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Celebrated Summer The Spin on Vinyl
October 4, 2012 - By JP Spence
Vinyls resurgence is keeping brick and mortar record stores alive and well.
When you become a collector of anythingbe it movies, music, or baseball cardsthe compulsion to keep going almost overrides the joy and experience of the journey.
With that said, I take no responsibility and blame Husker Du for all this.
For those not in the know, Husker Du is one of the seminal alt. rock bands of the '80s that irrevocably and unequivocally changed the sound of rock music going forward. Black Francis has stated that when he formed (another extremely important band) the Pixies in 1986 he had five records to his name. Three of them were Husker Du. Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Green Day and Foo Fighters all have a huge debt to this band and regularly cite them as a huge influence.
And Ive lost my copy of 1983s Zen Arcade.
Heres the thing about digital. There is nothing better than being up to date and everything synced just so, but as soon as something goes awry, all hell breaks loose and everything feels off. As tech-savvy as I may be, Ive spent a week rebooting and desperately trying to recover lost files. The aforementioned album, among others, lost at sea. At this point its better to cut losses and just buy another copy, one thats not purely digital.
Record stores are a dying breed some might say while a younger generation might ask Whats a record store? Initially, the thought on doing a feature story about record stores would serve as a postmortem on the business and in some ways, my childhood. In a bit of dramatic irony, record stores are indeed alive and well, the format has just changed, sort of. Heres how my day went in search of a lost classic.
PHOTO COURTESY AMOEBA MUSIC
Ameoba Records, the biggest and best known record store in Los Angeles, provides a platform to the local artist on a small indie label with its record release parties. A signing or performance can really make a difference that may keep careers afloat.
(Arrival: 10:45 a.m.)
This mightve been a non-story if everything went according to Hoyle. The biggest and best known record store in Los Angeles really needs no introduction, but its hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Amoebas seemingly vast inventory is stuff of legend (even though they didnt have what I was looking for) but the stores biggest contribution is giving a platform to local artists. Actors hit late night shows to promote their latest movie; musicians and authors do the same at Amoeba in Hollywood.
However, its the no-name record release parties that really count. A signing/performance by a local artist on a small indie label really makes the difference in giving the album its initial boost that may keep careers afloat. A Colbert bump, if there ever was one, is the spirit and ambience of what record stores should be that makes Amoeba, Amoeba.
With that said, there is a caveat. Because they declare themselves to be The record store, that doesnt make them the record store. Much like Barnes & Noble, Arclight Cinemas and Jerrys Deli, being the standard bearer isnt necessarily the same as being the best.
CD Trader walls are plastered with posters, concert bills, shirts, memorabilia and everything that screams this place is legit.
(Arrival: 12:17 p.m.)
OK, maybe Amoeba didnt have to be so smug about who they are but clearly I was wrong that all record stores are created equal. Online, Record Surplus hails itself as having huge selections of budget vinyl records and CDs. In reality, this store closely resembles the island of misfit records. If show tunes, new age and novelty records are your set, youll be right at home. Their slogan of the last record store is a complete misnomer and time could be better spent somewhere else. Time to head back to the Valley in hopes that more familiar ground will yield better results.
12436 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA. 90025
Hours: M-Sa: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.,
Su.: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
PHOTO BY SAMSON UBA
Second Spin, located in the heart of Sherman Oaks started as single shop and through its loyal fan base and broad collection, has expanded to four locales.
(Arrival: 1:30 p.m.)
When the entrance of a record store is shaped like a giant cassette tape, good tunes are to be had. Since I live more or less than a block away from this establishment, its safe to say that this is my home record store. Whats interesting about Second Spin is that while Amoeba represents what a record store should be, in spirit, Second Spin represents what a record store is today: An A/V farmers market. Established in 1998, the first Second Spin (the Sherman Oaks location) built its inventory primarily through customers selling their old collections. As their stock continued to rise, the record store has become a thriving franchise with stores in Costa Mesa, Santa Monica and Denver, Colorado.
Second Spin is the ideal place for any music fan looking to add or shed their collection in bulk. Their daily specials of Buy Three, Get Two Free add up pretty quickly when your bag has 20 items within minutes. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and are constantly working to make their inventory user-friendly, intuitive and more importantly, stocked. This is one of the go-to spots to buy music in Los Angeles considering big box stores like Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart have largely abandoned the music section relegating the newest releases to an impulse buy at the checkout stand.
