Need something to do this weekend? Here are five off-the-beaten-track record stores that will have you dusting off your turntable in no time.
StylusRecords, Unit 99 in the alley behind 291 East 2nd Avenue
There’s nothing better than the feeling you’ve stumbled onto something before the rest of the world has discovered it. Welcome, then, to StylusRecords, which, thanks to its location in a basement off an industrial-flats alley near Main and 2nd, doesn’t exactly get a bounty of street traffic.
All the better for crate-diggers looking for something more than another 20 straight-from-the-Sally-Ann copies Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits. Owner Thomas Macaulay has started Stylus with a good chunk of his own private vinyl collection—which is great, because his taste in music is as fine as it is epically varied.
Hence, you’ll unearth everything from Skinny Puppy’s Remission to the Stooges’ Raw Power to Jurassic 5’s Quality Control. In the future, Stylus hopes to carry new releases, but for now the underground—literally—shop’s walls feature the kind of vintage-vinyl treasure trove you’ve hit a million garage sales hoping to find. Sometimes, you run across something great. Get to StylusRecords before someone beats you to that copy of the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society.
Afterward, head down to the Red Truck brewery, a block or so away, to gloat over the fact that you now own New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies—on vinyl, of course, instead of a shitty MP3.
Audiopile, 2016 Commercial Drive
Expertly curated stock and a perpetually buzzy atmosphere, all inside a space the size of a public washroom—that’s the Audiopile experience. If Mount Pleasant is spoiled for record stores, this is the Drive’s ground zero for everything you need.
Expect to bump into and then squeeze past an array of local notables on your way to the all-important new-arrivals section, the persistent hum of record talk providing inspiration as you track down that copy of Big Youth’s Screaming Target you’ve coveted for the last decade and a half.
Word to the wise: a lot of Audiopile’s customers forget about the overflow cabinets underneath its main bins. You could pick up that pristine 4 Men With Beards reissue of Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, but there’s probably a dozen used originals tucked away at less than half the price.
Pacific Rhythm, 441 Gore Avenue
What started as a mail-order business to cater to Vancouver’s thriving underground dance-music scene expanded into a brick-and-mortar store on the edge of Chinatown earlier this year. With a strong focus on local acts, the shop specializes in 12-inch dance-music singles, and when it opened it was the first of its kind in Vancouver in nearly a decade.
Today, Pacific Rhythm is the de facto clubhouse for the local dance-music scene. And with good reason, as it’s thoughtfully stocked with every track you need for your next warehouse party by owner-operators Derek Duncan (aka DJ D.Dee, one of your favourite local selectors) and Dane Brown (aka a co-owner of Bestie, your favourite currywurst joint).
It’s also a label: their Rhythms of the Pacific compilations are highly recommended for all DJs aspiring to be on Boiler Room one day or anyone with an interest in local music.
Dandelion Records & Emporium, 2442 Main Street
There’s an eye for detail at work in this narrow store. Jeff Knowlton and Laura Frederick, the husband-and-wife team behind Dandelion, share a background in design, and it shows.
Up front are gift-primed items—handmade jewellery, oddball board games, macrame keychains, urban honey, Mexican chocolate—that would seem random if they didn’t have a certain sharp aesthetic in common. And the vinyl-only music selection that makes up the back two-thirds of the space is just as carefully curated.
The wall displays, racks, and boxes neatly arranged on the wooden floor are wide-ranging and remarkably dud-free. Whether you’re searching with purpose among Dandelion’s specialties (prog, psych, and krautrock, to name a few), or happy to let yourself run into the unexpected pleasure of a Bollywood disco collection or a global survey of folk-rock, you won’t need to hack through a lot of scabby old Doobie Brothers castoffs to come up with real gems.
And if you’re unsure whether something in particular is for you, they’ll be glad to play it over the house system.