April 23rd 2022 marks the UK’s fifteenth Record Store Day, a day set aside to celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store, and to hopefully keep them in business.
It is still the busiest day of the year for your local shop, despite the frustrations that are associated with the event, which for most people can be summed up as when the guy in front of you in the queue takes the last copy of the one record you queued three hours for, and then probably puts it on eBay for treble the price (no-one beats you to a record because they actually want it, right? Not in my head, they don’t).
To this occupational hazard can be added:
◦ Major labels pressing pointless reissues (is anyone really demanding Cure picture discs?)
◦ The day itself concentrating a lot of production on one day, thus clogging up already stretched pressing plants so new acts are delayed six to nine months for copies of their (non-RSD) new record to be pressed
But we all want our local shops (of all descriptions) to stay in business, and not popping in to your local store on Record Store Day feels a bit like not giving your mum a card and a box of Black Magic on Mother’s Day.
It’s also an event that encourages the next generation of record buyers into record shops to experience the rush of securing that latest precious Taylor Swift single. For them, hopefully a lifetime of obsessing about matrix numbers and median Discogs prices is just a purchase away. Poor sods.
But if that eBay flipper did set their alarm five minutes before yours and beat you in the queue, or the magic of RSD22 is passing you by, or you can’t actually find anything in the 500-strong list of RSD records (which you can find here) there is always the option of picking up other, non-RSD releases from the last year or so, that perhaps you haven’t got around to buying. In no particular order therefore, here are a few albums that you might want to pick up:
Bodega – Broken Equipment
This new record by Bodega, their second, could be described as a mix between LCD Soundsystem and Parquet Courts. On songs like “Territorial Call of the Female” you might even detect a B52s feeling, if the B52s had lived with their kid sister in a Brooklyn loft. Some great tracks like “Doers” “C.I.R.P.” (That’s Counter Intelligence Roleplay” to you. No, me neither), “No Blade of Grass” and “Statuette on the Console” feature shared male / female vocals and a heavy, irresistible dose of cynicism.
Pip Blom – Welcome Break
If angular guitars and euphoric choruses are your bag, Pip Blom might be your new favourite band. A victim of pressing woes in the music industry, the Amsterdam-based band’s second album is finally released in physical form the day before Record Store Day, on 22 April 2022, some five months after the album made its way to streaming platforms. It’s a terrific album.
Aimee Mann – Queens of the Summer Hotel
Normally the idea of writing songs for a musical is enough to make some run for the hills, but writing songs for a musical is exactly what Mann did for this album. “Queens of the Summer Hotel,” is based on Susanna Keysen’s 1993 memoir about her experiences being institutionalised, which was adapted into a movie, “Girl, Interrupted,” in 1999.
While the subject matter will take time to penetrate, the chamber pop (acoustic bass, woodwind instruments) is just beautiful, and the album package helps demystify the concept by presenting each song’s lyrics as scenes in a play. Physical copies of this album, which was released late last year, are now starting to appear in record shops.
Penelope Isles – Which Way To Happy
Woozy dream pop, sometimes of the jangly variety, from this Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) mixed second album from Isle of Man/Brighton based Penelope Isles who are signed to Bella Union. Fronted by siblings Lily and Jack Wolter, the band began recording the album in Cornwall at the start of the first lockdown, and the album is a joy from start to finish. For fans of The Flaming Lips, Beach House and sunshine/psych pop.
Wet Leg: Wet Leg
Having released three excellent singles in a row last year (debut “Chaise Longue”, “Wet Dream”, and “Too Late Now”), Isle of Wight’s finest, fronted by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, released their debut LP on 8th April on Domino Records, and it’s a fantastic, funny, smart and catchy debut mixing indie guitar and deadpan vocals in the modern style. Their self-made videos are great too.
Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
This is Spoon’s tenth album, and perhaps their best so far. The songs are guitar-based, expansive and dynamic, with highlights including “Wild” which carries a “Loaded” piano vibe, and guitar chugger “The Hardest Cut”. The band hail from Austin, Texas and the albums was produced by Mark Rankin (QOTSA, Adele). “Lucifer…” boasts crystal clear production and vital, guitar-led songs with a fresh energy – no mean feat after so many records under their belts.
