Analog Sounds in Digital Times: Dedicated Record Stores in the Streaming Era
Words by: Nathan Ray Photos by: Samil Kuo
Technology has always revolutionized the way we live. Music consumption has been no exception, and the music industry has been forced to keep up every step of the way. From tapes and CDs to MP3s and online streaming, the way listeners enjoy music is constantly changing with the times. Only a couple of decades ago, your music collection was limited by your shelf space or your wallet. But today, you can access more music than you could ever possibly listen to in a lifetime for free, and with no storage concerns whatsoever.▲Despite the fact that technology has revolutionized the music industry, there are still many stores in Taipei dedicated to preserving records.
Taipei is not immune to the musical revolution. Some bemoan streaming because of quality or (lack of) artist payment, while others just have a fondness for the old ways. There still remains a hardcore bastion of audiophiles who claim that vinyl is the superior medium that gives that incomparable analog sound that only true purists can appreciate, not to mention the tactile joy of browsing a record store to find that piece of art you’ve been looking for and enjoy the blissful moment when you put the headphones on. That warm sound is as close as you can get to the real thing.
Amidst the streaming era of 2020, there are a few strongholds still dedicated to outdated formats like vinyl in order to keep alive the memories of analog sounds. TAIPEI did a little digging for you and have found five local gems dedicated to quality sound.
CHIA CHIA RECORDS 佳佳唱片
Established in 1976, Chia Chia is a mainstay of the Taipei scene. Their flagship store is located in bustling Ximending (西門町), and is only a few minutes from MRT Ximen Station (捷運西門站).▲With a history of more than 40 years, Chia Chia has become a must-go record store where music fans can find both imported and local music.
Chia Chia attribute their success to their guiding principles: professionalism and diversity. They believe all music is to be appreciated, and they aim to have an eclectic mix of all styles from all eras, and they were one of few to import Western, Japanese, and Korean music 40 years ago, when music from such countries was far from common. Because of the range of older music, they have their share of older clientele who are looking for the music of their memories. From classical music to Taiwanese campus folk albums, and from ‘70s rock to Bieber fever, Chia Chia has been there to preserve the dominant sounds of the times. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in store, the staff will try their best to track it down for you.
2F, 110, Sec. 1, Zhonghua Rd., Wanhua Dist. (Zhonghua Branch)
10:30am - 10:30pm
INDIMUSIC RECORDS 個體戶唱片行
Indimusic is located between MRT Gongguan Station (捷運公館站) and Taipower Building Station (捷運台電大樓站). They stock a large range of second-hand records with a strong focus on metal and hard rock.▲Indimusic is a paradise for diggers to find any kind of music from their expansive collection, with all LPs available to play live in the store.
This is a digger’s paradise. Many potential customers are turned off by the lack of organization of their catalog, which is a shame because you never know when you may find something you didn’t know you were looking for. This is the “digging” process that DJs the world over are so fond of: finding that one magical piece of music that has been hidden away for years. Asking the owner for a recommendation is an act of trust that he appreciates, too, if you find yourself a little lost. This is a place for the true music enthusiast who doesn’t mind getting down on their knees to find what they’re looking for.
3F, 297-5, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd., Daan Dist.
12:30pm - 9:00pm (Monday to Friday)
13:30pm - 10:00pm (Saturdays & Sundays)
(Monthly closed date announced on Facebook page)
XIAO SONG RECORDS 小宋唱片
Xiao Song is a thoughtful and meticulous shrine for music. A little bit off the beaten path, this vinyl hideout is tucked away in Wanhua District, in the very south-western corner of Taipei.▲Xiao Song not only organizes their products well, but also provides a record cleaning service for their customers.
With a massive range of second-hand vinyl, you are sure to find what you’re looking for. They carry mostly jazz and classical records. The owner is a seasoned veteran of vinyl and is known for giving customers exceptional recommendations. In addition to that, he also teaches customers how to use and properly maintain their record player. The catalog is impeccably organized and customers are even required to remove their shoes before entry. Such are the high standards of Xiao Song, a nostalgic place dedicated to quality in a time of instant gratification.
10, Ln. 225, Sec. 2, Xiyuan Rd., Wanhua Dist.
10:00am - 8:00pm (Closed on Sundays)
CLASSICAL PALACE SOCIETY 古殿樂藏
As the name suggests, the Classical Palace Society (CPS) is dedicated to classical music. They are located in northern Taipei, close to MRT Mingde Station (捷運明德站). It is a music salon where listeners can treat their ears to the works of the greatest composers ever known. The owner is a major history buff, and has put his passion into preserving vintage sounds. This makes CPS more than a music store, because they are digitizing their entire musical catalog so that nothing is ever lost. This is a significant educational and historical undertaking, and shows a true admiration of classical music.▲Besides collecting many classical music records, Classical Palace Society extends their “classical” style to the store’s interior design and furniture.
CPS also occasionally holds seminars or workshops to share their love of music. Unlike other record stores that open every day, a reservation is now required before paying a visit to CPS.
2F, 169, Sec. 1, Xian St., Beitou Dist.
*Reservation Required (Phone: 0975-057-467)
THT RECORDS THT 唱片
THT Records is a place built for music and people, and it seeks to bring them together under the ethos of “love, power and unity.” It’s a record store, café and bar all wrapped up into one. You can grab a beer and peruse the records on the second floor or just chill out on the loungers. The special thing about their record catalog is that every record reflects the personal taste of the owner, mostly tending toward indie rock, African music and extreme metal, and not just the latest hits.▲Hidden in a small attic, visitors can enjoy a record hunt in THT Records’ cozy space, along with its inviting cafe area.
It’s clear that this cozy space exists to bring music connoisseurs together to share a drink and a conversation. This is something that is lost in the corporate stores or massive arena shows. THT truly unites the people for the love of the power of music.
You can find them in a charming treasure house in Zhongshan District in central Taipei, a ten-minute walk from MRT Xingtian Temple Station (捷運行天宮站).
10-2, Xingan St., Zhongshan Dist.
12:00pm - 9:00pm (Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays) 2:30pm - 11:30pm (Fridays & Saturdays)
Traditions exist for a reason. They provide people with comfort, a sense of identity and belonging; they will change with time, as they must. And music is no different. It is so indelibly human. Music from any era, from any place on earth, can touch a soul in ineffable ways. It is not bound by religion or race. It is a part of who we all are.
The bygone age of the record store is reviving in Taipei, and is remaining purely for the love of it. Some may never know the traditions of old, and some may never know the new. There is no one true way. But as long as we exist, so will our music.
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