Hey guys remember Tower Records? And Discolandia? And Force of Habit? And Medium Rare Records? Yeah, me too. Music is now, on the bright side, easier to find and listen to than it ever was in human history, but just like there is a loss of human curation and interaction in the death of bookstores, the death of neighborhood record shops is a sad, sad thing. BuzzFeed chronicled the phenomenon in 40 sad portraits, and that was five years ago. But as DJs and vinyl fanatics know well, our surviving record shops have, by and large, become niche outlets catering to specific types of fans, and they have become proof that there is still a market for places where you can see, touch, and often listen to LPs. And there are still the big second-hand marketplaces like Amoeba and Good Will where you can have moments of discovery in busted CD bins, and maybe even find some stuff that Spotify hasn't uploaded yet. Also, don't forget, Saturday, April 16 is Record Store Day, so go find one. — Jay Barmann

1-2-3-4 Go! Records
What started as a tiny store in Temescal, with an emphasis on selling to fans of the already-established punk label by the same name, has grown into a major presence in the East Bay music scene. Earlier this year, 1-2-3-4 Go! nearly doubled the size of its store by expanding into a next door space, making room for more records, a book and 'zine section, and vinyl accessories. Though punk and indie is well represented in its shelves, the store also stocks plenty of new and used rock, blues, reggae and other world music. They even clean every used record, so you don't have to worry about it skipping when you get home. In the back of the store, local and touring bands regularly perform and admission is usually $10 or under. The bands are always worth checking out, even if you have not heard of them, and maybe you'll catch a surprise guest, like East Bay legends Green Day who played in 2011. — Whitney Phaneuf
420 40th Street #5, Oakland


Aquarius Records
While it's not the biggest record store in San Francisco, Aquarius is the oldest independent store in the city, and also the best curated. The store's owners and employees are unabashed music nerds who take the time to write reviews, list each week's new arrivals, compile year-end favorites (here is 2015's) — and they are super nice, even if the selection can seem obscure and intimidating. This is a true music discovery experience, though, that includes local bands, D.I.Y. artists, and international acts in a variety of genres and spanning many decades. Want to hear Norwegian black metal from the early 90s? This is your place to find it. — Whitney Phaneuf
1055 Valencia Street

(Photo: john daniel reiss)

Amoeba Music
When you're looking to act out all your Empire Records fantasies, this is the store to do it in. Amoeba's Haight Street location is a former bowling alley and every square inch is packed with merchandise, making it easy to get lost in for hours and forget what brought you there in the first place. Luckily, everything is pretty well organized by artist and ranges from essentials to the obscure. The vinyl selection includes new, used, clearance, and collectable (be ready to fork over serious cash for the latter), and the few of you who still listen to CDs should head to the deep discount section in the back corner of the store. There are also cassettes, DVD/Blu-ray videos, books, t-shirts, and weekly shows (you can pretend it's Rex Manning...we won't tell). — Whitney Phaneuf
Multiple locations: 1855 Haight Street; 2455 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

Econo Jam/Facebook

Econo Jam Records
One of the newer record stores in Oakland, Econo Jam packs a lot of great stuff in its small shop, located near the 19th Street BART station. Punk, jazz, and metal fans will find a lot to love, but there's also a decent selection of rock, funk, and experimental records and cassettes. Plus it's a one-stop-shop for folks getting back into vinyl as the store sells new and used turntables and receivers. The art shows, performances, and readings are well-curated and frequent, and you can stay updated on events via their Facebook. — Whitney Phaneuf
2519 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

Explorist International/Facebook

Explorist International Records
Visiting Explorist International Records is like hanging at the house of a crate-digger friend, but a tidy and organized one who has impeccable taste in a wide variety of music. Located in the Mission, Explorist International lives up to its name with a focus on vinyl from all over the world. There is Dub, Afro-funk, Cuban and Latin jazz, French electronic, and roots American music, to name a few. You can also find books and 'zines, cassettes, and vintage electronics. On the first Friday of every month, stop by for Free Jazz Friday, which is "free" in that it costs nothing and features improvised music. — Whitney Phaneuf
3174 24th Street near South Van Ness

Photo: Jim P./Yelp

Grooves Inspiralled Vinyl
This Castro-adjacent record shop (on the Octavia side of Mint Hill) is a true SF treasure, though it may not be the best organized record store in town. Owner Ray Anderson was a well known 1960's counterculture figure in the city, as head of the Holy See Light Show, and he's a character who'll guide you through the vinyl-only selection, which often features gems slipped in from his private collection. "People like the idea of being able to find something serendipitously," he told the Chron back in 2007, when at that point his cluttered shop was ringing in its tenth anniversary on Market Street. And if you're on the hunt for that rare rock concert album or lounge-era oddity, this is where to look first. — Jay Barmann
1797 Market Street near Octavia

Jack's/Google Plus

Jack's Record Cellar
Jack's is only open on Saturdays from 2 to 7 p.m. (or by appointment) and only caters to vinyl lovers (no CDs or DVDs), but it's a San Francisco institution that has been selling records since 1951. The store specializes in rare, out-of-print 78s and 45s in a variety of genres including jazz, folk, and country. Tucked in a corner of Page and Scott Streets with just a sign that says "Records" hanging above the door, it's a great place to take music-loving, out-of-towners and impress them with your insider knowledge of the city. — Whitney Phaneuf
254 Scott Street at Page

A happy customer with his newly purchased records via Yelp.

