Record Stores in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville

Discussion in 'Music, Movie and Hardware Store Guide' started by uzn007, Sep 26, 2018.

  1. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat Thread Starter

    Location:
    Baja Virginia
    I'm going to be visiting this weekend. Lived there for 25 years but moved away five years ago and am wondering if there are any new places I should check out. I'm familiar with all the old standards (In Your Ear, Nuggets, Planet Records, etc.). I've been focusing on prog rock and krautrock lately but would check out any place that has a good selection and reasonable prices.
     
  2. cut-out

    cut-out Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA, USA
    Blue Bag Records on Mass. Ave in North Cambridge (short walk from Davis T stop) is great! Also check out Somerville Grooves in Union Square (Somerville, obviously).
     
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  3. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    No Krautrock there, but if I was anywhere nearby I would always make time to go to Stereo Jack's.
     
  4. SonOFJames

    SonOFJames Active Member

    Location:
    SoCal
    I sure missed my yearly trip to Looney Tunes for a couple years, but word is they reopened last year in Allston ? If anyone visits let us know how the new location is and if the same owner is around (very nice guy).

    But a trip to Jacks (10 minute walk from Cambridge square) usually is good as well. If your a good customer he might even buy you ice cream : )

    Last time I visited there was allot of good new vinyl at Newbury (The store near Berklee).
     
  5. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    The new Looney Tunes is at the corner of Harvard and Cambridge in the basement of a former firehouse. Pat still owns it.
     
  6. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat Thread Starter

    Location:
    Baja Virginia
    Is it still open? I've heard conflicting reports. Didn't make it to Allston on this trip.
     
  7. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Yes it’s open, the hours on Google are accurate but they lack a web presence. Some good finds, but be prepared if you go back, it’s cash only!

    To anyone else wondering, some other newish shops of note are Village Vinyl in Brookline Village, a bit higher priced but a good selection of classic rock, early jazz pressings, Japanese pressings, and early Audiophile pressings. Nice staff there too. Also if anyone likes hip-hop or dance music, Vinyl Index, right across the street from Sommerville Grooves is filling that mich needed niche pretty well. That shop is run by 7L from Czarface among others.

    Always worth checking out Planet Records and Armeggedon in Harvard Square too, as well as all the suggestions above like Blue Bag. Most of the classic Boston stores (IYE, Nuggets, Cheapo) have devolved into an even bigger mess with the vinyl boom, it’s worth popping in mostly to see the new arrivals as the stacks don’t rotate stock too much.
     
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  8. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Couple clarifications: Vinyl Index is in the new shopping complex Bow Market, which is actually a couple blocks away from Somerville Grooves. They carry a fair amount of indie and experimental stuff along with the hip-hop and dance, but you're not going to find a lot of classic rock. Fair warning: they're only open Thursday-Sunday.

    Also: Cheapo has a new manager and is both carrying a lot more new stock and has blown out a lot of the old stuff in the bins. It's a much different shop than it was even a few months ago.

    Village Vinyl is indeed a nice little shop. There's a room of gear, but since I'm not in the market for anything, I haven't looked in there.
     
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  9. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Yes, thanks for adding the extra info, should have been a bit clearer. Vinyl Index really does have a nice indie selection, mostly new stock, but very well curated.

    Cheapo is great these days, been going a lot this year, but I would still say most of the "good stuff" goes in their new arrivals bin by the door, or onto the wall, not from lack of organization but from the high stock turnover. That place is always packed, and people are always buying, they've really turned it around. Remember when they used to get furious if you had a backpack on in there? Glad those days are over...

    The situation Nuggets on the other hand has gotten really bleak, as has the Cambridge In Your Ear. Both still get good stuff in but the old stock is choking the stores out.
     
  10. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat Thread Starter

    Location:
    Baja Virginia
    Thanks for the info, guys.

    What sort of stuff is Cheapo focusing on these days? New? Used? When I first went there, about thirty years ago, they had so many blues records that they were sorted by type of blues (Piedmont, Chicago, etc.) but those days are long gone.
    Seems like In Your Ear has always been like that... I think they still have the same used reggae CDs on the wall that they had in 1997. I still like to stop in and check the new arrivals but they weren't even open when I was in Harvard Square a couple of weeks ago (Monday afternoon, lights were on inside).
     
  11. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Currently Cheapo is 80% used stock, heavy focus on classic rock, with some 80s and 90s alternative mixed in. Respectable selections of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Soul/Funk as well. They have some bins dedicated to more collectible psych now too: HP Lovecraft, Experimental Pop Art Band, Ultimate Spinach, that kind of stuff. New stock is mostly highly curated indie and hip-hop new releases and dubious Scorpio type reissues to fill gaps in the stacks. The real "cheapo" $1-5 records are in the back, with the soundtracks and some racks of vintage apparel. Great vibe, the only downside is they don't properly price down on condition.

