Record Store Tour: Highland Park
The beauty of living in a cosmopolitan city like Los Angeles is the diversity of its population and its interests. While vinyl is seeing a resurrection in most major cities across the country, it never really died in LA. What, with recording industry giants rooted in Los Angeles and vinyl aficionados, wax has always run through Los Angeles veins. Since record shops are as ubiquitous in LA as taco trucks, we decided that the best place to start our citywide tour would be in our own backyard. If you’re strolled the streets of Highland Park, particularly the two main thoroughfares of York Avenue and Figueroa Street, you’d most likely come across one or more of these shops but if you haven’t, they’re well worth a trip.
Gimme Gimme Records
Part of LA’s diversity is due to the fact that a large fraction of its population are transplants. Case in point, Daniel Cook, owner of Gimme Gimme Records who originally opened in the East Village, Manhattan, in 1994 and relocated to sunny ol’ Highland Park, Los Angeles in 2013. In the short time we’ve lived here, we’ve already created fond memories with Gimme Gimme Records from our first visit to finding the promotional package (merch included) of the Pixies Doolittle album complete with Pixy Sticks ‘n all. Gimme Gimme Records is like the Pig Out Sundae from Hans Homemade Ice Cream shop in Santa Ana, CA. Served in a bowl large enough to suffocate in (you know it’s happened before), it’s then filled to the brim with nine ice cream flavors of your choice. Much like with Gimme Gimme, you’ll find a little bit of everything from disco to international music to punk to a kick-ass jazz selection. Every time Jason and I go, we never leave disappointed and eight out of ten times, we leave with a new addition to our ever-growing collection (they grow up so fast, don’t they?).
Mount Analog could easily be the name of a No Wave band that released a single album in the ’80s which, however rare or straight up non sequitur, could be found at Mount Analog. This record store is most likely glossed over as a niche shop stuffed with bands you’ve never heard of playing genres of music you never knew existed. Per its website, Mount Analog is for “the everyday curious and adventure seeker,” a statement that rings more as truth than clever marketing the second you step into the shop. If you are of an open mind and a curious heart then rest assured that what awaits you at Mount Analog will expand your understanding of art and creative expression. An idiosyncratic eye was put to curating their selection of books and paraphernalia that traverses all terrains of art from music to film and everything in between. This won’t be the place to buy the latest Lana Del Rey album or find a reissue of the Beatles Please Please Me which isn’t to say that they’re “too cool” to sell mainstream fare, it’s only that their crates and shelves are loaded with so much unique music there just isn’t room in the shop. In fact, if you leave having purchased only records you came in being familiar with or having heard before then you didn’t have a proper Mount Analog experience. Its interior is minimalist with art pieces and music posters lining black walls as its record collection sits in crates on tables. If you’re looking for sheer volume and/or deals, there are other shops in the city that are more aligned with what you’re looking for but if you’re seeking something off the beaten path, something you may not have known existed but now, after having listened to it, can’t imagine life without it, if that’s what you’re looking for then I suggest you climb Mount Analog.
If I were to crack the pages of Websters dictionary and look up the term “record shop,” an image of Permanent Records would show up in place of its definition. Inside Permanent Records is a fun and inviting atmosphere of people buying, selling and, most importantly, experiencing and discovering music together. Isn’t that what a record shop’s supposed to be? To us, Permanent has this romantic feeling in spades which becomes apparent after one visit to their gorgeous shop conveniently located across the street from the best vegan donuts you’ll ever have. In fact, we’d go so far as to say they’re the best donuts–vegan or otherwise–but I digress. This shop has a wide and well curated selection of new and used vinyl, all priced as fair as any place I’ve been, LA or otherwise. The staff is friendly and helpful without giving off that “High Fidelity” vibe so asking for help won’t leave you feeling like an idiot and, hey, an amiable staff member may just turn you on to some stuff you’ve never heard before; of course, without making you feel like an idiot for having never heard it (ah, to be a customer in every specialty coffee shop in San Francisco…). This is an amazing place to find great deals on well kept vinyl, allowing you to add to your collection without subtracting too much from your wallet.
If I had to use one word to describe Wombleton it would be “weird.” Everything from its antique shop-like store front that beckons towards you with a curious finger like a facade off the Doctor Who set to the very non sequitur selection just screams weeiiirrdd, man… And none of that is in any way a criticism or insult. Weird is good and when it comes to Wombleton, weird is exactly what gets that rare original pressing Krautrock record in your collection. For first timers, don’t go to Wombleton expecting your usual fare of vinyl. This isn’t Amoeba and this definitely isn’t Urban Outfitters, but what it is is a refreshing breath of fresh air as curious fingers rove over worn and dusty edges of rare and vintage LPs from bands you never knew existed but are excited to “discover” and eyes take on the kitschy, must-be-from-the-’80s covers that could only be found in a small, off-the-beaten-path record store in Los Angeles. Wombleton is great for musical Magellans who want to cross into unknown sonic territory. Similar to Caravan Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles, Wombleton is not for everyone but for those whose collection’s hottest feature is its rare and vintage vinyls, you’ll be sure to find many gems at this small shop that packs a punch.
Each record store in the Highland Park are has something to offer music lovers of all tastes. Due to their proximity to each other, we suggest having your own record store tour and checking out each shop while making sure to grab some coffee at Civil, lunch at Highland Park Cafe, dessert at Donut Friend and drinks at the many bars that have opened up in the area.