All of these albums received their physical release in 2022, but we don’t discriminate on ERTAS. Those 2021 albums you didn’t get around to picking up might still be in stock! (What better time for a year-end best-of than randomly in the middle of the following year?) But if it gets you browsing the racks in a record shop, then all to the good.
Here’s a top ten list in case you want to get nostalgic about 2021, when we didn’t have war on the horizon, when politicians were upstanding members of the community and life was simpler. Hmmm.
1 Elbow – Flying Dream 1
Another band (like Spoon) making career-best records decades after their first releases. My favourite album of 2021.
2 Gruff Rhys – Seeking New Gods
The former Super Furry Animals front man has been quietly releasing solo albums for a while now, but this record, was as good as anything he released with his former band. A concept album about an ancient volcano on the China-North Korea border, but don’t let that put you off.
3 Crowded House – Dreamers Are Waiting
The beautiful melodies on this album from the veteran antipodeans stealthily wormed their way into my brain over the course of last year – a real grower on gentle tracks like “Sweet Tooth” and “Show Me The Way”.
4 W H Lung – Vanities
Terrific, energetic and danceable second LP from this Manchester band. Their first was all motorik beats, this follow up expanded the palate and upped the dancability with anthems like “Gd Tym”, and “Pearl in the Palm” and was all the better for it.
5 Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
This LP won Simz the “Best newcomer” award at the Brits, despite this being her fourth album. Tracks like “Woman” (with Cleo Sol) show off her soulful side, while the Afrobeat of “Point and Kill” with Obongjayar is irresistible.
6 The Weather Station – Ignorance
For fans of Fleetwood Mac and War on Drugs – the song “Parking Lot” is an instant classic, closer “Subdivisions” hauntingly Radiohead-beautiful with its picked, circular arpeggios and the album has already been followed up by a terrific but more mellow successor called “How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars” – pick up either or both.
7 Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
The follow up to Mercury Prize winning 2017 LP Visions of a Life was in many ways a better album. Ellie Rowsell contributes ethereal vocals over liquid rhythms and satisfyingly noisy guitar riffs, especially on anthemic rocker “Smile”.
8 The Anchoress – The Art of Losing
The biggest issue I had with this LP was that I couldn’t make up my mind which was my favourite track. Was it the “The Exchange”, featuring a duet with Manics’ James Dean Bradfield and a grandiose piano build up, or was it the synth-rock of “Show Your Face”? I’m still not sure. Maybe it’s actually the 80s Duran-pop tinged title track? “Unravel”? I’ll have to just pay it again…
9 Mt Misery – Once Home, No Longer
Might take a bit more digging for this one – the LP version is sold out, but still worth checking out. The band originate from Hartlepool, which, if you didn’t know better you would think was a sun-kissed part of Southern California judging from the jangly sunshine pop of opening track “The Dreaming Days Are Over”. But then again, bands from colder climates like Teenage Fanclub have somehow always specialised in this melancholy, bitter-sweet-sad guitar-pop, and Mt Misery’s album is a particularly excellent demonstration that you don’t have to live in California to sound as though you do.
10 (=) M G Boulter – Clifftown
With a voice like a mash-up of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, and a finger-picking style on his guitar that blends well with some tasteful orchestration, MG Boulter has produced a personal album full of stories growing up in a seaside town (well, it works for Ed Sheeran, right?), and even comes up with a driving rocker in “Soft White Belly”, perfect for driving your convertible with the top down on Southend sea front.
10. (=) Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
An album I have returned to again and again in 2022, containing real ear worms like “Black Dog”, “Caroline” and “Green Eyes”. Parks deserves her Mercury Prize and all the praise that has come her way. A fantastic record.
So there you are. Seventeen reasons not to buy that Cure picture disc…*
Here’s a playlist of a selection of songs from the above albums:
*it’s okay, you can buy the picture disc if you want. We don’t judge people here.