To mark Record Store Day, PopMatters is celebrating great independent record stores anywhere and everywhere by having artists and staff writers write up their choices for their favorite shops. Today, we begin a two-part list with picks by artists who cross genres and borders. They give us a nice sampling of great shops that span the globe, from the music capitals of New York, Los Angeles, and London to hip hotspots like Stockholm and Portland to Timbuktu — or at least Bamako, Mali. What you’ll find below are not only some recommendations for what stores to check out the next time you’re in Toronto or Roanoke, Virginia, but also the up-close-and-personal experiences that make these places remarkable, whether they’ve persevered the economy and the Internet or only live on fondly in memory. Reversing the roles here, it’s the artists who are the fans.
My favorite record store is Amoeba. I like all the locations, but I’ve been to the L.A. store the most. They have everything I need; it’s like being in a toy store. You can walk into Amoeba and find anything, like Curtis Mayfield, it’s the old version, but it’s basically brand new. It’s like a museum. I try to go whenever I get a chance.
I’ve found DVDs there, too — Thunderbirds, Speed Racer — all the TV shows that I used to watch, like the original Batman & Robin, the one I used to watch back in the day on Channel 11.
It’s like the underground Tower Records — it’s so organized. They keep the catalog for every artist. You could pick an artist, and they’ll have every album from that artist from the time they started all the way until now. Other stores might not have a full history on the artist, but Amoeba does, and the employees know their stuff.
It’s just fun; it’s a place for an open-minded person to go, they don’t cater to just who’s hot for now. Every artist has their own space in the store, no matter what. No artist gets marginalized.
Kool Keith’s new album Love 7 Danger (Junkadelic Music) will be out on June 5.
Soulive (Photo by Arthur Shim)
Eric Krasno of Lettuce and Soulive
My favorite record store is actually a random second-hand store called “The Thing” in my neighborhood (Greenpoint, Brooklyn). They have thousands upon thousands of records with no order or organization whatsoever, but there’s real satisfaction when you find a gem in there. You have to make sure they’re playable as well. It’s a challenge for sure, but well worth it. The store has really helped my collection as I have bought 100 or so records in there (super cheap). I have to set aside at least few hours when I go into their treasure trove. If I want a little less of a workout I go to Permanent Records, also a great vinyl stop in my hood.
Lettuce will be releasing a new album Fly on June 5 and Soulive has a new EP Spark due on June 19. Both bands will be playing a double bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco on May 18 and 19.
Lemonade’s Ben Steidel
Picking a favorite record store is impossible for me. I’ve had the pleasure of working at great record stores for the better part of my adult life, and this year some friends and I opened our own store, Co-op 87 in Greenpoint Brooklyn. What makes a great shop can vary wildly from store to store. I love the sheer library-like quantity of selection at Amoeba and the enthusiastic reviews and recommendations of obscure and new titles offered at Aquarius in SF and Other Music in NY. I guess, at the heart of it, a great store will leave me walking out with something I didn’t know I wanted when I walked in. It’s a hidden gem, an intriguing recommendation, or something I’d forgotten about, staring me in the face. The Internet is great too, but I will always love record stores for the surprises they offer.
Lemonade has a forthcoming album Diver (True Panther) due on May 29.
LoCura’s Bob Sanders
Amoeba: Amoeba is a hallmark of Berkeley culture and an extension of Telegraph Avenue and its long history. I’m not an online shopper and I can almost always find what I’m looking for there. Something special about them are their in-store performances. It’s a great place to see up-and-coming and already famous artists in an intimate setting. Amoeba is generous to local artists. They feature their music where it’s easy for customers to see so it doesn’t get lost in their massive collection.
1,2,3,4 Go! Records!: Even though it’s technically a punk record store, 1,2,3,4 Go! stocks a nice variety of music and is worth checking out by all kinds of music lovers. The owner really cares about the store and sharing music and it shows. The space feels great to be in and if you’re interested in checking out some music, the owner will play it for you. They also feature great art shows by local artists and are an awesome place to hear local bands play.
