Third Man Records may have said it best when the hip indie label declared "records and vinyl do not have to be strictly the domain of the retro or vintage enthusiast, [they are] very much a modern and viable and important physical product."
We couldn't agree more. For our latest installment of "Five for Friday" – a weekly feature of featuring five fun facts or lists – we explore five of the coolest, cutting-edge, and wildly creative vinyl releases to hit the streets in the past few years.
Jack White – Lazaretto and "Sixteen Saltines"
Since Jack White could have an article all his own regarding vinyl and the analog insurgence, two of his records land on this list as a two-for-one selection. While the mysterious innovator has released several albums that contend for inclusion on this list, Lazaretto and the 12-inch single for "Sixteen Saltines" stand one step higher than the rest. The vinyl edition of Lazaretto made headlines for its hand-etched hologram, "the first of its kind" to appear from playing a record." "Sixteen Saltines" was pressed on clear vinyl and partially filled with blue liquid that splashes around inside as the vinyl plays. Much like the hologram-embedded pressing, it was the first vinyl of its kind offered to the public.
Liars – Mess
Alternative electro band Liars created a vinyl work of art inspired by the group's album artwork. Liars' 2014 EP Mess On a Mission (which offers five varying remixes of the song by the same name) features several strands of colorful yarn outlining the shape of an "L." As part of a Record Store Day exclusive release, the band had pieces of the same colorful yarn pressed into clear vinyl. The finished LP is vibrant in both aesthetic and sound. Rather than concealing the colors in a jacket, the record was sold in a clear plastic sleeve.
The Flaming Lips – Heady Fwends
The Flaming Lips are nothing if not crazy. For proof, just look to the vinyl release of Heady Fwends. The album features an impressive lineup of guests – all 13 tracks feature a different artist. But some of the contributors offered up more than just their voice. As part of a Record Store Day exclusive, the Flaming Lips released "blood vinyl." What is that, you ask? Limited-release copies were pressed with samples of some of the artists' actual blood. Confirmed donors include Chris Martin, Erykah Badu, Nick Cave, and Ke$ha. Following Record Store Day, an additional 10 copies were made available for $2,500 each.
Breakbot – By Your Side
In another example of life imitating art, French producer and DJ Breakbot found inspiration within his own album artwork for By Your Side – the cover of which features a piece of chocolate being unwrapped – for his exclusive vinyl release. He decided to release a chocolate LP (real, edible chocolate) for the album's lead single. The one-sided, one-time playable record came with the tagline "play it before you eat it." More importantly, it had to be played on a cool day so it wouldn't melt mid-song. Of course, we can't think anyone with a high-end ‘table would risk playing this LP even in subzero temperatures.
Karen Elson – Vicious
Karen Elson, a Third Man Records artist and former wife of label impresario Jack White, has flair for beauty when it comes to her vinyl pressings. Her debut, The Ghost Who Walks, received pampered LP treatment in that it's both peach-colored and peach-scented. Elson's 2010 Record Store Day release of "Vicious", her take on the Lou Reed classic, is better still. To make the single seem, well, less vicious, Elson ordered dried rose petals pressed into clear vinyl. They were placed surrounding the center hole, creating the look of a flower reborn.