Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hand me down the music

Toronto has always been one of my favourite Ontario cities for its widespread arts and entertainment community. When visiting last week, I decided to do something I've always wanted -- to go on a "used record shop hop" in the city! Like most music fans, it's important to me to have a hard copy of what I listen to. With the rise of big box music stores such as HMV, and online stores like iTunes, it's not always easy to find what I'm looking for.

I did some research before setting out on my adventure, and, thanks to OurFaves, was able to compile a list of record stores in the same area. Toronto is huge, but, even still, I never realized I'd find so many music stores on one street! Queen St. W is definitely the place to be if you're a music and memorabilia lover! I must have gone to about ten different independent stores, and found the following four most unique:

Kops Records / Vintage Sounds (229 Queen St. W): Two record shops in one sounds pretty cool, if you ask me! While Kops houses a collection of contemporary vinyl, Vintage Sounds, located upstairs, has piles upon piles of boxes of 45s and LPs from the 50s to the 90s. Being a big Tori Amos fan, I was set on coming across something unique for my collection in my record shop visits. It was my first time at a mostly vinyl store, and, not entirely sure where to start digging, I asked assistance of the elderly man working there. I was excited when he knew exactly where to look, and handed me two hard to find 45s! The prices were great, too -- $3.99 each.

Moog Audio (442 Queen St. W): An interesting store, especially for those who are interested in working with vinyl. Although Moog carries a selection of records, they also sell a wide range of equipment. The layout of the store is very modern, with stations set up in an open space -- you are able to choose from a selection of unique records to test out various turntables and other DJing equipment. Not quite what I was looking for, but it was still neat place. The staff is very knowledgeable, so it would definitely be worth the visit if you're thinking about picking up a turntable.

Criminal Records (493 Queen St. W): There were actually quite a few music stores on Queen St. W that I hadn't seen listed online, and Criminal Records was one of them. The name was hilarious, though, so I had to check it out! I recall a few steps or a ramp leading down into Criminal, and the lights were dimmed toward the back of the store where the independent music and vinyl was located -- what a great underground feel! Closer to the front of the store were contemporary records. Criminal also had a large selection of vintage band t-shirts -- unfortunately I wasn't able to purchase any because I haven't robbed a bank lately! ;) I'll definitely have to go back when I have more money. Overall, Criminal Records had a great selection of music and memorabilia! Best of all? It's legal!

Neurotica (642 Queen St. W): This was the last store I visited, and I was pretty impressed. It was well organized considering the small amount of space and large amount of product... music was literally spilling out onto the street -- there were CDs arranged on shelves outside the store. Inside, CDs were arranged around the perimeter of the store, as well as on shelves hanging on the walls. A large vinyl section is located in the middle of the store, and is nicely organized on racks rather than in the usual boxes. There was so much stuff that I wanted to buy at Neurotica! I was happy to find a few CDs I'd wanted to check out, but hadn't seen at any other used store I've been to -- The Tragically Hip's Road Apples, Sinéad O'Connor's The Lion And The Cobra, and Suzanne Vega's Nine Objects of Desire. $7.95 each -- not a bad price for some great finds! You've got to be careful when paying though because Neurotica's counter is partially made up of a very high pile of CDs, tapes, and DVDs! Oh, and a secret shopping tip... if you make conversation with whoever's working while you're at Neurotica, they'll give you a 10% off card for your next visit!

If you've never gone on a used record shop hop, I recommend it! Definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon, not to mention a great way to support independent music stores.


  1. I've been to a few stores like this, London has a couple. I usually just look through everything and don't buy. I guess I'm contributing to Itunes taking over.. whoops!

  2. Dr.Disc in Windsor is a great local place but I've also been top Criminal Records lately and it is just plain fantastic. such an awesome vinyl selection! and really an emphasis on the underground as you mentioned. glad you had fun in Toronto!

  3. I love Dr. Disc, but warn people to be wary about collectible purchases made there because they tend to sell fakes for high prices. I have found a lot of awesome stuff there, though!