Best of 2017: Vinyl Variants

featured / News / Special Features / December 26, 2017

Coming Soon:
Vinyl Packaging
Sound Quality
Albums of the Year
Label of the Year

In the first entry of our year-end 2017 material, we’re diving into our Top 25 Vinyl Variants. While some choices may not lead to prime aural conditions (picture discs, liquid filled, crazy splatters), all present demonstrate artistic achievement beyond the album art. You’ll center these within a record frame, you’ll pull these out when giving tours of your collection, you’ll park online and break your refresh key in order to nab these. Without further ado….

 Top 25 Vinyl Variants

Wax Mage Magic

Wax Mage Records is based out of Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records. They’ve consistently been a visual joy across my Instagram timeline this year, so we’re starting with a few pieces of their work. 

Poncé — Surrender To The Night
Soul Step Records
Artists’ Palette Vinyl
Why? — Great physicality, calls to mind a very specific action and feel. Was available to subscribers of the label.

Hazy Mountains — Small Hours
Sly Vinyl
Mountain Mist Vinyl
Why? — Sticking with the rainbow pattern, we’ve got a light touch here from Wax Mage, with yellow being the only color that doesn’t directly match up with that artwork.

Sister Smirk — Animals
Wax Mage Records/Quality Time Records
Flannel Inside
Why? — This one manages to have pieces of flannel inside. Points just for the insanity. Limited to 22 and they sold out fast.

Soundtracks/Pop Culture

John Carpenter — Anthology (Movie Themes 1974-1998)
Sacred Bones Records
Liquid Filled + Screenprint
Why? — There’s been reports of leaking with this variant, but the label has reportedly been sending out replacement copies. So, we give them the spot for being one of the sharpest uses of a liquid filled variant yet (love the addition of the screenprint), along with good customer service.

David Arnold — Hot Fuzz
180-Gram Chocolate Cornetto Colored Vinyl, with Chocolate Scented Insert.
Why? — Take that Cornetto pattern, apply it to a vinyl disc, you have a winner. Bonus points for going with the scented insert instead of scented vinyl, as the record just ends up smelling like cardboard after a while.

Contra 3: The Alien Wars
Why? — Yes, yes, the “Spread” variant should have been horizontal to mimic the side-scrolling action. But, it’s still a nice take on the greatest gun upgrade in video game history.

William Peter Blatty — The Exorcist
Waxwork Records
Clear with Black Smoke
Why? — Simple, yet such a haunting match with those center labels. Plays like a black & white horror film spinning on your turntable.

Angelo Badalamenti — Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Death Waltz Recording Company
“Cherry Pie”
Why? — It doesn’t look like cherry pie, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a beautiful dark red, with just enough splash of black and white marbling.

Ennio Morricone — The Thing
Waxwork Records
Deep Blue with White Haze
Why? — You can be sure the packaging will also show up on an MV list, but for now, let’s just drool over this “Ice” variant.

John Williams — Home Alone
Mondo/Newbury Comics
“Christmas Snow”
Why? — Overpriced at $50, but it’s still a fun take on the holiday classic.

Various Artists — Bojack Horseman OST
Lakeshore Records
Picture Disc
Why? — Not every picture disc needs to be packed full of every character in a respective movie or show. This classy treatment demonstrates that. Pick a couple great shots, have confidence in those shots.

Clint Mansell — Black Mirror: San Junipero
Lakeshore Records
Picture Disc
Why? — A great design by Billy The Butcher, who has an impressive series of Black Mirror artwork to his name. Kudos to Lakeshore for linking up with him.

The Music World

Diet Cig — Overeasy
Father/Daughter Records
“Fried Egg”
Why? — Great play between vinyl and center label, leading to one of the most memorable physical music images of the year.

Barren Womb — Old Money/New Lows
Spartan Records
Picture Disc
Why? — Barren Womb has turned the excellent picture disc into quite the habit, following up their “log” picture disc with this limited-to-100 coin. It’s not being released until 2018, but picture disc mockups are usually a pretty good match for final product.

Matt Duncan — Beacon
Soul Step Records
Eight Chamber Liquid Filled Vinyl
Why? — It makes me think of the Pac-Man ghosts, so really that’s enough to land it on the list. But then it’s liquid filled? In what’s actually separate pockets? No wonder if sold out in less than a minute.

The Notorious B.I.G. — Ready to Die
Vinyl Me Please
Red/White Splatter
Why? — A big, audacious record needs a pressing to match. This is just that and solid work from the vinyl sub service.

Main Source — Breaking Atoms
Vinyl Me Please
Orange in Clear + Purple
Why? — The combo of LP + 7″ is a great match for that colorful cover art, and I’m a sucker for the “colored blob” inside clear arrangements.

Arms and Sleepers — Miami
Sly Vinyl
Screen-printed B-side with Pink Vinyl
Why? — The A-side center label is expanded into a full screenprint on the B-side, to great effect.

At The Drive In — in•ter a•li•a
Rise Records
Picture Disc
Why? — A sharp picture disc from Rise, featuring a swirled image of the group. The B-side includes a separate color scheme.

Thrice — The Alchemy Index
Vagrant Records
Various Splatters
Why? — Just a great overall presentation, with appropriate splatters all around.

Various Artists — Volume 22: Might
Vinyl Moon
Double LP with screenprinted design on translucent vinyl
Why? —  Most impressive in motion.

George Cessna — Sincerely Yours
Half Beer/Half Tears
“Our signature double-concentric liquid-filled record, filled with salt water in the inner chamber and a safe non-flammable “Coors Banquet” mixture in the outer chamber.”
Why? — You’ve got salt water and beer somehow combined into the same, liquid-filled record, in separate chambers. Second time this technique has shown up in this list, both impressive.

Knuckle Puck — Shapeshifter
Rise Records
Set of variants
Why? —  A great set of variants, utilizing the artwork’s palette.

The Smith Street Band — More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
SideOneDummy Records
Set of variants
Why? —  The solid colors are the real highlight here; bright, strong and again a good match for the album art.

Sleepy Limbs — ST
Know Hope Records
Set of variants
Why? —  Beautiful screenprint across the variants, especially on the baby blue/grey.

A Bonus Tape

Crumb — Locket
Citrus City Records
Silver Glitter with Gold Ink
Why? —  The glitter and gold ink combo is aces, as is the design (more visible on the white cassette).


Christopher Lantinen
Chris Lantinen is the owner and editor-in-chief of Modern Vinyl. Along with his modest collection of sad sounding records, he collects his share of soundtracks and previously adored indie up-and-comers. Chris is currently a professor of journalism and public relations at Edinboro University in the Erie, Pennsylvania area.

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