Having recently purchased a lovely new record player (a pretty awesome Pro-ject Debut), my passion for rifling though dusty records has been rekindled. In a city like London, there are plenty of places for this…unless you have my music taste, that is. Along with a lot of other genres (check out my last.fm), I tend to like heavier genres like noise rock, alternative/post-metal, post-rock and basically newer stuff than most record stores tend to focus on. So although there are lots of shops that cater for classic rock, soul, jazz, dance records, I’m a little fussier, but here’s my list for anyone interested in more alternative stuff or just vinyl as a whole.
Rough Trade East/West
I guess I better start with Rough Trade, it being pretty much the most iconic independent record store in London. To be honest, I’m not a massive fan of these shops. I really liked the small basement store in Covent Garden before the East was built, but these two leave me kinda cold.
The branch on Portobello Road, seems to me a bit of a tourist trap. Although I’m aware that prices of vinyl have increased, I find the prices here particularly ridiculous. Every new release seemed to be around £16/17+, £22 for double LPs. These kinds of priced for bog standard new releases doesn’t really sit well with me.
Buuuut, Rough Trade East is massive. If you want an independent record shop in London, then it’s pretty hard to ignore, especially if you find yourself in the Brick Lane area. The shop itself is nice, airy and bright, with a coffee shop and also a good book section. As well as this, they also do lots of free in-store gigs and events, which are always worth a look.
Flashback Records – Crouch End, Essex Road
Pretty perfect for all your indie buying needs. The Crouch End branch is very small and cosy but packed full of records. Somewhat oddly located but a nice and friendly shop anyway.
The Essex Road branch is hands down brilliant. Reasonably priced new and used stock, with a big basement of older records downstairs. Of the shops listed here this is probably my favourite. A really good metal section and good prices, as well as friendly staff, is pretty much what I want a record shop. This branch also in-store gigs and events, so worth checking the website.
Both also have a good range of second-hand DVDs and music books.
Music and Video Exchange – Camden, Notting Hill, Berwick Street, Greenwich
I’m a big fan of these shops. The Notting Hill shop has a rock/pop store, and a separate (excellent) classical and soul, jazz and dance shop. They’re pretty extensive, so you should be fairly guaranteed to find a genre you like. As well as all the usuals, most of the branches include sections such as Avante Garde/Experimental, Post Rock, Alternative Metal.
Of the chain, my favourite is the Greenwich branch. Slightly smaller but also quieter and considerably cheaper. They have a good post-rock and alternative metal section, and of the other shops, I’ve found the most interesting records in here. The Camden branch, probably being the weakest – a little more expensive and the stock isn’t updated as often.
As is the downside of every second hand shop, there can be very little consistency. One week you might find a treasure trove of stuff you like, the next few weeks nothing. However one good thing is they are always reducing their prices, so a record you might consider buying one week might be a £1 cheaper the next time you go in. Obviously, always good.
Sister Ray, Berwick Street
Having been of fan of the now sadly closed sister store Selectadisc in Nottingham, this store always makes me feel nostalgic. Unfortunately it’s not quite as good as Selectadisc and I’ve heard from a few sources that the quality of this store has declined. In terms of genres, again, it’s pretty extensive with a large new releases and 7″ section. However, their vinyl stock isn’t as good as their CD selection, especially for metal. Also, like Rough Trade they divide their stock between British/American/World, which I personally find annoying.
The area around the shop houses quite a few other record stores, although genres I’m not interested in, you might want to check out Sounds of the Universe for dub and reggae, and Phonica for dance.
Fopp, Covent Garden
I love Fopp. It’s pretty much impossible to buy just one thing in their stores, you always come away with a bag filled with stuff. This flagship store has a small selection of vinyl, along with their awesome DVD, CD and book collection. The vinyl selection mainly has the popular indie stuff but they also do lots of random bargains.
The most outwardly alternative of the shops listed here. The shop mainly deals with CDs but there is a vinyl section downstairs. Once you’ve worked out when it’s actually open and that you have to ring the bell to get in, you’ll find a small, but perfectly formed shop with a very informed owner.
Although, located slightly far out, in leafy Highgate, Second Layer is definitely worth a visit for those who like noise, experimental and avant garde.
HMV Oxford Street
Yup, really. This massive store has always had a surprisingly decent vinyl section, but now they have increased the size and placed it in a more prominent position. Yeah, it’s good for all your Adele/classical rock buying needs but I’ve actually found quite a few good random finds in here. The last time I went in, they had lots of new metal stock and quite a few special editions. Surprisingly worth a look.