Top five record stores of 2011


Sign at Planet Records

While many other music lovers have written about their favorite albums of the year, that topic has always been hard for me to cover. There are a lot of albums this year that I enjoyed and some that were on repeat for many weeks, but when it comes to actually ranking them and calling them my absolute favorites of the year, it is too much of a commitment. So instead of making a list of my top favorite albums of the year, I picked my favorite record stores of the year for dollar bin shopping. Whether they are in Los Angeles, where I live, or in other cities that I visited this year, these are record stores where I found great material for less than $1, records that I will be reviewing for the blog soon.

Backside: 139 North San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, Calif.

Backside is a great record store in the Los Angeles area with a wide selection of used and new records. While the store does not have a special section for $1 records, it is possible to find some within its collection. However, on Black Friday, Backside had an amazing store-wide sale and dedicated a space behind its shop for thousands of records, all priced at $1. After seeing a good response to the sale, Backside plans to have a $1 record sale on the last Sunday of every month. Some of my favorite $1 finds from Backside include, Talking Head’s True Stories and Love by Aztec Camera.

Planet Records: 54-B John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, Mass.

Planet Records 5 Lps for $1

Mystery LP package from Planet Records

While on a trip visiting a friend in Boston, I embarked on an adventure to visit as many record stores as I could. I quickly became fond of Planet Records. Located in Harvard Square, Planet Records has a large collection of records priced at $1. In one visit, I found records by Santana, David Bowie and Styx for $1 each. However, when I saw a stack of mystery packages, that said “5 LPs for $1,” I could not resist. Each package was wrapped in a paper bag and had a random drawing on it. I chose the pack with a farting strawberry, pictured on the left. Kind of cute, right? I wasn’t expecting much from the package, but was quite surprised with what I had purchased for $1. The pack included a compilation of Beatles music from 1962 to 1966, The Beatles’ Second Album, Back to the Blues by The Ramsey Lewis Trio, Dakota Staton’s Dynamic! and a compilation of Thunderball and Other Thriller Music by Ray Martin and His Orchestra.

Weirdo Records: 844 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

Weirdo Records is a tiny shop in Boston, but filled to the brim with vinyl, CDs and cassettes. While it can get a little tight and you cannot be afraid to sit on the ground to sift through the lower shelves, the shop has a nice variety. The $1 are not separated from all the other records, but there are a bunch that are marked for less than a dollar. My favorite finds from Weirdo Records are Frank Holder Sings Calypso Cavalcade by Frank Holder With Kenny Graham And His Orchestra and the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Cheapo Records: 538 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass.

Cheapo Records is another quaint shop with lots and lots of vinyl. The shop does not have too many records priced at $1, but there are many that are less than $5. My favorite find was Latin-esque by Esquivel and his Orchestra.

Beat Swap Meet: Grand Star Jazz Club at 943 N. Broadway, Los Angeles

While the Beat Swap Meet is not an actual record store, it is a wonderful event that happens a few times a year in Los Angeles and Sacramento. A number of collectors set up at the event and offer everything from metal to hip hop. Some vendors are rather pricey, but there are some who have great deals. Besides vinyl vendors, the event also incorporates clothing vendors, performances and workshops. My favorite find from the swap in September was Pat Benatar’s Precious Time.

There are a lot of other stores that I visited this year and are great, but I just didn’t find any $1 records. However, follow the jump to see my list of record stores that I have either not visited or not spend a lot of time in. They are stores that will be added to my 2012 goal list. In the comments let me know your favorite record stores of the year. Did you find any great records for $1 or less?

Freakbeat Records: 13616 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, Calif.

I have been to this store a couple of times, but have not had the chance to fully explore its collection. I heard that they have a room dedicated entirely to $1 records, which I have not checked out. Priority #1.

Orphaned CDs: 8834 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, Calif.

While the name of this shop only acknowledges CDs, I have driven by the store and could tell that they have rows and rows of vinyl. I am not sure if they have any records for $1, but looking at the prices for some of the CDs on their website, I am guessing that they have some good deals on vinyl as well.

Vacation Vinyl: 3815 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

This is one of the more popular records stores in Los Angeles, and I am embarrassed to admit that I have yet to shop there. I know that they often have great in-store performances and carry a lot of great new vinyl, but need to find out if they have a selection of $1 records.

CD Trader: 18926 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, Calif.

This is another store in the Los Angeles area that I have heard good things about and have driven by plenty of times. Mostly out of fear of spending too much money there, I have avoided, but need to check out.

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