    Yeah, there's sort of a diggers vibe to In Your Ear that I actually enjoy believe it or not. The Allston location has kept the stock neat enough though, but the Cambridge one is so small it seems to have gotten away from them. I spent an hour digging at both the last two weekends, and found plenty of interesting stuff in Allston, but a lot of thrashed (VG and under) stuff and stacked boxes in Central. Despite this, they had some great stuff in the "rare" bin by the register (doubling as a laptop stand lol), lots of great rock promos and rarer soul/funk LPs. In the past, when I've gone to the Central location, I've always found it to be worth the dig, and now I would just blitz through the store, and hit IYE Allston, Cheapo or Looney Tunes instead. YMMV
     
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  12. Phishman

    Phishman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    The IYE Harvard Square location has closed for good. All inventory moved to the Allston store.
     
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  13. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Man, Harvard Square is getting less interesting by the week as small businesses leave. I am interested to check out IYE Allston with both store's stock. Should be all killer no filler.

    Also of note, Village Vinyl is making a move to Coolidge Corner this spring out of the tiny basement spot in Brookline Village. Newbury Comics just relocated their flagship a few doors west of where they were. The records are now in the basement, so it feels more like a real record store down there.
     
  14. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Yeah the last time I was in Village Vinyl, I overheard the owner complaining that his landlord was dicking him around. I wonder if he is moving into the arcade building? That building would be prefect for a small store.
     
  15. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Yeah he told me a similar story. The space was really small as well, and not well suited for the size of collection they grew to have, along with Hi-Fi stuff. The Arcade would be cool, but his Facebook said it was at 307 Harvard Street, next block over from Brookline Booksmith. Looks like they're putting a lot of work into customizing the space. I'm excited as the small size of that store was my only downside.
     
  16. cdash99

    cdash99 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mass
    Corned beef sandwiches and record shopping. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.
     
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  17. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Oh, yeah. Wasn't there like a shoe store there? That should be a good spot. Booksmith, a record store and a lunch stop is a great afternoon!
     
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  18. Phishman

    Phishman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    I misspoke the other day. I was told today that the inventory from the IYE Harvard store is in storage now and the owner wants to open up another store someday.
     
  19. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Hell, the Harvard IYE was basically a storage room that was open to the public anyway.

    If you tried to pay for something there with a credit card, they had to call the Allston location and read out your card number so they could process it there!
     
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  20. Phishman

    Phishman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Really? Never had that happen to me. They had a couple of large collections that they had bought recently (over the last year) which included a few gems that I was slowly picking up. I never find anything at the Comm Ave store. Boston really does not have good record stores anymore...
     
  21. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    Lol that’s happened to me. I think they did get a CC machine or Square at one point but when I went in late last year they said that was down. Had to walk over to the ATM. As of last year the reopened Looney Tunes is cash only as well. Some dispute with the landlord over wiring up a line he said, but he was much less sketchy about it than IYE was.

    As for Boston record stores, I actually think we’re relatively spoiled compared to the rest of New England. The stock is proabaly spread a little thin between the large amount of stores, and the demand and bottomless pockets of wealthy student population doesn’t help matters, but if you make a good day of 3 or so shops you can get a good haul. My only issue is prices relative to condition, but the overhead is obviously insane so I can’t blame stores.
     
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  22. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    Yeah, I've been carrying the good stuff out by the armload for years, so I'm not understanding that "no good record stores anymore" thing either, but whatever.
     
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  23. Phishman

    Phishman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    My comment was based on my experience buying records in other cities in the US and around the world. If it's been working for you, good for you.
    IMO, there are good stores around Boston (Cheap Thrills, Mystery Train etc.) Stereo Jacks is pretty decent as well for me but the others just don't work for me anymore...YMMV.
     
  24. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    From my experience, Boston has far more selection than Providence, and is far less picked over than NYC, so for the northeast cities I think it really is pretty good. Condition and price leave a bit to be desired but we are talking about high-demand used merchandise in an insane real-estate market.

    Digging in Europe is obviously on another level, but that's a combination of many factors, longer retention of vinyl as a format, better quality record sleeves and vinyl formulations, and a more conservation concerned current user base. It's also good to keep in mind that what is valuable to use as Americans isn't valuable to Europeans and visa-versa. I've seen plenty of American first press records that would be in a $5 bin here going for ~$20 in Europe.
     
  25. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat Thread Starter

    Location:
    Baja Virginia
    Story of my life, man.
     

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