Guest article by Gino Barasa
There’s a vinyl revolution going on out there and Austin is neck deep in it. What once was relegated to hard core audio nerds and fans of the John Cusack/Jack Black cult classic movie High Fidelity has become – *gasp!* – trendy.
Cool new chic bars and hipster stores not only spin albums, but display and sell them. There’s even an official National Record Store Day (April 18th, get ready!). Every act that rolls through the Moody Theater or the Back Yard has a fat stack of vinyl goodness ready for you to take home.
Top 5 Reasons to Own Vinyl
#5 – Because a shelf full of CD’s only serves to make you look nerdy. Not in the cool nerdy way, but in the out-of-touch nerdy way. A wall filled with albums immediately gives you +5 points for taste and coolness.
#4 – Your digital downloads will not appreciate in value. Albums, when properly maintained, increase in worth better than blue chip stocks. My advice? Dump your IRA and get bullish on The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
#3 – There’s no way you can impress a girl more than dropping the needle on some Percy Sledge and letting “When a Man Loves a Woman” fill the air. How are you getting anywhere near that effect with your MP3 player?
#2 – Liner Notes. I know. CD’s have them too. Have you tried reading the liner notes on a CD? You need the Hubble telescope to do it. An album lets you sink in and get comfy with your favorite artist. Liner Notes were like the Wikipedia of the 1970’s.
#1 – Album Artwork. When a recording artist puts together an album, they put almost as much energy into the artwork as they do the music. On a CD, you barely even get a taste. It’s like going to Franklin’s BBQ and waiting in line for a piece of Wonder Bread. Why would you do that? The album, for sure the double album and especially the super rare triple album (see: Woodstock) give you artwork as it was intended by the artist. You may now enjoy the music with the proper physical manifestation of said music as the artist wished it.
Okay. So we agree. Records are awesome, and it’s important that we start getting serious about collecting the essential albums of our lifetime right away. The next question is, where can you go to get them in Austin?
Top 4 Austin Record Stores
#4 Waterloo Records
Waterloo Records is an Austin staple for music. They have the largest selection of records in Austin, not to mention everything from a huge selection of t-shirts and other music related paraphernalia, to live music and a large and knowledgeable staff. Waterloo is the Starbucks of record stores. If you want it, they probably have it.
Another great reason to shop at Waterloo? Amy’s Ice Cream is immediately behind them and Whole Foods is right across the street. Buy a few albums, slam some ‘cream at Amy’s and then pick up some locally brewed ale or nice bottle of red at Whole Foods. Now you’re ready to head home for an evening of spinning your new wax. If you have cool friends, bring them along. But only if they’re cool.
600A N Lamar Blvd – Website
#3 Breakaway Records
Run by Gabe Vaughn and Josh LaRue, Breakaway is a true neighborhood record store. You can find treasure here all the time. They have a huge assortment of 45’s and even some cool music posters and old school record players to choose from. Their stock moves pretty quickly, which makes frequently returning worth your while. After years of looking, I found a mono recording of the Beach Boys seminal album Pet Sounds innocently sitting on a shelf. From Miles Davis to Shakey Graves and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Breakaway Records always has high quality albums at reasonable prices.
Another good reason to stop by Breakaway Records? They are in the same parking lot as Blue Velvet Vintage Clothing and Epoch Coffee. So if you really want to pick up on what James Brown was putting down, you can get on the scene with appropriate threads and get highly caffeinated before you drop the needle on your latest finds.
211 W North Loop Blvd – Website
#2 Antone’s Record Shop
I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about Antone’s? You know what? Antone’s deserves to have its own Top 5 list of reasons to love them.
#5 – It’s named after an Austin icon and music legend, Clifford Antone, who opened this store right across the street from what was once the location of his famous music club.
#4 – It’s right off the Drag. In other words, if you can’t walk to whatever you need from the store you probably don’t need it anyway.
#3 – One of the current owners is the original drummer for Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mike Buck!
#2 – Another one of their current owners is Eve Monsees from Eve & The Exiles! (I know I’m using too many exclamation points here, but come on!) Easily the best looking record store owner…ever.
#1 – Did I mention the part about Clifford, Mike and Eve? I did? Okay, cool. Well there you go.
Open since 1987, Antone’s has a quality assortment of t-shirts, posters and books, and of course everything you want in music. They specialize in Blues and local music, keeping the same feel Clifford originally intended. Mike and Eve, married since 2010, work hard to keep the shop true to Clifford’s original vision.
2928 Guadalupe St – Website
#1 End of an Ear
You could easily make an argument that Antone’s and Friends of Sound are the best record stores in Austin. They are both great stores. But by a nose, End of an Ear gets my #1 vote. Here are my Top 5 reasons why:
#5 – They have original movie posters as well as local art on the walls that you can purchase.
#4 – Multiple listening stations to check out the records. Every store has a few, but the Ear has a bunch of them.
#3 – In the back, they have easily the best assortment of quality used record players, amps and speakers. I bought my old school Sanyo TP747 record player, Akai 1175 Stereo Amp receiver and the Pioneer CS903 speakers from them and they all sound amazing. Blake Carlisle, one of the owners, took a lot of time to help me pick out just the right setup. They also service what they sell.
#2 – They have a huge selection of high quality records. I have never bought a record here that didn’t play perfectly when I got it home.
#1 – The best prices in town. They are always a few bucks cheaper than the other stores on new records and they lean towards a few bucks more when they buy your records.
4304 Clawson Road – Website
Hidden Bonus Track: South Austin Gallery
South Austin Gallery isn’t really a record store, but Jennifer and Joseph Worth always carry a milk carton or two of good records at amazingly good prices. They have a ton of great local photography to check out, so either way you’ll always be glad you stopped by.
507A W Mary St – Website
So when you’re in the mood for some serious vinyl gratification, take a second to appreciate the fact that you’re in the right city at the right time to fill your LP jones. If you’re ready to get it on with Marvin Gaye, or whip it good with DEVO, or even if you just feel misunderstood by Wilco, you can get your fix at any of these amazing musical wonderlands in Austin.
Gino Barasa is a local photographer and native Texan. His real love is finding ways to capture the city of Austin. His work can be viewed on his website at 1138Studios.com.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite record store in Austin and why?