As its evolved over the years from purely audio, the store has grown with consumer trends and has become an ideal place for aftermarket DVDs and Blu-Rays with the video section dominating audio by a healthy margin. This is a real boon for me as a fan and critic. As much of a fan of Bill Murray as I am, why pay full ticket for Stripes, when I can get Stripes, Caddyshack, and Lost in Translation all for the same price.
Unfortunately, Second Spins biggest strength also tends to be its Achilles Heel. While its inventory has breadth and depth to appeal to the average consumer, it lacks the rarities cache of B-sides, imports, special editions and rare findings that are essential to the music and film snob. I was able to flesh out my Pearl Jam catalog but ultimately struck out in my search for Zen Arcade.
A round of tacos with my friend Sam and onto what would be the biggest secret in the Valley.
14564 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA. 91403
Hours: M-Sa: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.,
Su.: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
PHOTO BY SAMSON UBA
Orphaned CDs, a quaint store on Reseda Boulevard and Rayen Street in Northridge, is a safe haven for music that is waiting to find a home.
(Arrival: 3:30 p.m.)
This place is pureand I mean no hyperbole hereGUILTY PLEASURE. Theres this line in the Billy Crystal film City Slickers where the trail cook describes his food as no frills and proudly proclaims it to be Hot, brown and plenty of it. The same could be said for this little store nestled on the corner of Rayen Street and Reseda Boulevard that is so small, if you blink youll drive right by. Truly, the store couldnt be bigger than a New York shoebox-studio. What it lacks in aesthetic and size, Orphaned CDs more than makes up for in selection and especially, price. I would never admit in person (I know the irony as Im writing this) that I would own anything from Kenny G, Jon Secada, Michael Bolton, David Gray, Neil Diamond or John Mayer, as each artist has a cool quotient exponentially in the red than the black, but at .99 cents each, do the math.
Ultimately, they didnt have what I was looking for but Orphaned CDs is the quintessential bargain bin shopping experience. There is truly something to be said for finding needles in haystacks. Its why America loves garage sales, swap meets, Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars. Add Orphaned CDs to the list.
Its getting close to calling it a day.
8830 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge, CA. 91324
Hours: M-Sa: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.,
Su.: - 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
PHOTO BY SAMSON UBA
Tom, a CD Trader regular, compares quality vinyl to a great vintage bottle of wine.
(Arrival: 5:18 p.m.)
Heres the best way to describe CD Trader. One of my first girlfriends used to wear this particular Victorias Secret body mist that smelled fantastic. The relationship only lasted a few months, but to this day, anytime I come across that scent, I think of her. Its very Citizen Kane but, whatever. The reason I point this out is because, to me, the record store of record stores was Arons Records in Hollywood. It was the definitive store before mp3s and iTunes became the dominant format and Amoeba moved in on Sunset and took whatever dwindling base was left. I bought my first CDs there. I went there with my father when I was a teenager when the only thing we could relate to was music. I was also there the last day it was open and bought the last Arons Records shirt in existence as it hangs, framed (proudly), in my office.
CD Trader in Tarzana has that scent. As I walk in, the walls are plastered with posters, concert bills, shirts, memorabilia and everything that screams this place is legit. Sonic Youths Teenage Riot is blaring and I cant help but feel Ive gone back in time. It passed shibboleth when not only did they have Zen Arcade, but asked, Would you like that in CD or vinyl?
Yes, I love this place because they had my album. More importantly, here is why CD Trader is the best game in town and the main reason why record stores wont go extinct: Audiophile appeal. Used CDs and DVDs abound but the real pull is the exquisite vinyl and more importantly, new vinyl, this store has. Technics record players, Stanton needles, Shure headphones and myriad top-of-the-line vinyl accessories and paraphernalia littered the aisle end caps just waiting to transform a good listening experience to a great one.
As ardent a Foo Fighters fan as I am, hearing 2012s Wasting Light on vinyl for the first time was as transformative an experience as seeing the band live. Recorded in analog and now listening to the album the way it should be listened to, Ive been baptized in the Jordan River. Talking to Tom, a store regular, he makes an extremely cogent point about the state of record stores: He likened digital music to your basic bottle of wine that one could get at any store, anywhere. But to get vinyl and good, modern vinyl at that, one has to go to a specialty shop. As long as people have the compulsion to collect every release from their favorite band and want to be connoisseurs instead of being merely fans of quality and transformative music, record stores arent going anywhere.
A day wonderfully wasted and $100 lighter in my wallet. Add me to the converted.