April 20 is Record Store Day, one of those holidays where you need to take extra care because of all the erratic drivers out on the road. It's not that they've been drinking--it's that they're crazily driving from indie record store to indie record store, trying to find that very, very limited edition that the other outlets are already out of or never got in.
For the eighth annual Record Store Day, more than 350 exclusive releases are hitting stores for the first (and, in some cases, only) time. Most are on vinyl, which should make the occasion a banner day for turntable sales. Plenty are CD issues, though, which should satiate music fans who still can't fathom the practicality of the 45-rpm revival. Lest you think that an actual 78-rpm record is the weirdest instant rarity being released, you can thank thank MGMT for being forward/backward-thinking enough to put out a cassette-only release.
Here are 20 of the most highly covetable items, available in such limited quantities that you may want to consider doing a campout outside your nearest indie retailer Friday night:
The Lonely Island with Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar, "YOLO" (vinyl single). Limited edition: 3,000 copies. You oughta look out for one of this "SNL" season's musical highlights finally making it to yellow vinyl, which we can only guess was a chose suggested by a phonetic near-pronunciation of the title. By the way, YOHOSABI (you only have one shot at buying it).
MGMT, "Alien Days" (cassette single). Limited edition: 2,000 copies. Hey, 1980s veterans--remember the "cassingle"? That little-remembered format makes a comeback with MGMT's brand-new song. Sadly, the band reportedly chickened out of making this a truly cassette-only release and will also be including a download code with the item, so you won't have to scour your area Goodwills for your city's one remaining Walkman.
Imagine Dragons, Live at Independent Records (CD). Limited edition: 2,000 copies. Imagine Dragons may have less in the way of indie cred than a lot of the other acts putting out exclusive RSD releases, but they're also one of the few young rock bands in recent years to achieve true mainstream success, having so far sold 553,000 copies of their studio debut, which these days is a lot. So expect finding one of the the 2,000 copies of this live disc to be about as easy as dragon-slaying.
Mumford & Sons, Live at Bull Moose (10-inch vinyl and CD). Limited edition: 6,000 copies on CD, 4,000 on vinyl. Of course, Mumford's breakout success is the real success story among rock bands of the last few years. So "I Will Wait" is a phrase that should not apply if you want to have any hope at picking up this live set, which, like Imagine Dragons' disc, was recorded at an instore appearance.
GZA, Liquid Swords (LP boxed set). It's not that the world hasn't been salivating at the chance to own the Wu-Tang Clan rapper's 1995 solo album spread across four slabs of vinyl, but with this one, it's all about the packaging. In honor of one of his obsessions, GZA's elaborate release is also a fully functional chess set, complete with a set of wooden pieces. Looking for this one in stores may be tougher than searching for Bobby Fischer.
White Stripes, Elephant (double LP). Jack and Meg aren't making music together anymore, but that doesn't mean the White Stripes-related rarities will ever stop, as Jack White is the modern master of the instant collectors' item. This year he's the official spokesperson or mascot for Record Store Day, and his personal contribution to the vinyl-awareness cause is a 10th anniversary issue of the Stripes' most popular album, spread across two LPs--one white, the other black and red.
Bob Dylan, "Wigwam" (vinyl single). As are many of the RSD items, this one is a teaser, or coming-attractions ad, if you will, for a more substantial forthcoming release. Dylan has the 10th volume of his Bootleg Series coming soon, this time featuring unreleased studio tracks from the late '60s--and when it comes to his much-derided Self-Portrait, it seems entirely possible that the outtakes will be more highly regarded than that oddball album ever was. He's previewing it with a 45 of two sessions from the cutting-room floor: a demo for "Wigwam" backed by the never-released "Thirsty Boots."
Dave Matthews Band, Live Trax Vol. 1 Vinyl Box (LP boxed set). Limited edition: 500 copies. No, we're not missing a zero there. Not to be defeatist, but you might as well give up on this one now, or hit eBay starting Saturday afternoon.
The Flaming Lips, Zaireeka (LP boxed set). Limited edition: 7,500 copies. In 1997, the avant-rockers released a four-CD set in which the discs were designed to be played simultaneously as an exercise in uber-quadrophonic sound. Now--at last!--the work is coming out on vinyl...which, yes, will require four very exacting and simultaneous needle drops to be properly heard. Well, it's the thought that counts, right?