Ear Peace Records: Ear Peace Records is run by young music producers and started out as a record label. The store is a reflection of Oakland’s vibrant hip-hop and street art community. They pride themselves on offering an even wider selection of music from local hip-hop artists than Amoeba. Not only do they sell music, but apparel, graffiti art supplies, and local art. They also have in-store performances and an outdoor café with wifi. You could call it a hip-hop-one-stop-shop!
LoCura just released Semilla Caminante (Face Pelt) earlier this month.
Bengans Skivbutik (Östgötagatan 53, Stockholm): This is very close to the studio where I record piano demos of new songs. Very convenient indeed, but it’s far from the only reason why it’s my favorite record store. It’s not a huge store by any means, but they have a really nice selection. And I really like the wall of 12-inch vinyls they have there. It shows great taste in music. Right now, they have Bon Iver, the Mary Onettes, Ane Brun, Ben Howard, and my album there. Pretty good if you ask me. 🙂
Amanda Mair’s self-titled debut album on Labrador is slated for a June 5 release.
Photo by Amir Image
I grew up painting graffiti and listening to classic hip-hop. When I was around ten, I would take my dad’s old Tower of Power records, Issac Hayes, Cheech and Chong, and bunch of others, and try to scratch ‘em like Grandmaster Flash. It wasn’t until my little brother Adam, aka DJ Amen (KMEL), got hold of the turntable that we really started to make it happen. I bought him his first 1200s and together we began to put on parties and perform around the way.
Growing up, going to the record store was like going on a pilgrimage. Our favorite destination was Amoeba on Haight Street in San Francisco, but we’d also hit up Groove Merchant, Rasputin’s in Berkeley and a bunch of other mom-and-pop record shops along the way.
Digging through the old vinyl was like looking for buried treasure. My brother would spend most of the time in the hip-hop section, while I’d be looking for old Bollywood and sitar albums in the world music section. We’d always walk out of there with a huge stack of records, looking forward to seeing those spinning plates, dropping the needle and vibing on whatever treasures we found that day.
MC Yogi is set to release a new album Pilgrimage on June 19.
Best Indie Record Store: Waterloo Records, Austin TX.
James McMurtry will be recording an album later in 2012.
Screaming Females and more…
Tiffany’s record store picks
Amoeba Music on Sunset Blvd. (Hollywood, CA): The end all, be all for everything from $1 vinyl to DVDs! A danger zone if you’re on a budget!
Aron’s Records on Highland Ave (Hollywood, CA): Was one of my favorites! R.I.P. I grew up going to this record store. Their $1 vinyl bin was amazing, and I was able to special order cassettes from them — oh how I miss them!
Academy on N. 6th (Brooklyn, NY): One of my all time favorites always and forever!
Morgan’s record store picks
Big B’s in Las Vegas was amazing! Too bad it closed a couple years ago.
I like Tropicalia in Furs in the East Village of NYC. They have a great selection of Brazilian music.
W. Andrew’s record store picks
Kim’s Mediapolis, specifically the one that used to exist on 113th Street and Broadway, NYC, was the first record store I fell in love with (like, I would actively miss it when we were apart). The clerks always played amazing music and one of them did me the kind favor of introducing me to Wire’s Pink Flag. I would like to go back in time and hug that person.
Co-op 87, on Guernsey in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, just opened last year and is amazing. It’s quiet, cozy, and excellently curated, and always has something I’m looking for or something I should’ve known about sooner. Big up to Matt Thornley for hipping me to that place.
The old HMV on 86th Street and Broadway in NYC. I used to cut first period in high school on Tuesdays to pick up new releases. The day the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions came out, they gave me a free subway token with my purchase to get to school. And their return-for-store-credit policy extended to any CD purchased anywhere! I remember the one cool guy who worked there giving me a hard time for returning the first Elastica album — sorry, dude, I needed a replacement copy of Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele.
Honorable mention to Other Music on West 4th in NYC for being the first place I encountered record store clerk snobbery — I did finally stump you dudes with Sabres of Paradise!
Midnight Magic’s new EP What the Eyes Can’t See (Midnight Sounds) was released in early April.
