Here's 17 Record Stores You Should Visit Before You Die

Here’s 17 Record Stores You Should Visit Before You Die

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From Canada to China, our guide to the top destinations for vinyl aficionados.

This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

The smug collector's Christmas—otherwise known as Record Store Day—celebrated its tenth anniversary this past weekend. What started in 2007 as an annual celebration of record store owners has finally followed the rest of the music industry and commercialized itself to a pulp, debilitating local labels, and bottlenecking pressing plants with absurd last-minute stock demands.

We here at THUMP thought we'd take the opportunity to remind you of the many wicked places you can find your wax during the remaining 364 days of the year—that way you can actually support the independent industry, you know?

So while lining up in the cold for that red vinyl repress of the record you already own has its merits for some, don't forget to check our by no means comprehensive list of the must-visit record stores around the world, from Canada to Singapore.

NORTH AMERICA

Name: Play de Record
Location: Toronto, Canada
Year opened: 1990
Why it's cool: As a one-stop shop, Play de Record specializes in a niche selection of records and quality studio equipment, and offers a rehearsal space for local DJs to practice at $20 per hour. In the 90s and early 2000s, the store was the best place to find flyers for underground club nights, making it a pivotal player in the city's dance music scene.

Name: A1
Location: New York City, US
Year opened: 1966
Why it's cool: A1 stocks the most comprehensive collection of secondhand records in New York. While they notably focus on soul, jazz, and funk, their curation doesn't discriminate, and also includes disco, house, and techno. In its early days, hip-hop luminaries including DJ Premier, Mobb Deep's Havoc, and Pete Rock were regulars at the East Village institution, many of whom appear in the fading Polaroids on the shop's walls.

Name: The Thing
Location: New York City, US
Year opened: 2003
Why it's cool: The Greenpoint basement houses countless unsorted records, often sold for pennies in comparison to what you'd expect to pay given their rarity. Acquired from auctions, estate sales, and classified ads by owner Larry Fisher, most of the wares (which also includes vintage porn, magazines, and comics) sells for a fixed price, but negotiations aren't out of the question.

Name: Reckless Records
Location: Chicago, US
Year opened: 1989
Why it's cool: As a group of three record stores in Chicago, Reckless is known for its independent zines and frequent ticket giveaways. It also served as the inspiration for Championship Vinyl in Stephen Frears' 2000 romantic comedy High Fidelity, starring John Cusack as hapless owner Rob Gordon .

Name: Amoeba Music
Location: Los Angeles, US
Year opened: 1990
Why it's cool: Though there are now plans to built a condo on top of this iconic Hollywood behemoth, the 24,000-square-foot shop spans an entire block, making it the world's largest independent record store. Amoeba's also famous for producing the Webby Award-winning "What's In My Bag" video series, which asks artists like Dâm-Funk, the Gaslamp Killer, Toro Y Moi, and others about the records they've found while perusing their aisles.

Name: Retroactivo
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Year opened: 2004
Why it's cool: Though it started with its owner selling vintage records out of his mom's basement, Retroactivo is now equipped with a own vinyl assembly plant since relocating to its own garage-like space in the tree-lined Roma Norte neighborhood. Today, it offers more than 40,000 secondhand and limited edition records, which they've catalogued online for your added convenience.

SOUTH AMERICA

Name: Eureka
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Year opened: 2004
Why it's cool: Located in the Argentine capital's rustic San Telmo neighborhood, the store boasts an impressive mass of Latin pressings and South American regional treasures, including tango, cumbia, and pop folk. They've also got a collection of rare 78 RPM records.

Name: Discolombia
Location: Barranquilla, Colombia
Year opened: 1962
Why it's cool: Home to Felito Records, Discolombia is a converted warehouse space in the northern Columbia city, worth braving the mice and rats for its trove of original salsa, palenque, and champeta pressings.

EUROPE

Name: Phonica Records
Location: London, England
Year opened: 2003
Why it's cool: Phonica frequently hosts niche in-store events—like the time they brought in a vintage Aberlour Voice-O-Graph recording booth, or allowed patrons to sample their own records on Audio-Technica's analogue system with high-end headphone amplifiers and a turntable. The independent shop counts scores of international DJs as regulars, including homegrown UK exports like Four Tet, Erol Alkan, and Floating Points.

Name: Rough Trade East
Location: London, England
Year opened: 1976
Why it's cool: Rough Trade rode the 70s UK punk revolution and helped change the distribution of DIY music. Any band with a batch of records could take them to sell at Geoff Travis' London store, and if the presses were up to snuff, the in-house label might even choose to distribute them. Best known for putting out early releases by the Smiths, the Libertines, the Strokes, and more, Rough Trade opened a third location in New York City in 2013, in addition to its two London locations.

