PopMatters checks in with artists across borders and genres to find out what their favorite record stores are, from New York to London to Stockholm.
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)
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.
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.
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.