YOU'VE BEEN HEARING IT for years: Physical media is dead.
Except that it isn't—well, not completely. Adele's new album, 25, just broke the record for most US sales in a single week, topping *NSYNC's previous high of 2.42 million. In 2015, this is an insanely huge number. And Adele's projected 2.9 million sales are without the aid of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, avenues she's refused to use with this album, perhaps to bump revenue from more lucrative sources. While many of 25's first-week sales are coming from downloads at the iTunes store, just as many—if not more—are from fans physically buying her CD at stores, both online and at brick-and-mortar retailers.
Sure, Adele is freakishly successful, but I don't think these massive numbers are entirely an anomaly. The further we get from 1999's peak of physical album sales, and the more downloading and streaming become part of our media consumption, the more incontrovertible it seems that certain stubborn people still like buying actual albums—on CD and, particularly, vinyl.
This is a welcome fact as we enter the holiday season. A carefully chosen and personally selected album remains one of the very best things to give and receive as a present, and all the iTunes gift cards in the world won't change that. Nor can a gift subscription to Spotify or any similar streaming service be more than a pale shadow of the experience of unwrapping a physical record. While streaming and downloading has lots of plusses, an invisible gift of theoretical music to be plucked out of the internet ether is, let's face it, no fun for anyone. And it looks lousy under the tree.
It's worth keeping this in mind as you read our rundown of Record Store Day releases for this week's Black Friday (November 27). There's a lot to criticize about April's annual Record Store Day, and, in particular, its November offshoot, which was created to latch onto the biggest retail day of the year. Sure, there are unnecessary vinyl reissues of readily available albums, and there's a surfeit of ludicrously priced fan-bait meant to fleece diehard collectors. (This year's worst offenders include a 1995 Dave Matthews Band live show spread across four LPs, a vinyl edition of a shitty Ben Harper album that's already cluttering up the used CD bins, and a numbered, double-colored vinyl version of the Garden State soundtrack. None of these things needs to exist, and you are a fool for buying them.)
But there's some pretty cool vinyl coming out this Friday as well—releases that'll have me waiting in line alongside all the other music fanatics and vinyl lovers. The things that made Record Store Day such a cool idea back when it launched in 2007 still hold true: Any excuse to visit the local record store is a good one. And you don't necessarily need to be interested in any of these special Record Store Day releases, either. It's always worth visiting Portland's great record stores any day of the week, whether you're looking for a terrific holiday gift or just want to treat yourself.
Don't bother with Amazon or Barnes & Noble—check recordstoreday.com to find local stores where these releases will be available exclusively.
John Malkovich, Sandro, & Eric Alexandrakis: Like a Puppet Show
This is probably the single weirdest—and, therefore, greatest—thing you can buy on Black Friday. A recording of John Malkovich reciting part of Plato's Republic has been altered and remixed by several musicians, including Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, the Dandy Warhols, Dweezil Zappa, Roger Waters' son Harry Waters, the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan, and many others. The results are disorienting and strange. And the cover features a photograph of Malkovich with sharpened teeth, shot by photographer Sandro. Creepy. To seal the deal, Malkovich will be at Music Millennium (3158 E Burnside) in person from 3 to 5 pm to autograph the vinyl-only release. I'm positive you know somebody who will flip out over a signed copy.
Spoon: "TV Set"
Independent record stores are the only place to get this 10-inch single of Spoon's cover of the Cramps' "TV Set," a track that was featured on the soundtrack of the recent Poltergeist remake but didn't receive a physical release until now. There's also an exclusive B-side—a reworking of "Let Me Be Mine" from their They Want My Soul album, making this a must-have for the Spoon completist in your life.
The Zombies: The BBC Radio Sessions
Before they recorded their magnum opus and farewell album, Odessey & Oracle, the Zombies had a great run as one of the best bands of the British Invasion. This double-LP set rounds up all the recordings the Zombies made for BBC Radio from 1964 to 1968, with performances of hits like "Tell Her No" and "She's Not There," rare cover versions of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "This Old Heart of Mine," plus a ton of other stuff.
Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, & Max Roach: Jazz at Massey Hall
On May 15, 1953, five jazz legends played a concert in Toronto, and the three 10-inch mini-albums that resulted from that show are the only time these five musicians have ever been captured together on record. This reissue recreates what it might have been like to own and listen to these recordings back in 1953, via 10-inch vinyl with vintage artwork, plus a book to go along with it. This live recording has long been cited as a vital work of bebop, and this reissue puts you front and center.
Nine Inch Nails: Halo I-IV
This will be one of the pricier things you can buy on Record Store Day's Black Friday, but I have a feeling it will remain a collectible and increase in value for some time to come, if you care about that kind of thing. It's a box set containing limited-edition vinyl versions of the first four Nine Inch Nails releases—Halos I through IV, if you're already familiar with Trent Reznor's peculiar methodology of numbering NIN product. The set includes a copy of Nine Inch Nail's essential debut (1989's dance-industrial classic, Pretty Hate Machine), plus 12-inches of that album's three singles, "Down in It," "Head Like a Hole," and "Sin." The only other things you'll need are some black eyeliner and some deep-seated resentment toward mom and dad, and it's ninth grade all over again.
Run-DMC: The Singles Collection
You should never turn down the chance to get some Run-DMC on vinyl. This collects five of their best singles from 1983 to 1988, including "My Adidas," "It's Like That," and "Walk This Way." With B-sides like "King of Rock" and "Peter Piper," this is like scoring a Run-DMC best-of, with a bunch of cool 7-inch picture sleeves to go with it.
Phil Collins: "In the Air Tonight" 7-inch
This reissue of Phil Collins' debut single from 1981—still a great song, despite what came after—includes a "12-page comic book." I have no idea what a 12-page Phil Collins comic book could possibly contain. Will it be a creepy bedtime story about watching someone drown without lending a hand? Will it be a cautionary tale about giving up the drums in favor of singing ploppy ballads? Will it be another gripping installment of li'l Phil's ongoing battle with the evil keyboard mage Tony Banks for dominance of Genesis? I have absolutely no idea, but I will be ready on Black Friday with money in hand to find out.
The International Submarine Band: Safe at Home
A promo copy of the rare mono version of the International Submarine Band's first-and-only album currently sells on Discogs for more than $220. No thank you. This 1968 country-rock classic was Gram Parsons' first-ever album, and it's an indispensable part of any record collection. Sundazed, an excellent reissue label, is putting out this new edition of the mono mix—rawer and punchier than the more common stereo mix—on handsome opaque white vinyl.
The Kinks: Kwyet Kinks EP
In addition to the many perfect albums and singles the Kinks released during the '60s, they also released a pair of worthwhile EPs with material that originally wasn't available anywhere else. The first, Kinksize Session, received an earlier Record Store Day re-release. Now you can get the second, and it's definitely the stronger of the two. When it was first released in the UK, 1965's Kwyet Kinks was the only place to get the essential "A Well Respected Man," a scathing look by songwriter Ray Davies at the English upper-class aristocracy. It's one of the Kinks' best-remembered tunes and later became a hit single in the US, but here's a chance to hear it as it was originally intended, on the four-song Kwyet Kinks EP. Another Kinks EP, Dedicated Kinks—a mid-'60s collection of some of their better-known singles of the era—has also been given a facsimile release for Black Friday.
It's Outkast. It's Stankonia. It's on vinyl. It speaks for itself. Okay, scoring a wax copy of André 3000 and Big Boi's finest hour isn't all that difficult, but here's a fresh reissue of the 2000 classic, on fancy splattered vinyl to boot.