by Garbage since 2005’s Bleed Like Me. It heralds the full-length Not Your Kind of People, which comes out in May.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Live From the Legendary Sun Studios
Great band, great studio, great album.
Grateful Dead, Dark Star: Europe ’72
Dude, it’s a 45-minute “Dark Star” recorded on the Paris stop of the band’s legendary 1972 tour of Europe. If you’re a Head, you must have this.
Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, and Yim Yames, New Multitudes
The frontmen of Son Volt, Centro-matic, Varnaline and My Morning Jacket pay homage to the great Woody Guthrie by taking some of the man’s unrecorded lyrics and making them their own. This was done to huge success in 1998 with Mermaid Avenue, a collaboration between Billy Bragg and Wilco, and I imagine this record will be similarly terrific.
Ryan Adams, Heartbreak a Stranger/Black Sheets of Rain
Ryan Adams covers Bob Mould. What could be bad?
The Tallest Man on Earth, King of Spain
This LP includes the King of Spain single, which includes that song and the B-side “Where I Thought I Met the Angels,” plus a cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” I’d buy it just to hear the Tallest Man on Earth do Simon, but the other two are excellent tracks as well.
The Flaming Lips, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
Probably the must-have of this RSD. A double album featuring guest appearances by Ke$ha, Bon Iver, Jim James, Nick Cave, Yoko Ono, Chris Martin and many more.
Townes Van Zandt, At My Window
The only album the constantly stoned but undeniably brilliant Van Zandt managed to produce in the 1980s, At My Window shows that the years of hard living hadn’t pickled the man’s brain so far that he was incapable of greatness. The only straight-ahead re-issue album on my list of RSD Exclusives, this one’s hear for a reason – Van Zandt could do no wrong.
Uncle Tupelo, The Seven Inch Singles
A box set of 7-inchers that includes all of the group’s previously released 7-inches in one spot. Must-have for any alt-country aficionado.
Various Artists, Never to Be Forgotten: The Flip Side of Stax, 1968-1974
If you don’t have a lot of Stax soul in your collection, this will be a great primer. Some great but little-heard Stax records, all collected in a limited-edition run of 4,000 copies. (Head’s up: Radio-Active Records will be receiving its Stax shipment Monday, and thus won’t have it available on RSD.)
Various Artists, Empire Records soundtrack
Three soundtracks are coming out as RSD Exclusives: Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and this one. The Empire Records has always been a fun nostalgic listen, and having it on vinyl will only increase the nostalgia value. If you came of age in the 1980s rather than the ’90s, as I did, no doubt the other two soundtracks will serve a similar purpose.
Of the RSD Limited-Edition runs, I recommend:
Social Distortion, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
Only 750 copies were pressed, and the album also includes a poster and a CD of the album. And if you’re feeling lucky, your poster may just be autographed.
The Electronic Anthology Project of Dinosaur Jr.
Built to Spill’s Brett Nelson gives Dinosaur Jr. the same treatment he gave his own band’s songs in 2009, re-imagining them as 1980s New Wave numbers.
Various Artists, Rough Guide
Much like the Stax sampler in the RSD Exclusive list, three Rough Guide albums offer a collection of rare songs from unusual subgenres, and I recommend all three: New Orleans, Psychedelic Africa, and African Roots Revival. Each album comes with a download card that features all the songs on the record, plus bonus tracks: Seven from Dumpstaphunk on New Orleans, 10 from Victor Uwaifo on Psychedelic Africa, and eight from Kenge Kenge on African Roots Revival.
Wilco, The Whole Love deluxe box set
For the Wilco completist, this is a must-have.
Finally, there’s the RSD First releases, most of which are re-issues. I really don’t have a long list of recommendations here. Lou Reed’s Transformer, Janis Joplin’s Pearl, Patti Smith’s Horses, Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression … most of these are records that you should already own. If you don’t, you should buy them. Other than that, I will say that Pistol Annies’ Hell on Heels was the mainstream country album of the year in 2011 (in my humble opinion), and a few of the other releases bear looking at if you’re a fan. Happy bin hunting!