Vinyl in Philly: The Ultimate Guide

vinyl records philadelphia

Shot on location at Betsu Studio, Port Richmond / Photograph by Jillian Guyette

There’s something irresistible about vinyl records, particularly here in Philly. It’s why we snapped up the second pressing of the Eagles’ Christmas album last year in two minutes flat, why we’ve seen a boom in the medium, and why we’re waxing poetic about this city’s talented DJs, clever listening rooms and noteworthy record stores. — Edited by Kristen Schott


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Three Vinyl Experts on Why the Past Is Cool Again

Brewerytown Beats vinyl record store philly

Vinyl shopping at Brewerytown Beats / Photograph by Douglas Interrante

In late 2022, Taylor Swift’s Midnights became the first album to sell better on vinyl than on CD in 35 years. Not to discount the passion of Swifties, but this wasn’t a huge surprise. Vinyl has become the music industry’s fastest-growing physical format in recent years. And while the latest study by data firm Luminate suggests there’s been some cooling-off after nearly two decades of expansion, the retro medium isn’t going away anytime soon.

A wrinkle: Much of this enthusiasm is driven by a generation that didn’t grow up with physical media. Gen Zers typically spend on experiences rather than things — but vinyl is both.

“Records smell like something; they feel like something,” says DuiJi Mshinda, a DJ who’s the founder of and director of operations for Vinyl Tap 215. Many industry folks see vinyl’s resurgence as a counterbalance to the ephemeral nature of music — not to mention a reaction to the ease of having tunes at your Alexa command. “We traded quality for accessibility,” explains André Darlington, a former Philly resident and co-author of the Booze & Vinyl book series. “In a digital world, people still need tactile things,” adds Ian Cross, the owner of and a DJ at the Trestle Inn.

Unlike with streaming, you can’t own everything. But limitation reveals preferences: There’s something personal about picking out an album and experiencing its full sequence. “These albums were built as these artists’ statements, where you go into someone else’s world for a while,” Darlington says. “That limitation is soothing.”

Another appeal of the medium is the communal aspect — listening with your partner or having vinyl nights, says Darlington. Even shopping has a social element, says Cross: “What’s better than going to a record store and just feeling like a part of something?”  Laura Swartz

10 Philly Record Stores for Whatever You’re Feeling Now

Brewerytown Beats / Photograph by Douglas Interrante

Philadelphia Record Exchange

For: that ol’ High Fidelity vibe

Yelp will tell you the clerks at this time-tested haunt are aloof and rude. We say: Toughen up. Keep your head down, and dig through bins stuffed with inexpensive indie/punk LPs and singles from the ’80s to the aughts. Plus, PRE’s staff picks have never let me down.
Recommended if you like: Meg Baird, the Feelies, Yo La Tengo, Bardo Pond.

Repo Records

Queen Village
For: indie-rock essentials

Along with the impressive selection of used records — I once needed a 1974 Telly Savalas LP for my aunt; there were two copies here! — this is a reliable place to pick up something outside the mainstream.
Recommended if you like: Lucy Dacus, Fleet Foxes, Snail Mail, Japanese Breakfast.

Brewerytown Beats

For: old-school rap and soul

The walls and bins of this surprisingly spacious spot are lined with old hip-hop gold, plus reissues and a curated crop of new releases. There’s plenty of classic rock, jazz and funk in the crates and over the speakers, too.
Recommended if you like: Schoolly D, T.S.O.P., Nina Simone, Pharoah Sanders.

Main Street Music

For: talking shop

In addition to having the staples, this beloved little store always seems to be staffed by upbeat die-hard music fans who know their stuff (and where to find it).
Recommended if you like:  Run the Jewels, Belle and Sebastian, War on Drugs, whoever’s hot on WXPN right now.

Hideaway Music

Chestnut Hill
For: vintage LPs and hi-fi finds

This cozy space has wall-to-wall bins of new and used rock and jazz that don’t feel picked over, plus a decent selection of turntables and speakers and such.
Recommended if you like:
Biggie, Brandi Carlile, John Coltrane.

Long in the Tooth

For: a surprise

This odds-and-sods shop has all the stuff you walked in for — and a whole bunch of other stuff you didn’t know existed: vintage punk, soul reissues, slyly brilliant compilations, forgotten novelty records, horror soundtracks, you name it.
Recommended if you like:
 John Carpenter, Aretha Franklin, Dead Moon.

