#RSDWeek: The Best List Ever (A Ranking)

featured / News / Record Store Day 2017 / Special Features / April 17, 2017

As a vinyl collector, it’s almost required that you have some sort of mixed opinion on Record Store Day. On the one hand, we all love an excuse to go spend way too much money shopping at our favorite independent record stores. You frankly have to love anything that helps keep record stores — once a dying breed, and still probably endangered — alive. On the other hand, it’s tough to go a year without hearing at least one of your vinyl-obsessed friends talking about how Record Store Day has become “too commercialized” and how “all the releases on this year’s list suck, man.” This year alone, I’ve seen approximately two dozen tweets decrying the 2017 RSD list as “the worst list in the history of Record Store Day!!!”

But does 2017’s list pale in comparison to what we’ve seen in the past? Or are we looking at the history of this auspicious vinyl holiday through rose-colored glasses?

To find out the answer, I decided to delve deep into the annals of Record Store Day. I pulled all 10 release lists from the U.S. incarnation of RSD, dating back to 2008. (I did not factor Black Friday lists into the equation.) Which Record Store Day list is truly the best ever? And which list was the worst? Below, I’ve graded each year based on the strength and depth of its RSD list — with the goal of finding the answers to both of those questions.

2008

The Highlights: The Black Keys – Strange Times; Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Cold Son; Built to Spill – Don’t Try/The Source; R.E.M. – Supernatural Superserious/Airliner; Vampire Weekend – A-Punk; Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

The Rundown: Say what you want about the past few Record Store Day lists, but if we’re all being honest with ourselves, there is no way that any of them are the worst RSD list ever, because that title belongs to 2008. To be fair, 2008 marked the inaugural RSD and there just wasn’t as big a push to get artists or labels to participate. Still, the 2008 list was fairly dire, as you can probably tell by looking at the highlights listed above. The full 2008 list is nowhere to be found online, but Wikipedia notes that there were “approximately 10 special Record Store Day releases,” most of which are listed above. None of those releases would even move the needle much today, so we should all at least be thankful that Record Store Day transcended its humble roots.

Click here for Pitchfork’s coverage of the 2008 Record Store Day.

The Verdict: D. Any other year, this list would merit an F, but it gets graded on a curve because it was the first year and there was never going to be a hugely impressive slate of releases.

2009

The Highlights: Radiohead – Vinyl EP Reissues; Bruce Springsteen – What Love Can Do; Bad Religion – Original EP; The Gaslight Anthem – Live at Park Ave; Modest Mouse – Satellite Skin / Guilty Cockerspaniels; My Morning Jacket – Celebracion de la Ciudad Natal 2×10’; Neil Young – Live at Canterbury House; Queen – First EP; Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope; Talking Heads – 77 LP.

The Rundown: As you can see, Record Store Day made something of a quantum leap between 2008 and 2009. Where the first year of RSD brought a sorry slate of releases, 2009’s list had a lot of big names and a fair share of cool releases that I’d be willing to pick up if I ever saw them in a record store today. The Radiohead 10-inch series — which compiled vinyl pressings of all the band’s singles, up through Hail to the Thief — was a definite highlight. Add some killer live releases from Neil Young, The Gaslight Anthem, and My Morning Jacket, as well as reissues of very early works from Queen, Bad Religion, and The Talking Heads, and Record Store 2009 definitely offered plenty for music geeks to sink their teeth into. That Regina Spektor album, still her most popular work, also received its first-ever vinyl pressing here.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: C+. There were better years to come, and all the artists that released stuff on CD (Iron & Wine, Rivers Cuomo, Cold War Kids, The Dandy Warhols) make it clear that not everyone believed in the vinyl resurgence just yet. Still, 2009 was definitely a step in the right direction.

2010

The Highlights: The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever; Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away; Modest Mouse – The Moon in Antarctica (10-Year Anniversary Edition); Japandroids – Post Nothing; Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi; R.E.M. – Chronic Town; Tom Waits – Mule Variations; LCD Soundsystem – Pow Pow; John Lennon – 7-Inch Box Set; Wilco – Kicking Television; Bon Iver/Peter Gabriel – Come Talk to Me/Flume; Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball/The Ghost of Tom Joad; fun. – Aim & ignite.

