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Dusty Groove
Photograph: Jordan Avery

The 16 best record stores in Chicago

Discover new music at Chicago's best record stores, where you can shop for vinyl, CDs, cassettes and more

By Zach Long

When you need some fresh tunes for your turntable, tape deck or CD player, there's no better place to find them than at a Chicago record store. Many local shops have been in business for years, selling new and used vinyl, CDs and tapes—and making recommendations when you need one. Whether you love vintage jazz, Chicago blues, indie rock, house music or hip-hop, there are shops throughout the city that offer the latest albums (and plenty of used records from the past).

Many Chicago record stores are adapting to the city's Phase 4 guidelines for social distancing, welcoming a limited number of customers back into their stacks—and you'll need to make sure you bring along a face mask. Some have transitioned to appointment-only shopping or, in the case of Dusty Groove, a pickup window where you can snag purchases made online.

During a time when artists can't play at Chicago music venues, it's more important than ever to support your favorite musicians (and some vital local businesses) by shopping at some of Chicago's best record stores.

Best record stores in Chicago

Reckless Records Wicker Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

1. Reckless Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Wicker Park

All three Reckless Records locations are open from 10am to 7pm daily. Orders can also be made online and picked up in-store.

With locations in the Loop, Lakeview and Wicker Park, Reckless is the biggest record retailer in town, which means that you shouldn't have any problem tracking down the latest new release (on vinyl or CD). Plus, there's a nearly constant stream of used records coming through the doors, so you'll find stacks of pre-owned rock, jazz, metal and experimental LPs to flip through. The chain's Wicker Park shop is home to the most vast selection of music and sometimes hosts in-store performances, signings and other special events.

Dusty Groove
Photograph: Jordan Avery

2. Dusty Groove

Shopping Music and entertainment East Village

Dusty Groove doesn't currently offer in-store shopping, but customers can shop online and retrieve their purchases from a pickup window from 9am to 6pm daily.

The funny thing about Dusty Groove is just how pleasantly bright and clean it is. The shop's name refers to the obscure and eclectic global rhythms found in the smartly curated bins, sorted into sections devoted to Tropicalia, Afrobeat, reggae, vintage soul, French pop, blues and jazz. It's the kind of place you'd have to hit if you were soundtracking a Quentin Tarantino film.

Laurie's Planet of Sound
Photograph: Kristine Kuczora

3. Laurie’s Planet of Sound

Shopping Music and entertainment Lincoln Square

Laurie's Planet of Sound is open to customers, with curbside pickup still available by calling 773-271-3569. 

Nineties nostalgists, this is your classic indie record shop, outfitted with the handmade signs, knowledgeable staff and offbeat curios that likely populated the store where you bought music in your college town (hopefully it still exists!). Apart from the usual records and CDs, Laurie's sells pop culture ephemera such as hard-to-find DVDs, slipmats emblazoned with familiar characters and Johnny Cash action figures.

Dave's Records
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

4. Dave’s Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Lincoln Park

Dave's Records allows six customers into the store at a time, from 11am to 7pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 7pm on Sunday.

On a crowded zig-zaggy stretch of Clark Street, a seven-inch record with a piece of paper taped across it hangs in a shop's front window. It makes owner Dave Crain's position quite clear. It reads: "NO CD'S NEVER HAD 'EM!!! NEVER WILL!!!" Lest you think this is some modern vinyl revival, keep in mind that Crain has been selling wax here for years and years, ranging from new releases to used jazz, rare garage and so much more.

606 Records
Photograph: Drew Mitchell

5. 606 Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Lower West Side

606 Records allows up to 10 customers in its shop from noon to 7pm Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday. Curbside pickup is also available.

Located directly across the street from Thalia Hall, Dusek's and Punch House, Pilsen's latest record store focuses on vinyl from small, international labels like Blackest Ever Black (London) and Exiles (Buenos Aires) as well as albums released by local favorites like Thrill Jockey and Numero Group. Stop by the sleek space to catch a DJ set or browse the selection of turntables, slipmats and other record supplies.

Bric-A-Brac Records
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

6. Bric-A-Brac Records and Collectibles

Shopping Music and entertainment Avondale

Bric-A-Brac uses a handy online form to allow customers to sign up for 45-minute shopping appointments, offered daily from noon–6pm.

Stepping into Bric-A-Brac's bright, colorful storefront is like entering the bedroom of every ’80s kid’s dreams. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures line the walls, with a VHS copy of Blade Runner nearby. All of this supplements a highly curated selection of punk and garage rock records, including a healthy number of releases from local bands. Stop by to bask in the overwhelming sense of nostalgia and don’t forget to say hi to Dandelo, the store’s resident corgi.

Gramaphone Records
Photograph: Jordan Avery

7. Gramaphone Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Lake View

In addition to keeping its Discogs store stocked, Gramaphone Records is welcoming customers into its Lakeview shop from noon to 6pm Thursday through Sunday.

This small vinyl shop has long been a hub for professional and amateur electronic experts. It's like stepping into the bottomless record bag of a cool Berlin DJ, stocked with loads of bleeding-edge 12-inches from microlabels across the pond, repping disco, bass, dubstep, house, techno, trance… and whatever else producers are dreaming up in Ableton.

