The Best Record Stores In Portland

by dharmachine

POWERED BY CRATE DIGGERS RECORD FAIR & AFTER PARTY | PORTLAND OR | AUGUST 26 2017

“Best Record Stores” lists undoubtedly depict a biased slant. If the list is “curated” by a single writer or a cultural aggregator of lists (we’re looking at you, Thrillist) posturing as a local, best is ambiguous at best. With our series of city-specific Best Record Stores, you’re getting the definitive list of spots according to some well-known record lovers in the city they call home. Sounds pretty simple, right? We’re certainly hoping so because we’re starting with the best record stores in Portland, Oregon. We asked some of our favorite Portlanders like Alela Diane, the sisters of Joseph, Grouper aka Liz Harris, and Portland Mercury Editor Ned Lannamann and more to chime in on The Best Record Stores In Portland, Oregon.

We give you… The Best Record Stores In Portland!

Mississippi Records – (5202 N Albina Ave, Portland, OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Mississippi Records

Mississippi Records is my favorite record store in Portland, and probably my favorite record store in America. They are almost entirely vinyl (with a select handful of mix tapes–yes, cassettes), and the used stuff is very reasonably priced and meticulously curated. They’ve also got their own in-house reissue label, devoted to magical and heartfelt music from the length and breadth of sound-recorded space and time. Every time I go in there, I leave with a stack of records I’ve never seen anywhere before and will never see anywhere else again. Extra points for their in-house gallery, the Portland Museum of Modern Art. – Douglas Wolk (Music & Comics Critic)

Little Axe Records – (4142 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Little Axe Records

Friends Jed Bindeman (drums in Helen) and Warren Hill (who first started Mississippi Records with Eric years ago. Warren is the guy who found the Velvet Underground acetate at an estate sale) have a shop called Little Axe in the Hollywood neighborhood. Good selection of experimental, no wave, international; fair prices, both have their own label which you’ll be able to pick up rare stuff from there, hand-made shirts by Sooky, plus you can see a decent film (film-film) afterward any given day next door at the Hollywood Theater. – Liz Harris (Grouper)

Beacon Sound – (3636 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Beacon Sound

Beacon Sound is a quaint little record store on Mississippi Street. Andrew, the owner, is always super helpful & curates a unique selection of music by lesser known artists. When I was a part of The Beacon Sound Choir, Peter Broderick organized a loose group of Portland artists to gather there on Sunday mornings to use our voices, drink warm beverages, and eat baked goods. Other bonuses include the art gallery and vintage store that share the space. – Alela Diane

Beacon Sound on North Mississippi Avenue always has a great selection of new releases and reissues, as well as a curated cache of older stuff as well. They’re really supportive of local music and sometimes have shows in the store at night. We also really love Clinton Street Records on SE Clinton Street. It’s a short walk from our studio space and has been the source of many dollar bin treasures for us. – Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman (Pure Bathing Culture)

Jackpot Records – (3574 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Jackpot Records

Jackpot Records is hands down my favorite record store in Portland. In addition to having a fantastic selection and friendly clerks, I’ve seen some great live shows at Jackpot, including The Black Heart Procession and Sleater-Kinney. One of my favorite Thermals shows was our in-store at Jackpot’s (sadly gone) downtown location. – Hutch Harris (The Thermals)

Exiled Records – (4628 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Exiled Records

Exiled Records was started by an ex-bandmate of mine in partnership with a really great friend. They have created a store that is a music lover’s dream. Lots of LPs, many obscure and hard-to-find releases, and stuff you never thought you’d find fill the racks. It’s tops, and it’s only walking distance from my studio, Jackpot! Recording. What more could one ask for? – Larry Crane (Tape Op Magazine, Jackpot!)

Tender Loving Empire – (412 SW 10th Ave, Portland OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Tender Loving Empire

Lately my favorite record store in town has been Tender Loving Empire. The store is run by the TLE label, based in Portland, and in addition to selling the label’s releases, they curate a selection of music that includes some of the best of the PNW. They’re also a variety shop that sells locally produced handmade goods, they put on shows around town, and put out a great compilation each year called “Friends & Friends of Friends”. Rad folks.Jared Molyneux (The Shivas)

Crossroads Music – (8112 SE Foster, Portland OR)  – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Crossroads Music

Why visit one record store when you can visit more than two dozen at once? Crossroads is a one-of-a-kind experience for anyone who’s ever loved music, and it’s the smartest place to go record hunting in Portland. They don’t carry just one seller’s inventory—Crossroads houses used vinyl from more than 30 different vendors who sell their wares on consignment. The result is a huge mini-mall of records, or a brick-and-mortar year-round record show—truly a browser’s paradise. All the different sellers mean that each bin can be wildly varied, with an assortment of specialties and treasures to sift through, and while it’s might be a nightmare for an anal-retentive who’s just looking for one particular piece of wax, it’s a crate digger’s dream, with coveted rare gems under the same roof as dozens of well-stacked dollar bins. Crossroads was kicked out of its longtime home on Hawthorne earlier this summer, but fortunately has just reopened in a brand-new, bigger space on SE 82nd and Foster. The new spot, handily situated on three bus lines, is even larger than the old one, which means more room for those bins, jam-packed with every kind of vinyl treasure you could imagine.
—Ned Lannamann (Editor, Portland Mercury)

 

