Acoustic Sounds
RSD—Is it over?
By: Malachi Lui

July 2nd, 2023



Record Store Day 2023: The Madness Amplifies

Is RSD worth the Saturday morning hassle anymore?

I did not line up for Record Store Day this year.

I’d respond in disbelief if you told me that five years ago, but it’s true: RSD, once a tactic to lure customers into record shops during the iTunes era, has now become a full-scale shitshow in an already booming vinyl market. In 2023, you don’t need to remind the kids to go to record shops; a new Taylor Swift release does the trick.

And amidst the long list of everything else, on Record Store Day 2023 that’s exactly what happened. It’s amazing that Swift’s power drives thousands to queue outside record shops for folklore: the long pond studio sessions (at an absurd $50 MSRP, no less), or buy literally millions of her vinyl LPs in a year. But for those of us with other RSD priorities, it makes an already hectic event unbearably difficult. The first camper at my nearest record shop lined up 12 hours before opening, and by morning, the line stretched around the block, mostly for Swift’s record which sold very fast (this shop got 150 copies). I’m not standing in that!

This year’s RSD list had only three enticing offerings for me, yet differences between the US and UK RSD lists furthered the confusion. RSD UK got a reissue of Tricky’s brilliant 1996 album Pre-Millennium Tension, but the US had no sign of it. Similar issues surrounded the record I most wanted this year, The 1975 Live With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. It was supposed to only be a UK RSD release (The 1975 are also this year’s RSD UK ambassadors), but the US organizers demanded a few copies. Label Dirty Hit and/or licensee Polydor didn’t bother to press more than 7000 vinyl copies worldwide, of which only 1500 made it to the States (despite the listed US quantity of 2500). Most American shops only got one copy, which usually went to the first camper in line. Considering The 1975's popularity right now, that's ridiculously low.

The 1975 'Live With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra'

The Monday after RSD, I scored vinyl and CD copies of The 1975 album online from Assai in Scotland… and what a record! Recorded in Blackpool in 2016, it focuses on the band’s then-new second studio album I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it with the slick, often synthetic alt-pop arrangements augmented by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. As a massive fan, it’s awesome. The added orchestral lushness creates a fascinating tension with frontman Matty Healy’s lyrics on songs like “A Change Of Heart” and “If I Believe You,” while the added horns on “Love Me” are epic and “Somebody Else” grooves as much as ever. These are smart pop songs that don't need orchestration to sound smart, but it's a cool alternate way to hear them. Sometimes it doesn’t fully work, like on “Chocolate” where the string textures are great yet the horns sound a bit goofy (but think of it as the successor to “Got To Get You Into My Life,” another song about weed with goofy horns, and it kind of works). The closing rendition of “The Sound” lacks Healy’s usual “one, two, one two fucking jump!!!” shout, but the BBC would’ve censored it anyway. And for some reason, this record keeps the censoring intact, though you still hear the crowd sing back every "choice word." Awkward, but anyone buying this record by now knows all the words to every song anyway.

Yes, I’m somewhat biased as such a hardcore 1975 fan, but Live With The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra was worth the long wait (Healy teased its release in 2021, and the runout says it was plated back in 2017). Thankfully, the 180g clear vinyl 2LP is one of The 1975’s better sounding vinyl releases. Digitally mastered (loud) by Robin Schmidt at 24-96 Mastering, cut by Daniel Krieger at SST, and pressed at Optimal, the vinyl sounds more lifelike and has more robust bass than the CD, which also sounds perfectly fine. The difference is noticeable on a good system, but not worth the current cost differential ($150+ for the vinyl and $20 for the more limited but less desirable CD). The LP set has a nice matte-laminated gatefold jacket and a CD-resolution WAV download. I can’t speak for the cassette edition but expect the average Type 1 tape quality and Dirty Hit’s usual underwhelming card sleeve packaging. Those who don't want to buy a physical copy can hear it on YouTube. (Ratings for LP and CD formats: Music - 8, Sound - 8.)

Prefab Sprout 'Steve McQueen Acoustic'

Listen to The 1975's most recent studio LP, last October's Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and it's blatantly obvious that some of the tracks' sound design borrows heavily from Prefab Sprout's 1985 sophisti-pop classic Steve McQueen (or Two Wheels Good, if you're stuck with an old American copy). In 2006, Prefab Sprout frontman Paddy McAloon recorded acoustic versions of eight of that album's 11 tracks, first released as a CD reissue bonus disc then for RSD UK 2019 as a standalone vinyl release. For this year’s RSD, Sony pressed another 2850 copies of Steve McQueen Acoustic for American distribution. Some of the acoustic arrangements are pretty straightforward, others like “When Love Breaks Down” are drastically different. I miss original album producer Thomas Dolby’s atmospheric treatments on “Bonny,” but far prefer McAloon’s more direct acoustic rendition of “Desire As.” “Goodbye Lucille #1” is rather dull here, and you’ll initially miss McAloon’s original vocal performances on “Faron Young” and “Moving The River,” but will soon appreciate this alternate perspective.

Since McAloon recorded it at home clearly on some sort of digital system, the sound is very pristine and maybe overly clean, but the vinyl cut (uncredited, but with handwriting similar to that of Barry Grint, who cut other recent Prefab Sprout reissues) renders Calum Malcolm’s mix with more presence and realism than the CD. It’s perfectly adequate, but not a stunner. MPO’s vinyl pressing was quiet and centered enough. Packaging is minimal, with a direct-to-board foldover jacket housing the record in a printed inner sleeve with a McAloon Q&A. Anyone who loves the original album should pick up this record too, which probably didn’t need 2850 copies for the US anyway. (Ratings for LP: Music - 8, Sound - 7.)

