The holiday season is around the corner. You know what that means: It’s time to put up with Aunt Carol at dinner, hear Little Drummer Boy roughly five million times, read about Starbucks cups on Facebook (ugh, Aunt Carol!), and deal with all your friends’ ironic ugly sweaters. Most importantly though, it means stuffing your Wantlist with all the sweet box sets you can’t normally afford in hopes that someone special will take the bait.
There’ve been plenty of mouth-watering new and reissue packages so far this year. Some overflow with copious amounts of archival material: photos, notebooks, and assorted ephemera. Others serve as an aural documentary of sorts, taking you from the earliest demo stages to final mix for the most iconic albums in history. Fewer still transform from “album” into straight up “art object,” thanks to luxe mementos in the box.
Below you’ll find choice examples of all those things. The only rubric for consideration was a release date of 2018 and the inclusion of vinyl. CD boxes certainly have their place, but nothing replaces the thud of a brand new 12-by-12 package on the table. This list is far from comprehensive, but each one packs a punch.
A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant
The first entry is firmly in the third category mentioned above. The contents of A Perfect Circle’s 2018 double LP, Eat The Elephant, isn’t massive or expansive. But as soon as you pick up the deluxe edition, it feels luxurious and only gets swankier once you dig into the box.
The custom card deck is an unexpected touch to be sure, but the real star of the show is what Maynard James Keenan and company call the “hologram prism.” The elegant black prism works hand in hand with your smart phone to create a haunting holographic companion piece to Eat The Elephant, crafted by award-winning director Steven Sebring. It’s the kind of item you don’t see every day — much less inside a box set.
Metallica – …And Justice For All
Three decades ago, Metallica came back from the devastating loss of bassist Cliff Burton in full force. They made the jump from metal standouts to rock and roll heavyweights thanks to …And Justice For All and the accompanying video for One. This remastered edition of the record is an admirable and entirely overboard tribute.
There is just so much here. Inside the hefty set, you’ll find six LPs, four DVDs, 11 CDs for consumption. On top of that, they’ve packed in a Pushead art print, 120-page book full of unseen material, ’80s-style lyric folder, and the pièce de résistance: a reproduction Cap’ns of Krunch tour laminate.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
The linchpin of this release, however, is the trippy 5.1 surround sound version of the landmark Jimi Hendrix record. In our extended look at the box set, you’ll find a video of famed producer Eddie Kramer talking about the experience of continuing his work with Hendrix by creating the 5.1 version to celebrate a half century of Ladyland.
Gorillaz – The Now Now
In 2010, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett released two Gorillaz records, Plastic Beach and The Fall, just months apart. They followed that up seven years later in similar fashion with another one-two punch: 2017’s Humanz and 2018’s The Now Now.
The deluxe edition of The Now Now is everything you’d expect from the “virtual band,” with Hewlett’s distinctive artwork shining. In addition to the holographic cover, four art prints, heavy-duty vinyl, and six-piece button set, you get an “exact replica” of fake frontman 2D’s private journal. The whimsical 52-page notebook, which even comes with a “certificate of authenticity” (heavy quote marks there, of course), plays to the Gorillaz masterminds’ biggest strength: world-building.
Electric Light Orchestra – The U.K. Singles Volume One: 1972-1978
Not many massively successful songwriters are also massively under-appreciated. ELO’s Jeff Lynne is one of the few, racking up hit after hit while still being the least famous Wilbury in the caravan. This 15-disc collection showcases Lynne’s craft in a way that befits his legacy.
While bangers like Evil Woman, Strange Magic, and Mr. Blue Sky could’ve been combined on a few LPs to great effect — it just wouldn’t the same as holding 15 seven-inch records in your hands. Plus, you’d lose the most immersive part of the experience, since the original label for each track is reproduced in its original form.