The Ultimate Guide to LA's Record Shops with XL Middleton
The Ultimate Guide to LA's Record Shops with XL MiddletonXL Middleton
Producer, DJ and artist XL Middleton owns quaint record shop "Salt Box Records," situated in the heart of LA's Chinatown. It stocks a huge array of records sourced from a vast range of cities. The shop's collection continually grows, with XL often bringing back "boxes upon boxes of records for the shop each time after touring in Europe, Japan, Canada, or anywhere in the US outside of LA." As a lover of 90s G-Funk and modern funk, XL Middleton's record shop stocks some of his favourite records that speak to the genre. LA's record culture today is expanding, while initially "rock oriented... more DJ/producer types are opening up shops around town."
In his guide below, he maps out of the finest record shops in and across LA, giving you the lowdown on how to get a great bargain and where to find some unexpected gems.
In this Guide
“We're starting at the home base since this is my record store. Located in the heart of Chinatown. It's a tiny spot; tiny like the record stores in Shibuya but I'd like to think it's cozy. We carry everything but with a strong slant towards funk/soul/boogie, modern funk, & Japanese city pop. Google says we're permanently closed but, shows you what they know. We've kept the storefront closed since the pandemic started but we are gearing up to reopen later this year. In the meantime, we do Instagram vinyl drops every Tuesday & Wednesday so you can get a little slice of LA record store culture from anywhere in the world twice a week.”More Info
“If you're visiting LA and want to dig as soon as you possibly can after stepping off the plane, you can go here, it's just a few blocks away from LAX. Nice selection in all genres and they've been around for quite a while. I love that the shop has that old school, record store dive kind of vibe where it doesn't feel like the wax has been 'overcurated' and compared against every pricing metric on Discogs & eBay. Also you'll be close to the iconic Randy's Donuts - The local secret is that it's not just a famous place to take IG selfies, their donuts are actually great.”More Info
“This is one of those spots that diggers in LA will hesitate to tell people about because they wanna keep the jewels to themselves. Digs are top notch even in the bargain bins. The guy who runs the shop is another old school dude who doesn't rely on internet prices as a reference, which makes the game fun in a way that it often isn't anymore.”More Info
“One of the newer shops in the city, and you'll definitely wanna keep up with them on the regular because you never know what they'll come up on next. One day they'll be rolling out a crazy jazz collection, the next it's all heavy Italo 12"s, after that a big stack of 90's R&B & hip hop LPs. If you go there on the right day you might see the homie Randy Ellis (CQQL Records/Hobo Camp) behind the counter.”More Info
“When you come to LA, you can tell who is new to the city because they refer to parts of town like Echo Park & Silver Lake as the "east side." Nah, come to Sonido Del Valle and check out Boyle Heights, part of the actual east side. It's one of my favorite neighborhoods in town, love the old Victorian houses and the fact that the gentrification hasn't hit as hard here yet. This spot is run by the homie Rene, tell him I sent you when you go! Tons of great taco spots in the area too, take your pick. But after a dig at Sonido I might hit up Otomisan, old school Japanese restaurant right down the street from the days when Boyle Heights also had a big Japanese community.”More Info
“Speaking of the east side, Record Jungle is located right on Whittier Boulevard just a few miles away from the famous cruising strip. This is a big store, not heavily curated but there's tons to choose from so you never know what you're gonna find. Recommend setting aside many hours to dig here.”More Info
“Mainly a bookstore as you might've guessed by the name but their record section is no joke. The 7" section is fun to go through. Lotta table space and if you're lucky you can even score a chair to sit down while you go through their boxes. They're one of the better stores in town when it comes to having joints that you don't see in stores too often. You'll definitely also wanna check out the book tunnel, the old bank vault, and the other cool stuff they have to look at on their mezzanine.”More Info
“Fingerprints, and the spot mentioned below, are both in Long Beach -- which is technically a separate city but still within LA County. It's very much a part of the fabric here, even if it does have its own vibe. Every time I go to Long Beach I always hit both of these stores up. They're kind of polar opposites which makes it fun - Fingerprints has the whole bookstore/record store/coffee shop thing going.”More Info
“Fingerprints and Bagatelle Records are within walking distance of one another which is rare in LA. Bagatelle is all dusty stacks and tight spaces from floor to ceiling. You'll love the contrast between the two.”More Info
“We're winding this down in the corner of LA I'm from - Pasadena. Technically its own separate city too but it's a 20 minute drive from downtown LA. When I was growing up, Poo Bah was located in a little converted red house so you'd walk into what was basically the living room and start digging through the bins. They've since moved to a proper storefront a couple miles away. Still got all the hallmarks of a great record store dive - nice prices, deep bargain bins, side shelves with cassettes, VHS tapes, and CD's. In the recent years they've done a lot of events revolving around the beat/producer community. The late Ras G was involved with the store pretty heavily. Dam Funk filmed part of his "Hood Pass Intact" video here too.”More Info