The Never Nervous Guide to Record Stores in Louisville

When indie-megastore ear-x-tacy closed back in 2011, the feeling at the time was that independent brick and mortar record stores were on life support,  but we at Never Nervous knew this to not be true. In fact, it’s easy to argue that today’s record store scene in Louisville is better than it has ever been, with shops opening and staying in business all over town, each one with their own niche and unique personality that a mega-store like ear X-tacy couldn’t provide on its own.  Lucky for you, we’re here to tell you a little bit about the best record stores in town, and a little bit about what to expect from each one.

When you first walk in to this place, you immediately notice a healthy amount of new and used CDs, but don’t fret, wax lovers! The back room has a pretty good selection of brand new records, as well as a nice stock of used vinyl.  The do carry cassettes, as well as DVDs and Blu-Rays.  The staff is generally kind and helpful, and pretty knowledgeable, too.  They don’t specialize in any particular genre, but usually have something I’m looking for.  Whether it be funk, indie rock or jazz, they’ve got a little bit of everything, including a small selection of movies.

The thing I like most about Better Days is the “friendly neighborhood shop” type of vibe these guys put out.  They maintain an old school indie record store feel that is imitated but not often duplicated nowadays.  I always feel welcome, and I always spend too much damned money.

It’s true that these guys aren’t homegrown Louisvillians, but they certainly fit right in Frankfort Avenue’s eccentric Clifton neighborhood. And while there are two other Guestroom record shops in Oklahoma, this place certainly doesn’t feel like another “chain record store.” The staff is always super excited to help you find whatever you’re looking for, I mean really, they are always ready to be your friend. Never be afraid to ask questions, as they will certainly point you in the right direction. They seem to specialize in mostly indie rock/alternative rock in the form of vinyl, CDs and cassettes, but also carry a decent selection of other genres like hip hop and country. If you’re looking for used vinyl or CDs, they always have some pretty good choices, but you’d find better in other parts of Louisville.

This place certainly isn’t huge, but it offers an undefinable charm you won’t find in bigger places. For me personally, this is the kind of place you leave with three or four records you weren’t looking for in different genres. I’ve left Matt Anthony’s Record Shop with used albums from Public Enemy, Merle Haggard, and The Ventures after a single 15 minute visit. There’s always a good selection of used CDs and vinyl to thumb through, and everything is well-categorized, so you won’t be overwhelmed by any means. Also, there’s a fun selection of t-shirts and other merch to check out.

Serving as the Louisville’s newest record shop, Surface Noise offers a tidal wave of used records from just about every genre you can think of. Whether it be punk, country, electro, metal, or classic rock, you’re guaranteed to find something up your alley in this place. On my first visit, I skimmed through all sorts of shit ranging from Buck Owens to Coliseum to Kraftwerk to Fugazi to Berlin. And everything is very well organized, so it’s easy to find your genre and thumb through at your own pace, as this little store is very laid back and not pretentious in the least bit.

Years ago, Underground Sounds was the #1 competitor of ear X-tacy. While having a nice, small-scale selection of newer releases, they always have good choices of 60’s and 70’s rock, jazz and country to search through. Looking for Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix and/or King Crimson? This is the place, whether it be new or used.  In addition to their impressive used selection, I have found some pretty good newer indie rock and hip-hop vinyl here as well as a pretty righteous jazz/dub selection.

While I consider the five shops mentioned above to be the best places to buy music in Louisville, there are certainly other places worth checking out. Fat Rabbit (1000 E Oak St) has a decent selection of used and local vinyl, CDs, and cassettes. Please & Thank You (800 E Market St) is a small coffee/café joint downtown that usually has a small, but nice selection of vinyl. Book and Music Exchange (1616 Bardstown Rd) has a ton of used CDs and vinyl, although most of their selection usually seems like filler; the same could be said about The Great Escape (2433 Bardstown Rd) and Half Price Books (10220 Westport Rd & 2025 S Hurstbourne Pkwy), but that’s not to say that over the years I haven’t found all sorts of cool shit at these spots.

We understand there are other spots to find albums, like flea markets, peddlers malls, etc.  But outside of those kinds of places, did we miss one of your favorite spots?  If so, bring us up to speed by commenting or sending us an e-mail.

3 thoughts on “The Never Nervous Guide to Record Stores in Louisville

  • July 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Good job, fair without being mushy. I'dve had a hard time with that myself 🙂

  • July 30, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. I can't say that I have been to every store, but I can comment on a few things. At Matt Anthony's, I met his wife, and she was so unbelievably nice and helpful. You definitely nailed that. At Underground Sounds, I agree they have a great selection of older rock. However, I got a 180 gram copy of Modest Mouse' the Moon & Antarctica, and I cannot remember what else. Either way, the guy working talked to me for like 30 minutes about music, and he was very insightful and easy going. I loved the vibe. At Better Daze, make sure to go to the right store. I went to the one in the West End area, and I found like 5 awesome used records. I couldn't buy them though because one of the higher ups had to check them, and they didn't offer to take my information.

    For my personal taste, Guestroom Records had an amazing selection. The best I have seen in town. My friend and I were walking around with a handful of vinyl realizing, "Hey we can't afford all of these so we better start making tough decisions". I haven't been to another record store with Blur's first 3 albums on vinyl. Place is a dream for indie rock lovers. Please & Thank You was my least enjoyable experience. The employee acted like I was a burden. Also, all their best vinyl is out to play, but isn't for sale.

    Only spots I might add is The Great Escape which surprisingly still had good used records, and also Highland Records (not sure if it is still in business). The latter had a 50% sale when I went. Only knock is that the owner chain smokes in the store.

  • July 31, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    We definitely meant to include The Great Escape, one of my personal favorite places in town. Highland Records may very well be closed, but it's something we should have at least looked into. Good eye, and thanks for the well thought out response.

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