By Brett Yale
Baltimore is proven to be one of the most interesting cities in the world to go out and experience live music, but what most people don’t know is that it’s also an excellent city to dig through and purchase records as well. With more than a handful of record stores scattered all across the Charm City, music purchasers are offered a wide variety of environments and inventories to spend their hard-earned cash.
Many factors are to be considered when deciding on where to shop for physical music products – quantity of inventory, quality of inventory, new or used records, price markup, music genre, and more. Chances are there is a record shop in Baltimore that suits every music consumer’s needs, and below is a guide to help you find your favorite new record establishment.
The Sound Garden (Fells Point)
1616 Thames Street
Hours: Sun to Thurs: 10 a.m. -10 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-midnight
The Sound Garden is Baltimore’s biggest music source. Located in the heart of Fells Point, this establishment has serviced new and used copies of albums to music lovers for ages. It offers just about everything – new CDs, used CDs, new vinyl, DVDs, books, and cassettes. It’s only downside is that it does not offer used vinyl, however that is compensated by having the largest selection of new vinyl in the city. A few years ago the shop took over the restaurant next door, turning into a vinyl-only room. This room is filled with new and old titles of all genres, which is regularly updated with the newest and hottest titles.
The True Vine (Hampden)
3544 Hickory Ave
Hours: Open Thurs, Sat and Sun (contact True Vine for hours)
Baltimore’s weirdest and most obscure record shop is probably The True Vine record shop in Hampden right off the Avenue. Owned by the same individual who runs Ehse Records, and managed/curated by local experimental music legend Jason Willet, it’s only natural that this shop has some of the more avant garde music finds in town. True Vine has a smaller and more focused selection of sounds, with its focus on new and used vinyl. You’ll also find some CD and handmade CDRs, along with a growing selection of cassettes. In addition to its more obscure genre offerings, another thing that sets this record shop apart is its music instrument repair shop. Not only will they fix some of the more rare sound-makers out there, their employees even create some of their own instruments right in the shop.
Normal’s Books & Records (Waverly)
425 E 31st St (at Greenmount St)
Hours: Open Daily – 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Normal’s is another record shop that has been around for a long time, located just off the main strip in Waverly and a short walk over from the heart of Charles Village. In addition to the shop’s extensive book selection, the expansive shop is filled to the brim with new and used vinyl. Normal’s biggest genre is rock and classic rock, but it also offers a very wide selection in jazz and soul. Its international selection is worth a look, and it probably has the largest selection of vinyl from local artists – found right in the front when you walk in. Its small and modest selection of CDs is certainly worth a glance, and the shop offers fair prices on used vinyl.
Celebrated Summer Records (Hampden)
3620 Falls Rd
Baltimore, Md. 21211
Hours: Mon to Thurs – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fri and Sat – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Celebrated Summer Records used to be located up north of the city in Towson, but now resides in Hampden after a recent relocation. It’s currently set up in the back of Atomic Books, offering a much more convenient location for city-dwellers. This shop is one of the smaller selections in town, limited to mostly just vinyl but also includes some CDs and ambitions to feature cassettes as well. The shop’s selection is mostly focused in punk, hardcore, and music of the louder variety, but also boasts a healthy collection of indie rock. This shop is not for the faint of heart, or the claustrophobic type, but is more than worth stopping by on any cruise down Hampden’s Avenue.
Own Guru (Fells Point)
728 S Broadway
Hours: Open Daily – 1-7 p.m.
Own Guru is one of Fells Point’s hidden gems, tucked back in a courtyard that is only accessible by an alley off of Broadway. This alone adds to the mystique and aura of the shop, a pleasant way to enter a shop full of musical finds. Their selection contains strictly vinyl, and is limited to the confines of the small shop. The vinyl is mostly used, and is focused more on classic rock and rare finds. This shop tends to be a bit pricier than most, but likely because its contents are of a high quality. This shop is best suited for those who are into music of the past, and not for those who are looking for current trends or new titles.
Brett Yale is a musically-obsessed Baltimore native. Brett founded Bmoremusic.net, and covers the Baltimore music scene for Impose Magazine.