The Vinyl Countdown: Best Record Stores and Vinyl Collections in Taipei

city543-music-month-icon-theme-record-shop-bob-dylan-the-doors Press play on City543 this month as we talk music, our constant companion. From places to buy, listen and dance to music, we wanna – in the immortal words of the King of Pop – rock with you, all night, dance you into day.

 

It was a trend remastering that slowly seeped its way into the lives of any regular ol’ hipster with some semblance of musical inclinations, to being eventually regurgitated out into mainstream public consciousness. You know that even Eslite has sections devoted exclusively to it now? So what is it about these flat polyvinyl chloride discs, with their “inscribed, modulated spiral grooves” (thanks, Wikipedia), that has everyone waxing lyrical? At the very least, for true vinyl romantics, the act of acquiring the goods in itself makes up a large part of the why, and record stores are the mainstays of that pastime. To borrow from High Fidelity‘s Nick Hornby: “Record stores can’t save your life. But they can give you a better one”. Which is admittedly a nicer way of saying it’s a reason to shut down iTunes and leave the house.

So, for the record, and for your record (player), City543 presents the crème De La (Soul) crème of record stores and vinyl collections in Taipei.

White Wabbit Records (小白兔唱片)

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It’s your most bearded, flannel-wearing Portland friends but in Taiwan. White Wabbit, perhaps Taipei’s most beloved and esteemed indie record label, is a regular hipster household name after a 15-plus year run. Reflective of its late ’90s post-rock beginnings, White Wabbit’s ragtag indie ethos is well-maintained to this day – most evidently seen through its persistent support of both the local and international alternative pop scene (as well as its yearly participation in Record Store Day). Though much more mainstream now than its alleged beginnings of selling CDs in a bathroom stall, White Wabbit’s flagship store remains the best place to pick up a Sub Pop album or two. A favorite amongst Shida students, and those still stuck in an early 2000’s Garden State phase.

image via White Wabbit Records

 

2manyminds (貳樂號音樂選貨舖)

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This studio is less store than it is the carefully curated collection of Taipei’s spin granddaddy DJ Spykee; to shop without a grasp on its founding father makes for a lackluster experience. Those familiar with Spykee’s sets will attest that the man can seamlessly move from “Ghostbusters” to “Gangnam Style” without seeming gimmicky or maladroit. Spykee’s long list of accolades also includes Dance Rock Taipei, the alternative club event series that, borrowing heavily from Japan’s club scene, unites electro and rock music. Here at 2manyminds is where you’ll find the coolest Japanese rare finds in both CD and vinyl form, reflective of Spykee’s eclectic and eccentric taste.

image via 2manyminds

Vinyl Decision (黑膠咖啡)

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Hidden away in a quiet Liuzhangli lane is this little noisemaker. In the same way that divorcing 2manyminds from Spykee would be musical blasphemy, Vinyl Decision would be remiss without the big personalities behind it all – ICRT Radio DJ Terry Engel and Alley Cat owner Mark Thomas. With a firm grasp on the intrinsic intimacy underpinning the act of listening, Engel’s and Thomas’s side project baby also doubles as a listening lounge – allowing customers to play DJ to other patrons with their picks, from a selection ranging from Aretha to The Beatles. Weekly gigs and events also allow for plenty of musical mingling and jamming.

image via Vinyl Decision

Beans & Beats

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Like all good hip hop record labels, KAO!INC knows how to be enterprising. Enter Beans & Beats, the hip hop offering on Fujin Street that puts fat meats next to phat beats – the kind of place that Action Bronson might be proud of. The brainchild of self-proclaimed Kaohsiung ‘hoodboy’ Dela-Fat, KAO!INC is a typical ‘Started From The Bottom’ rags-to-rap-riches kind of story, growing from a mere hip hop-listening crew to an important backer of Taiwan’s underground hip hop scene. Its relatively new dining venture provides a juicy selection of burgers and local brews, as well as hip hop classics on wax (think Straight Outta Compton and Illmatic). A winning combination of eating big and listening to Big.

image via Beans & Beats

Reused (再造_藝文聲響實驗室)

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Reused takes pride in the recycled. Before you accuse us of pointing out the obvious, it’s worth mentioning that Reused incorporates this concept into every facet of its multi-functional studio. Housed on the 2nd and 3rd floor of an old building all the way up North in Beitou, Reused not only converted the derelict space into a hidden but thriving artists’ hangout, but an emporium of all things old and vintage. Included in its extensive collection of vintage finds (posters, toys, furniture) is, of course, rare vinyl. With alternative hip hop picks (Madlib, anyone?) and soundtracks from the likes of Star Wars, Reused offers a small but thoroughly gratifying crate-digging experience. For nostalgia seekers staying out late into the night, the space doubles as a hostel and bar.

image via Reused

Syntrend Vinyl (三創黑膠)

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Boasting of more than 20,000 records in its combined sales floor and warehouse spaces, this waxy hotspot, housed inside the newly-established Syntrend Creative Park, is a connoisseurs’ paradise. As one of Taipei’s biggest record collections, Syntrend Vinyl puts an emphasis on classical classics – though old jazz and pop favorites are not entirely dismissed either. More fascinating than the sheer volume of records is the curios on display: limited edition sonatas on wax locked firmly behind glass cabinets, some of which valued at more than NT$80,000, will easily break collectors’ hearts or bank accounts. True audiophiles may rejoice; Syntrend Vinyl is aptly situated near major audio gadget go-tos like Harman/Kardon, so you can pick up all the essentials in one quick go.

image via Trip Moment

Roxy Rocker

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It’s the sister bar to the now defunct and former alternative nightlife epicenter of Taipei, Roxy 99. As the last bastion of the post-party party, the demise of 99 proved heartbreaking for most who became acquainted with the dirty basement in its long legacy. It’s good news, however, for its less dirty but equally grungy sister Rocker, which now has sole Roxy spotlight. The lounge bar’s vinyl room (or corner, more like) is an impressive library of more than 10,000 rock classics ranging from Pink Floyd to Bowie, courtesy of Roxy overlord Ling Wei himself, and ups the ante on rock’n’roll cred for the entire Roxy brand. No records on sale here, but as a listening lounge, it’s enough to satiate even the hardest of rock fans.

image via Roxy Rocker

Vinyl Club (黑膠俱樂部)

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London to Taiwan we get, but New York to… Taipei? It’s an unlikely city pairing with a love of vinyl at its center. This club, requiring neither membership fee nor even much of a common thread, exists on the one premise alone: BYO vinyl and BYO hands to spin. Having started in Brooklyn somewhere around 2009, the club was brought out to Taipei in 2012 by a couple of enthusiastic DJs and is now predominantly stationed at Revolver for weekly gatherings. The vinyl potluck dispels music elitism, welcoming all genres and even the most amateur of DJs.

image via Vinyl Club

 

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