If you’re fed up with pseudo indie, overpriced, and pretentiously displayed record collections, despair no more. The Voice has uncovered some gems that are sure to satisfy your craving for quality vinyl. So, leave the comfort of your Urban Outfitters hovel and hop on a joyride through some of D.C.’s noteworthy record stores.
1843 14th Street, N.W.
Founded in 2007 by Neal Becton, Som Records is a music lover’s oasis, tucked away in a funky little basement on 14th street. Upon entering the store, customers find themselves entranced in the discovery process, flipping through the overflow of new and used LPs from some of history’s greatest R&B, soul, and jazz artists. This soothing experience is accentuated by vinyl decorated walls and a jazzy New Orleans aura that easily captivates music aficionados. Although Som Records specializes in soulful genres, the store also receives a number of rock & roll, electronic, and indie records, as well as new releases from artists like 2Chainz, Animal Collective, and Toro y Moi.
2314 18th Street, N.W.
Before its 2007 move to Adams Morgan, Smash! Records was the center of Georgetown punk culture. Since 1984, this outfit has been curating the punk subculture movement, from studded leather bomber jackets to a satisfying array of vinyl records for D.C.’s own punks. Smash!’s role has not changed much in its current permutation—it remains a sanctuary for rockers, young and old. This niche retailer holds a comprehensive collection of new and used punk, hardcore, and garage records, which is nicely padded with an eclectic cross-section of other genres. The store’s welcoming staff makes digging through records, band merch, and used clothing an inviting and relaxing afternoon activity.
Red Onion Records
1901 18th Street, N.W.
What Red Onion Records, a petite store on 18th street, lacks in size, it easily makes up for in a fantastic collection of used and inexpensive LPs from a range of genres. This location is full of rare treasures, including collectable items from artists like jazz legend John Coltrane to rock & roller Bruce Springsteen. Customers immediately find themselves ensconced in the store’s easy-going vibes, soulful ambient music, and colorfully decorated walls, all of which are lined with bins of highly organized and incredibly diversified vinyl. It’s difficult not to get lost in this musical Narnia. If you’re looking for something specific from the days of old, Red Onion Records is a great place to start.
Crooked Beat Records
2116 18th Street, N.W.
Just up the street from Red Onion, nestled beneath a halal meat shop, lies Crooked Beat Records. This shop sacrifices the thrill of digging through crate after crate of used LPs for the simplicity of an efficient organization system. The well-stocked dugout anchors its collection in an extensive selection of rock, ranging from classic to punk to alternative. New and used records are separated, and within each section albums are organized by genre and artist. The bright lights and energetic alt rock bumping in this lovely hole-in-the-wall gives Crooked Beat an up-tempo vibe perfect for quick, pre-planned vinyl cruising.
Join the support of the vinyl revival in the nation’s capital. If you’re interested in records for the music they hold and not for their merit as cheesy wall decorations, blissfully lighten your wallet, walk past the bougie joints on M St., and take advantage of these hi-fi hotspots, conveniently clustered just a pop, skip, and a crackle from the Healy gates.