10 Best Record Stores in America - Rolling Stone
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10 Best Record Stores in America

Top spots for unique vinyl, CDs and other music finds, from Los Angeles to Boston

Music and vinyl fans are digging vinyls from the crates at Record Store Day 2013. DenmarkSTOCK

Gonzales Photo/Malthe Ivarsson/Pymca/REX/Shutterstock

Remember when record-store chains ruled the music world? It now sounds like the stuff of legend, but in the not-too-distant past, music fans of all types spent hours flipping through vinyl, perusing CDs and listening to songs before buying. Now that they’re much rarer, our city’s record stores have become some of our country’s greatest tourist attractions. Whether you’re looking for a relatively unknown African psychedelic rock band, an obscure techno 12-inch or your favorite indie act on limited-edition vinyl or other collectible merch, here’s a selection of 10 of the best from coast to coast.

People walk past the Electric Fetus, one of Prince's favorite record stores, during record day on the one-year anniversary of Prince's death in Minneapolis, MN, April 22, 2017. Prince bought records at The Electric Fetus shortly before he died. / AFP PHOTO / CRAIG LASSIG        (Photo credit should read CRAIG LASSIG/AFP/Getty Images)

Craig Lassig/AFP/Getty Images

Electric Fetus (Minneapolis)

Whether you find the name Electric Fetus disgusting or trippy, you can’t help but wonder what goes on in a place called that. In fact, it’s a record store that is so cool, it was one of Prince’s favorite local shops. Just a week before his death, he’d stopped in to buy a clutch of CDs in support of Record Store Day, according to MPR News. The store opened in 1968 and has locations in Minneapolis and Duluth, and it stocks new and used CDs, DVDs and LPs, as well as other accouterments like books, toys, clothes and other accessories. Over the past 50 years, it’s become a local institution: One of the owners got a citation for displaying a caricature of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins cover with Richard and Pat Nixon’s faces on them and an employee was once arrested for putting a “peace flag” in a window. “The thing that makes the Fetus different from most stores is that we have a diverse customer base,” buyer Steve Pearson once told CMJ. “We always have something the really avid music buyer will want to buy.” —KORY GROW

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 13:  Sebastian Bach Book Signing For "18 And Life On Skid Row" at Amoeba Music on December 13, 2016 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Ser Baffo/Getty Images)

Ser Baffo/Getty Images

Amoeba (Los Angeles)

Though it was the California chain’s third location to open in 2001 (after Berkeley and San Francisco), the Los Angeles store is the best. Located on Sunset Boulevard, it’s currently the largest independent record store in the world, and with good reason: two floors packed with millions of new and used vinyl, CDs and movies. There’s even an entire room dedicated to jazz. The L.A. location is also a music venue, where everyone from Paul McCartney, the Flaming Lips and Solomon Burke has played. It’s easy to get lost in here, so thankfully there’s a team of experts that can direct you to the merch line, where you’ll find branded tote bags, mugs, T-shirts for dogs and other swag. It’s the Disney Land of music. —ANGIE MARTOCCIO

reckless records

Dave Hofer

Reckless Records (Chicago)

For 30 years, Reckless Records has been the Windy City’s go-to indie spot for CDs, vinyl and DVDs; currently, it has three locations open seven days a week in different neighborhoods. The store, which originally had London roots, has a vibe so homey that its Wicker Park location inspired the look of the movie High Fidelity. Its stores contain bins and bins of used vinyl with lived-in title cards, but it also makes it a point to highlight new music. “Our best sellers are primarily indie-centric titles on labels like Matador, Sub Pop, 4AD, Merge, etc.,” Reckless’ music buyer Matt Jencik told Bandcamp Daily in 2016. “But we take pride in stocking everything from, say, the new Beyoncé CD to a cassette by an up-and-coming local artist to a reissue of a mostly unknown African psychedelic rock band or an obscure techno 12-inch. [We’re] always on the lookout for new artists, limited-edition pressings, imports and unique items.” It’s a music lover’s Mecca in the Midwest. —KORY GROW

waterloo

Spencer Selvidge

Waterloo (Austin)

When Austin was founded in 1839 as the capital of Texas, it was originally called Waterloo. This record store opened in 1982 and has been the forefront of the city’s music scene ever since, holding onto its roots like a spur on a boot. Vinyl, cassettes and CDs line the shelves, with movies packed in a cozy room. They host in-store performances, artist signings and even a “Vinyl Happy Hour” that occurs every Tuesday. The store gets a ton of foot traffic, and not just during South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. It may be across the street from Whole Foods’ headquarters, but this store is as independent as you can get. —ANGIE MARTOCCIO

Jordan O'Donnell

Grimey’s New & Preloved Music (Nashville)

