In a town that claims to have more record stores per capita than anywhere else in America, Portland, Oregon’s Music Millennium leads the charge. In terms of sheer size, the flagship store on East Burnside Street takes up about half of a full city block (so not quite as big as Portland’s legendary Powell’s Books, but damn close). And in terms of merchandise, the shop specializes in both new and used vinyl, CDs, tapes, and DVDs, as well as music magazines, papers, zines, and more.
Having opened in 1969, Music Millennium is the oldest record store in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, they’ve stocked LPs, 45s, reel-to-reels, 8-tracks and players, cassettes, CDs, mini-discs, and more as the industry has evolved. Famous visitors including everyone from Northwest stalwarts like Soundgarden and Everclear to TV stars like Maureen McCormick (who played Marcia Brady!) and pop stars like Jewel have stopped by—and often performed in—the store. Even today, Music Millennium hosts frequent in-store shows, the most recent of which featured John Malkovich.
We checked in with Music Millennium owner Terry Currier during the insanity of Record Store Day Black Friday to hear which five (mostly recent) records he thinks you should own on vinyl.
Owner, Music Millennium
Five (Mostly Recent) Essential Records to Own on Vinyl
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Album: I’m Your Man
Reason: When this album came out in 1988, it was at the end of the last vinyl era. I had an advance on cassette and it got stuck in my car stereo for three weeks due a malfunction in the player. I did not mind at all. Then I heard it on vinyl and it was that much more amazing! It may be my favorite album of the ‘80s. Leonard’s lyrics and their delivery are haunting. Though many others have covered his music, no one could come close to what he created here. It’s available again on import vinyl.
Artist: The Sonics
Album: This Is The Sonics
Reason: These Northwest garage rock legends, whose original members are now in their 70s, just released their first album since the ‘60s. You close your eyes and listen and think to yourself that this must have been recorded in the 60s…and it’s in beautiful mono! It’s packed full of energy, with great new songs and covers. This should be on critics’ and fans’ top 10 lists for 2015. Amazing!
Artist: Richard Thompson
Reason: One of the greatest guitarists of all-time is still at the top of his game. Jeff Tweedy produced this record and let the magic fly by staying out of the way and not trying to over-produce it. Acoustic and electric guitars grace this album with elements of his roots in Celtic folk/rock. Thompson pays homage to his inspirations in the song “Guitar Heroes” and nails some amazing inventive rock solos throughout.
Artist: Jenny Conlee with Steve Drizos
Album: French Kayaking Music
Reason: This album is the soundtrack to a movie of the same name. Jenny Conlee, keyboardist extraordinaire from the Decemberists, takes you on a journey. At moments you feel like you should be sitting outside a French cafe, sipping French coffee and watching the day go by. It’s a perfect winter album at the same time because you can also imagine looking out the window after a snow and having a warm beverage.
Reason: There is an invisible wall between the U.S. and Canada when it comes to music. This band has been making music for over 25 years and is regarded as a national treasure in Canada. They made a masterpiece in 2014 with this double album set. Each of the four members wrote a side of material and it fits together so well. The drummer’s side is a single 18-minute opus that reminds you of some of the great music 10CC made in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Commonwealth is two albums-worth of musical bliss.