I recently set up my turntable which has been in storage for too long. It’s a pleasure to sit on the couch with the windows open and listen to Dionne Warwick, Four Tet, Boards of Canada and Donna Summer. On a warmer than usual spring day it’s fun to visit some of Seattle’s record stores and dig around for cool music. I thought I would take some time to share some of my favorites for when you are out and about in Seattle. I don’t have a straight up favorite record store but my favorites all have something that keeps me coming back. And because we are talking about the good ones, I have to add at least one I hope you’ll avoid. With the exception of the last entry, these are in no particular order.
Sonic Boom, Capitol Hill/Ballard – This is probably the most heard of record store outside of Seattle. The selection and prices are great. Both locations have a stellar selection of used LP’s. The pricing on them is inconsistent, but they are always of good quality and housed in plastic sleeves. The Booms used to have more in-store performances from touring bands, and both stores have dedicated performance areas for such occasions. The staff at the Sonic Boom stores also tend to be the most attractive of local shops as well, just sayin’. I especially miss Julie and Brad.
Easy Street Records, West Seattle/Queen Anne – I’ll be honest, I haven’t been to the Easy Street in West Seattle – The one on Queen Anne is just fine! This is one of the bigger record stores in the city. Easy Street is kind of like an indie Tower Records which is suiting as they opened their Queen Anne store in an old Tower Books location. They have the most in-stores of any in Seattle and plenty of used CD’s and LP’s. Their used LP’s are very fair priced and I never walk out of there with less than 5 used records! The staff, especially the buyers, are sweet and know their stuff.
Golden Oldies, Wallingford – I finally got to visit this store earlier this year. It’s musty, dusty and older than God. This store gets a rap for being disorganized and hard to shop in – I didn’t find that at all! The only hard thing was having to go through 30 or more 45’s for every artist you can imagine to find the one I really wanted. I know, poor baby, right? The gentleman who runs the place was very nice and made recommendations based on what I bought! My friend Nathan and I are sure he laughs inside everytime someone uses the static record cleaning block at the preview station – we were quickly convinced it’s rigged to slide out of place when you lift it up to use it, and has probably been that way for years. Cheeky record shop owner guy!!
Bop Street Records, Ballard – Okay, this is the weirdest of the bunch, easily. Upstairs is a big old mess and the downstairs looks like a record shop owned by the Dharma Initiative. I went looking for a Bee Gees record and they had well over 50 copies of it. I have never seen so many records in one place in all my years. Bop Street unfortunately has a used car lot kind of vibe to it as pretty much NOTHING is priced. There’s an old pro behind the counter who will wax on about how rare or unique a record is before pulling it out of the sleeve to comment on its condition and then BANG!, you finally get to the price tag – and it’s usually a shocker. Bring a friend who negotiates well or brush on up on your own technique before visiting BS, oh sorry, Bop Street. But do visit!!!
Wall of Sound, Capitol Hill – This is the only shop keeping it real. From CD-R’s by local artists to psychedelic thai pop, unusually weird noise to blissful drone, Wall of Sound is certainly the most interesting of Seattle’s record shops. To keep up with the changing neighborhood (or maybe to keep the doors open) they’ve started to carry some more popular new releases. They’ve also expanded their used vinyl selection. Because these guys are picky (that’s good BTW!) their used selection is top notch and includes pieces from old school Seattle DJ’s and radio personalities. The collection is small enough to shop in one trip! When you think of local businesses, this is the type of shop you should consider supporting!
Singles Going Steady, Belltown – I was going to sort of slam this store, but I changed my mind. The guy on the phone who wouldn’t give me the time of day is usually the sort of thing that will turn me off right away. I guess I shouldn’t really expect “polite” from Seattle’s only straight up punk store, right? Either way, their selection of punk, 80’s, industrial and other greebo genres is awesome. I found some completely unforgotten goth stuff, particularly Wax Trax artists like Lead Into Gold and Chris Connelly. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve noticed the “endangered species” sign outside their front window – I’m pretty sure I saw it though. Watch your back, guys – of all the stores on this list I believe you have the biggest target on your back.
Georgetown Records, Georgetown – I’ve only been here once. It’s a little out of the way, but worth the trip. This is Seattle’s least pretentious record shop for sure. They support all genres and carry every format you can imagine. They tend to stick to the music while a lot of other stores are selling DVD’s, tee-shirts, magazines and faux memorabilia. If I remember correctly, it was a little pricey – but is was more like you get what you pay for kind of pricey, which is good!
Jive Time, Fremont/Capitol Hill Annex – I was bummed when Jive Time closed on Capitol Hill. Their selection is a DJ’s dream. They have to fit everything into a smaller space, so their selection is perfect. They are pretty much exclusively used, and mostly vinyl – but a warning, it can be pretty pricey. The exception is their 12″ vinyl selection which is the best I’ve ever seen in one place and very, very fairly priced. There is a mini Jive Time in Seattle’s recently commercialized Atlas clothing and the Fremont joint is open as well!
Holy Cow Records, Pike Place Market – It’s funny, locals don’t really shop in the lower levels of Pike Place Market. Tourists can be a pain in the butt, especially during the summer. I work on the waterfront so I walk through it every day now! I had never visited it before and was shocked at how awesome it was – I felt like an ass for not shopping there all these years. I’ve raided their easy listening, vocals and disco sections and have found some real gems. The prices are very reasonable, but watch out – that growing stack of records can get pretty pricey, pretty quickly!
Everyday Music, Capitol Hill – Okay, so I saved the worst for last. But first, here’s a joke: What’s the difference between God and a record store employee? Check out the answer below – But really, are you kidding me here? This is the worst store in the world. They don’t keep their stock on-hands in the computer, they give the worst rate for used product and the people who work there are rude. Bigger is not always better, and if you want to avoid shopping in a store that has the potential to swallow up some of the smaller stores I’ve listed here, then this is the one to stay away from. It might sound a bit harsh, but you get what you give with me. Sorry. Oh, and the punchline? God doesn’t think he’s a record store employee. Snapz.
There are many other record shops out there, but they are dwindling – and quickly. If you have a favorite, let us know about it in the comments section! And wherever you live, go out and buy a record or CD now and then – the world would be a pretty awful place if you could only purchase music digitally. It would be worse if really great record stores became a novelty.