When I was ten, my dad started taking me on his weekly record store trip to Mod Lang. At the time it was in Berkeley, at the top of University Ave., but now it’s in El Cerrito because the rent’s cheaper, I guess. My dad would buy me one CD every week, but I made him bend the rule when Daft Punk’s Discovery came out on the same day as the first Gorillaz album. It was the first place I came across imports and limited release shit.
MUMBLS recently released the mixtape Hella Novellas and is the opening act on Andre Nikatina’s current tour.
This is a remember situation. I remember when it was cool 4 an independent artist 2 go 2 the mom & pop record stores and get paid 4 your cd C.O.D…Even the independent chain stores like Rasputin’s would C.O.D. your CDs if they thought it would sell. You could walk away with 5,000 CDs sold in a day and everyday back then.
Andre Nickatina is on tour in support of his new mixtape Where’s My Money.
NO’s Sean Stentz
It seems like new record stores are popping up every couple of months out here in L.A…. but obviously one is nearest and dearest to my heart: Origami Vinyl (the store Stentz manages). That’s where I’ll be able to snag myself the special Light in the Attic release, the Lee Hazlewood compilation, The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, & Backsides (1968-71). There are plenty of rad limited releases slated for 2012… but that’s the only one I’ll need to have a happy Record Store Day. Can’t wait.
NO’s EP Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever is also available on vinyl for purchase at Origami Vinyl or online at here.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt of Iceage and Loke Rahbek of Sexdrome
Our record store: Posh Isolation.
Their joint project WAR will be recording a full-length for Sacred Bones for 2013.
I don’t know what a Record Store Day is. I do know that for the first year and a half that I was collecting records, I had stolen them. Kind of like old school Napster.
Mitch Ryder released The Promise (Michigan Broadcast Company), his first album in 30 years, this February, along with his memoir, Devils and Blue Dresses: My Wild Ride as a Rock and Roll Legend (Cool Titles).
Screaming Females’ Jarrett Dougherty
My favorite current record store is Steady Sounds in Richmond, VA. Our good friend Marty Violence owns and operates the store. Marty has played in Young Pioneers, Bratmobile, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. The store is one of the cleanest and most pleasant record stores I’ve ever been in. Marty does an amazing job of stocking great records across a variety of genres. The punk and funk/R&B/soul sections are particularly amazing. Also, he let Screaming Females play the store on our recent record store tour and I think it was the most fun I had on the tour.
Screaming Females just released their fifth album Ugly (Don Giovanni) earlier this month.
Favorite record store: Sound Garden (Syracuse, NY)
Back in the hometown, I have fond memories of perusing the aisles flipping through the old LPs, and scoring an import of Let It Be on white vinyl.
Martin Sexton released his latest EP Fall Like Rain (Kitchen Table) earlier in 2012.
The Dead Kenny Gs
Skerik of the Dead Kenny Gs and Bandelabra
I grew up in Seattle. In junior high and high school, there was really only one place to get cheap used records (pre-CD, pre-Internet, vinyl/cassette only) and that was Cellophane Square in the University District! For $2-$5, you could buy a record, and we were always broke, so it was the only way. We went there whenever we could, whenever we could borrow a car. My friend’s older brother had saved up money and bought huge Speakerlab speakers, a huge amp, and would play music for us that we had never heard before. Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Who, etc. Most of these records were bought at Cellophane Square or one of the other record stores on University Avenue.
When I started touring, we would always look for the local record store, it was always a blast checking each new place out. When I was touring with Peter Buck in Tuatara, he would love to go to local record stores, buy stuff, and ship it home. I thought that was awesome. But now everything’s different, still trying to adjust. I love bringing 200 GB of music with me on the road (in a device that’s the size of a cell phone) and I also love listening to the vinyl I bought at Cellophane Square when I’m at home, on my Marantz 2275 receiver with a Technics R&B turntable. My current favorite stores are Easy Street and Wall of Sound. Maybe some kid in high school will buy the new Dead Kenny Gs record on vinyl this summer, and continue the ritual.
