In honor of the upcoming Record Store Day 2013, I decided to make a list of 20 records I think everyone should own on vinyl. Take this Record Store Day to build a nice foundation for your record collection. I picked this list based on pretty arbitrary criteria, including what critics generally think are great, what I think is great, what I think particularly sounds good on analog-warm vinyl, and what you won’t have to pay $100 for or scour for (e.g. no hard-to-find ’90s vinyl or things out of print). I also left it to one album per artist. These aren't in any particular order. Send any omissions to this list to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just leave a comment!
In my mind, The White Album is the greatest Beatles album, but you can’t beat the utterly perfect one-disc punch of Revolver. It should go without saying that every Beatles album is essential and is worth owning on vinyl yadda yadda, but if you have to start somewhere, do it here. Their catalog was recently reissued on vinyl in stereo mix, so you should have no trouble finding them if you’re just starting out — and you should have no trouble finding quality replacements, if your old Beatles LPs are worn out.
Exile on Main St., Beggars Banquet etc. get more credit, but the funky discoish vibes of Some Girls make it one of the Stones’ most fun albums, one which has aged better than many of their others. It was recently reissued via Interscope, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
I thought I’d heard everything in Loveless, but I’d been listening to it for years on CD or MP3. Vinyl unveiled new layers for me; now I’ll never listen another way. Pick this up and their new (!) album, MBV, on vinyl for maximum overblown guitar bliss. See also: the recently reissued Smashing Pumpkins catalog on vinyl, including Siamese Dream.
Wu-Tang Clan started too many careers and sounds to name here; suffice to say no hip-hop would sound quite like it does now without this record. The spectral production and clever samples and layering make this one ideal on vinyl.
Portishead – Third
To these ears, the greatest album of the past decade. Portishead is one of those few artists everyone from rock fans to hip-hop fans to electronica folk can seem to agree on. Every haunting sound on Third pops all the more on vinyl LP.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
If we compiled all the reviews of albums of the 2010s, this album would come out on top, and with good reason. Brilliant songs, beautiful production, greatly detailed, awesome guest spots. This album just gives and gives and begs to be heard on wax.
You don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to appreciate this album, which eschewed earlier jazz’ complex chord structure for slower, more scale-based exploration. Plus it just sounds cool and laid-back, and people will think you’re smart and sophisticated when you put it on.
The album that recreates the feeling of opening your favorite Christmas gift every time you play it. And while I’m at it, pick up any Phil Spector comp you can on vinyl. Wall-of-sound ’60s production just doesn’t sound right any other way.
The Clash – The Clash
London Calling gets the bigger accolades, but I find myself spinning The Clash’s first album more often, and punk punk always sounds great on vinyl.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
The best! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Led Zeppelin – IV
Maybe you think you’re over this. Maybe your older sibling played it too much and ruined it for you or something. Come back to it. I swear side two will win you over. M*thafuckin’ “Misty Mountin’ Hop” whaaaat. If we don’t have it in, check back in 10 minutes and we may. I, II, III, Physical Graffiti and Houses of the Holy also work.
Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
I can’t ever seem to find Low, so Ziggy Stardust would be my next-in-line pick.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Mitchell’s voice is particularly suited for weary old vinyl. You’ll get chills, they’ll multiply.
R.E.M. – Murmur
Same deal here. Something about Peter Buck’s guitar at its jangliest and Michael Stipe at his mumuriest sounds even more textured on used vinyl. This also stands for the Pixies, The Replacements, The Smiths, The Cure, Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Talking Heads, etc. etc. etc. OK?? Those records can be harder to come by or prohibitively expensive; you can usually find Murmur lurking around the bargain bins for under $10.
Prince – Purple Rain
All Prince sounds great on vinyl (much less all the time), so why not start with his biggest hit? You’ll soon be picking up the rest of his key catalog once you’ve heard it on vinyl. His early work like Dirty Mind also sounds particularly great on vinyl.
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