Music buying: Faraway or so close?

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By Eyeopener staff

A few days ago, you were sitting on the farm in Dresden Ont., (or some other place where farms are) and saying to yourself, “It’s too bad Wal Mart carries such shitty music. Good thing I’m moving to Toronto in a few days!”

Well, you’re here now. Where are you going to go find CDs? HMV (333 Yonge St.), of course. It’s right there! HMV is the requisite store for Toronto music shopping. It’s a stone’s throw from the campus, and at first glance, it appears to have everything.

When I moved to Toronto three years ago, HMV was the shit. They had everything I ever wanted to own, and the best return policy in the universe . You used to be able to give them your old unwrapped CDs, in exchange for something of equal value. It was insane. Unfortunately, the word of such magic spreads like the plague, and soon the company was losing money like sand through an hourglass. Except faster.

To compensate, they took away the golden policy, and boosted prices. Now, if you want to buy something rare, it’s going to cost you in the neighbourhood of $25.99. If you’re looking for a deal on the newest Dave Matthews, or Treble Charger, look no further than HMV, Sam’s or Sunrise. One of them will give it to you for $14, and there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that.

But if you’re looking for the new Modest Mouse, Guided by Voices, or old Pavement discs, there is a better way. Independent shops carry these titles in bulk, so you can get them without being charged an arm and a leg. So get off the campus and check out a few of these stores:

  1. Soundscapes (572 College St.) In a close race, the best music store in Toronto. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and the store is like your living room. There are even comfortable chairs where you can read imported magazines. Clerks will play any CD you want to hear for the whole store. Two of the employees are in popular local bands, the Constantines and Raising the Fawn. Their selection is the second-best in the city, and the prices are pretty great too. What’s not to like?
  2. Rotate This (620 Queen St. W.) … has the best selection in the city, hands down. If you want something, they’ll have it. Rare Hives imports? Check. Aphex Twin singles? Yep. More cool vinyl than any place you have ever seen in your life? Damn straight. They. Have. Everything. Plus they get every concert ticket in the city. There are some major detriments to Rotate, though. Don’t fuck with the staff. It’s not hard to get yourself on the shitlist. Read their website ( for policies on how to avoid this. The store is also about as ghetto as it gets. Still, Rotate wins record store polls in the independent publications every year and on selection alone, it’s worth the trip.
  3. Sonic Temple (5165 Yonge St., North York) This one’s a total hike, but if you love finding something you weren’t looking for, it’s the place to go. The Temple has a bin of $2 and $5 CDs, that are marked down because of things like cracked cases, and a glass case full of rare musical gems (autographed classics, box sets, rare singles) that you wouldn’t likely find anywhere else in the city. They are also one of the two big independent ticket stores in Toronto. If I didn’t mention it before, FUCK TICKETMASTER. Don’t EVER buy your tickets there. The $10 service charges should be enough to keep anyone away, but apparently they’re still in business.
  4. Sonic Boom (512 Bloor St. W.) More Sonic-y fun. Boom has a pretty good selection of new stuff, but they have the largest selection of used CDs in the city. It’s not all good. You have to sift through hundreds of discs to find the gems, but they are in there. You have the power. They’ll also let you listen to everything. It’s a bit warehouse-ish (what with it being in a warehouse and all), but go there for good people, great prices, everyday.
  5. She Said Boom! (372 College St.) Still with the Boom! theme, this used book/music store has all the cool new releases. It has a good selection of indie rock and funk. But She Said Boom! also has the coolest used selection in the city. Don’t try to sell your Spin Doctors and Counting Crows there. She Said Boom! is the store you go to for used Arab Strap and Breeders CDs. Also, for English students, they have all your class reading for cheap! Screw the Ryerson bookstore!
  6. PlayDe Record (357-A Yonge St.) Hip hop, DJ beats, turntables, etc… If you are a DJ, or you want to be a DJ, or you like DJs and all things DJ related, you should totally go here. If you’re not interested in any of that stuff, you should probably avoid this store like the plague.
  7. Neurotica (642 Queen St. West) It’s just like She Said Boom! except it doesn’t have books, or new music. What it does have, is the smell of you attic, but more to the point, some of the best used CDs in the city. If you are being mocked, because you’ve never heard a Beck record, go to Neurotica. They have Beck CDs cheap! And Bjork. And everybody. If you go to sell CDs here, only sell them to the big guy with the tattoo. He gives really good money for used stuff. The little guy will always try to rip you off. They also have tonnes of vinyl.
  8. Second Spin (386 Bloor St. W.) Another good used store. They carry a lot of used DVDs, and DVD is all the rage right now. Or so they tell me. A side note: Second Spin may or may not be moving to the middle of nowhere in the next few months.
  9. CD Replay (various locations) New and used selection. One of the only used CD store chains in the city. Like Sonic Boom, they buy almost everything that comes their way, so there is a lot of crap in their used selection. They have a good selection of new discs, they have very good prices, and cool deals. They also carry box sets and DVDs.
  10. Monster Records (664 Yonge St.) Great vinyl selection. Monster and superhero memorabilia too!

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