With its friendly and knowledgeable clerks and a “we can get it!” work ethic, Grimey’s record shop has been filling Nashville music fans’ orders for nearly 20 years. In the process, it’s landed on the must list for anyone visiting Music City, where a Grimey’s T-shirt is just as coveted as a rare colored-vinyl pressing. Recently, after 14 years in its brick home on 8th Avenue, the store relocated to the ever-burgeoning East Nashville, expanding its inventory and making more room for in-store performances by John Hiatt, Will Hoge and John Prine. Co-owners Mike Grimes and Doyle Davis also doubled-down on their indie status — a massive mural of Prine above the words “Stay Independent” adorns the new digs. —JOSEPH HUDAK

newbury comics

Tori Sviokla

Newbury Comics (Boston)

Think of Newbury Comics as an amalgam of all your favorite suburban-mall stores, from Spencer’s Gifts to Sam Goody, and a quirky local comic-book shop. The difference is that unlike pretty much all those other establishments, Newbury Comics is still going strong, with close to 30 locations open throughout the Northeast, including the original on Boston’s Newbury Street. Founded as an actual comic-book store in 1978 by two MIT students, Newbury Comics soon became known as a reliable outlet for indie and otherwise obscure music, as well as rock T-shirts, posters and related collectibles. Though many of their sales now come through the web, the shops themselves are still a heady throwback to the days of brick-and-mortar music retail. As CEO and cofounder Mike Dreese told Publishers Weekly in 2012, “Newbury Comics is predicated on the Peter Pan principle, for people who’ve never grown up.” —HANK SHTEAMER

EEUU, East Village, Good Records, Manhattan, NY, NYC, New York, New York City, USA, music, pink, record shop, recordsGood Records record shop in the East Village, Manhattan, NYC, USA - 10 April 2017

EEUU, East Village, Good Records, Manhattan, NY, NYC, New York, New York City, USA, music, pink, record shop, records Good Records record shop in the East Village, Manhattan, NYC, USA - 10 April 2017

Dosfotos/REX/Shutterstock

Good Records (New York City)

Good Records is the epitome of a hidden gem, with the storefront resting comfortably just below street level surrounded by high-rise apartments. Although small, the shop is expertly curated, which attracts global collectors on the prowl for a hidden gem. Records line the exposed brick walls, fill up the neatly displayed shelves, and hide in dollar bins at your feet. Whether you’re seeking a copy of John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, a much-loved copy of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid in Full or want to be surprised by the store’s passionate and thoughtful staff as they sift through to find you the perfect East African jazz album, Good Records NYC lives up to its name as a reliable destination that services music lovers of all kinds. —JADE GOMEZ

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 21:  A general view of atmosphere outside of Dierks Bentley in store show at Easy Street Records on April 21, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Dana Nalbandian/WireImage)

Dana Nalbandian/WireImage

Easy Street Records & Cafe (Seattle)

It’s hard to stand out in a city as full of great independent record shops as Seattle (Sonic Boom, Everyday Music and more could easily have taken this one’s place). But Easy Street Records offers something else: This West Seattle record haven is also a cafe, where you can brunch on music-themed dishes like the Woody Guthrie Omelet, the Dolly Parton pancake stack or the “James Browns” (a.ka. hash browns) before digging into the deep stacks of new and used vinyl, CDs and cassettes. But don’t just take our word for it: Fans of Easy Street include local hero Eddie Vedder, who once worked a shift behind the counter in 1995. “Eddie played the in-store play copy of Sonic Youth’s brand new record Washing Machine over and over,” store owner Matt Vaughan later wrote. “It became Easy Street’s Number One record of the month. Eddie was telling everyone to buy it.” —SIMON VOZICK-LEVINSON

goner records

Don Perry

Goner Records (Memphis)

Memphis indie label Goner opened their spin-off shop in 2004, “when record stores were dying left and right,” according to co-owner Zac Ives. His partner in the venture — Eric Friedl, of veteran garage-punks Oblivians — had started Goner two decades earlier to release an album by leather-clad Japanese faves Guitar Wolf. Their discography now exceeds 150 releases, including titles by Ty Segall and late local legend Jay Reatard. The store itself of course carries plenty of label stock, along with a large selection of vinyl both new and used. All manner of underground rock is the focus, but blues, funk, religious music and many other styles are well represented in Goner’s bins. Don’t miss the Memphis section, which proudly includes everything from Big Star to Booker T. and the MG’s. Goner’s sweaty in-store shows whet customers’ appetites for the annual Goner Fest, set for its 16th installment next fall. —HANK SHTEAMER

jackpot records

John Cranford

Jackpot Records (Portland, Oregon)

The City of Roses’ premier indie record store opened in 1997 and contains rows and rows of new and used vinyl. It also hosts the occasional in-store performance. Since the beginning, the concept behind the shop was simple: “We were really focused on filling in the neighborhood’s needs, so our tastes were dictated by what people wanted,” owner Isaac Slusarenko once told CMJ. It further serves the Portland community by serving as headquarters to the Jackpot Records label, which has reissued LPs by regional punk heroes like Wipers and Green River, as well as more famous artists like Dr. John, Sun Ra, Etta James and Devo. It’s all housed under an electric-red ceiling in the city’s Hawthorne neighborhood. “The sharp colors give the store a sort of Las Vegas-y feel,” Slusarenko said, “and that’s why we named it Jackpot.” —KORY GROW

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