The Rundown: 2010 was the first year I remember paying any attention to the Record Store Day list. That fact alone should shine a light on how great this list is, since I didn’t start collecting records for another four years. Where 2009 featured a bunch of nifty singles or live releases from big-name acts, 2010 was the first year where the RSD list really catered toward album lovers. The list features collectible reissues of Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica (a 10-year pressing) and Tom Waits’ Mule Variations (an 11-year pressing), as well as reissues from fun., Japandroids, and more. The crown jewels of the day, though, were the releases from The Hold Steady and Josh Ritter. Both Heaven is Whenever and So Runs the World Away didn’t come out on iTunes or anywhere else until May 4th, but you could grab both of them on vinyl if you went to the right store at the right time on April 17th. I can still remember refreshing my browser in my freshman dorm room, waiting for one or both of those albums to leak after the action of Record Store Day was over.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: A. By itself, the fact that Record Store Day 2010 saw two indie favorites releasing their new albums weeks ahead of schedule would have earned it a superlative grade. The fact that we also got a slew of other cool reissues, a repressing of an out-of-print R.E.M. EP (the band’s first release ever), a Wilco live record, a Springsteen single with two all-time great live tracks, and a collaboration between Bon Iver and Peter Gabriel that saw the two covering each other’s songs (Bon Iver’s version of “Come Talk to Me” is flawless) make 2010’s RSD list the arguable high water mark of the vinyl holiday.

2011

The Highlights: Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (3xLP Deluxe Edition); Anberlin – Cities; Ryan Adams – Class Mythology EP; Foo Fighters – Medium Rare; Gorillaz – The Fall; Nirvana – Hormoaning EP; Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues/Grown Ocean; Bruce Springsteen – Gotta Get the Feeling/Racing in the Street; The Civil Wars – Dance Me to the End of Love; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and You’re Going to Get It!; Death Cab for Cutie – In Living Stereo!; Various Artists – Franz Ferdinand; Nickel Creek – Nickel Creek, This Side, and Why Should the Fire Die; Pearl Jam – Vs. and Vitalogy; Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What.

The Rundown: As exciting as it would have been to hear Heaven Is Whenever or So Runs the World Away weeks early on vinyl, I’m not 100% sure if I would have lined up early for them. The 3xLP reissue of Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American, though — part of the 2011 Record Store Day list — would have gotten me out of bed. When this 10-year anniversary reissue hit the streets in April 2011, Jimmy Eat World records were notoriously difficult to find on vinyl. Futures, Clarity, and Static Prevails had yet to be reissued and were serious white whales. So was Bleed American, and this 3xLP set is seriously awesome. Even now that Bleed is back on vinyl, the 3xLP set still goes for $70 or $80 on the secondary market.

Beyond Bleed, 2011’s list isn’t quite as exciting as 2010’s. No big artists dropped their albums on vinyl weeks ahead of release (though Fleet Foxes and Death Cab both offered brief tastes of records that weren’t out yet). The Foo Fighters’ Medium Rare (a 12-track cover record) was a popular RSD release, as was Gorillaz’s The Fall — the album Damon Albarn made on his iPad and released digitally to the Gorillaz fan club on Christmas 2010. And Anberlin’s Cities might be the diamond of the list, a limited run of 1,000 copies for a scene classic whose only other vinyl release was as part of a pricy, seven-album boxset.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: B+. I feel like this list didn’t have quite the depth that 2010’s did, but there were still some very solid releases among the field. Whether you were looking for full-album reissues, exclusive EPs, or singles, there was something for you here — be it a Nirvana EP never before released in the United States or another pair of solid live recordings from the Springsteen vault. A few of the more exciting releases, though (the Nickel Creek records, the Pearl Jam records, the then-brand-new Paul Simon release), started out as indie record store exclusives thanks to RSD, but were released in non-limited capacities later.

2012

The Highlights: Anberlin – Blueprints from the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal; Mae – The Everglow; The Civil Wars – Billie Jean; Various Artists – Empire Records OST; Various Artists – Pretty in Pink OST; Various Artists – The Breakfast Club OST; The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends; Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come (Limited Edition); Bruce Springsteen – Rocky Ground/The Promise; Switchfoot – Vice Re-Verses; Arcade Fire – Sprawl II; Cursive – Burst and Bloom; Matt Nathanson – Left and Right, Vol. 2; Tegan & Sara – Get Along; Devo – Live in Seattle 1981; Mississippi John Hurt – Last Sessions.

