We get it. There are a million-and-one places to buy records and other assorted music memorabilia in Austin. But in a city that thrives off of music consumption and appeals to an enormously diverse demographic of listeners, finding a store tailored to one’s taste is easier said than done. To take the stress out of finding the right place to shop and put the emphasis back on the joy of adding a new item to the collection, the ORANGE music staff gives its picks for the top music stores in Austin.
Tess: End of an Ear (2209 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704)
My favorite part about End of an Ear is its record-listening stations, which isn’t something you tend to find at most music stores. It’s also been speculated that their new releases are a dollar or so cheaper than at other more mainstream businesses. The staff is really attentive and knowledgeable, too, making End of an Ear not only a great place to buy your favorite artist’s newest release, but also a unique way to explore new music with a helping hand.
Maria: Antone’s Record Shop (2928 Guadalupe Austin, TX 78705)
Located in the heart of the hipster haven that is North Campus, Antone’s (not to be confused with the popular Austin music venue) is the perfect go-to music shop for the indie music thrifter. Full of great oldies as well as new releases, Antone’s provides a wide array of vinyl, perfect for everyone. One of the best things about Antone’s, aside from the great service, is the store’s vintage, homey vibe. Whenever I shop there, I feel like I’m ransacking my own parents’ record and book collection in our garage. My favorite part of the shop is probably the bookshelf stacked with music knowledge that I feel I won’t have access to anywhere else. There’s some sort of satisfaction knowing that whichever record I want, whether it is the latest Coldplay record or an old Bob Dylan collectible, Antone’s will have it for a reasonable price.
Quinton: Friends of Sound Records (1704 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704)
Turn the corner into the alley behind Prototype Vintage (where I once seriously contemplated buying an outrageously expensive Guns N’ Roses 1987 tour tee) and there lies a small basement of a store stacked wall-to-wall with new and old hip-hop, soul and dancehall records. Go past the purple and gold house, look for the signs on the left, and next thing you know, you’re stepping down into a damp, multi-room library of crates. The vinyl collection in this place may even surprise your parents’ parents. Plus, the staff is super nice and helpful. The cashier genuinely helped me in my search for Otis Redding’s Otis (to no avail, but the sentiment was there). From Lil’ Kim to Hall and Oates to obscure ‘70s records that you’ll want to buy based off of their cover art alone, Friends of Sounds is constantly acquiring new music. If you’re anything like me, you’ll hurriedly flip through the whole collection before narrowing it down to a ridiculous number of choices that will have you eating at home for a week. Last time I was there, I picked up Cam’ron’s Confessions of Fire and Sade’s 1985 album Promise in great condition. Remember, past the purple house and on the left.
Jenna: Waterloo Records (600A N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703)
Opened in 1982, Waterloo Records has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of glam rock, punk revival, tween pop, EDM and everything in between. It also doubles as a venue, having housed world renowned artists of all genres. Although the store has an extensive collection of DVDs, CDs, toys, knickknacks, shirts and posters, their greatest gem is by far their vinyl collection. Walt Disney’s Pardners: 14 Cowboy Songs from 1980? Got it. Rolling Stones Live at Liverpool in 1971? Check. Neil Young’s A Letter Home? Yeah, Waterloo was one of five stores in the country to receive the special release on Record Store Day in 2014. Every time I stop in Waterloo, I spend way more time and money than I have searching through new and used records. If you’re willing to invest some effort, there are plenty of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.
Britny: Waterloo Records
My favorite record store in Austin is actually Waterloo, as well. Located in one of my favorite parts of town, there is just such a rad vibe that I get every time I walk through the door. I love that I can spend hours inside, moving up a ramp to the higher level of nearly-endless CDs, or into the little closet-like space full of DVDs I’ve usually forgotten about or back to the vinyl room where I stare lovingly at everything, but buy nothing. I love that I have made some of my most impulsive CD buys while stopping there on a whim. Despite the fact that it is more of a mainstream music store, everyone there gives off the feel that they probably had a purchase goal coming in. Even so, they’re also pretty likely to walk out with something they never expected.
Devonshire: Exploded Records (at Juiceland; 4500 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751)
Hyde Park is full of gems, all tucked away among the quiet, tree-shaded neighborhood. Exploded Records is actually the colorful corner of vinyl and cassettes inside the emerald walls of Juiceland on Duval Street, but don’t let its homegrown wall art or organic fruity smell make you feel like you’re not hipster enough to be a record patron there. My favorite thing about this store is that they carry and support the work of local Austin artists, from math-folk hybrid Hikes to the outlandish electronic act Total Unicorn. They also hold shindigs and jam sessions within the small space (it just brings everyone closer, man). The shop sells record players and always takes care to keep everything in great condition. Despite having a smaller collection than say, Waterloo, they keep the music on hand as fresh as the juice you can sip while sifting through the stacks. Make sure you pocket a punch card, and you can score a discount after buying 10 records. Sweet!
Bryan: Encore Records (809 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702)
The term “record store” is kind of misleading. Amid all my weird idiosyncrasies (like keeping my radio volume at multiples of 10 and still championing AOL 14 years into this century), I avoid records like the plague, opting instead to collect more portable and cost-effective compact discs (which have become just as irrelevant as their vinyl counterparts but far less hip). Encore Records scores big-time in this department, containing a vast CD collection containing plenty of hard rock, punk, heavy metal and other assorted heavy music subgenres. They’ve got a hearty used section with surprisingly competitive prices given the store’s location on 6th Street (I once found the Deftones’ brand-new Koi No Yokan, normally about $12, for $5.99). Music selection aside, the store’s got plenty of goofy novelties and vintage shirts that ultimately enhance my browsing experience, even though I would never dream of shelling out $15 on a Reefer Madness tee. Last time I visited Encore and saw the stack of Avenged Sevenfold Hail to the King posters on the ground for anyone to take, I knew it was true love.