Illustration by Monica Burciaga
Every year, thousands of record stores across the country celebrate Record Store Day — a day dedicated to the longevity of vinyl and the retail spaces that continue to thrive despite the increasingly digital world of music. This year’s Record Store Day happened back on April 18, and bands and artists like Tegan and Sara, The 1975, and A$AP Rocky released special edition records and EPs to celebrate.
Here at F News, we are firm believers in the ancient hipster proverb, “It sounds better on vinyl.” So to celebrate, we have compiled a list of our favorite records.
1. Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks.
Stevie Nicks is love. Stevie Nicks is life. Stevie Nicks is everyone’s hopes and dreams personified. If you need proof of this, just look at the album cover for Bella Donna. The only person who can pull off a combination chiffon gown and cockatiel bird accessory/friend is Stevie Nicks.
Bella Donna serves as Nicks’ ascent into solo superstardom. Side A lets you know that Nicks is first and foremost a lyricist. The title track, Bella Donna is wistful and a bit nostalgic, referencing both the cosmos and poisonous fauna. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers is a quintessential early ’80s rock duet that nearly reeks of hairspray and residual coke in the best way possible.
Unlike most albums, Side B of Bella Donna is a revelation. You flip the record, place the needle, and wait … then suddenly the riff of “Edge of Seventeen” starts. That riff has a prowl rather than a rhythm — it shoves you into a girl rockstar consciousness. Then, just so you don’t immediately ditch all of your footwear choices for gogo boots and swap out your wardrobe for shawls, Stevie brings you down a notch with “Leather and Lace.” The album closes with “The Highwayman,” and it’s slow and cozy, guiding you to the realization that Stevie Nicks just took you on a magical musical journey, because that’s the power of Stevie Nicks.
2. So Tonight that I Might See, Mazzy Star.
This record kicks off with the penultimate dreamy ’90s sad girl song, “Fade Into You.” When you start a record with such a wonderful tune, it subdues the listener into a “let’s lie on floor and stare at the ceiling” state wherein anything is possible. The rest of the record is equally ambient, mixing sweeping blues guitars with frontwoman Hope Sandoval’s girlish and ethereal croon.
Much like a fine wine, this record pairs perfectly with overpriced bath products from Lush and the nagging existential doom that accompanies the end of the year. I highly recommend listening to this record while submerged in heaps of lavender scented bubbles that act as a physical barrier between you and your final paper.
3. B-Sides, Jesus and Mary Chain
This whole record is a collection of B-sides and acoustic singles from the band behind Psychocandy, so suffice to say it’s a solid listen. It features stripped-down acoustic versions of their biggest hits like “Taste of Cindy” and “Just Like Honey.” When devoid of feedback, the lyrics of Jesus and Mary Chain’s hits are really allowed the proper space they need to be appreciated. The haunting echo of, “And I tried and I tried/ but you looked right through me/ knife in my head when I think of Cindy” leaves the listener feeling uneasily serene. Other gems on this album include some feedback-laden Beach Boys covers. Essentially, it’s the perfect summer soundtrack for your inner beach goth.
4. The Graduate OST, Simon & Garfunkel.
I found this record in a sale bin for $2 at a record store in Michigan and it really is a little treasure. One would think that any album whose opening lines are “Hello darkness/ My old friend” would give the listener a real existential crisis, but the wonderful thing about this album is that Simon and Garfunkel had the presence of mind to intersperse the existential dread between these early ’60s instrumental dance tracks. So really this album can serve the dual purpose of soundtracking both your quarter-life crisis and your Mad Men-themed birthday party.
5. Say Yes to Love, Perfect Pussy
The sleeve of Say Yes to Love is dusted lightly with glitter due to its sparkly “P,P” emblem, which serves as the cover art. The record itself is a reckoning, imbued with grueling, fast-paced lyrics. Frontwoman Meredith Graves writes more like a confessional poet than a singer. Her sense of syntax is as sharp as her howling vocals. Though the record is a mere 31 minutes long, that does not lessen its impact.
