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Crate Digging in Vancouver, BC: Neptoon, Audiopile, & Red Cat Records

This past weekend, I spent some time record shopping and crate digging in Vancouver, BC. The southwestern Canadian city has become somewhat of a playground for me of late, and I’ve started to familiarize myself with the local record stores.

A Matter of Traffic

My first takeaway: Visiting Vancouver sure beats dealing with the horrors of Seattle traffic. In fact, I do whatever I can to avoid Seattle traffic, which these days means avoiding Seattle during normal waking hours.

Just stay the f*ck away.

So I do.

If I need to go south, I do whatever I can to get through Seattle as quickly and effortlessly as possible. When I took a trip to Dallas early in October, I booked my flight out of Bellingham. Sure it cost more, but I didn’t have to deal with driving to Seattle. Worth it.

Red Cat Records

I arrived at Red Cat Records just after they opened at 11am.

I didn’t snap any photos in Red Cat; it is relatively small and there was just one other person there and I felt a little self-conscious about pulling out my phone to take a picture.

The atmosphere is exactly what you want from a local record shop, though: dimmed lighting, good tunes, knowledgeable staff. Note: the last is based off overhearing the two employees conversing with a visitor, talking about upcoming releases, and dishing on weird used records they stumbled upon.

Front and center is the Used New Arrivals section, as you’d hope for in a record store. This is where the regulars and seasoned diggers tend to gravitate first.

I found two used Dinosaur Jr. records here, but decided to hold off on grabbing them until after I visited the next spot. One was a repress of their 1985 debut under the name Dinosaur.

This record was reissued in 2005 with the addition of “jr.” on the cover. It included black, red, purple, blue, and white wax versions.

I can’t recall what other Dinosaur Jr. record was there. Probably for the better.

Sadly, I never made it back (that’s a miss on my part), but I do plan to visit Red Cat again in the near future.

Neptoon Records

I walked down to Neptoon Records after leaving Red Cat. I’d been to Neptoon before, and love their large selection of new and used records. And they are everywhere! It’s not overwhelming, though.

After taking a peek through the new records and looking over the Used New Arrivals section, I popped upstairs to check out their vast used section.

I immediately stumbled onto Arcade Fire‘s Reflektor and set it aside.

After devouring everything the band released through 2006, they kinda fell off my plate. I’ve been meaning to change that, so I couldn’t resist this find.

I pulled out several others that I ultimately put back, from The Bolshoi and Broken Water to a 12-inch single by The Stranglers.

In retrospect, I regret putting back The Stranglers. It was just $4 Canadian, and the exchange rate right now favors the US Dollar.

Then another from my Want List appeared: an original copy of Sonic Nurse by Sonic Youth.

About once a year, I obsess over Sonic Youth. I’ll listen to them incessantly for about a month before moving on to something else. They’re a bright shiny object, and I’m a raccoon, and I cannot resist them.

It’s songs like album opener “Pattern Recognition” that draw me in. It’s sexy and seductive; Kim Gordon’s vocals, the experimentation of Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo’s guitars, the hard-driving percussion of Steve Shelley. (Jim O’Rourke may have been in the band at the time, as well.)

It’s all quite drool-worthy.

Audiopile Records

My Vancouver, BC hangout is just a few blocks from Audiopile, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because I can pop in there regularly to see what’s new.

Its bad because I can do that when I really shouldn’t be spending any more money on frivolous items like records.

Monday was the latter, but I scored big so it was worth it.

In the Used section, I snagged a copy of the new Moon Duo LP, Stars are the Light.

I’ve been a long time Moon Duo fan. Their heavy drone-based psychedelic rock is drenched in fuzz and reverb and monumental noise, and I find it absolutely delightful.

That’s a strange term–delightful–for this style of music, as it tends to be quite dark.

Stars are the Light is a little different, though. It takes on a more early electronica sound, leaving behind much of the space rock or desert rock from the earlier records:

On a whim, I decided to check out the new section (I tend to favor perusing used records at local shops). I was fixated on looking through the P and the S section.

I think it was due to listening to my Me in the Dark playlist on Spotify on the drive up:

Sitting in the Silver Jews section was the new Purple Mountains record. It was what I had been seeking today, and one I had wanted to add to my collection for months.

More on that record in the coming week or so…

The Score

So, what’s my take on the crate digging in Vancouver, BC experience?

In all, I came home with four excellent records. I spent too much money, but I thoroughly enjoy what I picked up. I also wish I would have snagged a few more as noted above.

Moon Duo, Purple Mountains, Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth: these are all bands I love, and I’m thrilled to have added them to my collection.

And, until the dollar swings the other way, I’ll keep heading up to Vancouver for some good ol’ crate digging.

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