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The 17 Coolest Record Stores in America

April 16, 2010  |  1:00pm
The 17 Coolest Record Stores in America

On the eve of Record Store Day 2010, we revisit our indie music shop feature from the July 2008 issue of Paste.

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People are no longer leaving their houses. They are content to wirelessly import digital music straight into nano-engineered storage devices implanted in their grey matter, and the digital revolution is killing brick-and-mortar retail. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the record store’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Just as people of faith need houses of worship in which to commune, music zealots are no less dependent on shrines dedicated to their own decibel-cranked passion. For that reason, Paste hereby celebrates the record store, bestowing superlatives on a few of America’s finest. May they live long and loud!

AMOEBA MUSIC LOS ANGELES
The Best Store in the World. Not Just Music. But Store. Including Target.
Tour posters climb the 50-foot walls, surrounding you as you join the skinny-jeans-wearing bass players and bespectacled screenwriters who listen to an in-store performance from The Bird and the Bee. You can then wander off in search of a red-vinyl Vince Guaraldi album or Tom Jones’ Live at Caesar’s or the latest posthumous Tupac release. Looks like L.A. doesn’t suck after all.
[6400 Sunset Blvd., Amoeba.com]

CRIMINAL RECORDS ATLANTA
Most Likely to Get Arrested for Cramming Too Much Addictive Stuff Into Such a Small Space
Criminal makes the most of its tight square footage, snugly fitting loads of DVDs, books, comics, magazines, toys and stereo accessories, plus multiple listening stations and, of course, its impressive CD-and-vinyl selection—everything from classic Smiths to obscure noise rock. Bonus points for having helpful clerks (not jerks), amazingly diverse in-stores (both Japanese drone-metal band Boris and sweet-voiced gospel singer Charlie Louvin), and for being hugely supportive of the thriving Atlanta music scene.
[466 Moreland Ave. NE, CriminalATL.com]

OTHER MUSIC NEW YORK CITY
Most Trusted One-Stop For New York Record Dorks
Named partly for the albums the massive Tower Records across the street didn’t carry, New York’s Other Music has now outlived its late, monolithic neighbor. With a staff that birthed Animal Collective, the adventurous buyers aren’t afraid to curate sections classified merely as “In” and “Out.”
[15 E. 4th St., OtherMusic.com]

WATERLOO RECORDS AUSTIN, TEXAS
Best Record Store to Grow Up and Grow Old With
Austin’s Waterloo Records has not only grown up with the Texas college-town/cultural crux, but has also stayed weird over the years. Teens find cool indie-rock 7-inches; college kids pick up Vampire Weekend or Criterion Collection DVDs, while their parents can buy Willie Nelson boxed sets and vintage Stevie Ray Vaughan posters.
[600A North Lamar, WaterlooRecords.com]

AQUARIUS RECORDS SAN FRANCISCO
Best Place to Bankrupt Yourself on Limited-Edition Psychedelic Black Metal Imports
This San Francisco institution specializes in extreme and esoteric recordings—they’ve sold hundreds of copies of a 4-disc set on which wobbly shortwave-radio voices read lists of numbers. The store’s biweekly email blast features lengthy reviews of their latest Latvian black-metal CD-Rs and doom-improv LP reissues.
[1055 Valencia St., AquariusRecords.org]

CAT HEAD DELTA BLUES & FOLK ART CLARKSDALE, MISS.
Best Way To Support The Delta Economy
An essential stop on any Mississippi-blues pilgrimage, Cat Head is one of the most vibrant spots in the decaying Delta, a rustic-chic shrine to handmade art and hardscrabble music. It’s probably the only store on this list to sell face jugs along with Fat Possum vinyl.
[252 Delta Ave., Cathead.biz]

DUSTY GROOVE AMERICA CHICAGO
Best Place To Buy Funk Records No One’s Ever Heard Of
The web store rocks, but nothing beats browsing at this cozy, impeccably curated soul/funk/jazz emporium. The place is especially great for rarities and compilations, which turn at frightening speed from obscurities to must-haves. Close your eyes and grab a stack—every record in your hand will be a keeper.
[1120 N. Ashland Ave., DustyGroove.com]

ERNEST TUBB RECORD SHOP NASHVILLE
Best Opportunity To Purchase Travis Tritt Albums Without Irony or Shame
“So,” you think to yourself when visiting Nashville, “I should probably buy some country music while I’m in town. But where?” Then you see it, amidst the bright, boozy lights of downtown Nashvegas—a 61-year-old shop that’ll send you home with a stash of musical souvenirs, along with some new cowboy boots and a Jack Daniel’s hangover.
[417 Broadway, ETRecordShop.com]

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