The Rundown: This list is healthy enough — though it lacks a truly landmark release that would have gotten me excited to get to the record store early in the day. Following in the footsteps of the Cities reissue from RSD 2011, Anberlin released limited pressings of their first two records. Record Store Day 2012 was also a goldmine for soundtrack fans, seeing the release of iconic OSTs like Pretty in Pink, Empire Records, and The Breakfast Club. The Flaming Lips, though, dropped what was likely the most talked-about release of the day: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, a collaborative set featuring the likes of Chris Martin, Bon Iver, and Kesha.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: B-. A perfectly good list that falls short of remarkable. As far as I can remember, there was nothing huge from this year that everyone was grappling for. The two record store owners I interviewed when I did a RSD profile for my college newspaper both listed that Devo live record among their most anticipated. Nothing against Devo, but when that’s the highlight of the list for people who are super tapped into the whole RSD tradition, there’s probably something missing.

2013

The Highlights: The White Stripes – Elephant; Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory; At the Drive In – Relationship of Command; The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me; Blind Melon – Blind Melon + Sipping Time EP; Blitzen Trapper – Blitzen Trapper; Elizabeth Cook & Jason Isbell – Tecumseh Valley/Pancho & Lefty; Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love; The Flaming Lips – Zaireeka; Foals – Holy Fire; Grizzly Bear – Horn of Plenty; Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die; Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun; Straylight Run – Prepare to Be Wrong; South Park – San Diego/Gay Fish; Their / They’re / There – Their / They’re / There; Various Artists – Dazed and Confused OST; Various Artists – No Alternative; The Hold Steady – Criminal Fingers/The Bear & The Maiden; Iron & Wine – Next to Paradise/Dirty Ocean.

The Rundown: By now, you’ve probably noticed that I get a lot more excited about reissues or substantial EPs than I do about gimmicky 7-inches. My opinion on what a good RSD list looks like, then, is different than someone who loves collecting shorter-form releases. Unsurprisingly, then, I’m going to praise the 2013 list, which is probably the heaviest on reissues in the holiday’s entire history. This year saw a ton of albums either coming to vinyl for the first time or coming back to vinyl after at least 10 years of being out of print. Elephant; Ready to Die; Relationship of Command; Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me; Agaetis Byrjun; Hybrid fucking Theory. These are all great, great records, and most of them weren’t easy to find on wax before 4/20/2013 rolled around.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: A. This list is incredibly well-balanced between reissues everyone wanted and cool exclusives that you only get on something like Record Store Day. Even I, the guy who doesn’t love 7-inches, would have picked up those Hold Steady, Iron & Wine, South Park, and Isbell/Cook releases. Then there’s Zaireeka from The Flaming Lips, which has to be the pinnacle of “geeky vinyl releases that are simultaneously cool and pointless to own.” You need four record players, synced up perfectly, to hear the songs as The Lips intended them. I wonder how many of the 7,200 copies have actually been played.

2014

The Highlights: LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden; R.E.M. – Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions; Songs: Ohia – Journey On: Collected Singles; Bruce Springsteen – American Beauty EP; Built to Spill – Ultimate Alternative Wavers; Eric Church – The Outsiders; The Civil Wars – Live at Eddie’s Attic; Dawes/Conor Oberst – Split 7″; Death Cab for Cutie – Live 2012; Drive By Truckers – Dragon Pants EP; Green Day – Demolicious; Jay-Z & Linkin Park – Collision Course; Mastodon – Live at Brixton; Notorious B.I.G. – Life after Death; Of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic; Soundgarden – Superunknown: The Singles; Ronnie Spector & The E Street Band – Say Goodbye to Hollywood/Baby Please Don’t Go; The Velvet Underground – Loaded; Butch Walker – End of the World/Battle vs. The War

The Rundown: If 2013’s RSD list shined in terms of reissues, then 2014 was all about live records. There are some amazing live albums on this list, starting with the no-longer-final LCD Soundsystem show (spread across a 5xLP set) and continuing on to include terrific sets from R.E.M., The Civil Wars, Death Cab for Cutie, Mastodon, and others. There are also a few cool exclusive EPs (Springsteen’s American Beauty EP isn’t great, but was definitely one of the most buzzed-about RSD releases that year) and a handful of reissues that would have made a trip to the record store worthwhile (Life after Death and Collision Course, following in the footsteps of the Biggie and Linkin Park reissues from the year before).

