IT'S A SCENE not unlike Black Friday: hordes of people line up early outside their favorite indie record shop on a Saturday morning. Once the doors swing open, a swarm of black T-shirt clad rockers and dads in track jackets make a beeline straight for the vinyl new arrivals, ravaging the bins for the limited-edition records they've set out on a wild goose chase to track down. Within five minutes of doors opening, some releases are already sold out.
Record Store Day, since its inception in 2007, has become not only one of the busiest days for independent record stores, but also one of the most profitable. Every year, labels large and small release exclusive, limited-run 7-inch singles, 12-inches, LPs, box sets, and reissues that won't be on shelves long. Stores around the country order five times more than they actually get. It's a mad dash to be first. The goal of Record Store Day is to move those units, and get them to the music fans and collectors who regularly spend their time and money in those very shops. But the day isn't just a cash-grab. It's a celebration of the brick-and-mortar shops within the community that provide the service of turning you on (to music), giving you something Amazon or the radio never can—the physical human experience, with communal smiles, live bands and appearances, and tons of free swag. A place you feel at home, around people who share your love of music.
Around the Northwest, we're fortunate to have so many small independent record shops, with so many musicians contributing their talents to the cause. Here are some of the more hotly anticipated releases from artists and labels in our region.
Wild Flag, "Future Crimes" 7-inch (Merge)
It says something about a band when they can draw fans by the thousands before anyone has even heard a song. Wild Flag did just that with their historic pedigree (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Helium, et al.). But when time came for a performance, the band exceeded most expectations. "Future Crimes," with B-side "Glass Tambourine," is the first official release from Wild Flag, whose debut full-length doesn't come 'til much later this year. And at 1,200 copies worldwide, this is going to disappear from the shelves fast, especially in Portlandia.
Various Artists, Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. 1
Light in the Attic Records)
The psychedelia that's being produced right now in the Pacific Northwest is among the best America has seen since Nixon was in office, and the Seattle-based psych visionaries Portable Shrines have become pivotal in showcasing the artists who expand minds and alter times. This 18-track double LP compilation includes exclusive tracks from Eternal Tapestry, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, and a good chunk of Portable Shrines' hometown brethren, including AFCGT, Night Beats, Midday Veil, and more. This 1,000-edition compilation shoots higher than the Cascades and sinks you into the floor, an essential piece of the rock right in our own backyards. Comes with a digital download and full color poster.
Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues" 7-inch Blitzen Trapper, "Maybe Baby" 7-inch
Various Artists, Terminal Sales Vol. 4
Of course the first single from Seattle's Fleet Foxes eagerly anticipated sophomore record, Helplessness Blues, would arrive on Record Store Day. Not as limited, but it will be gone by the time Fleet Foxes hit the road next month. Meanwhile, labelmates (and Portland's own) Blitzen Trapper release their snappy power-pop single "Maybe Baby," a song that could turn reindeer naysayers of the past into believers. Sub Pop is also giving away Terminal Sales Vol. 4, a free 19-track CD sampler of their 2011 class, only available on April 16.
Beth Ditto, Beth Ditto EP 12-inch
What has been floating around as a pricey import for months finally gets a domestic vinyl release, limited to 2,000. If you haven't heard Beth Ditto's "I Wrote the Book" on the dance floor lately, that's all about to change.