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Record Stores Of The World #14 : Los Angeles Part 2

Jeb Taylor

Travelling the world in search of records has been a bit harder the last few years obviously but I’ve managed to get out of Australia a few times in the last year and have twice headed to Los Angeles. I last did a Record Stores Of The World feature on the expansive city back in 2019 and a lot has changed in the world since then, so here is the 2023 updated version of Los Angeles record stores.

While some have gone during the pandemic, fresh ones have popped up, and a lot of the mainstays continue to push on. Starting the journey with the most famous mainstay of the city Amoeba Music which has moved a few streets away but is still situated in Hollywood. It still has a huge array of new vinyl, and a lot of second-hand releases as well. You really need to put aside a fair amount of time to get through it all. My tips if you don’t have a lot of time would be always check the new arrivals racks as you walk in and just near them the 7” section can also be a bit of a goldmine. Also in Hollywood is another staple, The Record Parlour. This place is well stocked with second hand vinyl, if 60’s/70’s/80’s is what you are looking for across most genre’s, this is your place, and pricing is very reasonable. The final Hollywood stop is hidden away in a little arcade, it’s called As The Record Turns and is more like a museum to the format. The owner tells me about a bunch of film shoots that have used the space and the fact that many samples on Dr Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ came from his record collection, and he has the platinum record on the wall to prove it.

Record Safari in Glendale

There are several new stores that have popped up over the last few years and a few of them have already become some of my favourite stores in Los Angeles. First up is Record Safari in Glendale, you may have seen the excellent Record Safari documentary that follows the owner Alex around as he sources vinyl for the Coachella Festival record store. As well as running the vinyl store at the iconic festival he’d also run Glasshouse Records a little bit outside of LA, but in recent years he’s now established an LA store under the Record Safari brand and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s well stocked with very regular turnover, very comfortably laid out and some of the best priced vinyl in LA.

Not too far away in Highland Park is Arroyo Records. A small shop but a store that I’ve been to a few times now in both my last two visits to LA and have always ticked off a pretty obscure record from my want list. It’s great for a lot of punk and indie records, but also has some amazing world records and your standard rock/pop selections. Pricing is good, stock seems to turnover regularly and you can also grab a well curated selection of new/reissue vinyl as well.

Commune Records in Pasadena

A little bit further out in Pasadena is Commune Records. Opened just a couple of years ago, the layout and curation of this store is exceptional. While a lot of stores are loaded with lots of stuff to dig through, the space here is small enough that you can look through everything they have in stock in a reasonable amount of time, but the curation is so on point you’ll be able to find something you love or something unexpected.

Freakbeat Records in the Sherman Oaks neighbourhood has been a staple for a while and for good reason, it is well stocked in both new and used vinyl, and you can also still get a large range of CD’s as well if that is your thing. I’ve checked off a bunch of want list records here on my couple of visits over the last year. I also like that they keep the new and second hand vinyl in separate sections.

Freakbeat Records in Sherman Oaks

Long Beach is on the outer reaches of LA but is worth the drive for at least two of the record stores located there. First up is the long running Fingerprints Music, a huge store that rivals Amoeba Music for new vinyl selection and probably surpasses it with second hand vinyl. It is also a lot more laid back than the chaos of Amoeba Music and means it is a lot more of an enjoyable record dig, it would be very rare that a vinyl fan would leave here not being able to find something they liked.

Also in Long Beach is Toxic Toast, in my first visit there in 2022, I meet the very passionate and knowledgeable owner who gives the store his very personalised flavour. They specialise in ska music, but they also have an amazing Japanese music selection, and go a bit deeper than most in the soundtrack world. But aside from the specialties that gives the store a point of difference there is also a very good selection of your usual records as well. I’ve now been there a couple of times and regularly found something I would have never expected.

Permanent Records like Amoeba Music is another store that has moved post pandemic, and their move is an interesting one. Previously situated on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, they have moved and diversified by adding their live music and bar Roadhouse to the operation. By day you can head down the driveway to the back building to flick through records and at night you can grab a beer and watch incredible live music in the front building (Sydney's C.O.F.F.I.N happened to be playing a show while I was there). The record store itself is really great, an amazing second-hand selection a little tilted towards the indie/punk/heavier side of things and plenty of new and reissue releases as well. The owner also curates the incredible Brown Acid compilation series which collects obscure heavy rock sounds from around the world, and as a result you can grab vinyl or cd versions of the series, which at the time of writing is up to volume 15!

C.O.F.F.I.N playing live at Permanent Records

Another haven for used vinyl is Atomic Records in Burbank, you’ll find plenty of well-priced used vinyl in the racks, but the rarities wall has some amazing records up there, depending on what you want to spend though may determine if you want to look up from the racks or not. Going Underground in downtown Los Angeles is a smallish but still spacious feeling store that is well stocked for new releases and also has some solid second hand finds amongst the racks. I like how the store is not to overwhelming and you can look through all the racks in a reasonable amount of time.

Aside from all these record stores, I also got to experience a few small record fairs and record swaps. The first one at Rappcats in Highland Park was the legendary DJ Shadow’s annual garage sale where you can buy selections from his actual collection. Just along the street was the Highland Park record fair which had a handful of sellers and vinyl DJ’s creating a nice Sunday afternoon vibe. Also while I was there the legendary sunset strip venues The Roxy Theatre and Rainbow Bar hosted a little record fair on a Sunday morning in the space between the two venues with some great records between about half a dozen sellers.

DJ Shadow garage sale at Rappcats

My regular last stop in LA is Record Surplus as it’s close to the airport, another well stocked and reasonably priced store that mainly deals with second hand records but has some new stuff. Also make sure you check the top tier crates just near the counter if you are looking for some rarities, there is some gold in there.

So with many journey’s pre pandemic and now a couple after, it’s great to see that the mainstay stores are still kicking on, other stores have moved and diversified but the most encouraging is that a bunch of new and really good stores have opened. Los Angeles remains one of the great cities for record digging but it is definitely spread out, so don’t rely on the almost non-existent public transport, hire yourself a car or be prepared to rack up the numbers on your uber account.

Fingerprints Music in Long Beach

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