WG? Record Store Day 2020 Top Picks
RSD may have been postponed but before you know it, it'll be that time of year again. When music nerds and audiophiles alike flock into the streets of cities and towns, hoping to be the first through their local record store’s doors to grab their favourite rarities off the shelves for Record Store Day. Some may be making a day out of it, visiting Rough Trade West in order to be catching some of the live music outside the store’s entrance (which I will be doing – last year Talbot Road was graced with the presences of then-new kids on the block Fontaines D.C. and the almighty Pete Doherty, amongst many more) or others may simply have set out to grab their favourite 7” and nothing more.
Regardless, everyone is emptying their wallets for the sake of a passionate love for music, making it a great opportunity to meet interesting and knowledgeable people – I spent the duration of my hour-and-a-half wait in the queue outside of Rough Trade East with an older couple who had recently emigrated from Nigeria, discovering we both shared the same adoration of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti (more on him later).
Because this is a date that should not be missed by any music lover, I have compiled a list of my favourite picks from this year’s selection of exclusive and limited records – be sure not to sleep on these.
The Comet is Coming – Imminent (12”) - £24.99
The test of time has shown that Shabaka Hutchings can always be relied upon to produce an outstanding piece of music, whether it be in Sons of Kemet, Shabaka and the Ancestors, or his most recent project (debuting in 2019 with the thrilling ‘apocalyptic space-funk’ endeavour Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery), The Comet Is Coming. Following up their album, they released an equally rewarding EP which featured the likes of poet/rapper Joshua Idehen, who appears again on RSD’s Imminent, a “pulsating and frenetic number”, accompanied on the B-Side by a DJ Noss remix of the band’s Super Zodiac, limited to only 1000 copies.
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom (12”) - £13.99
Over the past decade, Charli XCX has evolved her sound and experimented far beyond the boundaries of what is expected from a major label pop-star such as herself, deservedly establishing her name as one of the most important and influential figures in what is to be the future of pop music to come. Having last year released Charli, arguably her most ambitious and ground-breaking album yet to much critical acclaim (including the number one spot on the now highly influential TheNeedleDrop’s ‘Album of the Year’ list), for Record Store Day, Charli has chosen to look back to 2016 with the release of her now-classic Vroom Vroom EP on clear vinyl, limited to 1500 copies.
Denzel Curry – Bulls On Parade/I Against I (7”) - £8.99
One of the most versatile and consistent rappers in the game right now, Denzel Curry, following the release of UNLOCKED,( a collaboration with producer Kenny Beats and one of the rapper’s most energetic, hard-hitting projects to date), is turning to RSD 2020 to release a double A-side 7” comprised of two covers. On Bulls on Parade, Denzel’s band provides an instrumentally faithful cover of the classic Rage Against the Machine song, giving Curry an opportunity to deliver Zack de la Rocha’s criticisms of the military-industrial complex in the mid-90s in his own style, effortlessly flitting between wild, almost incoherent shouting and his now well established calmer style of rapping. Accompanying on the flipside is a cover of Bad Brains’ I Against I. The former was recorded on Australian radio station Triple J and the latter for a Spotify Singles session with members of Bad Brains. Limited to only 400 copies.
Warmduscher – European Cowboy (12”) - £12.99
Warmduscher, a group comprised of members of Fat White Family, Paranoid London and Insecure Men, released their debut album Khaki Tears in 2015 and was subsequently established as an interesting newcomer to the UK’s guitar music scene with The Sweet Smell of Florida on Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label, the teaser single to their sophomore record Whale City. RSD’s European Cowboy is a selection of remixes, two of which are selected from the band’s 2019 LP Tainted Lunch (Midnight Dipper and Disco Peanuts, remixed respectively by Soulwax and Decius), and one from Whale City, I Got Friends, remixed by Savage Gary. This is the first time these tracks have been available physically, limited to 1,000 copies worldwide on black vinyl.