Cratediggaz Records

Queen Village
For: a hip-hop history lesson

One of several music shops on South 4th Street, Cratediggaz stands out for its impressive selection of rap records to get you hooked on the genre. If it’s big or influential or revered in a deep-cut kind of way, you’ll probably find it mixed in among the Bowie and Black Sabbath LPs.
Recommended if you like: The Roots, Parliament, Skrewtape, Nas.

the record shop at solar myth

The record shop at Solar Myth / Photograph by Chris Sikich

Solar Myth

South Philly
For: something mind-blowing

Yes, the music venue/coffee shop also sells records — albeit a small and impressively on-brand selection of LPs to match Solar Myth’s experimental, avant-garde aesthetic. If you’re not sure about a record, ask for a test spin.
Recommended if you like: Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Irreversible Entanglements.

Vinyl Altar

Queen Village
For: hard and loud sounds

The mom-and-pop shop claims to be the “largest heavy metal record store on the East Coast.” Chances are if you read about it in Decibel or tried to Shazam it at Grindcore House, Vinyl Altar has it on sealed wax.
Recommended if you like: Pig Destroyer, Mayhem, Life of Agony, Dio.


East Passyunk
For: nostalgic notes

Owner Marc Faletti founded his shop as “a love letter to the ’80s and ’90s,” so in addition to a few modern releases, he keeps his bins stocked with favorites from a radder, more refined time.
Recommended if you like: Weezer, Whitney, Björk, Britney.
— Patrick Rapa

Where to Listen to Vinyl in Philly

1. A.Kitchen

The monthly Vine-yl Nights see a wine-list takeover and full sides of vinyl to pair. “When I put a record on … I listen more seriously,” says beverage and service director Frank Kinyon. “That concentration can also apply to wine.” Rittenhouse.

2. The International

While they’re spinning vinyl all the time, keep them on your radar for Name That Tune Quizzo on first Wednesdays. Fishtown.

3. Solar Myth

The sound: experimental tunes and avant-garde  jazz. The vibes: impeccable. South Philly.

4. The Listening Room at LMNO

Come on Fridays and Saturdays for all-vinyl sets that will be enjoyed by music aficionados and casual listeners alike. Fishtown.

5. Johnny Brenda’s

Probably best known for live music, JB’s also hosts live DJs on the regular. Fishtown.

6. Fountain Porter

Sit at the bar, explore the rotating beer and wine lists, and hear everything from the Band to Pusha T to Rosali. East Passyunk.

Dance to vinyl sets at the Trestle / Photograph by Ian Cross

7. The Trestle Inn

Head here Thursday to Saturday for vinyl dance parties focused on the ’60s and ’70s. Founder Ian Cross grew up in the U.K. but always loved that ’70s Philadelphia Sound. Callowhill.

8. 48 Record Bar

Musician Joey Sweeney is set to open 48 Record Bar above Sassafras with the bar’s owner, Donal McCoy. Expect listening parties for new albums (or reissues of classics). Old City.

9. Milkcrate Cafe

After reopening last year, Milkcrate got a liquor license and is planning to transform into a vinyl bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Fishtown.

Vinyl Tap 215

DuiJi Mshinda started Vinyl Tap 215 as a collective of vinyl DJs “bringing people together through the magic of music.” Find them each week at 10. Rex at the Royal (Fridays) and at various monthly residencies (11. Bob & Barbara’s and 12. Great Circles) and pop-ups (Trestle). Their Instagram, @vinyltap215, shares where they’ll be next — and helps you get to know their DJs. — L.S.

Where to Shop Gear

Play time / Photograph by Jillian Guyette / Shot on location at Betsu Studio

Whether you’re an audiophile or an amateur, your treasured vinyl deserves the best turntable out there—and a stylish shelf, too.

Listening Tips: Q&A with the Darlingtons

André and Tenaya Darlington / Photograph by Jason Varney

André and Tenaya Darlington — she’s a St. Joe’s prof — are the siblings behind the Booze & Vinyl book series, which pair records with cocktail recipes. Here, their notes.

On starting a record collection

André: Go to record stores often, and get into the habit of crate-digging. It’s fun, and you find lower-priced stuff that you wouldn’t normally have gotten. Remember: You can always sell vinyl back.
Tenaya: I like to shop for records based on what I’ll be eating later — it’s like shopping for wine! Some people start by collecting their favorite genre, but I like to have a variety. If you go to a record store in search of three albums, pick one to pair with brunch, another for happy hour, and a third for dancing as you fix dinner.

On optimal listening experiences

André: Short answer: Pay attention to your environment. Make it kind of cozy. And add a beverage. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic. You can make yourself some tea — or whiskey on the rocks.
Tenaya: I’m barefoot on the couch with a cocktail in hand, and I’m snacking on a stellar cheese board. What better way is there to start an evening? — L.S.


Published as “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” in the April 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.