by Rachel Close
One of my favorite hobbies in everyday life, as well as in quarantine, has been collecting records. The pandemic had caused independent record stores across the country to temporarily shut down, therefore losing out on the regular income that normally sustains their business. To continue supporting our favorite record stores, my boyfriend and I have taken advantage of the website Discogs, which allows independent record stores to sell albums to anyone across the country. Since our collection has grown so much during the pandemic, in great part due to our amazing finds from independent record stores, I wanted to share my favorite recent record purchases, whether the album was released this year or is forty years old.
5. The Grateful Dead’s Europe Live ’72, 1972
I’ve been listening to the Grateful Dead since I was literally in the womb. They’re one of the most iconic bands of the 1960’s counterculture movement, being a defining symbol for that era of the U.S. This live album epitomizes their epic, sprawling live concerts, full of improvisational jam sessions that could last anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes. Every single song is one that defined their career and the movement they were apart of. This concert occurred at the peak of their popularity (at least in their early years) and is highly representative of what their concerts meant to their fans of this era. When my boyfriend found this three-LP original pressing of the Europe Live ’72 album at our favorite shop in Sloan, NY, it was impossible to pass up this album that defined a period of my life and a period of U.S. music as well as an original pressing with all three discs. How could we let that go?
4. The Black Keys’ Let’s Rock!, 2019
Although this is a newer release, coming out in the summer of 2019, the Black Keys have defined alternative and folk-rock music for years and are one of the most recognizable names of 2010’s indie scene. This album is a perfect example of the sound they’ve executed flawlessly for the past ten years—soulful, electrifying, and catchy folk/alt-rock. I obtained a limited edition pressing of the album with a holographic foil cover, with about 7,500 of them released worldwide. This record was yet again found at our most trustworthy and reliable independent shop and was too cool to pass up.
3. Harry Styles, 2016
Harry Styles had always stood out to me as the most talented and passionate member of the uber-successful boyband One Direction. When he released his solo debut in 2016, I was nothing short of floored. Harry Styles’s self-titled release encapsulates the pure essence of grimy, gritty, and raw seventies soul and classic rock. Reminiscent of acts such as Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and other seventies rock powerhouses, Harry Styles self-titled is nothing short of magnificent. I had been waiting (for some reason) for years to find a copy on vinyl, and for our anniversary, my boyfriend surprised me with one. I’ve wanted to hear Styles’ impressive debut on vinyl since it was first released, and four years later this dream finally came true!
2. Rina Sawayama’s Sawayama, 2020
This album was released in the summer of 2020 to amazing critical reviews. One of our close friends introduced us to it, and we were blown away. The unique, powerful blend of heavy metal, electronic, and pop music is enchanting. Every song on the album is exceptional, blending elements from each distinct genre. Sawayama’s powerful and enigmatic voice enthralls you straight through to the end. The album was released on vinyl as either a clear disc or a dirty gold disc. I purchased this album in the gold version for my boyfriend for his birthday, and it has been a treat not just for him, but for me and our friend alike.
1. Gorillaz’ Song Machine Season 1, 2020
The Gorillaz are one of my ultimate all-time favorite bands. Started by musician Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett in 2001, Gorillaz is a classic band that just keeps getting better. This album was released at the end of October 2020, making it the most recent release in my lineup. This album has many features since a focus on collaboration has always been a big part of their sound. One of the band’s main focuses has always been featuring sounds from around the world as well as artists and sounds of their home countries. This album stands out as one of the most diverse collaboration projects of the band’s career. This album goes from the classic Gorillaz sound to modern rap, to jazz, soul, funk, salsa, J-pop, and more. I could go on forever about why I love this album, but getting the deluxe edition on the day of its release, including a CD and twelve posters, was a dream come true, and I suggest everyone take a listen to this masterpiece.
Rachel Close is a senior communications major with a minor in writing at Pitt-Bradford. Rachel has passions for music and vinyl record collecting, and she likes to incorporate those passions into her writing as often as possible. Rachel hopes to be able to write about music as part of her future career. She also writes poems, one of which will be featured in the upcoming issue of Baily’s Beads.