Keep On Believing: My Top 5 Record Shops in London

matt-lindleyThis is a guest post written by Matt Lindley. Matt is a London-based music listener and analogue synth fan. He likes physical formats, free-improvisation and folk. You can find him on Twitter @MattELindley.

I don’t often write about music so I thought it would be an interesting topic by  someone who does!

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London is still a great place for buying secondhand vinyl, despite the closure of many record shops, including On the Beat in Soho, where the owner has just put the entire store on eBay. The shops that are thriving tend to be the ones that really understand the needs of the average record buyer these days.

The typical London vinyl addict possibly isn’t looking for a first edition Led Zeppelin VI or Dark Side of the Moon LP anymore. They’re after something more obscure, like a lost New Zealand post-punk classic or a Norwegian black metal LP. The shops that cater to their needs by offering a carefully-curated selection of hard-to-find titles and the in-store aesthetics to match will probably live forever.

A visit to a local record shop will always offer much more than buying used vinyl on eBay. It is a place to discover new music, meet like-minded people and try before you buy in a way that you can’t do online. I am sure that music fans will continue to support their local record shops, as long as they believe in them. Anyway, here are five London record shops that are getting it right.

KRISTINA RECORDS
44 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XJ
www.kristinarecords.com

kristina-records-dalstonPhoto from Kristina Records website

Kristina Records only opened two and a half years ago – after the supposed death of the high street record store – which goes to show that if you sell the right kind of music to the right people, you will be successful. The shop takes up a small, well-designed space in Dalston (reminding me of Record Grouch in Brooklyn) and mainly sells underground music of all varieties (Minimal Techno, Noise, 80s Industrial, Free-Jazz, American Primitive). The stock is split 60/40 between secondhand and new vinyl and has been well-curated and categorised. It is definitely my favourite place in London for avant-garde and experimental sounds now that Second Layer has closed down.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Goblin Buio Omega Soundtrack LP (AMS) £26

HONEST JONS
278 Portobello Road, London W10 5TE
www.honestjons.com

Honest Jons
Photo: Honest Jons by flickr_b3rn

Honest Jon’s is a long-standing Notting Hill record shop that specialises in soul, jazz and reggae. It opened in 1974 and offers lovingly reissued global classics alongside a treasure trove of secondhand gems. The Honest Jon’s record label was established in 2001 in collaboration with regular customer and Blur frontman Damon Albarn. It was formed partly out of necessity, as the opportunities to travel to the US, Brazil and Africa to buy rare records became less and less viable. The label issues brilliant, pioneering dance music. For this reason alone, not to mention the great selection of used titles, you should check out this Ladbroke Grove legend.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Brokenhearted Dragonflies Insect Electronica From Southeast Asia (Sublime Frequencies) £17.99

SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE
7 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DA
www.soundsoftheuniverse.com

Sounds of the Universe, Record Store Day, Berwick Street, London 20/04/2013
Photo: Sounds of the Universe by David Jones 大卫 琼斯

Sounds of the Universe is my favourite record shop in Soho, specialising in reggae, dub, Brazilian Tropicalia, African funk and other global sounds. Upstairs is devoted to brand new vinyl and CDs while, in true record shop fashion, the downstairs basement is bulging with original vinyl. What makes it worth visiting is the passionate, knowledgeable staff and their dedication to unearthing the best sounds from around the world. Sounds of the Universe is also home to Soul Jazz Records, who have released some amazing crate-digging compilations of dancehall, acid house and German experimental rock over the years.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Gregory Isaacs Showcase original LP (Taxi) £25

FLASHBACK
50 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 8LR
www.flashback.co.uk

IMG_5715
P
hoto: Flashback by Eric Huang

Flashback in Islington has been operating since 1997 and has always been about secondhand stock. But since the music industry started to press most new releases on vinyl, they now sell brand new titles as well. New vinyl and CDs can be found upstairs, but the used vinyl in the basement is really where it’s at. This is the place to find lost classics leaning heavily towards the rock/punk/alternative end of the spectrum (my favourite) at reasonable prices. Whether you are after an everyday playing copy of a grunge classic or an £800 pristine first pressing of Shirley Collins’ Sweet England, Flashback should have something for you. This and Haggle Vinyl make Islington a great place to live for record hounds.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Flaming Lips Clouds Taste Metallic LP (original US green vinyl) £30

RAT RECORDS
348 Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RW
www.ratrecordsuk.net

Rat Records, Camberwell, SE5
Photo: Rat Records, Camberwell by Ewan Munro

Trading since 1998, Rat Records sells a extensive range of secondhand reggae, soul, punk and classic rock to Camberwell’s eclectic local community. Owner Tom Fisher has been dealing in records for 24 years and seriously knows his stuff. For example, in his record buying time, he has discovered the only vinyl acetate pressing of a collaboration between Mick Jagger and John Lennon. What I like about Rat Records is the fact that they put out fresh stock every Saturday morning, so you can get there early and be sure to bag a bargain. The LPs are rarely priced at more than £8, so you will probably find something below list price, too.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Record Store Day is an annual event taking place in record shops across the UK every April. Many London record shops participate by offering exclusive vinyl-only releases and putting on in-store gigs and events. Also, if you are visiting the capital from out of town and are looking for accommodation, I’d recommend checking out HotelClub.

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GIVEAWAY: Pair of Tickets to See Roger Hodgson of Supertramp at Royal Albert Hall

I grew up with the sounds of Supertramp – The Logical Song, Dreamer, Give a Little Bit. My dad was a roadie with the band long before I was born and has shared plenty of stories. Supertramp were the first concert I went to at the age of 11. Co-founder Roger Hodgson still plays solo shows singing the songs he wrote for Supertramp and is currently on a worldwide Breakfast in America tour. (Here’s a review from a happy fan who saw him play last month.)

