Record stores are a mecca for true music lovers, from the middle-aged men in tatty leather jackets and John Lennon specs by the collectables to the students by the recent indie-releases; the boys in Docs and tapered trousers and the girls in their oversized denim jackets. Their fingers glide from A to Z, over endless racks of lovingly sorted records, searching for that special addition to their collection.
In recent years, vinyl has made a comeback. It’s a trend that led to a historic landmark last December, when the sales of vinyl surpassed those of digital downloads for the first time since MP3 took over, with vinyl earning £2.4m in a week compared to £2.1m for downloads. Whilst most cities depend on HMV or that particularly overpriced section of Urban Outfitters to supply their vinyl, Leeds is spoilt for choice with its plethora of quality record stores.
Crash Records has been a part of the Leeds music scene for over 30 years, first opening on Woodhouse Lane in 1985. Two years later, they moved into their shoebox on The Headrow, where they’ve remained ever since. A quiet sanctuary from the bustle of The Headrow, the tiny shop is the essence of Record Store aesthetic. Racks of CDs and vinyl tower high, faded posters cover every inch of the exposed-brick walls, and the latest issues of DIY Magazine, The Skinny, Dork and that independent zine you like are stacked neatly next to each other in the corner. The pride Crash put into their store and service is amazing and they’re always up for hunting down that one record you can’t find anywhere else.
The same can be said of the staff at Relics Records and Jumbo Records which, along with Crash, make up Leeds’ ‘vinyl triangle’. At its current location at the top of St. Johns Centre, Jumbo acts as a music-filled heaven for gig-goers and vinyl collectors alike. Likewise, with more than 25,000 vinyl records, 10,000 used CDs and 1,000 DVDs, Relics on New Briggate is the place to discover that record you didn’t realise you needed until you held it in your hands. These three shops also consistently work together to promote local up-and-coming artists, hosting launch parties, instores, signings and just about anything they can to support promising young bands.
Singleshot Vinyl Records & Coffeehouse on Central Road is probably my favourite place in Leeds. You can’t go wrong with good coffee and music, and Singleshot blends them together in perfect harmony. Run by the lovely Paul and Rob, you’re guaranteed a chill time browsing their range of second-hand vinyl, sipping velvety coffee and eyeing up the insanely irresistible brownies. They also host laid-back gigs in the basement and are about to start selling craft-beer so you really can’t go wrong.
Norman Records isn’t your typical High Fidelity record store, but more of an Argos for vinyl lovers. Proudly housing recent releases, timeless classics and some of the most obscure albums you can think of, there’s no record you can’t get through the Norman team’s ‘Click-and-Collect’ service. The one-of-a-kind enterprise first started in 1995 in founder Phil’s attic, before eventually evolving into a unit in Holbeck once his ceiling began to sag under the amount of vinyl upon it. Now trading for over 21 years, the Norman team have been at it for a long time but their passion certainly hasn’t faded.
All in all, there are more places than HMV to get your music in Leeds and, with Record Store Day coming up on the 21st of April, these stores have some treats up their sleeves. Make sure to have a look at the special releases that are coming out exclusively for this year’s Record Store Day!
Images: (in order of appearance include main image) Leeds List, England Underground, Leeds List, Control Alt Delete Yorkshire, The Ransome Note