chicago illinois

The Best Record Stores in Chicago

The Windy City has a rich music history and a diverse vinyl scene. We asked some of the most music-savvy Chicagoans — including Andrew Bird, Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot, James Weir of NE-HI, and many more  — to share their top picks for the best record stores in Chicago.

Laurie’s Planet of Sound record store chicago illinois

Laurie’s Planet of Sound

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Andrew Bird: “There are so many Chicago record stores that are long gone, and I want to honor their memory. The Jazz Record Mart was like nothing I’ve ever seen. If you couldn’t find it there…

“I could go way back to my days in the Chicago Youth Symphony at the Fine Arts Center then hitting Rose Records next to Carl Fisher Sheet Music on Wabash. That was a completely different reality, but it’s heartening to see a few great stores still thriving. Dusty Groove on Ashland Avenue is a great curated shop of choice soul, funk, afro-pop, and jazz. The focus seems to be danceable and tasty tunes mostly ’60s to early ’80s. Laurie’s Planet of Sound is a solid neighborhood indie store. Friendly and approachable and not as specialized as Dusty Groove. A good place to go for new releases. I remember around the turn of the last century going to Laurie’s and ceremoniously buying my first current pop albums. Until then, I was only known to hang out at Jazz Record Mart or the blues and jazz room at Tower. I had never really purchased records by living artists. I picked up the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin and Lambchop’s Nixon. It seems quaint now but that was a big deal for me.”

4639 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60625

dusty groove record store chicago illinois

Dusty Groove

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Greg Kot at the Chicago Tribune: “It’s impossible for me to name just one great record store in Chicago. Reckless, Dave’s Records, Laurie’s Planet of Sound, Gramaphone — they’re all well-curated shops run by music connoisseurs, and their stock oozes personality and taste because of them. But if pressed to name just one, I’d have to go with Dusty Groove. They have long been my go-to for soul dusties and funk, Tropicalia, Afrobeat, French pop, avant-garde electronic music, German art-rock, jazz, and a bevy of left-of-center genres. It’s the kind of place that rewards browsing — you walk in looking for a particular record and inevitably find it, but you also wind up stumbling into three more discs that you just have to buy.”

James Weir of NE-HI: “Hands down, my favorite record store in Chicago is Dusty Groove. If you’re looking for soul, jazz, funk, Brazilian, etc., this is the place to be. Every time I walk in thinking I’m going to be financially responsible and only buy one record, the music being played in the store makes me behave otherwise. One of the best ways to hear great new sounds is just by hanging out in the shop. If you want to buy new vinyl from around the world, from every era, or just find some obscure soul 45 from 1979, go to Dusty Groove. Don’t forget to walk down the block to Alegria’s for Mexican seafood after”

1120 N. Ashland Ave. Chicago, IL 60622

Reckless Records record store chicago illinois

Reckless Records

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Sean O’Neal at The A.V. Club: “I drop most of my disposable income at Reckless Records — chiefly because it’s close to my house, but also because it’s one of the most deeply stocked record stores in town. It also has its sometimes lovable, sometimes frustrating little quirks; every single electronic album is lumped under ‘Dance,’ for example, regardless of whether you can move to it, and that’s if they haven’t been filed according to someone’s individual whim. (I guess that’s why they call it ‘Reckless’). But the staff is knowledgeable and has good taste, and they put stickers with whole paragraphs’ worth of descriptors and endorsements on the sleeves that have led me to a lot of stuff I might have overlooked otherwise. I’m lucky to have it.”

Mike Maimone of MUTTS: “Reckless Records is a Chicago staple with three locations. The one in Wicker Park somewhat recently moved a few blocks down Milwaukee Avenue so it could stretch out into a bigger location. They’ve always had a fantastic selection of pre-loved vinyl, and now there’s room for even more. I’ve found original pressings of some of my favorite classic albums at this location. They carry new releases, too, but I love this location for a nice long browsing experience.”

1379 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60622

kiss the sky record store chicago illinois

Kiss the Sky

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Richard Milne of Local Anesthetic on WXRT: “Chicago has no shortage of really phenomenal record stores. Wicker Park alone hosts half a dozen. But I’m going to suggest Kiss the Sky out in Batavia, IL, because of its role as an anchor of the community. Not only the record-buying, music-loving community but the community of performers and artists who populate the way western suburbs of Chicago. You can buy records anywhere and anytime these days but a place to gather with like (and unlike) musical minds has always been critical to the health of musicians and fans alike. From what I’ve seen over the years, the support of Kiss the Sky for music makers and vice-versa is beautifully symbiotic.”

180 1st St. Batavia, IL 60510

Rediscover Records record store chicago illinois

Rediscover Records

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Mark Guarino, music journalist: “There are so many record stores in Chicago it’s easy to get lost amid them all, and for crate diggers, the competition can be fierce. That’s why it’s worth the 30-minute drive past O’Hare to the Fox River Valley to visit Rediscover Records in historic downtown Elgin. Owner Rich Wagner left his family catering business to fulfill a lifelong dream, and his store captures the feeling of those days when record stores doubled as community centers for music freaks. Wall-to-wall vinyl fills his shop (no CDs), most of it culled from collections throughout Chicago’s suburbs. His specialty is alt-country of all stripes with special emphasis on the early Chicago scene. (Check out the framed cover of Illinois Entertainer on the wall featuring a new band called Uncle Tupelo.) There’s a healthy collection of 45s and 78s, and on Saturdays check out whatever local band he booked to play a few sets. Wagner is a diehard who understands browsing is not a get-in, get-out experience, so his store is designed as an open invitation to climb inside and become a loyalist to the music.”

9 S. Spring St. Elgin, IL 60120

bric a brac records record store chicago illinois

Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles

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Donnie Moore of Absolutely Not: “One of my favorite Chicago stores is Bric-a-Brac Records. Owned and operated by the ever-pleasant husband-and-wife team Nick and Jen, Bric-A-Brac always stays on the pulse of current music, whether it’s local or national, and their collection soars! The store also constantly hosts live shows during business hours that are a ton of fun. I’ve seen so many great bands there over the past couple of years and even played a fun show in there myself with the local band Speed Babes. Added bonus: They also sell vintage toys and gadgets of all kinds! It’s quite a collection, and a trip to skim through especially if you’re into 1980s-’90s nostalgia. I’ve definitely picked up a lot of great items from that section including an old-school Batman water bottle and Dick Tracy folder, which is just the best. I’ve also snagged some great vinyl over the years including The Dicks’ Hate The Police EP, Women’s Public Strain LP, and many killer local records. Long live the mighty Bric-A-Brac!”

3156 W. Diversey Ave. Chicago, IL 60647

oak park records record store chicago illinois

Oak Park Records

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Ryan Arnold at WXRT: “A ‘must-visit’ record store on any crate-diving adventure is Oak Park Records. They keep a selection of LPs, EPs, 45s, and CDs that’s good for a novice and exciting for a collector. They hold a high bar for the quality of the albums they bring in and have a years-long track record of consistent and accurate grading. If you see something you like, move quick – dust doesn’t settle on the bins! The shop’s owner, Alan Heffelfinger, has a keen ear for suggesting music you may not know but may like based on who you’re currently listening to. He seems to take genuine joy in turning someone on to new music! Street parking isn’t typically a problem, and the shop is a few blocks south of the Oak Park CTA Green Line stop.”

179 S. Oak Park Ave. Oak Park, IL 60302

Feature image by Pedro Lastra.

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