A family-owned and operated record store pretty much hits all the "relic of the past" notes, but, fortunately, in this case reality diverges from expectations. Enter Noise, an outer Richmond record shop that doubles as a gallery and small jazz venue. Run by Sara Johnson, her son Daniel A.J. Brown, and with the sometimes help of her daughter (also named Sara), the seven-month-old shop is rightfully called out by the Chronicle as being a light in San Francisco's jazz and music scene. The store stocks a wide range of LP's, and hosts a (no cover) jazz show every Sunday from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. So grab some records, chat up the owners, and hear some live music. — Jack Morse
3427 Balboa Street between 35th and 36th Avenues

Rooky Ricardo's/Facebook

Rooky Ricardo's Records
You may have walked into Rooky Ricardo's after a few pints at Toronado and thought you stumbled into the 1960s. There are vintage posters, toys, rotary phones and — of course — lots of cool, old 45s lining the walls. But if you stick around and talk to owner Dick Vivian, who has run the place for almost 30 years, you'll likely leave with a few records. The store stocks soul, oldies, and R&B vinyl, focusing on the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and Vivian can tell you about each and every one. Even though it's a small store, it's easy to spend hours there as you can listen to records on turntables with headphones, and the vibe is warm and welcoming (unlike Toronado). — Jay Barmann
448 Haight Street near Webster


Another off-shoot of a local record label, in this case Superior Viaduct, Stranded features an artfully curated collection of music's past and present. Naturally, the store carries Superior Viaduct's excellent releases, mostly reissues and archival compilations from Bay Area underground bands of the late 70s and early 80s, plus stuff like DEVO's previously out-of-print hardcore album. But what people really love is that Stranded stocks records you can't find anywhere else (unless you buy them online...shame on you). That classic Captain Beefheart album you've been searching for all your life? Yeah, they probably have it. Most of these albums are reissues, and thus new records, so don't expect to find rare gems hidden in a bargain bin, but there's still a lot of thrill and surprise in the hunt. The store also regularly hosts performances (I saw Bonnie 'Prince' Billy there for free) and you can check here for an updated listing. — Whitney Phaneuf
4929 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

Thrillhouse Records
You know what's punk as hell? A not-for-profit, volunteer-run, DIY record store that, in addition to boasting a vast punk library, carries selections of jazz, classical, and more. Thrillhouse Records is mostly vinyl, tapes, zines, and such, but you can find a few CDs here, too. And, if you happen to be in a cool band (good for you!) their basement workshop has a full screen-printing set up and can make some tees for your next gig. Come in for the free arcade machine, and as they encourage you to do, buy some beers for the volunteer clerks. Free beer is punk, too. —Caleb Pershan
3422 Mission Street at 30th Street

Photo: Facebook

Vinyl Dreams
This teeny, low-ceilinged, Lower Haight shop is as curated as they come, with owner Mike Battaglia (a.k.a. Mike B) serving up the best in electronic, house, disco, and dub records to a dedicated clientele. The place occupies the storied former location of Black Pancake Records and Tweekin Records, so it's been a destination for record-philes for a couple decades. And, in honor of Record Store Day, Mike B will be hosting DJs and passing out drinks all day, so stop by. — Jay Barmann
593 Haight Street at Steiner

Western Relics
It's only been open since February of this year, but this collaboration from Wilson Drozdowski and Sabrina Kay is already making waves. "We don't want to have to go downtown to buy records," Kay told Hoodline earlier this year. "We felt like that was a need we wanted to fill.” Open from 12-8 p.m. daily, not only do they stock a tightly curated selection of vinyl, but are willing to buy and trade for more. If that's not enough to convince you that the dream of the 90's is alive in the Inner Sunset, I'll direct you to Western Relics' ample 'zine and comics section. But if you think that it was a nostalgic trend that inspired this place, think again. According to Drozdowski, "Doing this business is definitely not us banking on the repopularization of vinyl...You'll read articles that say 'vinyl is back,' but for a lot of people, it was never gone.” — Eve Batey
1400 Irving Street at 15th Avenue

Honorable Mentions:

Down Home Music (10341 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito)

Groove Merchant (687 Haight Street, SF)

Mod Lang (6328 Fairmount Ave, rear, El Cerrito)

Recycled Records (1377 Haight Street, SF)

RS 94109 (835 Larkin Street, SF, currently closed for remodeling)

Aquarius Records/Facebook