There was no pausing, playlists or shuffle, and skipping was an acquired skill. To find new music you went to the record store and flipped through rows of albums with artwork larger than life, or at least bigger than the thumbnails that album covers live in today. While shopping for music now consists of monthly subscription fees and Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, the bygone pastime of sifting through stacks of albums remains alive in Boston today. There are numerous record stores across the greater Boston area, each with its own personal flavor and musical specialty: below are five essential stops for vinylphiles in Boston.
In Your Ear Records
With two locations in Boston, one amidst the BU and BC campuses and the other in the heart of Harvard Square, In Your Ear has been distracting students from their textbooks for decades. Take a walk down the stairs into the basements where In Your Ear resides and one may quickly get the sense that they are drowning in vinyl—a feeling that is a testament to the sheer quantity of selection housed within. Take a hint from the students who passed through before you and spend some time thumbing through the collection of this musical institution.
Beneath the giant Citgo sign that brings Kenmore Square light stands another Boston landmark: Nuggets Record Store. Since it’s founding in 1978, Nuggets has persisted as one of the city’s most popular destinations for vinyl. Evidence of the stores rock and roll eminence can be seen on the walls, which are adorned with records signed by the musical heroes who have thumbed through Nuggets’ selection. In addition to the usual fare of vinyl, cassettes and CDs, there is a selection of books and a wealth of information, conversation and stories to be had from Stewart, the longhaired proprietor.
While many record stores may appear as cramped and disorderly as the attics from which their selection comes, Stereo Jack’s in Porter Square is a standout exception. With its wide aisles and its well-kept and carefully curated shelves, Stereo Jack’s is a strong representation of what a record shopping would have been like in the golden days of vinyl. Blues, jazz, and big band swing are specialties here.
Orpheus Performing Arts
Descending into Orpheus is akin to stepping off a Viennese side street and into a family music store. As you pass through the Comm. Ave. doors in Back Bay, you’ll hear the wavering falsetto of an opera or the crescendo of strings in a classical symphony. While no larger than a pair of cramped rooms, every inch of Orpheus’ floor and wall space is filled with CDs, records and sheet music alike. Don’t come here if you’re looking for Springsteen or The Beatles, but if you want Stravinsky and Berlioz, this is your store.
Newbury Comics is one of Boston’s best musical success stories. Founded as a comic books store in 1978 by a pair of MIT students, Newbury Comics quickly turned into a haven for quirky pop-culture products. Since it began selling records, cassettes and CDs, Newbury Comics has established and maintained itself as Boston’s premier modern music store. Stop into one of the many stores across the greater Boston area to browse their wide collection of new vinyl from both current and classic artists.
All images ©Alex Oliveira