San Diego Record Store Guide
A comprehensive look at record shops in America's Finest City
There was a time when record stores were it, the real deal, a completely respectable if not downright cool way to spend your Friday night. This was a time when you couldn’t pick up a CD with your Starbucks latte, download music to your laptop while brushing your teeth, or worse, betray the entire music industry by burning it all from a friend’s computer. That’s right, there was a time when record stores were the only option for getting your hands on the latest tunes and the experience of shopping for music was often revered as sacred. A visit to the record store was an activity that one looked forward to; savoring the time spent mulling through stacks of dusty records in search of an obscure EP or waiting in line at midnight for a new release. The staff was always effortlessly cool and though strongly opinionated, could undoubtedly give better band recommendations than your iTunes store.
So in an ode to the glory days of record stores we are taking a look at the best places to score some new tunes in San Diego. Here are a few stores that are still fueling the San Diego music scene by selling records the good old fashioned way.
Lou’s Records is one of San Diego’s oldest, if not most well known record stores. Established in 1980, Lou’s has been a mecca for San Diego music fans for over 30 years; however, in December 2010 the once expansive store was forced to consolidate in order to evolve with the shifting industry. Despite the store’s smaller space, Lou’s doesn’t have a narrowed music selection. Instead, the store strives to serve the needs of every kind of music aficionado, from the high school rocker looking for the latest Angels and Airwaves CD, to your full blown vinyl junkie. Needless to say, Lou’s is your quintessential record store, still selling music like the good old days with posters on the wall and the occasional in-store performance or signing. Whether you’re looking to relive the excitement felt from after school trips to the record store, or are a member of the younger generation intrigued by the glorified scenes in Nick Hornby novels or Empire Records, this is your one stop shop.
434 N Coast Highway 101 (760) 753-1382
Off The Record
Off The Record is a smaller record store located in the heart of North Park owned by a husband and wife team. This cozy independent store is usually overseen by a single staff member, and though small, carries a decent selection of CDs and vinyl. For those who seek the thrill of finding a rare album on vinyl or are looking to trade in their old records, this is your answer. Off The Record proudly specializes in providing San Diego with new and used quality vinyl. In addition, Off The Record also offers the unique service of converting vinyl to CDs. While vinyl fanatics may find the mere thought sacrilegious, sometimes convenience trumps sound quality. After all, you can’t put your favorite record on at the gym.
2912 University Avenue (619) 298-4755
Mission Hills hotspot, M-Theory Music, is clearly a product of true music lovers. Their goal is to turn people on to new music and they promise that at no point during your visit will you have to flip through 15 used Britney Spears CDs to find what you are looking for. The store carries CDs, vinyl, DVDs in nearly every genre, and to help your discover the best new addition to your music collection, M-Theory offers several listening stations throughout the store. Watch out though, while this ensures you never take home a bad album, it can also mean that you leave with your wallet feeling a little lighter than you anticipated. If listening stations aren’t enough to hook you, M-Theory regularly hosts signings and in-store performances. Bands including Broken Social Scene, The Hold Steady, and Black Lips have all graced M-Theory’s small but cozy store, wooing both new and loyal listeners with intimate sets.
915 West Washington Street (619) 220-0485
Thirsty Moon Records
With a name like Thirsty Moon Records it comes as no surprise that this store is a destination for all sounds obscure. This Hillcrest based record store is as unique as the music it sells. Owned by two self-proclaimed record collectors, Thirsty Moon features only the most unusual selection of retro sounds, featuring punk, psychedelic, garage, jazz, metal and funk. Here “common” is a curse word, and those who shop at Thirsty Moon are more than likely looking for albums that would probably draw blank stares from a typical record store staff. While Thirsty Moon does hold occasional in-store performances like a conventional record store, even their events generally break the mold of “usual.” Readers of Thirsty Moon’s blog can snag invites to special events such as store barbeques, complete with DJs spinning the latest (or in Thirsty Moon’s case the oldest) vinyl featured at the store. What better way to discover a new band than while enjoying a free burger in the company of other equally impassioned music lovers.
525 Evans Place (619) 542-1500
What do you get when you put two senior citizens with a sense of humor in charge of a record store? The answer is Nickelodeon Records. The owners of Nickelodeon Records, Elizabeth Scarborough and Ruth Bible, claim that customers return time and again to their Normal Heights storefront to check out new music and to simply confirm that the two are still alive. Vinyl is the only way Scarborough and Bible listen to music and that is the only way they sell it. You’ll find a plethora of rare albums, at this vinyl-only store. These ladies have a penchant for supporting hometown labels, so don’t be surprised if you find records from all kinds of local outlets, including your local neighborhood
3335 Adams Avenue (619) 284-6083