The Fall – Cerebral Caustic (LP) - £22.99
One of the most influential post-punk acts to ever come out of the UK, Mark E. Smith and his ever changing group of companions welcomed Brix Smith, one of the most impressively long-standing members of the Fall (contributing previously to albums such as 1988’s I Am Kurious Oranj and ‘83’s Perverted by Language) back to the group. As is often the case with the band’s material released in the 90s (with post-punk by then being labelled as a dying genre), Cerebral Caustic is a criminally underrated reversion to the harsher sounds the group were exploring in the first Brix-era. Now, 25 years later, the album is marking its anniversary on 180-gram ‘bonkers splatter-effect’ white vinyl for Record Store Day 2020.
Fela Ransome Kuti and His Highlife Rakers – Fela’s First-The Complete 1959 Melodisc Session (10”) - £10.99
Almost without doubt the most important and innovative artist to come out of the continent of Africa and perhaps one of the most influential musicians of all time, aside from an almost spotless solo discography, Fela has appeared on records from artists such as Roy Ayers (their collaborative project, Music of Many Colours was reissued for RSD 2019) to Kendrick Lamar (his song I No Get Eye for Back appeared posthumously on the closer to 2015’s almighty To Pimp a Butterfly, Mortal Man). However, for Record Store Day, Cadillac Records is taking us back to the very start of Fela’s career in 1959, when a Ghanaian style of guitar music was sweeping over West Africa called Highlife. These tracks were recorded in London, where Fela was studying music at the Trinity College of Music and are being released on 10” black vinyl, of which two tracks are to be heard here for the first time ever.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Piñata: The 1974 Version (LP) - £28.99
2019 saw the arrival of Bandana, the second instalment of collaborations between one of the most talented and revolutionary hip-hop producers of the 21st century, Madlib, and the technical, provocative rapper Freddie Gibbs. The first instalment, however, was released in 2014 to much critical acclaim and was called Piñata. It is now be released for Record Store Day 2020 with a reimagined cover by Jeff Jank, taking inspiration from the iconic artwork and themes of ‘70s Blaxploitation films (hence the record being called ‘1974 version’). The record is lacquered at half-speed, greatly improving the sound quality from anything heard before on MP3 or a previous vinyl press, and is accompanied by a different cover, sadly only available in the US, known as the ‘1964 version’, a clear homage to the artwork of Cannonball Adderley’s timeless hard-bop masterpiece, Somethin’ Else. The record is limited to 3000 copies worldwide.
Girl Band – Vicar Street Live (2LP) - £26.99
Although I am, unfortunately, not speaking from experience, from what I hear Dublin’s Girl Band are an unmissable live act, where all of the energy contained by studios and producers is unleashed in a whirlwind of fury on stage. Hopefully, the double LP Rough Trade is releasing for Record Store Day 2020, Vicar Street Live, will live up to this fury and give those who haven’t seen Girl Band in the flesh a snatch of the frenzy of their live performance. Their last two records have been aggressive, passionate noise-rock endeavours, combining elements of post-punk and indie rock to create a thrilling unique sound. These live tracks are taken from two back-to-back, sold out shows at their hometown’s Vicar Street venue, and include songs from both of their long players, including some only seen live a handful of times.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry/Daniel Boyle – Horror Zone (LP) - £24.99
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is still an unstoppable force of creative energy at 83 years of age, having put out Heavy Rain, his 91st album, in December of 2019 and currently undergoing a headline tour of Europe. For those who are unfamiliar with the man, he was a reggae and (especially) dub pioneer who, throughout his career, proved himself to be one of the most experimentally-minded, innovative producers and writers of the entire genre. It now seems he really cannot stop writing music, as in the middle of this tour, he is dropping a new dub album for Record Store Day on ‘crystal clear’ vinyl in collaboration with Daniel Boyle (who has made various appearances on Perry records over the years) called Horror Zone. As always, apparent is his signature Black Ark sound, created solely using 70’s and 80’s analogue equipment. As is often the case with a Lee Perry LP, the artwork is fascinatingly detailed and movie-poster inspired, on this occasion hand painted by Ellen G from Tel Aviv.
Mac DeMarco – Other Here Comes the Cowboy Demos (LP) - £28.99
Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has at this point consolidated himself as a modern indie legend, with a discography spanning the last decade which has earned him a cult following of smokers, jean-cuffers and wannabe skaters (or so the internet would have us believe; Mac’s sphere of listeners is far more diverse in reality!). His latest effort, last year’s Here Comes the Cowboy, was a more hypnotic, minimal take on what listeners are used to, causing one fan to label it as ‘the doom metal of indie’. For RSD 2020, Mac is putting out a collection of outtakes from the HCTC sessions on purple vinyl, limited to just 750 copies worldwide. On the 17th of April, another, alternate collection of outtakes will be released on black vinyl to accompany this album.
