In celebration of Record Store Day 2018, we pick our favourite records, which can only be experienced through arguably the greatest musical format in the world: vinyl.
The way we listen to music has changed considerably over the past few years, let alone this century. The prominence of streaming websites such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music, and the digitisation of music as a whole demonstrates that it can be listened to anywhere, anytime and with split-second immediacy.
But still fighting its own corner amidst this ongoing digital revolution is our favourite musical format, vinyl. Now in its 11th year, Record Store Day is testament to the surge in popularity of the iconic wax disc.
Sales of vinyl have reached a 25-year high, meaning that this age-old way of listening to albums still holds an important place for an increasing number of people who care about music – as well as sound quality.
So here are 7 great and wholesome records that you can only hear in their full glory on your turntable – and can’t be found on any streaming websites.
1. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
Released in 1969, this album by prog rock stalwarts King Crimson sounds just as revolutionary as it did nearly 50 years ago. One of the first albums in its genre to incorporate jazz, classical and symphonic music, its relevance still lingers today, as the dystopian lyrics you hear aren’t too far removed from the current political climate. It’s a rollercoaster listen; from the raw rock jam of ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ to the scuttling soundscapes of ‘Moonchild’, not forgetting the sonic opulence of the eponymous final track, we think few albums come this close to perfection.
2. Joanna Newsom – Ys
A consummate storyteller and multi-instrumentalist, Joanna Newsom has a rustic quality in her music that breathes stunning originality. A harpist by trade, her plucked tones bubble and melt into orchestral textures on this album, leaving her distinctive soprano voice to soar with words of otherworldly tales of meteorites, monkeys and nature’s secrets. Classified as chamber folk, we think her music falls under the more aptly named term ‘medieval pop’.
3. Pixies – Live at the BBC
Recorded mostly in London between 1988 and 1991, this compilation presents Pixies at the top of their game, and we’re surprised we haven’t seen a re-release so far for Record Store Day. The production is scintillatingly raw, while listeners are treated to different iterations of the band’s classics, revealing the genial process behind the finished tracks from their studio albums. Limitless in its energy, the album features songs spanning their whole discography, including a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which is a force to be reckoned with.
4. Beyoncé – Lemonade
An album that is only available through Tidal – a streaming service owned by Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z (yes, we cheated a bit with this one) – it caused a stir in its monopolisation attempts against other music platforms. Politics aside, Lemonade cemented Beyonce’s status as the most powerful woman in music when it was released in 2016, and also proves that mainstream pop can sound great too. Featuring a number of guests like Jack White, Kendrick Lamar and James Blake, there is plenty of genre variance: from RnB to rock, via country, it’s a modern classic that’s an unmissable listen.
5. Tool – Lateralus
Progressive and heavy, Tool sound like the forgotten love child between Pink Floyd and Pantera. The carefully constructed songs ebb and flow throughout this album; the heavy sections grow into a melee of monstrous guitars, only to be balanced by the quiet intricacies of the interludes between each outburst. This is worth listening to on a pair of floorstanding loudspeakers, to truly feel and appreciate the sheer power of the guitars and drums through an extended bass response.
6. Comus – First Utterance
Comus are a progressive folk band who craft weird and wonderful music, and First Utterance is a great example of this. The album’s tribal tones, coupled with seriously unbounding musical freedom, create a wondrous carnival atmosphere, which at times relishes in its madness. Its avant-garde structures marry well to the sound of animated vocals and punchy playing heard in the violin, guitars and percussion, ensuring there’s never a dull moment.
7. Coil – Musick to Play in the Dark
If you’re planning on giving this a spin this Record Store Day, we recommend playing this album as its title suggests, in the dark. Secondly, prepare yourself for its musical content. British experimental music group Coil have a knack for conjuring up a raw, industrial atmosphere, as the searing synthesiser tones, sinister spoken word and beguiling choir samples of opener ‘Are You Shivering?’ present. Listeners are treated to a variety of textures as the album unfolds: the almost-danceable synth-driven patterns of the second track flow into more avant-garde sonic compositions – like the sub-bass frequencies of ‘Broccoli’ – leaving you perpetually inquisitive as to what’s just around the corner.