What did we pick up during this year's Record Store Day?
This past Saturday was Record Store Day, a celebration conceived in 2008 that snowballed into a yearly event uplifting independent music stores worldwide, including Milwaukee's. Of course, Radio Milwaukee staff was right there alongside the rest of the city’s music-loving community, sifting through bins for old treasures and new favorites. Here’s what a few of us picked up.
Clinging on to something for dear life while being dragged in the opposite direction. That is, essentially, the parenting experience and explains my Record Store Day shopping cart for this year.
Disq’s Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet (bought at Lilliput) is the me that sniffs out new bands and would go to Cactus Club on a Tuesday night with no regard for next-day responsibilities. It’s one of my favorite albums from last year, and I was way overdue to buy a physical (or digital) version.
Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (bought at Bullseye) is a massively important album for the me that became a dad in 2014. Two years later, Simpson went through the same experience and wrote this absolutely mind-blowing collection of songs to his wife and firstborn son. It’s packed with good advice and even better music, and essentially served as a floating piece of driftwood whenever parenting got a little stormy.
Speaking of parenting, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (bought at Rush-Mor) was not my idea. My kid really likes “Hooked on a Feeling” and pretty much bought it (i.e., had me buy it) for that song. Still, as the first item in his vinyl collection, not bad.
I never miss Record Store Day. It's been a tradition I've celebrated since 2010 to spread the word about the vinyl-collecting culture and support our local businesses.
This year, I really focused on my wish list, starting with Weezer’s self-titled debut (aka, the Blue Album). This one takes me way back to 1994, when I was only 8 years old rockin’ to "The Sweater Song" sitting in a Ford Bronco with my dad, who turned up the volume every time the song came on the radio. It's a great childhood memory I share with my late father that has stayed with me for over 29 years.
I also picked up Paramore's This is Why over at Acme Records in Bay View. I've been a fan of Paramore since day one, even going so far as to get a special tribute tattoo from their song "Last Hope" (a hand holding a sparkler). They fortunately added Milwaukee to their tour list, so I couldn't be happier to spin their new album in the days leading up to the August show.
The third record I picked up at Acme Records was a fun little Halloween record called Famous Monsters Speak by Cherney Berg. I'm such a Halloween nerd and love to have records of old spooky sounds and stories to play the whole month of October. It gets me in the spirit of Halloween and just makes my heart happy. Only five months until October!
The Lower East Side has two great record shops within half a mile of each other, so I headed out in the rain/wind/hail/snow for a Record Store Day stroll to add to my collection.
My first stop was Bullseye Records, the tiny two-aisle shop cramped with crates of vinyl. “Blue Monday” by New Order was playing on the speakers as I pawed my way through the stacks of new releases and Record Store Day deals, eventually finding myself drawn instead to the many crates of clearance and used vinyls.
One album cover stood out. Those familiar spooky, yellow eyes on a black background. That’s right, I found a used version of the Cats soundtrack. Cats is my partner’s favorite musical, so I grabbed a nice surprise gift and kept foraging.
The next cover to catch my eye featured a baseball, a white Ford Mustang and a surfboard, among other all-American images. I was ecstatic to find a Beach Boys compilation — 1986’s Made in U.S.A. — because it has all the hits. “Barbara Ann.” “Surfer Girl.” “Good Vibrations.” “Don’t Worry Baby” (my personal BB favorite). Doesn’t get any better.
I moved on with my two used purchases and made the quick jaunt to Lilliput Records for their festivities. It was still very crowded, even in the mid-afternoon. A bit overwhelmed, I made it out with just one purchase: Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, labeled a “RSD essential” due to its white-splattered orange vinyl. I’d argue it’s essential because it’s a great album.
Before I go into my selections, I would like first to note how I plan a shopping spree of this caliber. I have my list of records that I think are essentials for my collection, and then with the rest of my budget I search for “never been heard before” albums that intrigue me.
This Record Store Day landed during the week of Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, so that means I deserved to splurge a bit. I set aside $140 to treat myself and only went $11 over budget. I did, however, miss the memo from my peers who all bought three records and doubled that tally.
For the essential list, the first obvious pick was Taylor Swift’s Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions. I’m a big Swiftie, but surprisingly this Record Store Day exclusive is her first record in my collection. Since Folklore was my favorite album of 2022, it deserved a spot on the shelf. The second essential that paired nicely with the first was The Record by Boygenius. I haven’t been able to stop listening to this record, to the point where it’s now my entire workout playlist. Let me tell you: “Sad girl music” is not ideal when you’re on the Stairmaster, but I won’t have it any other way.
Now onto the fun, unexpected part. The first record that caught my attention was Better to Be Rich Than Ethnic by Allen & Grier — a folk-rock parody duo who released this comedy album in 1963. The lime green cover grabbed me, but the record liner is what sold me. To get an idea of what’s on this one, listen to the track “Basketball Bill” about the rise and fall of a basketball player whose story includes the Mafia.
The remaining three selections are international picks. I grabbed Bring on the Bouzoukee! from Nina Records to start us off. The term Bouzoukee translates to Greek guitar, and the liner notes provided some historical context about this recording. According to the notes, no one knows the actual origin of this instrument. Some believe it was first fashioned by a man committed to a Greek jail, while others believe it began with Alexander the Great, centuries before Christ. Regardless of the instrument’s origin, this record has rhythm and a pulsing beat that is meant to whisk you away to another world.
Next on the list is The Middle Eastern Soul of Carlee Record, a ’70s Armenian-American jazz record that features the collection of the early work of Sauren Baronian.
Last on the list is one of my favorite new finds: Maalem Mahmoud Gania’s Aicha. This remastered 2020 album is a trance. It’s dizzying and yet gentle. First released on cassette in Morocco in the 1990s, Gania recorded it in his hometown of Essaouira in Morocco during an intimate session — so intimate that you can hear him clear his throat. On first listen, my favorite track is “Assamaoui,” a good place to start exploring his hypnotic and spiritually nurturing music.
Lilliput Records was bursting out the seams with some great new music, and the house was packed! My family and I focused on picking up some albums we knew we needed, like Solange’s A Seat At The Table and Omar Apollo’s masterpiece Ivory, just to name a few. It was so much fun celebrating and purchasing some fresh vinyl for Record Store Day on a fantastic birthday spent with family. The Perez family cannot wait for next year.