Over the last couple years my pass times have become few. I visit breweries. I go for long walks (typically to breweries). I watch films (at theatres when they are open). I play board games. And, I frequent record stores.
Calgary has a wonderful assortment of centrally located record stores. Within 45 minutes walking distance (and another a bit further away). I have 9 independent record stores with their own character and workers. In order of my favourites: Lukes Drug Mart (hipsterland), Sloth Records and Melodiya Records (Heaps of new stuff), Hot Wax Records (very friendly staff and cheap bargain basement), Blackbyrd Myoozik (small, but some great finds), Turn It Up! Records (sweet mix of extensive used with some different new stuff), That Old Retro Store (they also service record players), Recordland (largest used collection in Canada – and probably the priciest too). I’m waiting for a rainy day to visit Heritage Posters & Music (highly recommended from my vinyl mentor, Matt).
This post is meant to highlight the most satisfying purchases I’ve made. They aren’t necessarily my favourite records, though they are great albums. It is more the surprise and joy they presented – in finding them and often at a shockingly low price. When preparing this list, I was reminded of the importance of visiting record stores in different cities when I land there.
Jennifer Warnes – The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1986), used, $5 @ Blueprint Entertainment (Lethbridge, AB)
I grew up listening to this excellent album of Cohen covers and found it early in my collecting while sponsoring a basketball tournament trip near Lethbridge. I’ve seen the album since many times, but always priced at least $25.
Charlotte Cornfield – Future Snowbird (2016), new, $5 @ Melodiya Records (Calgary, AB)
I found this in the bargain bin just 2 weeks after seeing Charlotte Cornfield open for Old Man Luedecke and where I bought her latest album for $25. A steal!
Philip Glass – Songs from Liquid Days (1986), used, $5 @ That Retro Store (Calgary, AB)
The hypnotic themes from Philip Glass are coupled on this album with stunning operatic voices singing the lyrics of Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Suzanne Vega. I hadn’t heard of it before finding it in the basement stacks. The album isn’t so rare or expensive elsewhere, but I didn’t know I wanted this album and now my kids know who Philip Glass is.
The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come (2009), used, $21 @ Ditch Records (Victoria, BC)
This is one of my all time favourite records. Since it was released years before I started collecting, I had accepted the fact that I would likely never see it in vinyl and that it wouldn’t get a reissue treatment either. Then on a school trip to Victoria three years ago, there it was! It is in stellar shape even though it was used. I haven’t seen it in any stores since either.
Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (1988), used, $25 @ Funny Pages (Kamloops, BC)
This is also on my list of top albums, but I had never seen it for sale. The first time I found it I deliberated for a long time in that little record store in Kamloops as I didn’t feel like paying $25 for a used record. My mind eased as soon as I decided give in. I haven’t regretted it since, nor have I seen it available again. Online, I found it sells for between $31-$95.
Various Artists – Madagasikara Two (1986), used, $10 @ Hot Wax (Calgary, AB)
A friend of my mom introduced me to Madagascar music when I was in college and I loved it. Uniquely rhythmic and melodic. The CD I had was not this same album, though some of tracks coincide. I haven’t seen this one since either.
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (2017), new, $18 @ Sunrise Records (Calgary, AB)
I have a friend who really likes these guys but I didn’t know their music. When I saw a brand new double album in the bargain bin because it had a corner crunch, I decided to take a chance. I ended up paying full price a month later for another of their albums.
Old, but New in Shrink
1755 – Synergie (1982), new, $17 @ Spin-It Records (Moncton, NB)
An Acadian band that never really hit it big beyond the Maritimes and even features a Robichaud as lead singer was virtually impossible to find out west. I found this new in shrink from 1982 and I’m pleased as punch.
Andres Segovia – The Genius of Segovia – A Bach Recital (1976), new, $1 @ Blackbyrd Myoozik (Calgary, AB)
I studied classical guitar into university. My affection for many tunes and familiarity of masters like Segovia, Bream, Williams and Boyd have led me to pick up inexpensive used copies over the years. Finding this reissue from 1969 was particularly sweet. I still haven’t opened it.
Talking Heads – True Stories (1986), used, $2 @ Value Village (Calgary, AB)
It’s not hailed as one of their greats, but when I found this gem while Amber gleefully rooted through clothing, I snagged it. I hadn’t listened to any Talking Heads before getting this, but since I have collected a few Talking Heads Record Stored Day fancy reissues and a recent David Byrne album and I’ve been transformed into a fan! And, Highline Brewing has a beer themed after this very album!
Andy Shauf – Neon Skyline (2020), new, $21 @ Arts & Crafts Record Club (Toronto, ON)
I knew one song from the radio where he says “try” in a really weird way. Otherwise Andy Shauf was unknown to me. Now he is on heavy rotation along with a second of his albums that I bought since getting this in the mail from Arts & Crafts.
Wanted it. Ordered it.
Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk (2019), new, $40 @ Melodiya Records (Calgary, AB)
This is the only record I’ve ordered. I was so moved by the gorgeous film’s gorgeous music that I decided that this needed to be a definitive piece of my collection. When after months of checking various soundtrack sections, I decided to put in the order at a record store. It took a few weeks to come in and I’m so happy that the 2 disc set delivers. [Checking just now – it’s available on Amazon for $265. Don’t buy records on Amazon, get a local shop to find it for you and pay them.]