WE ALL LOVE ITUNES. But there are plenty of ditties missing from its 8.5-million-song library, like Carl Carlton’s “Everlasting Love,” Elton John’s 1997 version of “Candle in the Wind,” or, hell, every Beatles masterpiece. And a mouse is no substitute for a fanatical employee when it comes to helping you spend wisely. That’s why brick-and-mortar shops still matter, especially in Portland, which has more record stores per capita than any other U.S. city. These four have stayed true to the music—and their rabid fan bases—and remind us that iTunes ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.
This new-music headquarters isn’t too cool to carry, say, the latest CD by Madonna. But it does tend toward the obscure, so to help fans decide which next-best-thing is worth the cash, it hosts in-store gigs for pop-punk bands like Boston Spaceships and metal rockers like Genghis Tron. This way, you can sample the bands’ wares in person and put those 30-second iTunes snippets to shame.
Open for 39 years, it’s the oldest music store in the Northwest and stocks around 100,000 titles on CD, LP, 45, and cassette. It’s also host to Oregon’s only dedicated shop for classical music. In this adjoining space, purists can revel in rare recordings by maestros like Leonard Bernstein, and rest assured this regal genre hasn’t gone the way of the eight-track.
Vinyl-curious types flock to this Southeast Portland retailer because it’s easy to go old-school here. Invest $50 in one of the shop’s many restored turntables and then take a tour of its exhaustive LP collection. You will discover recordings that can’t be found on CD, many by well-known artists such as jazz guitarist Leo Kottke.
This 10,000-square-foot favorite spends around $1,000 a day buying used CDs from iPod converts. This allows you to score cheap secondhand discs that may be missing from your collection, like, say, Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut, Ten. On iTunes, it costs $9.99; here it goes for as low as $2.50. That’s a deal, dude.