Here are four of the Vinyl Vagabonds' favorites in no particular order:
Celebrated Summer Records
|Hand-painted Thrash Cat action figure|
The True Vine
Also in Hampden, this two-room store on a side street off of "The Avenue" is loaded with used LPs, mostly in the rock, international, and experimental genres. True Vine's small international bin is so well maintained that you can just literally close your eyes and pick up something random and it will be a new musical experience. There is a plethora of records you've never seen, heard, or even heard of before. This can sometimes be intimidating; a shop full of mystery records. Thankfully co-owner Jason is often there when the VVers roll in. He is very engaging, super chill, and he really knows about his inventory. It's just so incredible to speak with someone who has such an encyclopedic knowledge of music from such varied genres.
El Suprimo! boasts an organized, hole-in-the-wall basement location in Fell's Point which is stocked with used records of all stripes that features strong jazz and classic rock sections. No new records here. This is the type of shop that you can walk in and just ask owner Jack what he has recently priced and recommends, and buy it without regret. When VVer #2 was in a recent jazz slump and needed something new (to her), she asked for some advice and home came some newly priced Lee Morgan and Bill Evans LPs. More recently Thelonious Monk Quartet Five by Monk by Five was recommended, but the VVers expressed some convictions about Monk being too mellow. He guaranteed this one was not mellow-Monk and delivered. This is also a place where you immediately notice great music playing over the hi-fi that you might not have heard before. This exact scenario happened a few years back while flipping through some records and there was this intense blues playing in the shop. The VVers didn't recognize who it was, and upon inquiring, were introduced to the pre-pop iteration of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. They done learnt something that day those VVers.
The Sound Garden
The Sound Garden is a mecca for new vinyl in Fell's Point. They always have a comprehensive selection of new releases, excellent prices, and (more recently) a respectable used vinyl section. Compared to the other shops on this list, the Sound Garden isn't exactly a Mom and Pop shop, but it is definitely run right (their other location is just as stellar in Syracuse, NY). As one would expect from the city where Record Store Day was conceived, they put on an unparalleled event; lots of giveaways, well organized records, and tons of vinyl special releases and backstock. They host frequent in-store performances/signings and are a must-visit for any vinyl head. As a larger store experience, it is unparalleled for selection, customer service, and general awesomeness. It should also be noted that they carry a wide array of movies, music of the non-vinyl variety, and all sorts of other thingers. You'll also do pretty well if you should decide to trade in for cash or credit. Places like this are fewer and fewer these days and it is refreshing to find yourself in a shop that really is the total package. The amount of records that have come from the Sound Garden in the VVer's collection amasses to a list too long to enumerate. High-five!
Looking for a music mecca? Baltimore is where it's at.