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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

Waterloo Records

Photograph by Peyton McGee

Waterloo Records

Austin, TX

Savvier out-of-town attendees of the South by Southwest festival like to stick around an extra day so they can shop at Waterloo in relative peace. But only relative — this robust store has earned a loyal base in a town notable for its music-friendliness even when biz tourists aren't invading it. There's good reason: Waterloo has everything you could ask for, new or used, and its abundant size means it gets plenty of in-store performances by everyone from Hot Hot Heat to Ozomatli to the Black Angels.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Wuxtry Records

Photograph by Bryan Stewart

Wuxtry Records

Decatur, GA; Athens, GA

Famous as much for its former employees — Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Danger Mouse have both manned the counters of the Athens shop — Wuxtry is a Georgia stalwart that continues to win new fans that don't even care about its history. (Well, maybe a little.) Nevertheless, the store's deep commitment to rock new and old — listening to and debating it alike — has sparked a deep bond with the place shared by regulars and visitors alike. As a bonus, the Athens location features a terrific comics shop upstairs. Pictured: Owner Dan Wall

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Jive Time Records

Photograph by Chona Kasinger for RollingStone.com

Jive Time Records

Seattle, WA

Located in Seattle's charming Fremont district, Jive Time is a modest-seeming local store whose holdings belie its size. There are bigger vinyl specialists in town, but few offer the kinds of bargains you'll find here — the $3 bins (four records for $10) are full of good stuff, and the more collector-oriented sections feature lots of terrific vintage R&B, including an enviable selection of P-Funk titles. (There's also a nice selection of used CDs, but the vinyl is the attraction here.) On good days there are vintage rock magazines (including early issues of Rolling Stone) for sale in the corner, to further enhance the old-school vibe.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Academy Records

Photograph by Alex Reside for RollingStone.com

Academy Records

Brooklyn, NY

The snug, heavily stocked Academy in Manhattan is a reliable go-to for city folk looking for good used-CD bargains, particularly in jazz and classical. But the more expansive Brooklyn outlet specializes in carefully selected vinyl in all kinds of popular genres. It's made for leisurely browsing — and how many places in antic Williamsburg can that honestly be said of?

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Bananas Music

Photograph courtesy of Bananas Music

Bananas Music

St. Petersburg, FL (Vinyl-Only)

A two-story warehouse housing nearly 3 million pieces of vinyl, this St. Petersburg monster is well named. (There's also a CD/DVD shop across the street.) Stories abound of fanatical collectors who plan vacations around all-day (or longer) excursions into its LP and 45 catacombs. And they find good stuff there consistently, in all kinds of categories, from classical to blues, and rock to comedy. One shopper tells us how he found so many rare Brazilian records from the '70s that they alone overwhelmed his budget.

Photos: The 20 Best Record Store Day Exclusives

Dave's Records

Photograph by Rob Lambert/ Wax.fm

Dave’s Records

Chicago, IL (Vinyl-Only)

"Records" means records — Dave doesn't even carry a few token CDs, and according to all the store's promotional material, never will. More power to him — this is one of Chicago's most beloved music emporiums, filled with everything from disco 12-inches to rock rarities, and Dave himself, a 25-year veteran, knows his wares as well as anyone in the city.

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