CDs have lost their luster and downloads are down the drain when you drop your iPad into the bathtub, but for all its purported shortcomings, vinyl survives and, once again, thrives.
Sure, the technology seems wonky and unlikely, but the sound is warm, the covers can be unrivaled artworks and the rituals are ingrained in many music lovers.
Just in time for Record Store Day, here are some of the best places around town to wax musical and feed your PVC addiction.
(In this pandemic era, I urge you to call ahead. Some shops have been taking appointments to ensure social distancing.)
2341 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 882-9797
Unlike most of the shops listed here, Acme focuses almost solely on vinyl (though a few select CDs – typically in boxed sets – and cassettes have oozed in). Ken Chrisien knows his stuff, which means you’ll find top-notch stuff in A-1 condition. You’ll find some amazing things, but you won’t likely pull the wool over Chrisien’s eyes.
1627 E. Irving Pl., (414) (414) 223-3177
A mix of used and new vinyl and used CDs in most every genre, with especially strong jazz, rock and reggae sections can be had at Bullseye. And good deals can be had here, especially the cheapie bins.
The Exclusive Company
Exclusive sells its all, including vinyl, especially new domestic releases and Record Store Day (presumed) collectibles. There are locations all over the state, but the two closest are on Farwell Avenue and in Greenfield, next door to...
(PHOTO: Half Price Books)
You’ll find a ton of wax at the Half-Price Books locations around town, almost entirely used. The selection is constantly changing and the best way to find goodies is to make a circuit among the shops on a regular basis. I’ve known folks who have found entire collections of amazing records here and snatched them up, typically at (relatively) rock bottom prices.
833 E. Kilbourn Ave., (414) 271-0666
Ken Freck’s little corner shop on the lower level of Kilbourn and Marshall has been around (seemingly) forever. His stock spans the decades and while it includes rock and roll of all era, it also includes jazz, soul and other genres, too. The small place is literally stuffed full of vinyl.
Off the Beaten Path
1219 Milwaukee Ave., (414) 224-1550
Off the Beaten Path – which moved from Bay View to a much bigger space in South Milwaukee (there's room for live music when that's a thing again) in spring 2020 – sells vinyl and CDs, and stereo equipment, along with locally made jewelry and art. There are also specials for Record Store Day.
7045 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 453-3900
(PHOTO: Record Head/Facebook)
Record Head has been a music lover’s haven for years in Milwaukee – in a couple locations – selling new and used musical instruments, but also records and CDs. Especially strong in rock of all kinds, with a killer metal section.
2635 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 481-6040
A Bay View landmark, Rush-Mor sells vinyl, CDs and more – new and used. Especially strong in punk rock and indie releases. A shop run – like many of the ones on this list – by passionate music lovers and record collectors.
Stardust Records & Collectibles
106 S. Main St., Thiensville, (262) 242-7600
This used record store has limited hours – noon-7 on Fridays and 11-5 on Saturdays, and by appointment – but a selection that is anything but limited. There are records everywhere in the shop – 45s, LPs, 78s – plus memorabilia, too. There's jazz, rock, pop, R&B. Be prepared to dig for gold here.
We Buy Records
904 E. Center St., (414) 232-7606
The latest venture from former Lotus Land Records guru Andy Noble sells strictly used records. "We are very much a 'working mans' record shop: 100 percent used, a huge and high-quality $2 LP section comprised mostly of classic rock, soul and jazz." The shop also has a large section of soul 45s priced at a dollar each. Tons of records in the $5-$20 range. Nobel also lists a lot online at the discogs store, where at the time of writing there are more than 3,500 records listed. "In-store buyers can buy any of these for 15 percent off the online price," Noble promises.
(NOTE: Although Luv Unlimited no longer has a physical shop, it is still selling records online here: discogs.com/user/luvunlimited)
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.