Hangout Handbook Vinyl Destination: Toronto's Must-Shop Record Stores

Hangout Handbook Vinyl Destination: Toronto's Must-Shop Record Stores
In our annual Hangout Handbook, Exclaim! asks some of our favourite artists and contributors to discuss the hidden gems in their hometowns. Here, Exclaim! Senior Editor Stephen Carlick outlines his must-visit record stores in Toronto, Ontario. Grab a copy of the magazine to see them in their original chart form.

Discovery Records (1140 Queen St. E; discoveryrecords.com)

What's it about?
This Queen East standby specializes in second-hand vinyl, especially classic rock and classic singers.

What's special?
Owner Jim keeps the inventory listed online, but you'll still find rare oldies that you didn't think existed, whether on CD, vinyl, 78s or cassettes. That, and he's a musical encyclopaedia up until the '80s.

What's lacking?
If you're looking for records released after 1990, you're going to be disappointed.

What's nearby?
Nothing musical. Discovery is Leslieville's only specialty record store.


June Records (pictured) (662 College St; junerecords.ca)

What's it about?
One of the city's newer stores stocks a well-curated space with all genres in (almost) equal measure.

What's special?
The folks at June sell high-end vinyl accessories, host DJ events and in-stores, and always seem to stock one import of an album you thought long out-of-print. Weekly "In Stock" updates to their website include used records, but get there quick.

What's lacking?
It's not terribly big, so if you like getting lost in stacks, go elsewhere.

What's nearby?
To the east: Soundscapes (572 College St.; www.soundscapesmusic.com). To the west: LP's LPs (104 Ossington Ave.); Grasshopper Records (1167 Dundas St. West; grasshopperrecords.ca).


LP's LPs (104 Ossington Ave.)



What's it about?
This independently owned Ossington hole in the wall offers a wide variety of highly curated second hand records on the first floor; the basement houses more crates for the diggers.

What's special?
No store has a better synth-based collection than LP's, which its own "Electronic Vintage '60s-'80s" and "Minimal Synth and Industrial" sections. Don't be shocked to find used goodies by Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Philip Glass here.

What's lacking?
You're going to pay full price for LP's finds, but so you should — they're great.

What's nearby?
Another new independently owned shop, Grasshopper Records (1167 Dundas St. West; grasshopperrecords.ca), which is a must for hip-hop heads and DJs.


Mike's Music (105 Danforth Ave)

What's it about?
The Danforth standby offers a wide variety of new and old music on vinyl for fair prices.

What's special?
The Danforth isn't the most vinyl-headed section of the city, so expect finds at Mike's that might have been snapped up more quickly elsewhere. Also, Mike's a gem to chat with.

What's lacking?
Quality control here isn't particularly strict, so give the disc a good look first.

What's nearby?
The lovely Circus Books and Music (866 Danforth Ave.; circusbooksandmusic.com).


Pandemonium Records (2920 Dundas St. W.; www.pandemonium.ca)



What's it about?
The Junction's only record store carries a wide array of used vinyl spanning all genres.

What's special?
Besides having an incredible selection of used hip-hop, jazz, reggae and country, Pandemonium's staff is very helpful.

What's lacking?
Their stock includes gems, but they know it, so don't expect any bargains. Fair prices are the name of Pandemonium's game.

What's nearby?
Not much. Pandemonium is the Junction's go-to, but She Said Boom's second location isn't too far (393 Roncesvalles Ave.).


Play De Record (357A Yonge St.; www.playderecord.com)

What's it about?
This specialty store is Toronto's go-to hip-hop and DJ source for vinyl, gear and more.

What's special?
Besides offering DJ and production classes, Play De has an incredible hip-hop and electronic-based music supply. Expect rare, classic, and bootleg albums aplenty, plus an unsung "indie rock" section that usually yields gold.

What's lacking?
It's not the most organized shop, but that's part of its charm, and the reason it holds so many surprises.

What's nearby?
HMV and Sunrise have vinyl sections, but you'll spend so long at Play De, they'll be closed.


Rotate This (801 Queen St. West; www.rotate.com)

What's it about?
Rotate This prides itself on excellent prices and a specially-selected stock that reflects their reputable taste.

What's special?
The prices here are unmatched for new stuff, and the curation is excellent. The new reissues section is a great discovery resource for classics that need your attention.

What's lacking?
Customer service isn't their strong suit. Just keep your head down, plebe.

What's nearby?
Other Queen street record haunts: Kops (229 Queen W); Cosmos (607A Queen St. W); Neurotica (642 Queen St. W) and Slinky Music (442 Queen St. W).


Sonic Boom Records (782 Bathurst St. and 201 Augusta Ave.; sonicboommusic.com)

What's it about?
Toronto's largest record store offers basically all the new and used vinyl you can shake a stick at; even more can be found at their "analog oasis" in Kensington Market.

What's special?
Sonic Boom's size ensures they almost always have what you're looking for, and they have sealed new cassettes and a thorough music-related book section.

What's lacking?
It's bustling, so the used selection is typically picked over. Prices aren't sky-high, but they aren't a bargain, either.

What's nearby?
Zoinks Music and Books (1019 Bloor St. W).


Soundscapes Records (572 College St.; www.soundscapesmusic.com)


What's it about?
This small College Street location is a staple of the Toronto scene, and stocks LPs and CDs that reflect Canadian and international flavours.

What's special?
Soundscapes supports local and independent musicians like no one else; they have a local/indie showcase at the store's back, and regularly host in-store performances.

What's lacking?
Don't plan on getting lost in Soundscapes; there's no used stuff, and though they stock well, there just isn't room for crates upon crates of vinyl.

What's nearby?
Used record/book store She Said Boom! (372 College St.), Paradise Bound (270 Augusta Ave.) and Around Again (18 Baldwin St.).