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The Best Record Stores in the USA

The top spots for unique vinyl and CDs, from San Francisco to Boston

The Best Record Stores in the USA: The top 25 spots for unique vinyl and CDs, from San Francisco to Boston

Photograph by Jules Ameel for RollingStone.com

Hollywood – San Francisco – Berkeley, CA

Even in the days when record-store chains ruled the music world, nothing compared to Amoeba. It was, and is, simply the most thorough and welcoming place a record lover could hope to shop. Each of its three stores features more than 100,000 items — much of it surprisingly high-grade, and with loads of surprises and rarities around seemingly every corner. Which, as anyone who's been to any of them can tell you, is a lot of corners.

By Michaelangelo Matos and Stacey Anderson

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Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Hymie's Vintage Records

Photograph by Jules Ameel for RollingStone.com

Hymie’s Vintage Records

Minneapolis, MN (Vinyl-Only)

A classic, overstuffed mom-and-pop used-vinyl haven, Hymie's has been around since the '80s, and it's still an ideal stop for serious digging. But rather than the usual stereotype of haphazard you-find-it stacks, the shop is tidily organized and full of superb finds — a spiffy copy of Love's 1970 album False Start over here, who knows what else over there. And when you get tired, you can slip over to the cafe next door for a caffeine fix.

– Michaelangelo Matos

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Courtesy of Twist & Shout

Twist & Shout

Denver, CO

Situated on Denver's trendiest drag, Colfax Avenue, this 12,000-sq. foot emporium abounds with a quarter of a million new and used titles. The store has featured hundreds of in-store performances since its mid-Eighties launch, including memorable gigs by Ween, Elvis Costello and John Cale. The used vinyl racks are legendary, and collectors can be seen fighting over sifting spots every day. A vast collection of reign film, Japanese plastic toys and band apparel rounds out the vast offerings.

Stacey Anderson

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Courtesy of A.K.A. Music

A.K.A. Music

Philadelphia, PA

Philly's artsy Old City neighborhood is the perfect home to this lovingly kept shop, whose motto is succinct: "Rock is our life." That means no toys or memorabilia, a knowledgeable staff and a very deep catalogue of new and used rock, prog, avant-garde and jazz. Regulars boast endlessly about the rarities they unearth here – recently, A.K.A. sold a Bob Dylan mono LP and a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd album, each worth its weight in gold to collectors. Owner Michael Hoffman curates in-store performances shrewdly, insisting that the artists must match the sincere ethos of the store and staff – musicians like Kurt Vile, Bill Callahan and Kimya Dawson have all made the cut.

S.A.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Photograph by Shawn Thorpe

Boo Boo Records

San Luis Obispo, CA

This is the venerable little-shop-that-could of Southern California, and revered justly by fans across the Golden State. Located in an idyllic beachside college town, Boo Boo's nuanced collection of CDs and vinyl dwarfs those of shops three times its size and the scholarly but friendly staff keeps even the most eccentric bands accessible to neophytes. The extensive jazz and classical wing closed recently, turning the U shape of the store into more of an overstuffed J – a problem Boo Boo's has happily compounded with its newfound expansion into books and memorabilia. Singer/songwriter M. Ward once presided over the cash register, about two decades after the store opened in 1974 – but neither he nor anyone else has been able to pry the meaning of the store's name from founders Ed Taylor and Glenn Forbes.

S.A.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Photograph by John Brassil courtesy of Grimey's New and Preloved Music

Grimey’s New and Preloved Music

Nashville, TN

Metallica fans already know this vinyl oasis well: it's where the band taped 2010's raucous Live at Grimey's. (If "Harvester of Sorrow" is any indication, a few shelves didn't survive the evening.) Phoenix, Brian Wilson and the Black Keys have also stopped by for performances and/or signings. But to Grimey's customers, the famous faces only hold equal appeal to the store's selection: over 300,000 albums in stock, one-third of them on vinyl, spanning every fathomable genre and reasonably priced. The store is doing so well with records, they're currently in the process of replacing many CD racks with vinyl ones – add that to the brisk turntable sales and Grimey's is a true audiophile's paradise.

S.A.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Photograph by Lindsey T

Shangri-La Records

Memphis, TN

These walls have seen it all. Shangri-la Records is now a local landmark, stuffed to the rafters with vinyl, CDs, DVDs and memorabilia, but it was originally a house and after that, a relaxation center with flotation tanks and "brain tuners." ("Goggles would flash lights around your eyes and play soft music," Shangri-La owner Jared McStay explains dubiously.) Even without the new-age accoutrements, Shangri-La has enough good vibrations: it's affiliated with beloved local label Shangri-La Projects; McStay performs with wife Lori in a popular local rock band, the Wuvbirds; and the store's stock covers all genres but places proud emphasis in the musical history of Memphis. Blues, country, and rock fans flock to Shangri-La – it's practically their civic duty.

S.A.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Photograph by Hane C. Lee

Peoples Records

Detroit, MI

After the original location was destroyed in a fire in 2008, owner Brad Hales lost most of his inventory but was able to salvage several boxes of 45s from the wreckage. They join the now 100,000-strong used 45s available in the store's new space, which carries only secondhand vinyl and features bright, cheery psychedelic décor. Jazz and R&B collectors come to Peoples in droves, as the stock spans every esoteric strain from the Twenties to the Eighties. The shop's new neighborhood is impoverished and "dodgy," Hales says bluntly, but it now it includes a triumphant story.

– S.A.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

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