Record Breakers
Photograph: Courtesy Record Breakers

8. Record Breakers

Shopping Music and entertainment Avondale

Record Breakers is open from noon to 5pm daily by appointment, but you can also shop online and pick up your records during the same hours.

Once located on the second floor of South Loop music venue Reggies, Record Breakers is now slinging vinyl on the hipster highway of Milwaukee Avenue. The Avondale shop is stocked with a wide selection of new and used vinyl, in addition to T-shirts, turntables, posters and everything else a music lover might want to hoard.

Hyde Park Records
Photograph: Hyde Park Records

9. Hyde Park Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Hyde Park

Hyde Park Records is welcoming customers from 11am to 8pm daily.

The latest iteration of a neighborhood record store that has been selling vinyl since the ’70s, Hyde Park Records keeps turntables spinning on Chicago's South Side. While new releases are stocked each week, local crate diggers know that the store's selections of R&B, soul, blues and hip-hop records (marked by signs made from old issues of Jet magazine) are usually filled with treasures. The shop is a favorite of local musicians and traveling DJs, so keep an eye out for familiar faces (and the occasional in-store DJ set) as you flip through titles.

Shuge Records
Photograph: Martha Williams

10. Shuga Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Wicker Park

You can stop by Shuga Records to shop from noon to 7pm daily, order online and pick up curbside or arrange for delivery to select zip codes within Chicago.

After three years of searching for the perfect neighborhood space, Adam "DJ Shuga Rose" Rosen opened Shuga in Wicker Park, not far from Reckless Records and Dusty Groove. The store houses close to 20,000 records exclusively available at the shop, plus turntables, vintage posters and thousands more titles online. If you're searching for an obscure album, chances are you'll find it here among the well-organized racks.

Bucket O' Blood Records
Photograph: Courtesy Bucket O' Blood Books and Records

11. Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Avondale

Contact Bucket O' Blood Books and Records through Facebook or by phone (312-890-3860) to set up an appointment to shop.

Opened in 2010, Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records hawks low-priced tomes in the varieties of horror, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, popular science, creative nonfiction and biographies, as well as rock, punk and metal vinyl alongside used sci-fi and horror DVDs. Its current location (emblazoned with a trippy sign painted by local artist Mac Blackout) is just down the street from Kuma's Corner, which means you can finally eat a Slayer burger and then go buy a copy of Reign in Blood.

Pinwheel Records
Photograph: Courtesy Pinwheel Records

12. Pinwheel Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Lower West Side

Make an appointment on the Pinwheel Records website, with times for in-store shopping available from 2 to 6pm Wednesday through Saturday.

Just steps away from the 18th Street Pink Line station, Pinwheel Records was the first record store to debut in Pilsen. The interior of the shop looks a bit like a ultra-cool living room, boasting vibrant green walls, framed artwork and an arcade cabinet. Of course, there are plenty of records (and turntables to listen to them on) neatly arranged throughout the space. Stop in for some listening material while you digest your meal of tacos or carnitas.

Rattleback Records
Photograph: Courtesy Rattleback Records

13. Rattleback Records

Shopping Music and entertainment Andersonville

Rattleback Records has enough space for four customers in its store from 11am to 7pm Monday through Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.

Set amid a stretch of Clark Street that's home to a Brown Elephant thrift shop and the retro Replay arcade bar, Rattleback Records is a fittingly old-school addition to Andersonville's crop of small businesses. The no-frills record shop isn't very large, but it offers a mighty selection of new and used LPs, including plenty of rock, blues and jazz albums and some new releases. Customers can also pull up a stool to browse more LPs and 45s arranged under the main shelves or sit down on the store's couch to flip through some of the music-centric books and publications it carries.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

14. Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart

Shopping Music and entertainment Irving Park

Bob's Blues & Jazz Mart is still open for in-person shopping from 10:30am to 6:30pm Monday through Saturday.

Bob Koester didn’t stay retired long after closing River North fixture Jazz Record Mart. Koester, who also owns local label Delmark Records, opened a new storefront in Irving Park in 2016; it may have a somewhat smaller stock than his old place, but Koester is there six days a week ready to share his encyclopedic knowledge of his favorite genres with other music lovers.

K Starke Records
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

15. Wild Prairie Vinyl & Vintage

Shopping Music and entertainment Ukrainian Village

Up to 10 people can shop in-person at Wild Prairie from noon to 7pm Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday.

Located in the former home of KStarke Records, Wild Prairie takes its name from a song by Chicago hip-hop producer trio Molemen. The shop carries vintage clothing in addition to a concise but deep collection of house, jazz, soul, reggae and Italo disco LPs. Co-owners Natasha Rac and Alex Gonzales often host parties soundtracked by local DJs at the store—plus, the pair owns a Shiba Inu that can sometimes be found hanging around the mannequins and shelves.

16. Transistor

Shopping Music and entertainment Andersonville

Browse the art, gifts and records at Transistor when the store offers in-person shopping from 1 to 5pm daily.

A cross between a record store, a gallery and a gift shop, there's no shortage of items to browse at Transistor. While the selection of records is relatively small, you'll usually find a smattering of new releases tucked into crates that are stocked with classic rock LPs and popular contemporary albums. Transistor also carries a small but well-curated selection of audio equipment, if you're in the market for a turntable and decent set of powered speakers. The shop's walls are lined with photos and prints created by local artists, and aspiring musicians and podcasters can rent a small recording studio in the basement for an hourly rate.


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