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: B. I can’t complain too much about a year that saw my two favorite artists (Bruce Springsteen and Butch Walker) serving up RSD exclusives. There are a healthy number of other items on this list I would have grabbed as well, from The Civil Wars to Eric Church. It’s not quite as stacked as the 2013 list, but there are more than enough points of interest.

2015

The Highlights: Brand New – Deja Entendu; The Hold Steady – Boys & Girls in America and Heaven is Whenever; U2 – Songs of Innocence (Deluxe RSD Edition);  Various Artists – Whiplash; Run the Jewels – Bust No Moves EP; The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan; The Decemberists – Picaresque; Bob Dylan & The Band – The Basement Tapes; Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood; CHVRCHES – Get Away/Dead Air; The Foo Fighters – Songs from the Laundry Room EP; Pulp – It; Ryan Adams – Come Pick Me Up; Bruce Springsteen – First Seven Albums; Yellowcard – A Perfect Sky; Various Artists – Music to Drink Beer To; Chris Stapleton – In Stereo; Various Artists – The Darjeeling Limited OST.

The Rundown: 2015 was the first Record Store Day that I was actually collecting vinyl for, so I remember it more vividly than most of the others. There are a lot of releases worth buying on this list and a lot that I would love to have now — specifically that RSD deluxe version of Songs of Innocence, with the original white paper cover art. The two that I remember everyone talking about, though, were Deja Entendu and Boys & Girls in America. Both are post-millennial classics and both were virtually impossible to find on vinyl by the time 2015 rolled around. Deja got a non-limited pressing that same year, but the RSD version—sealed in a brown paper bag, packaged in a die-cut gatefold sleeve, and only available in a pressing run of 1,400 copies — was definitely a hot commodity. Boys & Girls got two represses — 1,250 on white and 1,250 on purple — and became a crown jewel of my collection when I got my hands on one. (Though Boys & Girls was repressed again last year.)

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: A. There are a lot of good releases on this list, in virtually every category. I’d be tempted to call it the best list ever if those Springsteen reissues had actually been RSD exclusives (or if The Boss had reissued tough-to-find albums like The Rising and Devils & Dust instead). But Brand New, U2, The Hold Steady, Dylan, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, and Chris Stapleton (with his first-ever vinyl release) are more than enough to make 2015 a standout RSD list.

2016

The Highlights: The All-American Rejects – Move Along; Bleachers – Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2; Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet – Requiem for a Dream; Fallon – Georgia; The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike; Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball (3xLP Deluxe); Ben Lee – Awake Is the New Sleep; The Monkees – Classic Album Collection; Jay Reatard – Blood Visions (10-Year Anniversary); Patti Smith – Horses Live at Electric Ladyland Studios; Soul Asylum – Grave Dancers Union; Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch; Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People (Acoustic); Various Artists – Music to Drink Beer To, Vol. 2; The Weepies – Say I Am You; Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – The Canyons EP; mewithoutYou – Ten Stories; Across the Universe OST.

The Rundown: If you had to pick an “Exhibit A” for the “Record Store Day has become too commercialized” argument, this is it. There’s a lot of good stuff here. I’m particularly partial to the Bleachers and Frank Turner releases, special alternate versions of those records that you’d never see on vinyl if not for something like RSD. But take some time to dig through the list and you will see a few things, like soundtracks that no one could possibly want on vinyl. The Blacklist? The Guest? That one movie where Jennifer Lawrence invents the Miracle Mop? And holy shit, just get a load of the picture disc overload on this RSD list. Everyone from James Bay to Justin Bieber to Disturbed to Sex Pistols was trying to cash in on RSD with inessential picture discs. There were also three David Bowie releases (including a pair of picture discs), which felt suspiciously like an attempt to capitalize on the death of a legend.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: B. There are a lot of cash grabs on this list, which merits a penalty or two, but there are also a few killer reissues and exclusives. Depending on how offended you are that Justin Bieber released something for RSD, this might be a D or an F, but I’m feeling generous.