Name: Spiller's Records
Location: Cardiff, Wales
Year opened: 1894
Why it's cool: First established in 1894 by Henry Spiller, it's the world's oldest record store, originally specializing in phonographs, wax cylinders, and shellac discs. In the early 1920s, Henry's son Edward took over the business, selling musical instruments alongside pre-recorded music. Spiller's is still going strong today and is an avid participant in RSD.

Name: Hardwax
Location: Berlin, Germany
Year opened: 1989
Why it's cool: As the limited, hand-stamped white-label specialists, members of the shop—current and former—are prominent figures in the industry: Gernot Bronsert of Modeselektor, Marcel Dettmann, and Electric Indigo. Just like infamous Berlin club Tresor, Hardwax has a tight-knit relationship with Detroit techno artists in what's referred to as the "Berlin-Detroit axis."

Name: Spacehall
Location: Berlin, Germany
Year opened: 1991
Why it's cool: Referred to as a "kaleidoscopic cavern of vinyl" by The Vinyl Factory, Spacehall has earned a reputation for its comprehensive backstock, which could only exist in a dance music hub such as Berlin. The basement is like three record shops rolled into one: walking in, there are deep racks of records on the soul and jazz spectrum, the next room is devoted to rock, post-punk, industrial, and new wave, while the back room is a haven for fiends of all things electronic.

Name: Discos Paradiso
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Year opened: 2010
Why it's cool: Co-owners Gerard Condemines and Arnau Farrés used to work at local secondhand store La Ruta Natural and sell flea market finds on Discogs, before pursuing the brick-and-mortar path of opening a record store. As Barcelona's answer to Hardwax or Phonica, it's received local and international acclaim as a focal point of the Spanish city's dance and experimental scene. Its high-end back room sound system regularly hosts in-stores and live shows.

Name: Rush Hour
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Year opened: 1997
Why it's cool: Co-owned by DJ Antal Heitlager, Rush Hour has become one of Europe's most renowned electronic music labels and international distributors, and also plays a role in cultural events around Dutch festivals. As part of Amsterdam Dance Event in 2015, Joy Orbison, Ben UFO, and Pearson Sound released a limited edition cassette, before spinning records at the store.

Name: Side One
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Year opened: Why it's cool: Located in the heart of Warsaw, this shop embraces the city's expanding cultural scene, incorporating rare reprints and releases. Last year, Side One celebrated its tenth birthday with a crowd-funded compilation Side One Ten, featuring tracks from local producers and released on spin-off label S1 Warsaw.

Name: Pushkinskaya-10
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Year opened: 1989
Why it's cool: Pushkinskaya-10 began in 1989, when a group of independent artists and musicians moved into an abandoned building on St. Petersburg's Pushkinskaya Street, and founded the Free Culture Society. Today it's more of a community arts center than record store, with the neighbourhood consisting of art galleries, museums, concert venues, clubs, and studios.

ASIA

Name: Tower Records
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year opened: 1970
Why it's cool: At nine stories tall, every other floor is classified by the musical genre it houses, while the basement of the American chain's Shibuya flagship has a stage for hosting events. It sells CDs that are made out of SHM, or "super high material," which is believed to be of higher grade audio quality and only available in Japan.

Name: Red Point
Location: Singapore
Year opened: 2009
Why it's cool: The owner—whose name is Ong Chai Koon—works as a carpenter during the day, and kept Red Point open exclusively on weekends, selling off his personally curated collection of 50s Chinese music, contemporary indie, domestic Singaporean hits, and more. Popular demand compelled him to extend the hours to Thursday through Sunday.

AFRICA

Name: Afrosynth Records
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Year opened: 2008
Why it's cool: It's the only record shop in the country that specializes purely in African vinyl. Started by DJ, journalist, and collector DJ Okapi, Afrosynth began as a blog that focused on reminding listeners of South Africa's rich musical cultures. Its stock leans towards 80s pop, funk, and soul.

OCEANIA

Name: Redeye Records
Location: Sydney, Australia
Year opened: 1981
Why it's cool: Redeye prides itself on tracking down rare, out-of-print, and unique Australian items for its customers. Some memorable items ordered in have been Rolling Stones buttons and posters from cancelled tours, discontinued 90s computer games, and an Ouija board.

Name: Black Wire Records
Location: Sydney, Australia
Year opened: 2008
Why it's cool: Black Wire Records is an artist and volunteer-run not-for-profit record shop. While it distributes records as a local label, its selection specializes in niche DIY genres that range between noise and alternative, and frequently hosts live shows celebrating the local punk community.

All illustrations by Guy Torsher.


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