Skerik’s latest project, Bandalabra, recently released its debut Live at the Royal Room. He also plays saxophone in the Dead Kenny Gs, who have a limited edition 12-inch EP, Gorelick, due May 8.
My list for best record stores (only VINYL) in Stockholm:
Soso’s debut album That Time I Dug So Deep I Ended Up in China is slated for release on May 1.
Tanlines and more…
The Spring Standards
Grimey’s (Nashville, TN)
Good Records (Dallas, TX)
Cactus Records (Houston, TX)
Wonderland Records (Newark, DE)
Bert’s Music (Wilmington, DE)
Rainbow Records (Newark, DE)
Academy Records (Brooklyn, NY)
Amoeba (Los Angeles, CA) — Duh.
I have to say Newbury Comics in Boston. I used to live right next to the one on Newbury Street. So effing amazing.
The Spring Standards have a double EP yellow//gold (Parachute Shooter) coming out on May 1.
My favorite record store is Rasputin Records in Berkeley. I always go there and buy classic albums from my childhood. Me and my friends go up there on weekends and go through old stuff, looking for new things for us to sample. I sample a lot in the music that I make because I have a huge appreciation for music’s past and I love that vintage sound. It’s a huge resource over the Internet because I feel more connected to the samples I find by hand.
IamSu! Released a mixtape The Miseducation of IAMSU in late 2011 and is working on a new mixtape, KILT.
Switchfoot’s Chad Butler
Lou’s Records (Leucadia, CA) has played a big part in my musical education. It’s where I’d go after school to soak in some rock history and discover new music from around the world. One thing I’ve always liked about Lou’s is that right when you walk in, they feature new local San Diego music mixed in with all the other new national releases. I didn’t realize that the local band CD on the end cap was any less known than the new Pearl Jam CD.
Switchfoot has remix EP Vice Re-Verses (Atlantic) for Record Store Day and will be playing an in-store at 5:00 PM at Good Records in Dallas, TX to mark the occasion.
Tanlines’ Eric Emm
When people talk about record stores in my hometown of Pittsburgh, it’s almost always Jerry’s Records that they’ll mention. The once veritable goldmine of used vinyl has always been a must visit on any record collector’s trip to the ‘Burgh (as it’s called by locals). But for as much time as I spent at Jerry’s, my first ever “real record store” experience was at a place called Eide’s Records. One location of this two-store chain was near my parents’ house, and I would hang out there with my brother on a regular basis being what I can only imagine very annoying kids curiously questioning Ed Masley, who worked there and played in a band called Johnny Rhythm and the Dimestore 45s. It’s possible he was the first guy in a band I ever met and he seemed pretty cool at the time. He later became a music writer, and is maybe still doing that.
After Eide’s came a tiny store opened by infamous Pittsburgh promoter Manny Theiner named Pop Bus (Sub Pop backwards), after his label of the same name. They had an extremely limited selection of new and obscure vinyl, and at that store I met part-time employee and college radio DJ Randy Costanza, who’s voice I knew from WPTS (University of Pittsburgh’s radio station). We became friends and when Randy started working at Paul’s CDs (formerly Jim’s Records), I followed Randy there and it became my main source of new music. It was a great store and fun place to talk about life. But sadly, like so many other great record stores, Paul’s has gone out of business. I’ve heard that former Paul’s employee and Merge recording artist Karl Hendricks has opened a vinyl-only store across the street (Sound Cat Records, so if you’re ever in Pittsburgh, go buy records from him! Also, check out his amazing 1993 10-inch “Some Girls Like Cigarettes”, which is awesome.
But most importantly, please buy records from human beings who sell them. What I look back on and cherish about music is not just the records themselves but the memories and experiences of connecting with other people in celebration of the magic that is music. This summation isn’t really about the stores — it’s about the people and the relationships and memories that are left behind long after the stores are gone.
