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Record Store Day

We wish that we had time to visit a few record stores in every major city to better honour the always awesome Record Store Day. But in this instance, we’re going to have to narrow it down to a more managable five picks, since we’d like to keep our day jobs. So here you go, music aficionados – here are three of our very favourite real-life record store locales, plus two more from The Land of Fiction. We hope you’ll enjoy these virtual visits – and even more so, we hope you’ll use Record Store Day as a great excuse to go support the local music stores in your own town.

BLEECKER STREET RECORDS | 188 W 4th St | New York, NY

Located in the more gentrified side of the Village – ie West, not East – Bleecker Street Records offers a wide range of wax, including an entire section of rare and collectible releases (including mismarks/misprintings, which are always interesting to sort through.) They were recently bumped out of their Bleecker Street location by, uh, progress (coughcoughstarbucks), but they’re still going strong in their new locale. The speakers overhead can be heard spinning everything from old No Doubt cuts to obscure South American tunes, and the bins echo that diversity of selection. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for a CD or vinyl you haven’t been able to find anywhere else, this is likely the place you’ll find it, although you’ll probably have to do so yourself – Bleecker Street’s staff have perfected the indifferent-hipster-working-in-a-record-store stereotype to a T, but, eh, that only adds to the ambiance. The posters and t-shirts available downstairs are also great extras to snag while you’re here – and did we mention that they have two rather giant, selectively-friendly, lazy cats? Pets are always a bonus in any record store, and this asphalt-colored duo are particularly suited to the faux-grunge Bleecker Street locale.

AMOEBA MUSIC | 6400 Sunset Boulevard | Los Angeles CA

A Hollywood landmark and one of the biggest independent record stores in the world, Amoeba is a king among the indies – so big that it’s actually a playable venue in the Guitar Hero: World Tour videogame – but also still personable enough that it’s got the feel of a much smaller neighborhood shop. As far as being a venue, recent in-store performances at Amoeba have featured the likes of Elvis Costello, The Raconteurs, Danger Mouse, Supergrass, William Shatner, The Drums, and the cast of Doctor Who (!), perfectly complementing their equally eclectic music selection. Whether you’re looking for current chart hits, import albums, difficult-to-find concert DVDs, avant-garde tracks, golden oldies, opera, or trance music, chances are Amoeba has it – and trust us, you’ll have loads of fun trying to find it in their city-block-sized store (we kid you not) stuffed with record racks, CD shelves, and assorted posters and music memorabilia.

ROUGH TRADE WEST | 130 Talbot Road | London England

There’s more than one Rough Trade in London now, but the Talbot Road location is the real (original) deal. Opened in 1983, it’s still independent and still looks it (some of the employees have even been working there since 1983), with loads of vintage rock posters and vinyl sleeve art stapled to the walls. While you’re certain to find plenty of music here, from post-punk to country junk, there’s another cool element to Rough Trade, that being that they’ve also got their very own record label that’s helped along just a few bands you may have heard of – The Libertines, Mazzy Star, The Sundays, Belle & Sebastian, Arcade Fire, and The Smiths among them. Snag one of Rough Trade’s own custom compilation albums while you’re there, too – they’ve been releasing those since 2003, and if you collect them all to date you’ll end up with super mix collections of 9 different music genres.

CHAMPIONSHIP VINYL (High Fidelity) | 1500 North Milwaukee Avenue | Chicago IL*

Championship Vinyl is what every old-school record store should be, brought to life through the writing of Nick Hornby and the interpretation of John Cusack and crew in the 2000 Stephen Frears book-adaptation film High Fidelity. Owner Rob Gordon (aka Cusack) plops a record on the turntable (in one particularly distinctive case, The Beta Band’s under-the-radar The Three EPs) and knows that doing so will cause most of the customers in the store to rush to buy it. “Temporary” store employee Barry (aka Jack Black) – who now seems to have taken up permanent residence at CV – spends most of his time hurling cynical insults at less-than-cool customers who blithely wander in looking for Top 40 hits. And whatever you want on vinyl – as long as it’s actually good – Rob and crew will find it for you. (Just don’t ask Rob to break into his own vinyl collection, as he finally (again) has them perfectly organised.)

TRAX (Pretty in Pink) | 1460 Third Street | Santa Monica CA*

Oh, Trax. Where a movie version of Chicago’s Chinatown suburb awaits just outside its nightclub-flyer-papered doors, where Iona tests out new “volcanic” fashion ensembles as she reigns supreme behind the counter, where skateboard-toting punks try to shoplift the latest singles, where Duckie mimes one of the most amazingly nerdy yet energetic renditions of “Try a Little Tenderness” that we’ve ever seen. Where sometimes Trax employee Andie meets the oh-so-elusive, dreamy Blane over his purchase of a Steve Lawrence (Steve Lawrence…?) album. And where The Psychedelic Furs albums in the bins hold promise of the uber-catchy Pretty in Pink movie theme song yet to be. Trax is a bit grungy, a lot new-wave, and, as presided over by the big-sisterly Iona, is also as much of a hangout or second home as it is a record store. And isn’t that what the best record stores are supposed to be anyway?   – Kristi Kates

*exterior filming locations only – don’t go there looking for the real Championship Vinyl or Trax, as they don’t exist. We know, we’re sad too.  

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What’s your favourite record store? Tell us about it in the comments!