Sure, streaming is convenient. But you can’t flip through bins full of MP3s, and algorithms can’t beat a trusted recommendation from your friendly neighborhood clerk.
As our profile of the Arbutus Record Show suggests, there’s still an undeniable allure to vinyl. Maybe it’s the cover art, or simply the tangible object in our digital world, but vinyl record sales continued their 12-year climb in 2017, with sales topping the previous year by more than $1 million.
Whether you’re just jumping on the bandwagon or you’ve been collecting for decades, you’re sure to find something for your turntable at one of these local spots.
Baby’s On Fire
This young café-cum-record shop takes its name from a Brian Eno track, which is a pretty good indication of what you’ll find there. Match your coffee to your listening-station pick for a fun, multi-sensory experience: French pop pairs well with cafe au laits, while Fugazi begs for a double shot of Hair Bender espresso. 1010 Morton St., 443-885-9892.
Celebrated Summer Records
Looking to embrace your inner punk or hardcore headbanger? While the music inside this Hampden shop is of the messier variety, it’s also one of the best-organized record stores you’ll encounter. Check out the local section for releases from Baltimore bands like War On Women. 3616 Falls Rd., 443-866-9988.
Packed with used finds, this Fells Point hole-in-the-wall is a haven for Baltimore music-heads who love the joy of the hunt. Whether you’re into Morrissey or Memphis blues, chat with Jack about your tastes. He might just dig out something special from the back. 1709 Aliceanna St., 443-226-9628.
This Waverly record and book store has recently updated its exterior, and inside you’ll find one of the best jazz selections in town, as well as notable additions to any collection (interested in a private press of early U2 demos?). Pick co-owner Rupert’s brain for insight on the store’s ever-expanding inventory. 425 E. 31st St., 410-243-6888.
Protean Books & Records
Books, music, games, movies, and more fill this eccentric treasure trove near M&T Bank Stadium. Used records run the gamut, with Jay-Z, JFK, and Miss Piggy all having been spotted in the bins. Brave browsers can also enjoy a quick scare at the oddities museum, Dr. Gloom’s Crypt of Curiosities, located in the back. 836 Leadenhall St., 410-227-3006.
The Sound Garden
After more than a quarter century (and being named one of Rolling Stone’s top record stores in the country), this beloved Fells Point music shop still stocks an abundance of new and used vinyl of every genre and price. Keep your eyes peeled for records from local artists and your ears open for the shop’s occasional concerts. 1616 Thames St., 410-563-9011
Trax on Wax
This local gem is a classic record store experience, with a friendly staff and packed bins of new, used, and rare music. Hit the reissue section for fresh copies of old favorites, such as Bowie’s whole range of Berlin recordings. It’s also a great place for newbies to check out equipment. Ask Gary or Jeff for help—those guys know everything. 709 Frederick Rd., Catonsville, 410-869-8729.
If you’re in the Annapolis area, this solid shop hosts a sizable selection of new, reissued, and used LPs, plus live in-store performances and something good always spinning while you browse. One recent playlist included The Replacements, Leonard Cohen, and Ty Segall. 78 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, 410-571-5047.
Established by friends with a love for “raw and non-traditional” music, this Hampden haunt is the place to go for music beyond our borders. Also dubbed one of Rolling Stone’s top record shops, its truly eclectic selection includes globe-spanning sounds from the “organ king of Cairo,” Belgian avant-rockers, and the Baltimore Club scene, just to name a few. 3544 Hickory Ave., 410-235-4500. [Editor’s Note 6/11/21: True Vine remains temporarily closed.]