It was back in the late 80s and early 90s when vinyl was declared dead and that the CD would rule forever. Since then, we’ve had Napster, iTunes, ringtones, Spotify, and the death of Tower Records, HMV, and Sam the Record Man (except the one in Belleville). Now, digital downloads are on the decline, subscription services are up, vinyl sales are way up, and CDs are still holding on strong.
In Kingston, we’ve had to say goodbye to House of Sounds, Turk’s, Vinyl Vendor/Erehwon Trading Post/The Jungle, Sunrise Records, and the aforementioned chains, but Brian’s Record Option and Zap Records have remained for decades.
Brian’s is probably the most infamous store in Kingston. Vinyl is, in some cases, literally piled floor to ceiling, and there 100s of cassettes, CDs, books, and posters, all of varying condition. Brian Lipsin is notorious for knowing where everything is in this store of over 20,000 inventory items. There really isn’t one genre that isn’t represented in this store, and if you can handle the chaos, you can find some truly great gems.
Zap Records is a much smaller outfit that generally goes for quality over quantity. You can find some incredible classic records in great shape at a fair price, plus a lot of new releases. Gary, the owner, also hosts the Kingston Record Show every spring, which attracts about a dozen vinyl sellers.
Urban Outfitters is the place to go if for some reason you want the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack or the latest from SZA on vinyl. You can usually pick up re-issues of standards Dark Side of the Moon or Abbey Road, but generally speaking this is NOT a record store and it entirely lacks in character and eccentricity that a good record store should have.
Art Noise is the kind of place that audiophiles will lose their mind about. This poll is not about gear, but these guys manufacture (locally!) some truly impressive audio gear. They also have a small selection of records which are all 100% analogue, which is really the point of buying vinyl. Vance Joy and Sam Smith and other modern artists are recording everything completely digital, then releasing their albums on vinyl, so they’ll never, ever sound as good as anything put to tape. But that’s another topic.
Now and Then is the west end’s only place to buy vinyl, and it rose out of the ashes of HMV in the same location at the Cataraqui Centre. It’s a step above Urban Outfitters, but still well below Brian’s and Zap in that you won’t find anything here you can’t find nearly anywhere else. Still, it’s a great way to kill time in the mall and they have lots of other music and movies to browse through if the vinyl selection isn’t cutting it.
Apart from these full time stores, there is also the twice-annual Kingston Symphony Record Sale. Picker’s World, across from the Ambassador Hotel, used to have a decent selection, but it’s gone now, too. Of course, you never what you’ll find at your neighbourhood yard sale, but I’m always amazed at how many people, at one time in their lives, purchased Mary Poppins albums.
Where is your favourite place to shop for vinyl? If we missed something (in Kingston) please let us know in the comments!