About those special releases 

Practical guidance for choosing among the nearly 300 special Record Store Day releases

Buy this box set!

Buy this box set!

There are two main ways to approach Record Store Day: You could celebrate like the devoted record geeks for whom the holiday was at least partly invented (and like the opportunistic eBay scum who have since latched onto it), gathering intelligence on which stores are stocking which exclusives and camping out in front of them for hours before their doors open. Or you could do what I do: cruise around, check out the most interesting-looking events, and see what stuff those stores have left after the rush. (This has worked out surprisingly well for me.) Of course, neither approach can guarantee that you'll find everything you want, but both work better if you have a clear idea of what you want—and just as importantly, what you're better off passing by.

BUY:
The limited vinyl edition of a record that's already one of your favorites.

If you're a fan of Tegan & Sara or Common or any other act whose new album is only going to be available on vinyl this one time, go for it. The tactile pleasure of a vinyl LP full of music that you love is one of the few purely good things about the most capitalistic secular holiday since Black Friday.

DON'T BUY:
Limited-edition vinyl reissues whose original vinyl pressings are still plentiful.

These are useless. If you can't find a previously owned vinyl copy of Patti Smith's Horses (or at least the Pretty in Pink soundtrack) in the racks at a store that's participating in RSD, then either you or the store probably shouldn't be there. (Exceptions can be made for editions that upgrade the material—colored vinyl doesn't count.)

DON'T BUY:
Albums in seven-inch box-set form.

This has to be the most annoying way ever to listen to a full-length album.

BUY:
The Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde: The Singles Collection seven-inch box set.

I'll make an exception to the preceding rule for this. Seven of the best rap songs of the 90s, along with a CD version of the album and a bunch of Bizarre Ride swag, including a jigsaw puzzle—and the box says "Oh shit!" when you open it. I mean, come on.

DON'T BUY:
Useless split singles.

Paying five bucks for the RSD "exclusive" seven-inch of Otis Redding's "Respect" backed with Aretha Franklin's "Respect"—when quality vintage copies can be had for pennies—will actually reduce your record-geek cred. And buying the MC5/Afrika Bambaataa split where they both do "Kick Out the Jams" will be amusing right up until you actually hear the terrible Bambaataa side.

BUY:
The Lana Del Rey single.

You can find both "exclusive" remixes online easily enough, but something makes me think Damon Albarn's cheekily unsentimental, up-tempo remix of Del Rey's torch song "Born to Die" would sound especially good on a cheap portable record player.

BUY:
The uncirculated deadstock Buck Owens coloring book with flexi disc.

If you find a stash of them, pick up an extra and I'll pay you back.

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