The record store that means the most for me in my life is Dodd’s Record Shop, a dark, dusty hole in Grand Rapids, Michigan with an ancient owner who never talked to me or even played music that I can remember. I didn’t have any money, but I wanted new music, so I would get together six bucks and go down to Dodd’s. The whole back wall was filled with deep discount records, and that’s where I bought my first Elvis Costello, Fleetwood Mac, Harry Nilsson, Talking Heads, and David Bowie albums, all stuff that influenced me heavily. The inventory never changed, so every time I went, I would just pick a different letter in the alphabet and go record by record ‘til I found everything I wanted or kind of wanted. Part of the reason I got so into ‘70s music was having that resource of awesome cheap records. I think he made his money selling esoteric record player needles or something, because his focus was clearly not on records. I go back there every once in a while when we play in Grand Rapids, and it always brings back that treasure hunting feeling.
My favorite two record stores in Chicago are the Milwaukee Ave. Reckless Records and Permanent Records on Chicago Ave. Reckless is the old stalwart, which kept me alive by buying my old CDs when I first moved here, is always cool about putting up C/A show posters these days, and is where I discovered Kevin Ayers’ weird awesome album, Rainbow Takeaway. Permanent Records has extremely cool curation and a really nice personal vibe. It feels more like looking through a really cool person’s really well organized and displayed record collection.
My favorite record listening experiences have all begun with a discovery moment holding the record in my hands. I love that we can find new music all the time wherever we are through the Internet, but I can’t ever totally give up the tactile experience of flipping through shelves of records at a store.
Cains and Abels have just released My Life Is Easy (Whistler) earlier in April and will be doing an in-store performance for Record Store Day at Saki Store in Chicago.
Neal Casal of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (Photo by Piper Ferguson)
One of my favorite record stores in the country is Grady’s Record Refuge in Ventura, California. It has the right selection, the right staff, and it’s the right size. But most importantly, it’s got the right vibe. There’s something genuine about this place, not an ounce of pretentiousness to be found here. These people are in it for the right reasons, and that’s of utmost importance when I’m out shopping for vinyl. They’re not in it to sell units, they’re in it because they truly love music.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood (current project of the Black Crowes frontman) is releasing a seven-inch single “New Suede Shoes” (Megaforce) for Record Store Day, in anticipation of a full-length in June. Neal Casal’s solo album Sweeten the Distance (The Royal Potato Family) came out last year.
Apart from Daddy Kool Records on Hanway Street in London, where, as a 15-year-old in the late ‘70s, I’d push my way through the Rastas huddled at the entrance and squeeze up front near the bass speakers to vie for the latest 12-inch singles from Jamaica, the store I would pick out is Jim Russell Rare Records on Magazine Street in New Orleans. I was dropped off outside on my very first day in the U.S. with a list of records I wanted (impossible to find in the UK) and ended up blowing 50 of the hundred bucks I’d brought with me, which was somehow supposed to last me two weeks. I still have those 45s thirty years later, and, despite them taking a bath in Katrina, scratches and all, they still sound great.
Jon Cleary recently released a new album, Occapella (FHQ).
I grew up buying records from Toronto staples like Rotate This! and, later, Sonic Boom. I bought Steely Dan’s Aja on translucent yellow vinyl, my first vinyl purchase, from Rotate This! I ended up buying the rest of the Dan catalogue from Rotate over the years.
At Sonic Boom, I bought a copy of Do Make Say Think’s Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord Is Dead only to realize later that Justin Small, a member of the band, had cashed me out.
Both stores have since moved locations, but still exist in different forms and were very kind to us when once we had records of our own to sell—one of which just happened to be an interpretation of Steely Dan’s Aja. Being able to come full circle like that has solidified Rotate and Sonic Boom as the record stores closest to my heart.
The Darcys released a full-album cover of Steely Dan’s AJA on Arts &Crafts last year.
I haven’t gone record shopping since I moved out of San Francisco, but my favorites were always:
Ducky released a new EP The Whether in February.
There are two Toronto record stores that continue to matter to myself and the music loving community of Toronto: Rotate This and Play De Record.
Play De Record: Then, 1994—The destination for the freshest hip-hop, house, techno, et al. was found on the east side of Yonge, north of Gerrard, in a space at the back of a convenience store. Going on a Thursday to experience the absolute mayhem of New Arrival Day was like experiencing the behavior of riot providers. It was fucking awesome. I still bang obscure white label 12 inchers that I dug out there and I still find myself there for their premium selection of DJ gear. I also hold events at Wrong Bar, owned by one of the original staff captain’s, Nav Sangha.
Rotate This: Then, 1993—Ever see the film High Fidelity? Rotate This is that record store. One of my first visits to what would become my home away from home found me walking out the door with my imaginary tail tucked between my legs. I was a suburban, zitty, plaid-flannel-clad teenager who raked through every detail of his liner notes. This led me to discover the Melvins via my Nirvana research. During said Rotate visit, I stumbled upon a CD that is a collection of Melvins songs originally found on a series of seven-inches. I sheepishly walk up to the counter where Brian (one of the owners) stands. I ask him if he had listened to the tracks on the CD I was holding. He looked at me with what I gathered to be a patronizing glare, “Well ya, I own all of these on seven inch”...I say nothing. I am terrified, yet I have no idea why. I purchase the CD and walk out the door. Five years later, I lose my teenage jitters, run from the suburbs, and become a resident of downtown Toronto and ultimately…a Rotate This loiterer.
Eight and a Half, featuring members of the Stills and Broken Social Scene, have just released their self-titled debut album on Arts & Crafts.
Photo by Jody Kivort
A-1 Records (New York City): Amazingly curated selection of funky records. If I had to buy an entire DJ set of records at one store it would be A-1.
Turntable Lab (New York City): If I needed to buy an entire DJ set of new music at one store, it would be Turntable Lab.
Other Music (New York City): They outlasted Tower Records across the street. I remember when Tower would have these huge lighted signs of crappy mainstream records and Other Music would counter them with their own lighted signs promoting the good stuff.
Déjà Vu Records (Natick, MA): My friends will be mad if they found out that I’m outing our secret record spot, but you should only go there if you’re willing to actually dig. I always leave with an armful.
Rhino Records (New Paltz, NY): If you’re in New Paltz, you must go to there.
Escort released its self-titled debut earlier in 2012.