Record Store Day is a veritable holiday for audiophiles, record collectors and music lovers all around the world. Celebrated the third Saturday of every April for the last three years running, the musical fete teams up over 700 independent record stores with artists and labels from across the spectrums of fame and genre to release exclusive vinyl and cd packages, as well as host live performances, barbecues, parades and the like. As someone who grew up in the tail end of the CD-era, and has spent most of his life in the Age of the MP3, it seems oxymoronic to pair rare and exciting material with a vanishing form, one that for many has been relegated to a novelty item. That being said, Record Store Day promises many exciting releases and offers a great excuse to support your local record store. Click here for the full list of releases. In the meantime, here are the releases I've been looking forward to the most.
Nirvana - Hormoaning EP
Nirvana released their debut album the year I was born. I was 3 when Nevermind came out; I was 6 when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I don't remember these events at all. It's safe to say that I missed the Nirvana generation, still, violent tides of Nirvana approval or detest ran through my group of millennial teenagers. By the time I was in middle school, Nevermind was in of the small pantheon of mandatory albums (along with The Blue Album, Dookie, Sublime's self-titled, etc.) It was a rallying cry for frustrated youth that was pissed off for no reason (hormones) even as grunge declined in popularity.
When I reached high school, much of the love for Nirvana had either simmered to a passing appreciation or reversed itself completely. I was among the detractors, but recently something about Nirvana has begun to speak to me again -- perhaps my appreciation for them has grown as bands Nirvana introduced me to (The Pixies, Leadbelly, The Vaselines) have become old favorites. For anybody looking for a slightly different side of Nirvana, I would recommend the Hormoaning EP. The rare and much sought after extended player was only released in Japan and Australia during the band's 1993 tour. The EP contains 2 original songs that had previously been released as b-sides. They are your standard Nirvana, screamy and distorted while retaining a pretty nice sense of melody. However, the EP is of note for its covers, which were recorded for John Peel's BBC radio show in 1990 and find the band in an uncharacteristically lighthearted mood. During their two Vaselines renditions, they trade in grunge's moody dissonance for more upbeat punk with a taste of (dare I say it?) "pop." Hearing Cobain imitate Mark Mothersbaugh's goofball delivery on Devo's "Turnaround" is truly refreshing. I recommend a listen to The Vaselines' carefree versions of "Son of a Gun" or "Molly's Lips," just to hear how completely un-Cobain their brand of Scottish twee pop really is. The EP will be released this Saturday for the first time in the US in celebration of Record Store Day.
Panda Bear - Tomboy
"After watching a couple of live performances of bands like Nirvana, I was really excited and inspired by how raw and powerful it was," Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear told Pitchfork in a recent interview discussing his latest album Tomboy. "I wanted to at least aim in that direction with the guitar and do my own version of it," he continued. In the beginning seconds of opener "You Can Count On Me," I think can hear guitar strums. It sounds like maybe the guitar might be submerged at the bottom of the ocean, but it still comes across as more organic than most of the electronic loops and noise that abound on his 2007 breakthrough, Person Pitch.
I will take this moment to mention that Lennox sounds uncannily like Brian Wilson, a comment that his beachy reverb soaked melodies render basically unavoidable when discussing his music. I'd also like to take this moment to observe that Noah Lennox looks a heck of a lot like Paul Dano. Returning to the point: Panda Bear's newest release not only favors a more organic soundscape, replete with organ sounds and solid rhythmic foundations, but also favors more straightforward song structures. Lennox succeeds in distilling the elegiac chants of his early material into succinct, easily digestible forms. The conventional verse-chorus-verse that album standout "Surfer's Hymn" (almost) follows is standard fare for this album. These songs are easy enough to follow that they could be sung at a campfire, yet they are complex and interesting enough to demand seriously active listening on the listener's part. Tomboy was originally slated for an April 19th release, but was bumped up a week in order to be available for the Record Store Day festivities. The album will be distributed as a small batch vinyl along with a T-shirt bundle on Saturday.
The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations"/"Heroes and Villains"
The Beach Boy's Smile is perhaps the most famous unfinished album in rock and roll history. This mythical beast was touted by Brian Wilson as "a teenage symphony to God," though the work became so intense that it eventually triggered his mental breakdown, halting the recording sessions. For Record Store Day Capitol/EMI is releasing a 78rpm vinyl with "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains," both recorded during the doomed Smile sessions along with early alternate takes of both tunes. Though Capitol has announced they will release the lost album under the name The Smile Sessions later this year, you can get an early taste on Saturday.