Vinyl is back! Or it never left, depending on the social circles you frequent. But there's no arguing that sales are rebounding dramatically and in a world of opportunist bandwagoners, you need to know the die-hard purists from the profiteering poseurs. You can feel confident, nay triumphant, by shopping at any of the following stores.
Mississippi Records, Portland, Ore.
"Always… Love Over Gold" reads the sign over the door. To say that Mississippi Records is a laid back shop would be an understatement. Open for over 10 years, they still eschew luxuries like credit card machines and even a cash register (or a website). They recently acquired voicemail, but "none of us check it." Instead they focus their energy on stocking contemporary, folk, blues, rock, and punk records, tapes, CDs (Portland bands only!), as well as books and used stereo gear. They even have their own record label, releasing reissues and limited copies from local and international artists. 5202 N. Albina Ave, Portland, Ore., 503-282-2990
Amoeba, Los Angeles, Calif.
Though dedicated fact-checkers might be inspired to verify a place billing itself as "the world's largest independent record store," seeing that a fisheye camera lens is needed to do the store's shelves photographic justice is all the proof we needed. Said to have one million new and used items, Amoeba Music stocks virtually any genre of music and movies, including rare, hard-to-find, collectibles and imports. The staff is comprised of an all-star team of encyclopedic record store geeks, most of whom are musicians themselves and/or otherwise have made music central to their lives. They also stock DVDs, Blu-rays, VHS, and even Laserdisc!
Wuxtry Records, Athens, Ga.
Though over 35 years of selling, buying and trading LPs, CDs and even cassettes would be plenty of music cred on its own, this stalwart shop is also famous for formerly employing the likes of Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Danger Mouse. They stock all manner of music, naturally, but they especially favor rock and roll and, at the Athens location, comic books, sold on the upper level. They have a second, only slightly less historic location in Decatur.
Hymie's Vintage Records, Minneapolis, Minn.
This "classic, overstuffed mom-and-pop used-vinyl haven," according to Rolling Stone magazine who also list Hymie's as one of the best record shops in the country, has been serving South Minneapolis for nearly 30 years. The spirit of the now deceased original owner Jim "Hymie" Peterson survives with Laura and Dave, the disarmingly "Minnesota nice" couple who keep tens of thousands of new and used vinyl titles in stock, including (literally) tons of 45s which can be previewed at three listening stations. Old Turntables and other antique, eclectic record shop paraphernalia enhance the browsing experience.
Record City, San Diego, Calif.
As the name suggests, Record City has pegged most of its business on stocking a colossal range of "gently used" vinyl, including rock, pop, soul, punk, alternative, country and jazz. Used records are diligently priced by their condition, meaning some rather excellent music can be acquired for a pittance if one isn't overly preoccupied with the state of the album jacket. They also – reluctantly it seems – keep space for CDs and DVDs, as well as a smaller but excellently curated selection of new releases.
Waterloo Records, Austin, Texas
Opened in 1982, Waterloo Records has set the bar for music in a town known for music, including holding the title of "Best Record Store," awarded by the Austin Chronicle, every year since they opened. Though they still champion their vinyl selection, they cover all the bases with CDs, DVDs, turntables, magazines, concert tickets and more, including buying, selling and trading music and movies. The jaw-slackening list of past in-store performers includes Willie Nelson, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Spoon, My Morning Jacket, Jeff Buckley, My Bloody Valentine, Norah Jones, and The Shins.
Princeton Record Exchange, Princeton, N.J.
In 1980, Barry Weisfeld made the transition from years of selling used records from his van at flea markets and college campuses to opening the now historic Princeton Record Exchange. Since moving to a much larger space in 1985, the Exchange has been one of the largest independent music stores in the country, with nearly every bit of horizontal and vertical space stocked with used and rare LPs, CDs, DVDs, video games, and other audio/video items. Browsing customers are attracted by prices that still reflect the music-loving, indie nature of Weisfeld's street sales day. Former employees that built musical character here include Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) of Ween and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio.
Vintage Vinyl, St Louis, Mo.
The decidedly punk rock business story of Tom Ray and Lew Prince starts at a stand at the Soulard Farmer's Market in the late '70s, progresses to two different shops riddled with building code violations, then on to the St. Louis landmark and legitimate tourist destination they run today. The bins of new and used and deeply discounted music and videos has been known to transform casual browsers into collectors in just one visit. All the genres are well represented from classic country and early hip hop to jazz, new age and electronica.
Reckless Records, Chicago, Ill.
Said to have played a role in the inspiration for Rob Gordon's store Championship Vinyl in the 2000 film "High Fidelity," the Wicker park location of Reckless Records is actually just down the street from the vacant storefront where exterior scenes of the film's fictional record store were shot. Though encountering geeks debating music isn't exactly unfamiliar at Reckless, in reality the atmosphere is far more inclusive than the film characterization, with a staggering array of LPs, CDs and DVDs and even tapes and VHS. They also buy used items every day up to an hour before closing. There are two additional locations in Chicago as well as the original shop in London.
Long in the Tooth, Philadelphia, Pa.
This place is such a Philly institution that locals do not hesitate – barely take a breath even, like it's a post-hypnotic suggestion – before blurting out the name "Long in the Tooth" for record shopping. It hasn't been around as long as other places on this list, but the shop carries a huge stock of bargain priced LPs, CDs, movies and books. Though they seem to favor punk, metal and alternative music, there are also sections for rock, jazz, soul, hip hop, soundtracks and more.