Physical record stores or online music retailers? The primary argument in favor of the former, and it’s a good one, is the simple pleasure that mindless browsing can bring. Paul’s CD’s, in Bloomfield, is a wonderful demonstration of this, and a trip to this store is an excellent means of emphasizing the joys of being able to sift through an impressive collection of music without the need to click hyperlinks or to have a decent sound card..
First, the bad news; the prices are not all that hot, even in the used CD section. In my one-hundred-plus minutes of browsing, I found not a single CD that I couldn’t find cheaper used online (yes, I carry with me at all times a list of titles I’m interested in, as well as their respective online prices). If you refuse to buy used CD’s, then the prices for new CD’s at Paul’s are as good as any, and considering the plethora of rare and import titles offered, you might as well take a look around. If nothing else, you get the satisfaction of supporting an independent retailer and participating in something of a Luddite crusade against internet shopping.
The wealth of oddities to be found at the store is its main draw; there are staples offered, to be sure (virtually the entire Bob Dylan catalogue, which any self-respecting record store should carry at all times), but the rare selections are the store’s calling card. I suppose “rare” is a relative term; here, I’m talking about “rare” comparative to other physical music stores, specifically chain stores (the few that are left). My musical knowledge really only qualifies as extensive in this sense of the term (and then only barely). Still, the store certainly has a reputation for carrying relatively off-the-wall selections, so…
The store’s on-site inventory isn’t quite as extensive as, say, Jerry’s Records, and so depending on your tastes, you still might not find precisely what you’re looking for; I went in seeking titles by The Field Mice, Rumer, and Felt, with only the latter being a successful query. If I’d had the money, I would have been satisfied with just this; three of the five Felt albums I don’t own? All right! But hey, the hunt was entertaining enough, and I can imagine worse ways to spend a few hours on a cloudy winter’s afternoon. How about “browsing” for the same titles online?…nah, didn’t think so.
…because really, the joy of browsing in a physical setting, be it a record shop, a bookstore, or a library, is the very real possibility of finding something you didn’t even have in mind from the start, something that catches your attention. I encountered a number of these situations at Paul’s; the New Order rereleases, the two Townes Van Zandt albums I don’t have and actually want, Corin Tucker’s first post-Sleater-Kinney album (I didn’t even know it existed!)…
The CD’s are extremely well-organized, making browsing a relative breeze. Titles are grouped by artists, with artists not deemed worthy or prolific enough to warrant their own section are clumped together (alphabetically, of course). So if you’re looking for Suede and there’s no section for Suede, check under the general S’s. The only drawback is that the titles on the spines are not visible (unless there is a sticker on the top of the case), which necessitates individual examination of every case in the section in question. Flipping through the general sections is no easy task, given the manner in which the CD’s are clustered so tightly together; probably the best way to casually browse would be to remove a few CD’s from the end of the column to facilitate seeing at least part of the cover of the disc in question.
Also, note that the store’s name is slightly misleading; vinyl is also sold at Paul’s CD’s.
Directions: Paul’s CD’s is located off of Liberty Avenue; heading east, it’s just past the turn for the Bloomfield Bridge. Parking on Liberty Avenue is metered and hard to come by; parking on the back streets is a better choice, in my opinion, but beware: many spaces require a permit if you intend to park there longer than an hour.