After decades of ups and downs, it seems as if vinyl is the definite survivor of the physical format showdown in music. If you appreciate the big sleeves and rituals associated with the pure physicality of the medium, you’ll spend the extra buck for the joy that comes with owning your music.
The natural counterpart of this is having to go into a physical store with tons of material, run by nerds like yourself. Scanning through piles upon piles of records, with its repetitive hand movements, and the focus set on the task of finding something awesome can become a kind of meditation. Buying music over the Internet will just never be as satisfying.
The following are some of the places I go to for this particular kind of me-time in Buenos Aires.
Jarana Records: The New
Even though Jarana does sell used vinyl, it is their (for Argie standards) gargantuan stock of new vinyl that sets them apart. If you are looking for something very specific or just want to be surprised at the variety of the catalog this place is a must.
Most record stores in Buenos Aires have a strong bias in favor of rock and pop music, often of the vintage variety. Jarana has a lot of that too, and almost half of the space is dedicated to it. Nonetheless, their jazz, metal and hip-hop selections are some of the best in town and worth checking out. Equally intriguing is the small but charming movie soundtrack section.
Price points are often on the higher end of the spectrum here, and this is Jarana’s Achilles’ heel. These guys price their records using the lettering system (each record has a letter, and a small card on the wall tells you how much each letter is worth). In a country where prices rise very perceptively month to month, they makes sure that prices always stay the highest possible. While they have a sale’s section, after about a dozen times checking it I have yet to find any real bargain. Despite this, it is a very cool place to check out all in all.
Soria 5125 |Monday-Saturday 11:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Exiles Records: The Eclectic
Just around the block from Jarana is Exiles, a smaller store with lot to browse. New and used vinyl are sold in about equal measure, and even though prices are in the usual range you tend to find in Palermo, you can score some very reasonable deals in the used section.
Compared to the others other similar stores, there’s a few noteworthy sections. For one, they actually display Argentine and imported editions of used records in separate sections. The Argentine editions are sometimes less than half the price as the imported ones, even in good condition! We highly recommend browsing this section carefully. Another touch I like very much is the “flasheros (weird ones)” section. On a good day, you may find anything from whale music to historical curiosities, to ethnic music from obscure tribes.
Honduras 5270 | Monday-Saturday 12-8PM
Rock and Freud: The Classic
I actually discovered this place recently, from another La La Lista writer, and haven’t looked back. This place synthesizes the classic porteño taste in classic rock with the corresponding dosage of Beatles worship thrown in (and I guess a dash of psychoanalysis somehow?). Apart from the Tame Impala records, there isn’t much that would have looked different if this record store existed 30 years ago.
They also have an awesome jazz section, and their special edition showcase is a place of wonders that for me at least will remain forever untouched.
Arenales 3337 |Open Monday-Saturday, 2–9PM
Bargain Hunting at Parque Centenario: The Deals
If you are looking for good deals, then there is no better place to look than the little stands at Parque Centenario’s fair. Vendors hoard all kinds of used vinyl in large, unsorted and uncategorized boxes, so you might have to look through tons of obscure 60s Argentine music until you find something that interests you (unless you are into that kind of thing of course). After a while, you might find something cool, but potentially severely damaged. Eventually though you are bound to find something you are really excited about, at a fraction of what it would cost you at a normal store. As one of the sellers puts it – “I sell these at 2015 prices, otherwise nobody would buy them.” Other stands have slightly more curated catalogs with fair prices. But in general, the rule of thumb seems to be that that the less curated the catalog is, the higher the chance that you will find something cool at a ridiculous fraction of what it would cost you in a fancier store.
And for any of you cassette fans, this may be the best place in town to shop. With one or two stands with a large collection of them, you’re bound to find some interesting titles. The prices are in general likewise low.
Parque Centenario | Weekends & Holidays, 11 AM – 7 PM