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Best of Tacoma 2019: Hi-Voltage Records

Writer's Pick: Best Record Store

Feel free to get lost in these stacks of sonic gold. Photo credit: Hi-Voltage Records

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A stroll through a record store can be a therapeutic experience: shuffling through the bins, soaking in evocative album art, feeling the weight of the vinyl as you pick up a record to examine, all while hearing some great music being spun by the passionate employees. At the end of it all, you'll hopefully leave with a gem that you can't wait to put on your turntable, but if nothing else, you'll leave reinvigorated and with a head full of tunes.

In Tacoma, there are a number of record stores, each with their own unique personality and selection. The gold standard, though, continues to be Hi-Voltage Records, conveniently located on the liveliest part of Sixth Avenue, where it's best positioned to catch music nerds bouncing around from shops to bars. Like any good record store, priority is given over to the abundance of albums on offer, with slight aisles directing you through a maze of vinyl.

Over the past few years, there's been a revitalization in the purchasing of vinyl, wildly shedding the CD age and moving away from digital downloads or streaming. It may still be something of a cottage industry, but vinyl -- which was once thought dead -- has once again become a viable medium for artists to use, and with which to actually find an audience, which would have seemed unthinkable just 15 years ago. Hi-Voltage owner Brian Kenney expounded on the relatively recent boom of record albums, and why that trend is so important.

"For me, the best part of the vinyl resurgence is seeing young people buying vinyl," says Kenney. "These are kids who could be considered digital kids, ones that grew up only knowing digital music. I call it ‘embracing the tangible.' There is a community aspect to browsing through the vinyl racks with your friends. We see it daily with multi generations. It's a beautiful thing."

When asked what gems customers have been brought in to sell, Kenney is quick with an answer, and with advice on what records they're not likely to buy.

"Osamu Kitajima's Benzaiten from 1976," says Kenney. "A mix of western rock, folk and jazz, and a little funk, with traditional Japanese music. Fantastic record and went right into the Hi-Voltage collection. ... In terms of resale, the list of records we absolutely don't need to see is very long. You have to keep in mind, in the 50's and early mid-60's, the album market was largely an adult market. Unless your parents or grandparents and in some cases, great-grandparents were hip, their collections are usually filled with Jim Nabors, Perry Como, and Liberace and Mantovani Records. And those are the ‘good ones!' Nothing against any of that music. It's all about resale."

Whether you're looking to discover something new for your collection, looking to pare down your current collection, or perhaps some combination of the two, Hi-Voltage Records is the place to be. They pay very competitive prices for used albums, and they consistently have an amazing selection on offer. And if you're new to owning records at all, Hi-Voltage Records is properly equipped with the right music and knowledgeable staff necessary to get you started on the tangible listening lifestyle.

HI-VOLTAGE RECORDS, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2714 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.627.4278

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