The Best and Worst Releases of Record Store Day 2023

Including Broken Social Scene, Zoon, 'Peppa Pig' and more

Photo: Sonic Boom Records

BY Alex Hudson and Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 21, 2023

Record Store Day has gotten distinctly less flashy over the years. It used to be a time of star-studded Flaming Lips compilations and liquid-filled Jack White records, when exclusive releases would fetch exorbitant markups the next day on eBay.

These days, Record Store Day has thankfully down-shifted to a gear that's hopefully more sustainable and less prone to clogging up pressing plants. This year's list RSD exclusives is much more straightforward than it was back in the day, with less gimmicky vinyl variants and a greater emphasis on straightforward reissues and live albums.

But even if there's a little less glitz than their used to be, RSD is still going strong, having made it through the stripped-down years of pandemic lockdowns and returning with a huge list of exclusive releases and widespread reach to store all over the world.

With Record Store Day 2023 coming up this weekend on April 22, here are the best (and worst) exclusive releases arriving in indie stores.

The Best Releases of Record Store Day 2023:

Roy Ayers
Stoned Soul Picnic
(Nature Sounds)

Forget the term's modern, millennial ubiquity: for decades, Roy Ayers has provided all the vibes one could ever need. You best believe they're in no short supply on an album titled Stoned Soul Picnic, a breezy 1968 set for which the artist invited notable players like Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz and Hubert Laws. Like last year's RSD treatment of predecessor Virgo Vibes, this reissue arrives on coloured wax — splatter-style for the jazzy souls, to be specific.
Calum Slingerland

Beach House
(Sub Pop) 

It's always nice when bands release entirely unheard material for Record Store Day, rather than simply reissues or live albums — and famously consistent dream pop duo Beach House have done just that, unearthing five tracks from the sessions for last year's Once Twice Melody for a new EP. The RSD version is on clear vinyl, while a black wax version will follow more widely on May 19. 
Alex Hudson

Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People (20th Anniversary Edition)
(Arts & Crafts)

Maybe you already have BSS's classic 2002 album on vinyl — but if you don't, you ought to park that car, drop that phone and head on down to the record store. This 2LP pressing comes with the original artwork (rather than the 2003 reissue), a show poster, and the record pressed on cobalt blue coloured vinyl. 
Alex Hudson

Chief Keef
Mansion Musick
(RBC Records)

When sea levels rise, and all the vinyl plants have been flooded out, and the recording industry bagmen have sailed away to safety on their megayachts, you'll find me squatting in one of their deserted villas blaring Chief Keef's Mansion Musick — the latest in a line of RSD vinyl treatments of key Keef releases — on whatever listening setup I can piece together. Some lore for you to reference each time you pull its vinyl debut off the shelf: upon Mansion Musick's release in 2018, it was reported that Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice sought to take Keef to court for using a realty shot of her ornate foyer on the mixtape's cover.
Calum Slingerland

HORSE the Band
The Mechanical Hand
(MNRK Heavy)

Record Store Day is at its best when it makes a point to include oddities like this one in the lengthy releases list; one inextricably tied to a vivid Nintendocore memory of being introduced to HORSE the Band on a friend's Sony Ericsson "walkman cellphone" in high school. The Mechanical Hand remains their best album, and its arrival on vinyl goes to show that everything old really is new again.
Calum Slingerland

Macho Man Randy Savage
Be a Man
(Limited Run Vinyl)

Yes, this recording is thoroughly a product of music industry excess on its face, but the late WWE Hall of Famer delivers a flying elbow drop to any culture vulture accusations across 14 tracks — arriving on wax for the first time with a two-sided, full-colour insert complete with album history. As his brother Lanny Poffo told Complex in 2015, "Randy put a lot of himself into it and practiced everything he possibly could to learn the craft. He was not a halfway kind of guy. He did something or did not do something, all or nothing. He was invested thoroughly in this."
Calum Slingerland

Pearl Jam
Give Way
(Legacy / Epic)

With the arrival of Give Way in both double-LP and CD formats, Pearl Jam (and their many discography completists) finally get their way. A version of the live set, captured in Melbourne, AU, in 1998, was intended to be given away to fans headed to Best Buy to purchase a documentary about the making of their fifth studio album Yield. However, the CDs were recalled and destroyed the day before the promotion began. Now, the set is said to boast audio quality far superior to any other way you may have heard these tracks before, including those exceedingly rare promo CDs.
Calum Slingerland

