As the digital world of music quickly changes the industry and leaves our compact discs as nothing more then carrying cases for our MP3s, an odd-shaped hole was left for music enthusiasts. I’ve been a part of the iPod movement as much as anyone, the destruction of my jewel cases a painful, yet liberating experience. Nevertheless, it took only 6 months of searching iTunes and pirating Limewire before I began to feel something was missing. I would still take trips to Tower Records with friends to perform our ritualized wander, only instead of walking away with a stack of CD’s I would carry a list of music I wanted to download. Now the Tower has fallen and there’s something very disagreeable about searching for music under the industrial lights of Best Buy. It is the act of browsing that is so important, the obscure band crying out for notice over the store’s sound system, the worn carpet, that library smell and the music snobs behind the counter secretly judging your purchases. This is where vinyl is making its comeback, and Reckless Records is leading the charge in Chicago.
Records are the polar opposite of digital music. Your digital tune is crisp, remastered and sterile. Your record is warm, crackled and encompassing. Your MP3 player shuffles, while your record album demands to be heard as it was meant to be played (and will demand that you get off your ass to flip it too). You can fit thousands of MP3’s in a tiny box, but your records are large and destined for display. And used records are comparatively cheap to the down-loadable stuff; some of the best finds are pulled out of the bargain bin at $1-$3 a pop. This is where our standby record stores come into play, thriving on the second hand market. There’s a whole slew of new record stores in Chicago these days, but if you’re just getting started on your vinyl collection or want to go hunting for an old CD, DVD or cassette, there’s no better place to start then Reckless Records.
Reckless has been around for over 20 years and has opened locations in Lakeview, Wicker Park and the Loop. The Broadway store has been around the longest and is worth the trip for its massive collection. Each employee has an arsenal of music knowledge and is usually happy to talk shop if you’re trying to find something specific. They’ve even included cleverly composed write-ups on a lot of the recommended records, the perfect helpful guide when you’re not sure if you’re holding some artist’s lesser known gem or a forgotten dud. My collection is somewhat average in size (my wife would disagree) so I don’t have tons of experience selling my records, but I hear Reckless gives some of the better cash deals. They also offer a 20% boost if you trade instead of taking money. And finally, they host performances and featured guests in their stores which is always fun to come across.
There’s nothing better than happening upon a new place for tunes and giving their collection a leisurely flip through. But sometimes you’re out to do some damage and add a couple of inches to your collection. For this, I insist on a trip to Reckless Records. My iPod will remain my test kitchen and the essential playlist melting pot, but the albums that decorate my shelves will always show where my heart is.
For more on Chicago Record Stores, check out David’s Chicago Record Stores Guide
3126 N. Broadway
1532 N Milwaukee Ave
26 E. Madison