Vinyl Sightings: Boston’s Top Record Stores
On Saturday, April 18, Record Store Day will return for its eighth year, and Boston will celebrate with special deals and events. In addition to the customary slew of record stores offering special Record Store Day releases all over the metro area, Brighton Music Hall will also transform into a Pop-Up Record Shop.
According to event creator Do617: “We’re opening the doors to one of Allston’s best live music clubs on a Saturday afternoon, and inviting independent record labels, record stores, and vinyl distributors from around New England to bring their wares to sell directly to YOU, the customer!”
Here, you can fondle the sleeves of vendors such as Vanya Records, Run for Cover Records, Underground Hip Hop, and Deathwish Inc.; quaff PBR; and listen to vinyl DJ sets from Lifted Contingency artists. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is free with RSVP.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for the third Saturday in April to embark on a crate-digging expedition at local record stores. Here are a few favorite places to score vinyl in Boston, all year long.
With a sister store in Providence, this Harvard Square shop—though professing a dedication to being “as diverse as possible”—has a reputation for specializing in hardcore/punk, metal, and industrial. If you’ve ever had a burning desire to own the soundtrack to Cannibal Holocaust on vinyl, let Armageddon hook you up. Cassette fans will find a motherlode here, too.
12 Eliot St. #B, Cambridge, 617-492-1235, armageddonshop.com.
Steadfastly resisting the commercial churn of Central Square, Cheapo Records has been holding down the vinyl fort since the ’50s, and its devotees are legion. Enter to find yourself in an underground world of bluegrass gospel, disco, and every other genre imaginable.
538 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4455, cheaporecords.com.
Deep Thoughts JP
A relatively new kid on an already-funky block, Deep Thoughts is piled high with crates of wide-ranging strangeness. Krautrock? Techno? Reggae? It’s all there. Plus, you’ll also find comix, zines, and VHS tapes.
138b South St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-3587, deepthoughtsjp.com.
In Your Ear
Since 1982, generations of Harvard and BU kids have been trawling In Your Ear’s vast collections—and they’ve even set up a Providence outpost. As they proclaim on their website, “Over the years, we have found homes for hundreds of thousands of orphaned records, CDs, cassettes and even 8-tracks!” If you’re a dedicated digger, IYE is your Shangri-la.
957 Comm. Ave., Boston, 617-787-9755, 72 Mt Auburn St. #A, Cambridge, 617-491-5035, iye.com.
The unofficial motto of Newbury Comics is “It’s Always Morph or Die”—after all, there’s a reason this New England pop-culture stalwart has managed to stay in business since 1978. In recent years, they’ve downplayed the music in favor of other dorm-ready fare. But while their vinyl selection may not be exhaustive enough to please all music snobs, this venerable chain works hard to offer a little something for everyone.
332 Newbury St., Boston, 617-236-4930; Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 1 North Marketplace #366, Boston, 617-248-9992; 36 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-491-0337; newburycomics.com.
Considering that Kenmore Square no longer has a Rat, a Deli Haus, or a Pizza Pad, it’s easy to lament the idea that gentrification up and crushed all the weird out of this part of town long ago. And then we remember Nuggets, who’ve been keeping the bizarro home fires burning since 1978, with its heaps upon heaps of vintage media. If you bought a bootleg VHS tape of a Mondo flick back in freshman year, chances are it was here. As long as Nuggets sticks around, you’ll never hear us wishing “Ptooey on Kenmore Square!”
486 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-536-0679, nuggetsrecords.com.
This beloved Harvard Square record hut is clearly built to last: “Planet has survived fire, flood, the self-inflicted implosion of the music industry, and two moves,” they remind us. Among the secrets to Planet Records’ longevity are a carefully curated and organized selection, good lighting—the better to read those tiny liner notes—and an impeccably knowledgeable staff.
144 Mt Auburn St., Cambridge, 617-492-0693, planet-records.com.
At 78, Skippy White is credited with being Boston’s oldest record store owner, and his 54-year-old Egleston Square shop holds the distinction of helping to introduce Boston to hip-hop—his store was the first to sell the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” While organization’s not his strongest suit, it’s all the more reason to spend an afternoon pawing through White’s stacks of wax for jazz, R&B, and blues finds.
Skippy White’s, 1971 Columbus Ave., Boston, 617-524-4500, facebook.com.
Of the many indie diversions in Union Square, Somerville Grooves is one of its most delightful—and horizon-expanding. What the store lacks in size, it makes up for with its well-organized selection and chill atmosphere, inviting you to while away an afternoon browsing through dividers filled with classics and oddities alike.
26 Union Sq., Somerville, 617-666-1749, facebook.com.
Stereo Jack’s Records
While traipsing through Porter Square, if you’ve ever stopped dead in your tracks to admire a mind-boggling window display of thematically related vintage album sleeves—whether it’s ’60s beach bunnies or “Baby’s First LP”—you’ve just had your head turned by Stereo Jack’s. Now just imagine what the inside of the place is like. Highly recommended for connoisseurs of jazz and blues.
1686 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-497-9447, stereojacks.com.
Tucked away down an Allston Village alleyway, Store 54 may not be easy to find, but it’s not easy to forget, either. Although the store itself is a relatively recent addition to Allston, its family tree has deep roots: When Back Bay’s Looney Tunes closed after 33 years on Boylston Street, Store 54 absorbed its 250,000-piece record collection, which shares space with a selection of vintage clothes and collectibles. Rest assured, Store 54 bans boredom.
16 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-987-0067, facebook.com/pages/Store-54.
This offbeat chimera—which multitasks as tapas restaurant, bookstore, and record shop—is a natural fit for bohemian JP. Get your food up front, and a browse the vintage LPs in the back. Just mind that you don’t smear patatas bravas fingerprints all over the merch.
470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4851, tresgatosjp.com.
In 2009, the vinyl-selling business that began in Angela Sawyer’s bedroom made the leap a Mass. Ave. storefront. The freak flag flies high in this closet-sized space, which offers a reliable grab-bag of psychedelia, noise, Serbian blast-beat turbo-folk, and any obscure genre you care to dream up.
844 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 857-413-0154, weirdorecords.com.