Some enjoy chasing high scores at their favorite arcade, catching a flick at one of the many storied movie theaters around town or meandering through one of our great museums.
But none of these options offer quite the same thrill and reward as digging through our great record stores.
The vinyl revival
Vinyl was on its way out in the early 2000s. Streaming and the invention of the MP3 revolutionized the way people listened to music leading to a massive decline in the sale of physical media in general. Why own a bulky record collection when you could fit all your favorite music on a tiny iPod?
But records made their way back into popularity, citing nostalgia, improved sound quality and a larger version of the album art as reasons for the return that kicked off toward the latter end of the 2000s.
The vinyl market continues to enjoy steady growth today, with an estimated 9.7 million album sales in 2018, up 12 percent from 2017. In Portland, this revival helped to keep some decades-old record stores in business, as well as pave the way for new stores to open up across town.
A medium for everyone
Another reason that vinyl remains so popular is how inclusive it is. Collecting is a hobby that can be passed down from generation to generation, and it’s carried on today by people young and old, in both age and musical preference.
Album sales reflect this as well, roughly 66 percent percent of vinyl albums sold in 2018 were released at least three years ago, so it’s not just kids running out to buy the newest hits. In fact, 2018’s top 25 best selling records include artists like Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Kendrick Lamar and Chris Stapleton, so there’s something for everyone.
On Record Store Day, you’ll find people lined up for hours outside of their favorite store for a chance to score limited edition and hard to find records while supporting local small businesses. You can also find record swaps, festivals and pop-ups throughout the year, not to mention some truly special record stores.
Whether you’re on the hunt for something specific, or just looking to get out of the rain and spend some time browsing, here’s the best that Portland has to offer.
1. 2nd Avenue Records
Source: Facebook/2nd Avenue Records
Opened in 1982, 2nd Avenue’s historic storefront houses a hefty selection of new and used records. Their selection of metal music is impressive, as is the huge collection of band T-shirts that hang from the rafters, but you’re likely to find something for everyone here at one of Portland’s mainstays.
2. Everyday Music
While walking around downtown Portland, Everyday Music’s massive storefront across from The Crystal Ballroom is hard to miss. They have one space just for vinyl and one for all other formats.
The two best things about EM are their used selection — you’re likely to find a gem for a great deal — and they’re open until 10 p.m. daily for your night time needs. There are also locations on the east side of town, as well as Seattle and Bellingham.
3. Jackpot Records
Fabulous Jackpot Records was opened in 1997 in Portland’s bustling eastside Hawthorne neighborhood. Their selection is carefully curated and they offer free, all ages in-store performances and meet and greets.
In 2004, they began as an independent record label with the same name and focus on reissuing hard to find records from local artists like The Wipers and Satan’s Pilgrims, and other more nationally known names like Etta James and Willie Nelson at ridiculously reasonable prices.
4. Music Millennium
Portland’s oldest record store opened in 1969, which also makes it the oldest continually-existing record store in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a local landmark and was actually once named the number nine best independent record store in the country by SPIN magazine.
A huge selection in all genres, awesome in-store performances, a quirky, mural covered building and a beer tap onsite with an “In the Groove” Black Vinyl Lager made specifically to commemorate Music Millennium makes it one of Portland’s favorite places to shop for records.
5. Mississippi Records
Source: Jake Borower
This Portland gem is truly unique. Mississippi Records’ founder Eric Isaacson opened shop in 2003 under one golden rule — “Love Over Gold.” For this reason, you’ll find a smaller selection of highly curated titles at very friendly prices.
They’re known for a bountiful selection of folk, soul and world music, some pressed by their own record label, and presented in a beautiful space, along with books, cassettes and audio equipment. One thing to keep in mind, however, they’re cash only!
6. Landfill Rescue Unit
You’ve heard of dumpster diving before, but this place takes it to the next level. With a name inspired by decades of scavenging thrift stores for hidden gems, they’ve taken things literally by transforming their shelves packed with punk, new wave, electronic and a hefty used selection, into funky storage that resembles big blue dumpsters.
As fun as Landfill Rescue Unit is to dig through, you’re also likely to find something you didn’t even know you were looking for — the best kind of score.
7. Tomorrow Records
Source: Jake Borower
One of the newest record stores in town has been impressing customers since opening in late 2018 with its welcoming, well-lit space in Southeast Portland. Tomorrow Records doesn’t quite specialize in any particular genre, but they do have a carefully curated selection with a ton of great used gems at reasonable prices and a friendly staff.
Another bonus is their inventory of vintage audio equipment, perfect for upgrading your system, or just starting out with a quality setup.
Whether you’re on the hunt for that record at the top of your wish-list or just enjoy getting lost in the stacks, Portland’s fantastic record stores have something for everyone. Every store has a different vibe and selection, so the best way to pick your favorite is to try them all!