Listening to vinyl has long since gone past the point of being perceived as a quirky, Wes-Andersonian retro affectation. The good old LP is on its way to once again being the primary physical format for music. Sure, Walmart and Target still sell CDs, probably by the tens of dozens a day, across their respective corporate empires. But sales of new vinyl albums have shot up in recent years as more people realize just how empty a listening experience MP3s and streaming and whatnot are compared to putting a record on the turntable. Of course, if you were into underground hip-hop, metal, reggae or punk, vinyl never went away. All those independent labels have been pressing up wax slabs this whole time and independent record stores have been a vital community space for music lovers. And while Record Store Day (the third Saturday of every April) is a blast, don't let that be your only visit of the year. That's like only going to church on Easter.
Arkansas Record & CD Exchange
By far, the Record Exchange stocks more new vinyl than anywhere else in the state. Bill Eginton has been running this treasure trove for decades, and whether you just need to pick up the new Bon Iver or Radiohead album or you've got seven bills to drop on an original Sun copy of "That's Alright" b/w "Blue Moon of Kentucky," this is the place to go. Give Bill a call before you log onto Amazon to order that "Pet Sounds" repress. Odds are good that whatever you're after, he already has it in stock and it can be in your grubby mitts within the hour. If not, he can order anything you can get on the web, probably in the same amount of time and for around the same price, but with the added benefit of supporting the local economy and maybe even having an honest-to-God human interaction. Heck, you might even learn something, and if you hang around long enough you might have the good fortune of forgetting what eBay is. In addition to the pricey rarities and imports, Bill also has an excellent selection of $2 records, which are a great way for newbies to fill out their collections with less-than-perfect yet completely playable classics. Even the battle-scarred, dusty-fingered old hands can find some goodies in these bins, which line the floor beneath one of the glass display cases. And it's not just vinyl junkies that can get a fix at the Record Exchange. The place is also packed with CDs, cassettes, 8-Track tapes, reel-to-reels, posters, memorabilia, toys, comic books, magazines, movies on every format and more. Oh yeah, don't forget to take your jacket off. But if you do, Bill will remind you, whether it's your first visit or your 500th. 4212 MacArthur Drive, NLR. 753-7877. www.arcd.com. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Been Around Records
Another long-running Central Arkansas institution, Been Around is heaven on Earth for the true crate-digger, an analog goldmine packed from floor to ceiling with albums. The walls are organized by genre and alphabetical order, but most of the records aren't priced, so when you've made your selections, hand them over to owner John Harris and he'll be happy to price them for you. The line on Been Around is that it's not for the casual browser, but that's not really the case. If you're willing to look around for even a few minutes, you'll probably pick up something worthwhile, and the truly dedicated will be rewarded with awesome finds every time. Nearly all of the stock is used, and a few were well-loved. John is a stickler about condition, though, so while a flawless original pressing of "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" might set you back a pretty penny, a copy that's listenable but a few bumps short of mint will probably cost less than a used Stone Temple Pilots CD. Recent example: an ever-so-slightly crackly sounding copy of Miles Davis' "On the Corner" – a stone-cold nasty slab of paranoid nightmare-funk that had long proved elusive to a certain collector – was purchased for the bargain price of $4. John gets new (used) stuff in all the time and you never know what you'll find. Been Around also stocks tons of CDs, cassettes and movies. 1216 S. University Ave. 663-8767. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Blue Suede Shoes
Specifically, the Tim's Weird World booth, which is located near the middle of the enormous flea market. This little cubicle has more quality per square foot than any other you're likely to find amongst the antique malls of Central Arkansas, and the prices aren't too bad either. That said, if something is relatively rare, it won't come cheap, such as a $45 mono copy of "Blonde on Blonde" with the original sleeve that had a photo of Italian actress Claudia Cardinale and was recalled because it was used without permission. Tim also stocks lots of bootlegs, if that's your jam. He has a store in Paragould, and judging by the stuff he sells at Blue Suede Shoes, it must be awesome and no doubt warrants a road trip some Saturday. Blue Suede Shoes, 22460 I-30 N., Bryant. 653-2777. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Tim's Weird World, 1154 Greene CR 907, Paragould. 870-236-2928. noon-8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.
Savers, Goodwill, et al
In all honesty, the days of the awesome thrift store record find are probably over. Nine times out of 10, you're going to come up totally empty-handed when you hit Savers or Goodwill, but every once in a while you'll hit the jackpot. Legend has it that one local DJ found a grip of True Soul 45s at the Savers in North Little Rock. It's at the very least worth a look when you're trying to find a cheap end table or a Halloween costume. Savers, 801 S. Bowman Road A, 217-9417. 9 a.m-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun.; 4135 John F. Kennedy Blvd., NLR. 603-9831. 9 a.m-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Goodwill, 9700 Rodney Parham Road. 224-6221. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.; 109 W. Markham Park Drive. 221-1018. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.