January 17, 2017
The 10 best record stores in Sydney.
Sydney’s sprawling cityscape – with its thundering urban streets, retail chains, high rise buildings and steady traffic – can feel like a capitalist playground. Though recent lockout laws created by the New South Wales Government tried to take a sledgehammer to nightlife and the music scene, underground culture in Sydney has proved remarkably resilient.
One of the longest running club nights, Mad Racket, is an absolute institution in Australia with long-time vinyl pusher Simon Caldwell at the steering wheel. Meanwhile, the DIY punk and indie band scene in Sydney remains at the centre of cutting-edge Aussie music. The die-hard spirit of many of these fans has meant that there is no shortage of support and passion for vinyl. Similarly, local DJs continue to support local record stores, in spite of the ease of Discogs and the Internet.
Although Melbourne probably takes the crown for best record stores overall, Sydney certainly holds it down with a vast selection of club stores, punk stores, everything stores and specialty stores. The vinyl scene is culturally vibrant with DJs, scene heads, record nerds, hipsters, the swinging left and just your normal John and Jessica hanging out in local vinyl outlets.
Whittling down a list of ten record stores was not an easy task. An honourable shout out goes to Le Garage, a hybrid hair dresser and record store that is overwhelmingly funky but unfortunately did not make the final cut. Dive into our selection below and let us know your favourite place to hunt for vinyl in the city.
Location: 3 Wilson St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Go for: The latest revival sounds, left-of-centre pop, the cutting edge
What’s the story? Just off the main King Street strip in the ever trendy Newtown precinct of Sydney lies a store that has been a vinyl mainstay for many years. Egg Records pushes in a classic direction, stocking a healthy dose of new and second hand, classic reissues and represses and some harder-to-find titles hidden amongst the standard fare. Heavy players in the local record fair scene and with another location in Brisbane, Egg has built up an impressive grass roots following.
Mojo Record Bar
Location: Basement 73, York Street, Sydney
Go for: Rock solid rock, Stone cold classics, Rare and unearthed gems
What’s the story? A hybrid venture – known to some as a quaint record store specialising in the rockier side of things; known to others as one of the best small bars in Sydney – Mojo has been kicking goals since early 2012. It originally opened solely as record store, sourcing and selling a hand-picked selection of newer titles alongside classic and hard-to-find second hand treasures. The switch to include a bar has added another dimension to the overall vibe of Mojo, which has a great laid back atmosphere. Digger folklore has it that DJ Shadow once unearthed some killer rock breaks here.
Radio Free Alice
Location: 134A Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Go for: Quirky wins, long lost loves and curious literature
What’s the story? Free Alice is a bit of a hidden gem, frequented mostly by Sydney’s digging crew. Come here for local Australian compilations, out-of-print rock titles, eclectic jazz that want lists are made of, world music rarities, funk and soul reissues and newer, obscure things. Radio Free Alice always surprises on the music front but also offers a curious selection of literature, import films and art books.
The store was founded by James Tsai, who formerly worked at the once booming Title music chain (which has since closed many of its stores and slimmed down operations). His knowledge of music and related items shines well in this new project, which certainly has a unique place in Sydney’s wax scene.
Location: Dymocks Sydney, The Dymocks Bldg, 428 George St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Go for: Jazz, blues, soul
What’s the story? Having opened its doors in 1991 and moving location numerous times, Birdland Records has blossomed into something of an institution in the Sydney scene. Even though it self-identifies as the city’s finest for jazz, the store actually stocks quite a wide range of music. The store’s exceptionally friendly owner is passionate about the ever-growing selection and the Birdland jazz label which has won a bunch of ARIA awards. Mail order has been a speciality from the shop’s inception and now every single release is listed on the shop site and can be purchased online.
The Record Store
Location: 255B Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Go for: That classic club record store feel à la Human Traffic
What’s the story? This is the best spot for new club releases. Located slightly off the beaten track on Crown Street in Sydney’s Oxford Street district, the store has stood the test of time through a decade of dance music crazes and developments. A host of local DJs, record collectors and scene dwellers staff the popular haunt, which has fiercely stuck to its physical roots. The shop has mainly rejected the Internet, instead encouraging customers to get offline and come in for a dig and a chin wag. (Although up to date stock lists can be found online from time to time). On top of the obvious vinyl catering, the store also stocks a huge range of equipment and merchandise and supports local club nights and events.
Red Eye Records
Location: 143 York St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Go for: Volume
What’s the story? Established by Chris Pepperel in 1981, Red Eye Records is one of Australia’s oldest and certainly its largest record store. Its racks are home to a diverse and well-selected array of new records and reissues, as well as books, magazines, posters and DVDs. In particular though, Red Eye prides itself on tracking down rare, out-of-print and unique Australian items for its customers.
Location: 413 King St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Go for: Punk
What’s the story? Punk is the very core of Repressed and it’s not afraid to yell it out loud! Located on the popular Newtown shopping strip, this is a store with a DIY attitude to alternative music. A vast selection of must-haves, up-and-coming and imports are scattered amongst a huge array of local punk aesthetic releases, vinyl, CDs, merchandise and odd trinkets. The store also stocks a great selection of local and international zines and specialty music books.
Revolve Records & Relics
Location: 3/65 Erskineville Rd, Erskineville NSW 2043, Australia
Go for: Dusty fingers
What’s the story? For me personally, this is the mecca, the diggers’ paradise of record stores in Sydney. I have actively searched and scoured this shop numerous times, losing whole days under piles of amazing records. Revolve estimates it has 30,000+ titles in stock, but if you include the back rooms and storage areas off-site, there’s a truly staggering amount on rotation. Anything is possible at this store – all genres, all formats, all styles and all in various conditions. In the same visit I have pulled out rare Motown soul, early 2000s broken beat specials, original ’80s disco rap and awesome Krautrock. The store may sound overwhelming but it also happens to be a very welcoming and well organised store, despite the huge collection and constant turn over.
Location: 499-501 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Go for: Ghibli films on DVD, the latest Madlib drop, a Dummies Guide to books
What’s the story? Title has been providing quality music and books at a number of locations around Australia for a few years. The Sydney store in Surrey Hills is definitely their dopest location and also the original location. Self-coined as an ’emporium of culture’, Title is also a book store and stocks trendy crossover items such as anime DVDs, music concert videos, wall hangings and high end turntables. The majority of the music they stock falls into the !K7, Strut, Ninja Tune, Stones Throw basket. Although many people buy online these days, having a physical haunt like this definitely caters for an important customer base – one that cares about great modern music.
The Vintage Record
Location: 31a Parramatta Rd, Annandale
Go for: ACDC misprints, the store dog
What’s the story? The Vintage Record is a hot spot for locals who flock to check the latest digs hand curated by record aficionado Jimi Polar and his staff. The store boasts an impressive collection of original pressings on all genre tips and publishes an excellent blog that offers reviews and personal insight on its record finds. Definitely up there as one of the best hand curated selections in Australia.
Photography by Rizwan Omar & Tom Study