Independent record stores are not scary places - they might seem like that at first, but if you spend a little time in there and get chatting to the people at the counter, you'll discover that they're exceptional places.
In an age where high streets with any sense of personality are gasping for breath - at least in the UK and no thanks to the aggressive business plans of multinationals - communities have forged and many a memory has been shared within the walls of record shops. My 'local', for example (hi, Piccadilly Records) always has a beautifully-rendered window display, something to warm your ears and your heart on its stereo - plus they don't mind having our Review of the Year foisted on them in the bleak midwinter.
Sadly, some of us will be at the wrong end of the country for festivities in Manchester this year (sorry!), but if you're passing by then also be sure to take in live performances at Soup Kitchen and evening RSD celebrations at Common. In the meantime, here's a little shopping list for this year:
Beth Jeans Houghton & the Hooves of Destiny - 'Atlas'
Showcasing her remarkable voice, 'Atlas' - the highlight of Houghton's long-awaited debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose - gets a special 7" release on picture disc, limited to 250 copies in the UK and backed with B-side 'Caialogue'. Check out the coolest rabbit in pop music in the video for 'Atlas' below:
Django Django - 'Storm'
The video to this looks like something from the early days of MTV and the song itself wouldn't sound out of place on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Mining the rich reserves of lo-fi, Americana and traditional rock'n'roll, 'Storm' is utterly irresistible. Rest assured that recent high praise for the quartet is all in good faith. The 7" release of this is limited to 500 copies in the UK.
Bat for Lashes - 'Strangelove'
Natasha Khan's third album is on the way - hallelujah! To tide us over in the meantime, Khan's cover of Depeche Mode's 'Strangelove' (which she recorded for a perfume company last year, believe it or not) gets a physical release in the form of an etched 7" records. 750 copies are available. Dave Gahan and co's sinister stylings fit oh so well with Khan's ethereal leanings - naturally.
Tu Fawning - 'Anchor'
Tu Fawning's new record A Monument is released next month, and the lead track will receive a 200-copy run for Record Store Day. It follows in the lineage of that ambient, bar background music that was so beloved in the early 2000s (bonjour, Air), but it's way better than that, owing more to the woozy line between floaty Baltimore duo Beach House (the backing) and the soaring vocal lines of, say, Zola Jesus. The Hautscka remix of this track takes the pace up a notch, but is equally gorgeous in its own inimitable way.
She & Him - 'Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?' (from the album Vol 1)
Yes, yes, yes, this was released three years ago, but never as an LP, and not only that, we, the record-buying public have been promised a "coloured pressing". Shiny. Remember how you felt when you first heard Zooey Deschanel sing as part of She & Him? I do, I felt all weak at the knees. Feast away with the video to 'Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?'
The Tallest Man on Earth - 'King of Spain'
The real tallest man on earth is 8'3" and from Turkey - a full three feet taller than your editor! - but the musical Tallest Man on Earth is called Kristian Matsson (from Sweden, height unknown). He is not the King of Spain - or wasn't at the last time of asking - but this track is a good old-fashioned acoustic number, complete with Dylan-esque vocals and some overly-vigorous strumming at the close.
Regina Spektor - 'The Prayer of Francis Villon' (original by Bulat Okudzhava)
A new Regina Spektor album is always a cause for celebration, and What We Saw From the Cheap Seats is imminent. There's 700 copies of this, backed with 'Old Jacket', on white vinyl. A modern take on 20th century Russian poet Bulat Okudzhava's 'author song' 'Молитва Франсуа Вийона', here's Regina playing the track at a show last year:
David Bowie - 'Starman'
A song with great personal significance - for both sad and happy reasons - and one of the finest tracks of all time. Who could resist the opportunity to own this on a real-life record as nature intended, instead of a mere digital version?
Noah and the Whale - 'Old Joy' (Secret 7)
The tearjerking closing track from Noah and the Whale's third album Last Night on Earth bears more in common with their earlier leanings than their more recent over pop numbers. It's been a key part of their set at recent live shows, and if you want this one you'd better wish for some good luck - only 100 copies are being made available of this one in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust as part of the 'Secret 7' initiative.
Record Store Day takes place tomorrow (Saturday, April 21). Support your nearest/local record store tomorrow, and all year round!