2017

The Highlights: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Hammersmith Odeon London ’75; Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Welcome to 1979; The War on Drugs – Thinking of a Place; Marcy Playground – Marcy Playground; Various Artists – Space Jam OST; Brandy Clark – Live from Los Angeles; The Cure – Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits Acoustic; Drive By Truckers – Electric Lady Sessions; Air – Le Soleil Est Pres de Moi; Eric Church – Caught in the Act (Live); Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV; Iron & Wine – Archive Series Volume No. 3; Prince – Singles; Ben Folds with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra – Live in Perth; Sara and Tegan – Under Feet Like Ours; Sunny Day Real Estate – The Rising Tide; Various Artists – Music to Drink Beer To, Vol. 3. 

The Rundown: As Chris said in his original rundown of the RSD 2017 list, there are “no true headliners” here. The one I’m really looking for is the Jason Isbell EP, which sees Isbell and his band covering The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and others, live in studio. Speaking of Springsteen, the Odeon reissue is arguably one of the five greatest live albums of all time and is going to be a popular one. Other top releases include The War on Drugs (releasing their new single on vinyl before it pops up online), Marcy Playground, and Space Jam. On the “bad” side, you’ve got Toto releasing a picture disc version of “Africa” — on a piece of vinyl shaped like Africa, FFS — and U2 releasing a picture disc version of “Red Hill Mining Town,” even though they’ve now reissued The Joshua Tree 50 bajillion times.

Click here to view the full list.

The Verdict: B-. Even though there are a few things on this list I’m eager to get my hands on, it’s pretty hard to look at it as anything other than the weakest Record Store Day list since the first couple. The reissues are pretty dismal: Marcy Playground and Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz are probably the biggest names in the reissue category, and neither is exactly a masterpiece. I’m still going to the record store (and you should too!) but aside from the Isbell EP, I’m not going to be heartbroken if most of these releases are sold out by the time I get there.

The Ultimate Verdict

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I respect you, because this thing is like 3,700 words long. For that reason, let’s cut right to the chase. Here’s my ranking of the Record Store Day lists, from worst to best:

10. 2008. There isn’t a single exclusive on this list that I would care to own today—mostly because there are only like 10 exclusives. Last place!

09. 2009. I’d snag the Gaslight EP, the Springsteen single, and maybe the Regina Spektor reissue, but 2009 was essentially a preview of better things to come.

08. 2012. If 2017’s list doesn’t have a headliner, then 2012’s list almost certainly didn’t. If you’re a big soundtrack person, you’d probably rank this list a few slots higher. As someone who only rarely listens to soundtracks on vinyl, I’m dropping it here.

07. 2017. There are a few killer releases, but the weak slate of reissues and soundtracks makes this year’s Record Store Day feel like a more muted affair than it has been for a while. The Isbell and Springsteen releases elevate it for me.

06. 2014. I could have gone either way on slots five and six. 2014 had great live albums, plus Bruce Springsteen and Butch Walker. 2016 had a better slate of reissues. 2014 lost the coin toss.

05. 2016. Shameless commercialization and endless stacks of picture discs aside, 2016’s list didn’t lack for terrific reissues or neat exclusives.

04. 2011. Of everything ever released for Record Store Day, that Bleed American 3xLP set is probably the release I’d pay the most to get my hands on. The rest of the list isn’t as spectacular, but is still solid enough to merit a top-five inclusion.

03. 2010. This year gets a boost for the simple fact that multiple major artists essentially used Record Store Day to premiere their new albums. Modern music needs more of that and fewer Apple Music/Tidal exclusives.

02. 2013. Maybe the most well-rounded list in RSD history, with a host of cool reissues and geeky exclusives. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to put this list at number one.

01. 2015. I’m probably biased, because RSD 2015 was the first time in the history of the holiday that I actually cared about vinyl, but I still think this list is absolutely stacked. The reissues were insane (even if a bunch of them were available more widely later), and so many great artists were represented. I’d take another list like this one any year.

What’s your favorite Record Store Day list? How epically wrong are my rankings? Please harass us on Twitter to let us know.


Tags: ,

Craig Manning
Craig cares entirely too much about music, specifically that of Bruce Springsteen. He was a Senior Editor at AbsolutePunk.net (RIP) and is now a regular contributor at Chorus.fm. He loves folk, country, and rock 'n' roll.






You might also like