Nashville's Best Record Stores
Crate digging for records in Nashville can have many different flavors. Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s important to choose the right record store to visit. Luckily, the stores in the city have embraced their niche audiences and found personalities to survive while selling vinyl in 2015.
Before we get to the list, we’d like to mention that our shopping habits are much more skewed to the side of buying used product. Occasionally we’ll pick up a brand new release on the way home from work, but both of us prefer to hit two or three stores in an afternoon and spend some time sorting through the used sections. Keep this in mind as you read the rankings-- your record shopping style might be different.
5. Grimey's New & Preloved Music
By embracing its identity as a hub for both live and recorded music, Grimey’s has established itself as one of the best record stores in Nashville and has a huge following with casual collectors. Its partner venue, The Basement, hosts local acts in a cozy spot just beneath the racks of fresh-cut vinyl, and bands can regularly be seen playing in the store itself. But, as a shop, how does it stand up? Just okay, in our opinion.
For a long time, the vinyl in Grimey’s was smashed into frustratingly small racks with the used section relegated to a tiny room near the back of the shop. Luckily, the recent addition of Grimey’s Too next door has alleviated most of this browsing pain. While it’s great to pick up day-of new releases in the main store, Grimey’s Too is really what sets this store apart. The fantastic selection of music books and used merchandise in Too makes a stop worthwhile when we would have otherwise passed over the known quantity of the Grimey’s main store.
4. The Groove
One thing that can almost guarantee return trips for any record collector is a freshly stocked new arrivals section for the shop’s used vinyl. The Groove has hit a particularly lucrative vein in obtaining these used records with its location in the heart of East Nashville.
While there is an ample availability of Record Store Day releases, the selection of top quality pre-owned records from the past decade sets this store apart from the others. Little real estate is given to overpriced, out-of-date box sets that line the walls of other stores, which is a refreshing change. And, something increasingly important in ever-growing Nashville, The Groove’s neighborhood always seems to have ample parking. (Most importantly, you won’t be backing out blind onto 8th Avenue, like Grimey’s.)
3. Fond Object
The first time we walked into Fond Object, we discovered that there were sections seemingly designed for each of us: the LP shelves along each wall were packed with 80s New Wave, Goth, and Pop while the 45s were loaded with girl groups and the country section stacked. We both left with armfuls of records that we only ever saw on eBay or Discogs before. While the prices are a little on the high side, the genre selection and availability of rarities are some of the best in the city.
Every collector eventually comes to a point where they ask themselves why they don’t just buy all of their stuff online and have it delivered to their doorstep. Currently, almost everything is priced with eBay in mind, so it would be much easier to search for what you want and have it shipped to you at about the same cost as an in-store purchase. Without getting into a discussion about the experience of in-store shopping and how it is superior to online shopping, there is something uniquely special about finding almost every Siouxsie and the Banshees 12” single and taking them home with you under your arm. It is a simple joy that Fond Object can provide every time.
2. The Great Escape - Madison
We decided to single out the Madison store over the Charlotte branch for a few reasons: mainly because the Charlotte store is a little more out of the way for us, a little pricier, and seems to keep a lot of stale stock in the bins. The Madison location is the perfect example of when a store’s supposed shortcomings add up to make every trip a bit more enjoyable.
A key point of evaluation for record stores is always the regularity and quality of stock rotation. Because of how relatively small The Great Escape’s Madison store is, the best records rise to the top. Their “Collector and Audiophile” wall is constantly being changed as stuff comes in, the New Arrivals seem to be rotated every week, and the 45s are kept neatly alphabetized. They can’t afford to keep every beat-up Pat Boone album in a bin because they’ll be bringing something better into that spot on, most likely, the very same day. And if nothing strikes your fancy that your particular week, pick up a few Super Nintendo cartridges, some comic books, and come back next week.
1. Phonoluxe Records
Open only on the weekends. Dauntingly huge. Tight aisles. Phonoluxe seems to test our patience every week, but we keep coming back.
As the internet took over the music market, record stores were forced to take the bait and start selling anything good on their own online stores. It was sometimes the only way to move the product and make a small profit. Like The Great Escape’s Madison store, Phonoluxe uses this disadvantage in purchasing habits to its own benefit.
By limiting the time that the store is open, Phonoluxe becomes a destination every weekend. Every Friday feels like the debut of everything they found that week; every section refreshed with new finds and old stand-bys. The “3 for $5” bins underneath each genre rack are perfect places for new buyers to start their own collections without wading through Goodwill’s pile of thrift store junk. Everybody should probably own a copy of Jackson Browne’s Late For the Sky, and Phonoluxe will sell it to you for $5 packaged with The Power Station’s self-titled debut and Pretenders 2. Phonoluxe is the best record store in Nashville--and it’s hardly a contest.
Hometown Honorable Mentions:
Elizabeth's Records - Columbus, OH
Extremely organized, incredible selection of general rock albums, pre-evaluated condition markings, stickers on the plastic sleeve and not the record. What makes this store even more special is the young shop host and namesake, Elizabeth, who loves cats and chatting with customers along with her very friendly parents. She also picks the shop soundtrack most of the time. -- Laura
Zia Records - Phoenix, AZ and surrounding areas
While Zia Records has continued to grow with the recent success of vinyl, the independent spirit can still be found in every location. The Chandler location was a bi-weekly stop on a perfect route from leaving my high school, picking up my paycheck from F.Y.E., stopping at the bank, and then spending a ludicrous amount of money in their awesome used section. -- Casey
Car City Records - Detroit, MI (R.I.P.)
A mystical place where the $1 record aisle actually meant something. Lots and lots of Motown, and their incredible prices helped me boost my collection as a young’un until the store met an untimely demise due to some credit card technicality in 2011. -- Laura
Eastside Records - Tempe, AZ (R.I.P., recently reborn)
Even though Eastside Records seems to be trapped in relocation limbo, wherever the staff and their collection winds up is packed with the best Punk, Metal, and Alternative records from all decades. Their most recent location is also right next to my favorite nerd-haven and Magic: The Gathering battleground, Pop Culture Paradise. -- Casey