Excited to hear he has a show on May 25th at the Royal Albert Hall, an amazing London venue, I bought tickets. I’ll be travelling for work now which means I won’t be able to go, so I thought I’d give away my pair of tickets to one of you!

THE GIVEAWAY:
One pair of tickets to see Roger Hodgson at The Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday May 25th

HOW TO ENTER:

1.) Share the link to Little London Observationist either on one of your social networks or in some way – perhaps a friend who you know might like to follow along.

2.) After you shared the link, leave a comment on the blog to let me know where you shared it and why you want the tickets!

THE DEADLINE: 
I will need time to get them to you, so I’ll ask a friend to choose a winner by selecting a random number correlated to the comments on the blog on May 16, one week from today.

Good luck!

Does His Love Make Your Head Spin?

Does His Love Make Your Head Spin?

“It´s only advertising” is the title of Keaton Henson´s blog post where he shows off the video of painting these words (but I´m sharing it this despite that).

I walked past the wall the other day where they´re on a massive poster near Old Street and took a photo because I liked the question. I think love should make your head spin a bit.

Wasn´t sure where they came from but turns out it´s the lyrics of a song. This song. Which is quite nice.

London Underground Buskers

When I first moved to London, I adored the tube and everything about it. The novelty fades after mornings and evenings crammed in like sardines next to sweaty bodies, crowds, strikes, fare increases, delays and line closures. There is one thing I still love about it though, and that is the buskers that play their tunes through many of the central stations. I took a photo of this one playing in Holborn. A lot of them have unique instruments and are very talented.

Holborn Busker

In last Saturday’s Listen to a Londoner interview, Mariano Ortiz recommended Latin American harp and clarinet maestros Diego Laverde and Cheveto Requena at Angel and Green Park stations.

Do you have a favourite London Underground busker?

Listen to a Londoner: Esnayder Cuartas

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Esnayder Cuartas
(Photo by Pablo Salgado)

Esnayder is the manager at Latin American restaurant, Sabor, in N1, with six months travelling the length and breadth of South America (all but Paraguay). After growing up in Colombia, he has now spent nearly two decades in London.

LLO: How long have you lived in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
EC: I have been living in London for 18 years. I come from a town called Quinchia in the coffee region of Colombia. I came initially to London to learn English and subsequently business studies. I chose London, instead of going to the US to learn English there, as I thought that the culture is very interesting. It is a cosmopolitan city and due its geographic position is a good base to explore Europe.

LLO: Tell us why we should immediately book a table at your North London restaurant, Sabor?
EC: Sabor is a South American restaurant that offers nuevo latino food, which combines the traditional cuisine of South America with modern gastronomic techniques. Sabor shows a contemporary Latin American culture, in a modern and fun space, where the warmth of its people, smooth latin rhythms in the background, imaginative cocktails and freshly cooked latin flavours make all your senses travel though South American in the heart of Islington.

LLO: What sort of atmosphere can we expect?
EC: Fun, cool and mellow, very friendly. That is latin for you.

LLO:What top three dishes would you recommend?
EC: Empanadas are a Latin American staple. These cornmeal patties are light and crispy with fillings like beef and potato, chorizo and plantains and fish.  They are served with aji which is a spicy tomato relish.  Ceviches are one the classic dishes of South American food. They are fresh fish ‘cooked’ in a citrus marinade and finished with chilli and coriander. This is full of flavour and very light for those trying to watch what they eat.  Aji de Gallina is a chicken breast that is marinated with Aji Amarillo, a  smoked Peruvian chilli, that has enough heat to get you taste buds going but leaves you able to taste the other flavours, such as tumeric.

LLO:And to drink?
EC: We do the classic latin cocktails like mojitos, cahipirhinas, margaritas, pisco sour, but we also like to showcase latin flavours, so we have our own cocktails such as passion fruits margaritas, mora (the south American blackberry) cahipirhinas and much more. Our wine list is mainly South American, and we have a list of latin beers too.

LLO:Besides the food, where else in London do you go when you’re craving a bit of Colombian culture?
EC: For Colombian culture, I particularly look forward to Autumn when Colombiage, a London-based team who promote contemporary Colombian culture in the UK organise a series of events, such as films, literary talks, art exhibitions, etc. Sometimes I go to Elephant and Castle Shopping centre to buy some Colombian snacks and get a feel of the more mainstream Latin culture.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
EC: The South Bank Centre. Since my early days, I used to go there between schools at midday and get a free concert. All year round it’s full of cultural activities. The recent festival about Brazil was amazing. I love the view from the Royal Festival Hall at sunset all year round.

LLO:Biggest challenge you’ve faced as an expat in London?
EC: The biggest challenge was learning the language. Once you can communicate, you discover that there is so much that you can do in London that never ends.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
EC: I live in E14. The best thing is the river and the canals. It feels that you are in a different london – people greet each other while they are walking by the canal. It’s that mixture of old and new architecture, nature and the sound of the water.

LLO: Tell us about a favourite London memory that could only have happened in London.
EC: Had a champagne tasting in Bermondsey, follow by a coffee at Bar Italia, then went to see Jose Feliciano, a huge latin star, at Ronnie Scots, followed by a Lebanese meal in Soho all in one night. That is London – the city where you are spoiled for choice. Every time that I’m flying over London, I feel at home.

http://www.sabor.co.uk

Thanks Esnayder!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.