Every holiday season, I always think about a time in middle school one of the local metal girls told me she used a switchblade to discreetly unwrap what looked like records underneath the Christmas tree. (It was 1987 in upstate New York so Santa’s sleigh was heavy with copies of Girls Girls Girls and Look What The Cat Dragged In.)
As we approach this year’s festivities, SPIN has whittled down 10 outstanding new vinyl records for the music junkie in your life (and if the said fan is a metalhead, be wary of the switchblade trick.) The following is an eclectic collection of modern classics from a wide swathe of genres and styles, from the cooler-than-cool to the sentimental old fool.
Released on Santa-red wax, this new compilation collects all of Satchmo’s yuletide cheer while he was recording on the Verve label. One of the founding fathers of jazz, Louis Armstrong‘s classics — “‘Zat You, Santa Claus,” “Christmas Night In Harlem” and of course “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” with Ella Fitzgerald — are the musical equivalent of sitting by a crackling fire on a cold winter’s night.
Theo Parrish, DJ-Kicks (!K7)
Theo Parrish has always done things differently, which is how he’s established himself as the vanguard of dance music these last 25 years. So for his installment of the prestigious DJ-Kicks series, he chose to defy tradition once again by turning in a three-LP tour de force comprised entirely of all new material from a talented assortment of Detroit peers across jazz, house and hip-hop to construct the quintessential blend of modern Motor City vibes.
Siouxsie and the Banshees, All Souls (UMe)
Curated by Siouxsie herself to celebrate the autumn equinox and its festivities, All Souls is a balance of hits and rarities that fans can enjoy all year. Buoyed by hits like “Fireworks” and “Peek-A-Boo,” this new set — pressed on limited orange vinyl — also includes Banshees B-sides like ”El Dia De Los Muertos,” ”Something Wicked (This Way Comes),” and ”Supernatural Thing,” all of which haven’t been available on vinyl since they were issued on their accompanying singles. That duality makes All Souls a great gift for both longtime Siouxsie fans and those of you who are just catching on to her about hearing “Spellbound” in the fourth season of Stranger Things.
Dead Cross, II (Ipecac Recordings)
Assuming you have the right sound system and not some tinny Crosley speaker, listening to Dead Cross II on vinyl is some of the most brutal, thrashing metal you will hear this century. Propelled by mental health, advanced cancer and the pandemic, the level of intensity by which Patton, guitarist Michael Crain, bassist Justin Pearson, and drummer Dave Lombardo deliver these nine tracks is akin to bottling early Boredoms and Slayer circa Haunting The Chapel, shaking the contents and then smashing it on the ground.. That is, of course, if you are able to get your hands on the “Counterfeit Gold” edition, as the yellow-and-black swirl “Exclusive Pee Tape” pressing is already sold out.
Augustus Pablo, Thriller (ORG Music)
In a seemingly endless multiverse of classic Jamaican music, Augustus Pablo’s 1975 LP Thriller is a phenomenon in its own right for fans of the melodica pioneer’s distinctive blend of jazzy dub reggae. For the first time since its initial street date, it returns to vinyl through ORG Music with new cover art and pressed on transparent blue wax.
Seal, Seal: Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
The four CDs included in this deluxe edition of Seal’s auspicious debut LP, including two discs of demos and remixes galore and a live recording from Dublin’s premier music venue The Point, is the obvious hook for diehard Seal fans. But for record heads, the jewel of this box is the inclusion of Seal on three-sided vinyl with an etching of the album’s classic typography on Side 4. This album is meant to be played on a turntable.
Transitioning from the band’s experimental salad days, Phil Oakey – along with singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley – reintroduced The Human League as one of the most successful synthpop acts of the New Wave era. The four albums and EP that accomplished the feat are compiled and remastered in this exquisite box. Each title is given its own distinctive tint coinciding with the color scheme of the group’s logo and is gorgeously remastered for optimal playback. While Dare is generally heralded as the GOAT of this era, The Virgin Years is a perfect excuse to reacquaint yourself with 1984’s underrated Hysteria and the group’s 1986 Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis collaboration Crash all the same.
Dry Cleaning, Stumpwork (4AD)
The UK combo of Nick Buxton (drums), Tom Dowse (guitar), Lewis Maynard (bass) and Florence Shaw (vocals) continues to evolve on Stumpwork, their second John Parish-produced LP. The record expands upon the post-punk vibes of 2021’s New Long Leg to create a feel that falls somewhere between The Streets and Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull. What’s even cooler is the limited run pressed-on black eco vinyl available for sale, which means it was made with recycled records (the standard edition is white).
Elvin Jones, Revival: Live at Pookie’s Club (Blue Note)
Elvin Jones established himself as a bandleader in his own right when he left John Coltrane to start his own quartet in 1966. The group held down a weekly residency at a forgotten New York City club known as Pookie’s Pub, where this recently-discovered three-LP concert album was recorded during a three-night stand in late July 1967. Cut just two weeks after Coltrane’s untimely passing, Elvin and his group — Joe Farrell on tenor saxophone, Wilbur Little on bass, and pianist Billy Greene — transformed heavy hearts into an intense and elegant performance powered by the improvisational majesty the drummer honed with his old boss.
Townes Van Zandt, At My Window: 35th Anniversary Edition (Craft Recordings)
Another sneak peek at an RSD Black Friday exclusive is the forthcoming 35th anniversary edition of the only album the late Townes Van Zandt released during the 1980s. At My Window found the master songwriter singing songs of love’s fragility with a sense of warmth abetted by some of Nashville’s most talented cats, namely Mark O’Connor on fiddle and mandolin, accordion great Joey Miskulin and Willie Nelson’s forever accomplice Mickey Raphael on harmonica. One of the highlights of Window, “Buckskin Stallion Blues,” would later be recorded by country artist Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Seattle’s own Mudhoney for a 1994 collaborative EP on Sub Pop.