[I’ve not yet gotten the pink vinyl Tricky reissue, the third RSD release this year that caught my attention. By the time you get it over to the States, it’s at least $60! Hopefully a black vinyl repress with stateside distribution follows, but plenty of RSD copies remain available for UK and EU fans, or if I feel like splurging one of these days.]


  • 2023-07-02 08:13:43 PM

    Come on wrote:

    I’m happy that some great reissues are published on RSD, but otherwise I hate it, especially for its concept. There’s no shop which has the majority of releases one wants, there’s no option to ensure one gets a release (not even physically in a shop) and ordering after RSD means increased prices.

    The whole idea makes no sense for customers, probably for shops.

  • 2023-07-02 08:50:24 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    When was record store day?

    • 2023-07-03 12:03:49 AM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      april 22nd

  • 2023-07-02 09:17:54 PM

    Ronan O’Gorman wrote:

    Thanks Malachi, great to see your review of the PS Steve McQueen Acoustic. It was originally released on a very good sounding deluxe edition 2 x CD set of the Steve McQueen album. it's a nice compliment to the original album, which is terrific. I would like to add one recommendation from my three RSD purchases from DISCOGS,, Ernest Ranglin "Below the Bassline" with Monty Alexander! Stand out tracks include "Surfin" and "Black Disciples". Thank you for your piece on Bob Dylan's Fragments. Based upon your review I bought the 10 Lp box set. It is a remarkable box set, thanks again

  • 2023-07-03 01:54:10 AM

    Joshua Whitney wrote:

    I feel much the same way. I typically only find a couple of RSD releases that suit my tastes, and there was one this year that was a must-have: the expanded 50th anniversary of Nuggets. But instead of getting up in the middle of the night to stand in line, I picked it up on Monday from the one store in town which still had a copy. And if I would have had to get it online, it would only have cost me an extra $10 or $15, well worth the time I saved.

  • 2023-07-03 03:34:32 AM

    Lemon Curry wrote:

    C'mon now, I had more fun this RSD than in years. That Taylor Swift brought the ladies out - what's wrong with that? You can stay home and buy what you want on ebay the next day at a premium.

  • 2023-07-03 04:59:18 PM

    JuzDisGuy wrote:

    Wouldn’t it have been more timely for this article to have come out just after RSD, instead of over two months later, lol. In any event, I think RSD is great and still much needed, especially post-COVID as people once again have many more options in terms of how they spent their leisure hours. It helps market the hobby and helps independent record stores. Are there problems with it? Of course there are, as with anything else in life. High costs, limited supplies, confusion over which titles are available in which countries, the list goes on. Who cares. It’s all part of the fun and chaos of RSD. Don’t like it, stat home. But even if you do, there are still ways to participate…watch the all-day live RSD stream from Mike at The In Groove, hunt for retailer RSD overstock online the day after (and by the way, many shops post their leftovers at retail - no bump in price), or if it’s something you really want, pay the premium to get it on eBay. Hating on RSD becaus3 there are too many Swifties clogging the line-ups? Pluh-ease. Get over yourself M, you might even get a date out of it.

    • 2023-07-07 08:40:59 PM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      Hmm... how 'bout get your own website if you don't care for what ML's opinion is? Lol... I'm sure JuzDisGuy is a big hit with the ladies with a handle like that... oh the irony.

  • 2023-07-04 10:48:06 PM

    Anthony J Russo wrote:

    It really should be called Record Company Day . Cause they are the only ones making bank. While you can get a Taylor Swift lp no problem the stuff you really would like is either sold out due to low pressings.Plus the prices of RSD are way to high and the QC is just so/so . Plus most lp’s we do not know where they were sourced from. Alot of stores in Brooklyn do not partake in the RSD cause they do not want to get stuck woth extra re-issues stock. Also the stores ask for a certain amount of records pressing they know will sell and they get two. Also RSD should ask e bay to not sell RSD stuff for 2 weeks to stop the high priced flipping .

  • 2023-07-05 02:37:11 PM

    Mark Dawes wrote:

    I have a lot of similar feelings about Record Store Day, Malachi. I can't ever see myself queueing, but the whole enterprise has been engulfed by major labels re-issuing big name artists and creating a pressing plant logjam that has a huge impact on independent labels and artists. An indy label that wants to press up 300 copies of an EP will have to wait until 10,000 70s AOR represses are out of the way.

    Good to see you shouting out Assai - I am lucky to have a branch of their excellent shops 300 metres from my home in Glasgow. Another Glasgow record shop that is worth a shout is Rubadub - they specialise mainly in house, techno and electronic vinyl. Some years ago they used to take part in RSD, but stopped when it became obviously a cash cow for major labels. But they still held an RSD celebration called Rubadub Shop Day. DJs, beer, records, and not a UMG logo in sight. 🙂

  • 2023-07-06 06:58:25 PM

    Bill Houston wrote:

    The pink version of Tricky's PMT can be had for $41 through DD. Universal did a good job with it. Hope they reissue Nearly God and Angels with Dirty Faces.

  • 2023-07-07 08:44:10 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Yeah, I find there are quite a few records I want, but stock is so low across the US that it's really a waste of time. Milwaukee's has a great number of excellent record shops compared to even the largest cities, but for whatever reason scarcity is an issue. And I do find all of the releases on EBay days later, which is really infuriating. There should be a preorder system already, like many other retailers and stores do provide.

  • 2023-07-11 07:18:44 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    My RSD experience was awesome this year. Got everything I wanted. My local shop has a sign up system and you have to make sure you're in the first group let in. They had 435 people signed up this year.