Tanlines’ debut album Mixed Emotions (True Panther) was released in March.
volcano!’s Sam Scranton
My favorite record store is Indy CD and Vinyl in Broad Ripple, IN. Their collection is exactly the right size: not too big to be overwhelming, but sizeable enough that you can lose yourself a little. I think they have south-facing windows, so the lighting is really good too. But the employees are the best part — smart, helpful, and genuinely excited to talk about music. And so friendly! I only make it there a few times a year when I visit my parents, but they always remember me. It’s got that family kind of touch.
volcano!’s new album Piñata (The Leaf Label) is due for release June 12.
Waterloo Records and Grimey’s are the surviving spearheads of the independent record store movement. Both are community based, creative nerve centers for independent music to have an outlet and home. They have supported artists like myself and many others for decades, so we must support them in return. Now more than ever.
I remember first moving to Austin, and hitting Waterloo on a seemingly daily basis to listen, learn, and buy the music that would shape my dream of becoming a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. At Waterloo, you could listen to anything in the store before you bought it, and I would loiter for hours sifting through the plethora of nuggets in those CD bins. T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Wills, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon were among the MANY albums I purchased and swallowed up whole. Just about my entire catalog of CDs were bought there.
Waterloo Records is a music haven, library, church, and shelter for the sometimes homeless musician and music fan.
Seth Walker has a new album Time Can Change (Roe) due June 12.
Chelsea Wolfe’s Ben Chisholm
Dope Jams (Brooklyn, NY): My friend Tyler (from Liturgy/Thick Business) brought me to Dope Jams last summer while I was in New York. They specialize in singles mostly — it’s more of a DJ resource — but they also had a section dedicated to “occult” type books. My favorite thing was that the guy running the shop DJs for himself all day. He was dancing hella hard to some deep acid tracks behind his turntables, he actually seemed annoyed when we interrupted him to make a purchase. It was awesome.
Aquarius Records (San Francisco, CA): Aquarius Records meticulously writes reviews of the “highlight” records that come through the shop. I’ve turned to them for years whenever I’m in need of new music and they’ve yet to lead me astray.
Vacation Vinyl (Los Angeles, CA): Vacation Vinyl is a brilliantly curated store full of rare and extreme music of all sorts. The people who run Vacation are passionate about their store and don’t cater to hype in any way. It’s a must for genuine underground music fans.
Mississippi Records (Portland, OR): Mississippi Records is named after the record label run by the store’s owner. Both the store and the label are incredible places to find vinyl reissues of southern roots, blues, and gospel music. Some beautiful voices from the past.
1-2-3-4 GO! Records (Oakland, CA): I used to live right around the corner from 1-2-3-4 Go! Whenever I got paid, I would go in and pick out a new tape or record. They have a great selection of punk and underground rock records. They also have a small but solid rack of used records that is always rotating, but always stocked with gems. They also always have a nice range of zines in stock.
Chelsea Wolfe is recording an acoustic album for this fall.
I’m not really from anywhere. But if I was from somewhere, it might be New York. This city’s been a constant in my life from the time I was a child. I say that to say this: my favorite record store is Amoeba Music in Los Angeles. I was out in Cali and Bigg Jus looked out, took me around, showed me the town. So we went to Amoeba and you have to understand, we don’t have ANY record stores in New York anymore. No Fat Beats, no Tower Records, no Virgin Music, no nothing, so to go to a spot that had everything, including vinyl, was ill. It felt like the ‘90s or something, wandering around holding way more records than you actually can afford to buy.
Billy Woods’ new album History Will Absolve Me (Backwoodz Studioz) was released earlier in April.
Second Layer Records (Highgate, London): A great one for looking for more specialist stuff. You may not know what you are looking at but take a chance and you’ll be rewarded!
Haggle Vinyl (Essex Road, London): Ramshackle place, so take your time and dig deep and you’ll find some nuggets.
Lucky 7 Records (Church Street, London): Fight your way through the hoards of prams and you’ll enter a mess of records and books. Good prices and good finds. Like any decent record shop you need to put in the time.
Flashback (Crouch End, London): It’s a good record shop in North London…
Sister Ray (Berwick Street, London): It’s a little more expensive than some, but some great finds in here if you decide to brave Oxford Street [nearby].
Zulu Winter’s debut album Language (Arts & Crafts) is slated for a June 19 release.