Miles Davis – Double Image: Directions in Music (2LP) - £39.99
Of all the LPs that span Miles Davis’ expansive jazz fusion catalogue, none is perhaps held in as high regard as 1970’s ground-breaking Bitches Brew. Whether for its iconic artwork by Mati Klarwein or for the ease with which Miles and his band combine rock instrumentation and funk rhythms with experimental jazz song structures, this album has and will continue to go down in history as one of the most important recordings of all time. Excitement would be justified, then, at the thought of a collection of outtakes and rarities from the Bitches Brew sessions being released on red vinyl for Record Store Day 2020. Originally part of the box set released in 1998 entitled Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, these 10 recordings mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the album (March 2020).
The Murder Capital – Love, Love, Love (Live) (12”) - £11.99
Although it did not gain as much attention, Irish post-punkers the Murder Capital’s chilling yet charming debut record When I Have Fears rivals the likes of Black Midi’s Schlagenheim, FKA twigs’ Magdalene and Little Simz’s GREY Area for my favourite album to come out of the UK in 2019. Frankly, the album was criminally overlooked by many, and their live performance is hailed to be even more captivating. Therefore, it is no wonder that on their own label, Human Season, they have arranged the release of a duo of live tracks taken from their October 2019 performance at The Dome in Tufnell Park. Love, Love, Love and On Twisted Ground are two deeper cuts from the album that are presented for RSD with artwork in black text over a black background, the intricacies of the cover barely visible without (I imagine) the light shining off the physical copy on 12”.
Slint – Breadcrumb Trail/Good Morning Captain (12”) - £24.99
This band whose monumental influence is still apparent in the post-punk and math rock of today (take Black Country, New Road and Black Midi as examples) only ever released two full length albums, the first of which, Spiderland, quickly consolidated itself as a classic amongst music lovers around the world. The opening and closing tracks of the record are being reissued as the original alternate ‘dry’ mixes from 1990 for Record Store Day on clear vinyl, limited to 2500 copies worldwide. Accompanying the disc is a glow-in-the-dark spider slipmat, and an inner sleeve printed with an image of the original Breadcrumb Trail/Good Morning Captain analogue tapes. The former track depicts vocalist Brian McMahan’s strange dream-like adventure consisting of pirate ships, crystal balls and fortune tellers, while the latter (Spiderland’s final track) tells the story of a ship’s captain returning to land as the only survivor of a storm at sea.
Sun Ra – Egypt ’71 (5LP) - £69.99
Respected as one of the most dazzling and erratic live performances of the 20th century, complete with dancers, unrecognisable instruments and extraordinary outfits, Sun Ra and his Arkestra ventured unprompted to Egypt for the first time ever in 1971. The musical magic that occurred there was recorded and released as three LPs during the seventies, called Horizon, Nidhamu and Dark Myth Visitation Equation. These recordings are now getting their first vinyl reissues since then, alongside two completely new and unheard LPs from the same Egyptian excursion. You get your money’s worth in this box set, as aside from the 5 LPs, rare photos and extensive liner notes are included too. Sun Ra have never failed to impress, and I imagine Record Store Day’s limited release is no different.
Tyler, The Creator – Cherry Bomb (2LP) - £39.99
The centrepiece in the discography of arguably the most successful solo career to come out of the Odd Future rap collective (Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean being close runners up), while met with controversy and varied opinions on release, Cherry Bomb is now recognised as an important member of Tyler, The Creator’s five full-length albums as the transition period between the youthful, angsty hip hop of his first two releases and the soul and pop influence sound that he succeeded with on Flowerboy and consolidated on his (current) magnum opus, 2019’s Igor. Even more exciting is the prospect that this is the first time Cherry Bomb has ever seen a vinyl release, the last of Tyler’s long-players to do so (so prices are likely to rocket after RSD as the release is limited!). The album is on currently-unspecified coloured vinyl.