Todd Rundgren
A Wizard, a True Star

Rundgren's immensely experimental fourth album is an uncommon find in the used crates, making its milestone Record Store Day reissue a must-have. In the spirit of its creation, this 50th anniversary edition of the album arrives on "multi-coloured cloud psychedelic effect" vinyl for an added bit of "interstellar appeal."
Calum Slingerland

Crosseyed Strangers: An Alternate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Wilco's 2001 masterpiece was created under famously fraught circumstances — a process that led to lineup changes and the band getting dropped by their label, resulting in a plethora of extra material. Crosseyed Strangers highlights an alternate version of what the album might have sounded like, which different takes and live versions of every song. It's for true heads rather than casual fans — but it sounds like it will be a must-hear artifact for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot devotees.
Alex Hudson

Big Pharma / A Sterling Murmuration
(Paper Bag)

Shoegazing art rock musician Zoon will release the album Bekka Ma'iingan on April 28 — but before then, they will compile their two EPs from 2022 onto a single LP. Consisting of older material dating back more than a decade, Big Pharma highlights the atrocities of the pharmaceutical industry, while A Sterling Murmuration alludes to big formations and highlights the ways humans seek community for survival. Featuring guests like Cadence Weapon and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, this is the first physical pressing of this previously digital-only release.
Alex Hudson

The Worst Releases of Record Store Day 2023:

The Mars Volta
Frances the Mute
(Clouds Hill)

If you already have your mitts on the unwieldy, career-spanning box set the Mars Volta delivered back in 2021, you either feel this list inclusion to be a slap in the face, or a piece you'll begrudgingly haul yourself out of bed to line up for. We're willing to bet that one of the 6750 copies pressed will be hanging around in a bin months from now, marked down accordingly.
Calum Slingerland

Paul McCartney
Red Rose Speedway

Free Miles Showell from whatever mastering studio he's been locked away in to crank out half-speed recuts of readily available rock albums like this one. As I was not alive when the rubber met the road, I wonder how much run Red Rose Speedway actually got considering it was released in the same calendar year as Macca's greatest success, Band on the Run. The world isn't even five full years removed from the last time it received all manner of deluxe, expanded reissues. If you have to have this one, take your pick of over 1000 copies readily available at a fraction of the price.
Calum Slingerland

Mötley Crüe
Helter Skelter

The washed-up hair metal cheeseballs of Mötley Crüe currently find themselves embroiled in a legal dispute with accusations of elder abuse. Meanwhile, they're also releasing this tacky 12-inch picture disc — which, for reasons I'm not fully clear on, contains two songs from their 1983 album Shout at the Devil and two from 1981's Too Fast for Love. This thing is presumably intended to be hung up in dank basement man caves rather than actually listened to, but who would want to look at this?
Alex Hudson

Peppa Pig
Peppa's Club: The Album
(MNRK Music)

Something we always try to consider when picking the worst releases of RSD is: who is this release for? And the answer for a Peppa Pig album is, clearly, "not me." And that's fine! Children's albums don't need to be palatable for adult music critics. With that being said, we just can't imagine why this needs to be pressed on vinyl. Does your four-year-old care about the warm sound and tactile experience of vinyl? Did you already wear out your copy of Peppa's Adventures: The Album, which came out last year on Record Store Day 2022? Who would bother with this on vinyl when parents can simply fire up the ol' iPad and stream it?
Alex Hudson

Two Hearts Beat as One/Sunday Bloody Sunday - War & Surrender Mixes

U2 have spent the 2023 rolling out their ill-advised Songs of Surrender project, featuring unequivocally worse rerecordings of their classic material. This 12-inch EP will highlight exactly how much better the original versions were, by pressing the original versions of "Two Hearts Beat as One" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on the A-side and the re-recordings on the flip. They should have left these songs in their original form and not tried to mess with the classics. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" in particular is absolutely butchered, appearing in the worst guy-at-the-party-with-a-guitar form.
Alex Hudson

Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
(Craft Recordings)

"Blister In the Sun" continues to do an ungodly amount of heavy lifting to make this album one the label will milk for as long as its able. To mark 40 years of this celebrated debut, the marketplace has been treated to a picture disc edition that, in theory, won't hold a candle to the perfectly acceptable remastered and coloured editions which came out in 2018 to mark its 35th anniversary. We'll see you again in five years for the inevitable shape disc variant!
Calum Slingerland

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