Big Star, Nothing Can Hurt Me (double LP). Limited edition: 1,000 copies. The soundtrack to a documentary about one of rock history's most celebrated cult bands features demos, alternate takes, and remixes of the group's all-too-short catalogue. It's getting its first issue on limited-edition vinyl before its inevitable CD release. Given that Big Star is a rock-geek favorite, on a day devoted to rock geekery, you can expect that obtaining one of these 1,000 copies will be a Big Deal, with only the $40 price tag keeping some fans at bay.
The Black Keys and The Stooges, Side by Side: "No Fun" (vinyl single). Limited edition: 7,500 copies. Warner Bros. has some RSD fun ever year with the "Side by Side" series, which puts a contemporary cover of an oldie on one side of a colored-vinyl 45 and the original version on the flip. This year, the most covetable item in that series is the Black Keys' brand-new version of a Stooges classic, backed with Iggy and company for comparison's sake. (Other "Side by Side" releases for 2013 include an unlikely pairing of Type-O Negative and Deep Purple, both doing the latter's "Highway Star," and both the Doors and X versions of "Soul Kitchen.")
R.E.M., Live in Greensboro (EP). Limited edition: 2,500 copies. There seems to be some confusion about whether the five songs on this EP are excerpted from the band's upcoming deluxe reissue of the Green album. Answer: They're not, and you can only get these tracks on this vinyl. Yes, next month's Green re-release will have a bonus disc with 21 songs from a 1989 set in Greensboro, North Carolina--but this RSD exclusive contains five outtakes that wouldn't fit on that upcoming CD, including "So. Central Rain" and "Feeling Gravitys Pull."
Swedish House Mafia, The Singles (vinyl boxed set). Record Store Day may mostly be about the rock, but EDM rears its pulse-pounding head with this first-time collection of all of the electronic dance trio's singles on vinyl.
Willie Nelson, "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" (numbered vinyl single). Colored vinyl is a consistent theme throughout every Record Store Day rollout, and oftentimes the color chosen is not at all random, as in the case of Willie's rollicking death wish. Who says it's not easy being green? The version on the A-side is a collaboration with Snoop, Jamey Johnson, and Kris Kristofferson, as already heard on Willie's last studio album, but the flip has a brand-new Nelson solo rendition.
Waylon Jennings and Old 97s, "Iron Road" (double vinyl single). Limited edition: 1,000 copies. Not to be completely outdone by his old partner Willie, the late Waylon makes a posthumous RSD appearance. In 1996, the country legend went into the studio and cut two tracks with the alt-country band, which, remarkably, have never been released until now. The packaging is unusually elaborate for a two-single set, with liner notes about the sessions by Old 97s member Rhett Miller and cover art by Jon Langford of the Mekons.
Stephen Malkmus and Friends, Can's Ege Bamyasi (LP). Limited edition: 1,200 copies. The former Pavement frontman went to Germany last year and devoted a set to covering an entire 1972 album by the revered Kraut prof-rockers Can. It's now available not just on green vinyl (in case you need a companion piece to Willie Nelson's single) but it comes in a resealable mylar bag, since someone apparently thought better of trying to package a 12-inch record in an actual can.
Pulp, "After You" (12-inch vinyl single). Limited edition: 4,000 copies. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem produced this track, previously officially available only as a download to attendees of a Coachella Cruise.
Soundgarden, King Animal Demos (10-inch vinyl). Limited edition: 2,500 copies. Demo versions of six tracks from the band's comeback album make their first and possibly only appearance here.
John Coltrane, Newport '61 (LP). Limited edition: 200 copies. Only 200 units for this previously unreleased 1961 Newport Jazz Festival set? Seriously? That's a limited-edition supreme.
OMD, English Electric (CD/DVD boxed set). Limited edition: 300 copies. This elaborate multi-disc package with booklets, foldouts, photo prints, etc. may be the only item in this year's RSD to come with a personally autographed "certificate of authenticity." You read that 300 figure right, so if you're an '80s techno-pop fan...OMG, and ASAP, among other acronyms.