The takeaway from this album is a sense of fearlessness. It’s an experiment in how it feels to let oneself go fully, to give oneself over to a greater artistic force. This is most evident on the album’s clear stand-out track, “Interference Fits” wherein Graves waxes, “Nothing that comes and goes is you / But you can compensate for love’s sake / And say yes, and make something together, something new.”
1. In the Aeroplane over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel
This record is a cult favorite of mythic proportions. Despite what seems like overblown hipster prominence, Neutral Milk Hotel’s sophomore album really is that great. It somehow manages to pull off concept-album glory with minimum camp and maximum sincerity. It’s a beautiful album even playing through your laptop speakers, but vinyl transforms its lo-fi opulence to its best self. Vinyl has a somewhat reliable decrepitude. It lasts a long time, (if you basically take care of it), but you’ll hear it age and weather. If you love your records as much as I do, they develop –-ahem– personality over time. Cracks, pops and hisses add to the atmospheric time-capsule bubble of Aeroplane, which is lo-fi to start with. Despite the sonic appeal of vinyl, there is no denying its additional appeal as an object; it feels like a relic, something precious to he preserved and physically possessed.
2. Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground Featuring Nico, the Velvet Underground
I don’t usually listen to compilation albums. I prefer to listening to albums in their entirety, duds and all. However, this double LP is just too great to pass up. It’s wonderful from start to finish, from “I’m Waiting for the Man” to “Beginning to See the Light.” By giving it practically a side of its own, it even gives you the chance to skip “Sister Ray,” just in case you’re … not feeling it. The album also looks so cool as the art rock document it is, the gatefold sleeve featuring a glossy print of Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola bottles.
3. Rattus Norvegicus, The Stranglers
When I moved to Chicago, I agonized for weeks over the ten records I was going to bring with me. This number turned into something closer to twenty, and this record was one I just couldn’t leave behind.
I love the Stranglers because I am a bass player, and this album is a true wonder of bass-domination. The songs are aggressive, but strangely melodic and catchy, mostly due to Jean-Jacques Burnel’s amazing bass-lines that are forefronted in the songs, rather than just used to accent the guitar parts. Rattus Norvegicus may be sleazy. However, it’s also unflinchingly intelligent, always sharp in its pretended crudeness. I love the ridiculous inner sleeve, which has the band posed family-portrait style in some spooky mansion, surrounded by cobwebs, a creepy baby doll, spears, and some taxidermy.
4. Rocket to Russia, the Ramones
Everything about this album is iconic. On the cover you see yet another grainy photo of the Ramones looking cooler than you ever will, lounging against a brick wall in teeny T-shirts, ripped jeans, and motorcycle jackets.You could spend hours trying to decipher the bizarre illustrations on the back cover and inside sleeve, which also conveniently provides you with the ever complex and nuanced lyrics:
“I don’t care
I don’t care
I don’t care
About this world
I don’t care (x3)”
All joking aside, this record is an essential part of punk history. It contains classics like “Rockaway Beach,” “Teenage Lobotomy,” and my personal anthem, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” You can’t not dance to “Sheena”: it’s infectiously simple and stupid and perfect and inspirational. This album serves to remind punk fans today that punk can be bright and happy, and still stick it to the man in a major way. And hey, another pro of having the physical record: How else would you know where to find the Ramones fan club in 1977? In case you find a time machine:
Ramones Fan Club
P.O. Box 269
Old Chelsea Station New York, N.Y, 10011
5. Melted, Ty Segall
Ultimately, this album makes the list for structural reasons. It’s an imperfect album. It falls into that weird mid-album slump where the songs lose their urgency and start to drag a bit. Most albums have the occasional dud, but on vinyl, this could be disastrous, especially nowadays, when most people just download the hits and neglect the underdogs of the album. Melted is an awesome example of how a good track listing can save the structural integrity of an album. Just when Ty’s losing you at Mike D’s Coke, you have to flip the record, and in comes “Imaginary Person” and “My Sunshine,” two of the best songs on the album. Just like that, you’re like, “Awwww yeahhhh.” You’re back, you powered on to the B side, and it was oh so rewarding.