Portland used to be a crate-diggers paradise, but much like the city itself, the glut of local record shops have largely become a clearinghouse for spit-shined re-pressings and overpriced deluxe editions. Which is why when I die they’ll toss my ashes into the dust-covered racks of Crossroads Music. An expansive, glorified flea market stuffed with individual sellers sporting widely varying tastes, the place feels like a United Nations of competing genres. Upon walking in you’re greeted with your typical Vinyl-101 starter kit: Stones, Beatles, Stevie, Hank. But venturing further inside is a bit like tripping through that wardrobe to Narnia. There’s the stash along the left wall storing every hit and near-miss of 80s new wave, from PiL’s debut to New Zealand’s Pin Group. Across the aisle the forgotten kings and queens of 90s alt-rock stare back at you from behind their eyeliner. You want funk and soul? Hope you packed a lunch. Around the corner you’ll likely find some Indonesian ganglong fighting for space with Biz Markie and Buck Owens. Mudhoney’s Steve Turner even has a curated section of mostly bizarre Northwest garage. Massive, lovingly manicured, and full of magic for both the novice and the nerd, Crossroads remains Portland’s last great record store. – Bart Blasengame (Owner, The Fixin’ To)

And the winner undeniable winner is…

Music Millennium – (3158 E Burnside St, Portland OR) – VinylHub

Best record stores in Portland: Music Millennium

I’ve been crate digging up and down Hawthorne since I was a kid but that landscape has changed over the years, most recently with the wonderfully dusty, consignment-based Crossroads Music relocating to FoPo. Honestly, you could pick a quadrant of Portland and dig to your heart’s delight, but since I’m spending most of my days in SE, I’d recommend the complete record store (and very Portland) experience of Music Millennium or the immaculately curated vinyl selection of local music at Tender Loving Empire—which also has locations by Powell’s, on NW 23rd and at the airport. And while you’re at Millennium or TLE, be sure to pick up a copy of Vortex! —Chris Young, (Editor-In-Chief of Vortex Music Magazine)

Music Millennium. It’s like a Waterloo-esque spot that’s stayed afloat in these “hard times” with lots of in store appearances, a great vinyl selection, cool events and an owner so rad the city is actually devoting a holiday to him in a few weeks. Legend has it, he helped put the wheels in motion for Record Store Day as well. – Pete Cottell (Contributing Music Writer, Willamette Week)

We love Music Millennium! They’ve been so good to us, very aware of local talent and a staple in the Portland community since the ’70s! We’ve done a couple of in-store performances that have been wonderful. If I were to go to the store tomorrow I’d look for either Nick Drake Pink Moon or Feist’s new one. So good! – Natalie, Allison, and Meegan (Joseph)

I moved to Portland in the late ’90s as part of that first wave of what they now call “invaders”, so I am familiar with what Portland once was like; an affordable city with lots of independent businesses. Maybe someone owned one restaurant or bar, not four. A lot has changed, and many of my old haunts are now condos, but one old Portland establishment still exists: Music Millennium which was established in 1969. I would say longevity alone might be proof as to it being the best Portland record store – it has survived our rapidly growing city. They expanded their vinyl selection five years ago, and the used CD section is vast and affordable. It’s really comforting to know I can still go see a free show at Music Millennium or place an order for a record I just heard about and continue to support a business that is old Portland. – Mistina La Fave (The Prids)

“I used to live down the street from Music Millennium years ago. It has a very laid back atmosphere for flipping through vinyl without being harassed by anyone. I bought ‘(A) Senile Animal‘ the day it came out there. I also picked up passes to see Queens of the Stone Age do a secret acoustic performance at Powell’s books. The shop opened 40 years ago catering to people with more adventurous tastes in music and have not seemed to slow down a bit. Love that spot!” – Bryan Giles (Red Fang)

“Music Millenium represents and encapsulates everything that is Portland, OR. The store is weird, old, and quite frankly doesn’t care what you think about it. It has seen performances from some of Portlands most iconic artists, and is owned by the man who, of anyone represents our city the best. Music Millennium is an icon, and something all music lovers in Portland are proud to call their local record store.” – Austin Abelkis (Do503)

Haven’t tired of digging yet? Get along to Crate Diggers Portland Record Fair and After Party on August 26! More information at cratediggers.com.

3 comments about “The Best Record Stores In Portland
  • postpunkmonk 4 months ago
    When visiting Portland for a friend's 50th birthday party, we were very impressed with both Crossroads and Music Millennium. It says a lot that my crate-digging friend left L.A. to hit Portland for his birthday celebration. He knew which side his bread was buttered on! I still have things I bought for chump change at Music Millennium that I've never seen elsewhere. The multi-dealer "record antique mall" vibe of Crossroads was brilliant! Having multiple curators for a single space endured maximum diversity of stock! Why has this conceit not caught on like wildfire? Imagine what could happen in smaller cities where dealers not big enough to support a brick and mortar alone could collectively coalesce into a great store? Think about it: the churn rate drives my regular visits to stores. If a store had 8-12 dealers working it at all time, that would be the kind of place that merited definitely weekly visits.
  • suziemah 4 months ago
    Make sure you pick up a tri-fold "Portland Guide to Independent Record Stores". It lists over two dozen vinyl record stores in the city by region/neighborhood. I was just in Portland in the first week of August, and visited the new location of Crossroads Music. It's no longer on Hawthorne Street but now on SE Foster Road, which is a bit out of the way but well worth the drive.
    A personal favourite store of mine is Clinton Street Record & Stereo. It's in an off the beaten path neighborhood just south of Hawthorne but a gem of a store.
    If you visit Tender Loving Empire, go to the one at 3541 SE Hawthorne instead of the one listed above. The Hawthorne Street store has two listening stations where you can listen BEFORE you buy local releases they sell on vinyl.
  • ryanwines 4 months ago
    I know they're still relatively new, but Speck's Records and Tapes in Kenton is quickly becoming one of the best in town.