It’s All About the Music


The London music scene has long fascinated me, so it was only natural to set aside a day to load up on CDs. This Saturday, I decided to head to Portobello Road for a good ol’ day at the market and to visit a couple music stores that were in the same area.  I had a mental list of artists I wanted to find, but I was also open to finding new music and taking a few chances.  Much like the book vibe, the same tingle helps me pick out some good music.   It goes without saying that my record it still very much intact!

Classical Music Exchange on Notting Hill Gate

Think of a used bookstore and replace all the books with used CDs and vintage vinyl records.  Everything is marginally alphabetized and you are invited to take as long as you like to sift through every single item.  It was like rummaging through someone’s basement and I loved it!  Instead of putting out the actual CDs, they only put out the paper inserts, which is awesome because you can read through the lyrics and get a good sense of the artist’s personality.  Here’s what I bought:

  • Doves – The Best Of.  I know and love two songs, so why not try a few more?  After giving it a listen, it was worth every penny.  Very cool music with a nice vibe.
  • Johnny Flynn – Been Listening. This is possibly one of my favorite artists of all time.  I have everything he’s ever done, but its all digital. I’ve always wanted a physical CD and the price was right.  Plus, I got a bonus poster!
  • Fifth House – Stanzas for Sail.  I’ve never heard of the band, but the lyrics were very poetic and it was in the same section and genre as Johnny Flynn.  I figured for the price, it was worth the gamble, (and I got a major vibe hit off this one!).  When I got back to my room, I gave it a listen and it was incredible.  The lead singer has a beautiful voice and the melodies are as brilliant as the lyrics.  Click here to listen to some tracks they have loaded on facebook.
  • The View – Hats Off to the Buskers.  This was another mystery band where I decided to take a chance.  Once again, the bet paid off.  I’m on a roll!  These guys have a very retro vibe and a funky beat.  All in all, a fun collection of songs.
  • Glasvegas.  I had seen this band on iTunes and I knew the album got rave reviews, so I picked it up.  Eh.  It’s okay.  A lot of the songs sound the same, but it’s a nice mood album that will fit nicely into a playlist I have on my iPod.  It’s not a loss, but I like the other albums I got a lot better.  For the record, this does not count against my vibe.  It was a choice based on logic, which if anything is an argument for using the vibe instead.

Street Band, between Pembridge and Portobello Road

On the way to Portobello Road, I stopped to listen to some buskers – The Ryan O’Reilly Band.  They were fantastic, so I pulled one of their CDs out of the guitar case and bought it.  I was even lucky enough to get it autographed, (hey, you never know, these guys could hit it big!).  So far, its my favorite purchase of the day.  These guys are incredibly talented songwriters and musicians!  Click here to give them a listen.

Rough Trade

I’ve known about Rough Trade ever since I became a fan of Johnny Flynn a few years ago.  This store carries all the best music London has to offer and pays particular attention to indie artists and the underground, which is why I knew I absolutely had to get to this place at one point or another.  I’ve been after the latest release from a particular artist for a while now and if anyone would have it in stock, its Rough Trade.  The place is small, but its rammed with vintage music posters, vinyl, new and used CDs, and concert ads.  There’s nothing fancy about it, but it feels like a safe haven for fans who dig music that’s just outside of what’s popular.  It took some persistent searching, but I managed to find the last copy they had of Marcus Foster’s most recent EP.  His last batch of songs never made it to States, so I can’t even begin to state how excited I was to get my hands on this CD.

While it was fun to find Marcus Foster, it was even more fun to surprise the guy at the counter.  He didn’t expect an American to know this obscure artist, nor did he expect me to be so knowledgeable about his past work.  I even threw him a curve ball with knowing Foster’s full-length debut had been delayed.  It’s not often I get to talk about my favorite artists with someone who has actually heard of them, so this was seriously cool.  By the way, I highly recommend visiting Marcus Foster online to listen to some of his songs. He is amazing!

– – –

I could have easily gone to one of the major chain stores like HMV to buy music, but there is something almost holistic about visiting music exchange stores.  Bands and artists that might not otherwise have a chance to be heard, line the shelves on an equal playing field as platinum selling artists.  Slick advertising campaigns and radio have nothing to do with my decisions on what to buy . . . its about the music, just as it should be.

c.b. 2011


8 thoughts on “It’s All About the Music

    • I’ll be sure to check it out. 🙂 Music certainly fills in all the empty spaces. I’m always looking for artists with a unique point of view and a willingness to play with the boundaries.


  1. Hey

    I’m not sure where you’re from – London or otherwise? But I agree, the Exchange shops are quite amazing for a bargain too, as I discovered back in uni 🙂 I’m really pleased you enjoyed Doves, I think they’re a real national treasure, a super band – quite mysterious and intriguing right from their first album. If you liked their Best Of, do check out their debut, Lost Souls, a wonderful piece of work. Then, not sure if you have already, I’d love you to check out Elbow’s first two albums, they are works of absolute beauty. Unfortunately, these two albums are grossly underrated since Elbow won the Mercury prize but I think, are still their best. If you like, why not listen to my radio show? 🙂 – I present three shows a week and lots of listeners enjoy the new music and the classics I play 😉


    • Unfortunately I’m not from London (I just spend a lot of time there whenever I can!). Thanks for the advice on the Doves. I absolutely love the Best Of CD, so I’m sure the rest of their albums are a safe bet. I’ll be sure to check out your show . . . thanks for sharing. 🙂


  2. I am so out-of-touch here nearby Dundee that I had no idea Rough Trade were still going. I remember buying lots of RT records back in the early 80s. Anyhow, I made a point of searching on YouTube for the singers/songwriters/bands whom you mentioned, and now I wonder where Johnny Flynn has been all my life. I stumbled on his wonderful duet with Laura Marling – ‘The Water’ – I’m watching it now as I type this.

    >>> to Laura Marling

    I speak because I can but alas I cannot swim;
    meanwhile I want to step into the triangle
    of the silver microphone,
    the carmine rose, your mouth, and kiss you,
    trap a wind-stray of hair between our lips;
    I’ll try to avoid being killed by a falling guitar. <<<

    (eschewing my habitual signature)


    • The Water is one of my absolute favorite songs! I had the privilege of seeing Johnny Flynn sing that song live a few months ago. His sister picked up Marling’s part and it was just as beautiful.

      Just recently, I picked up Marling’s last record and it’s every bit as good as all her other work. She has a such a delicate voice, yet so raw and determined. I love that about her.

      I hope you continue to enjoy Johnny Flynn . . . he’s truly a gem. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.