Hunting for rare records in Reykjavik can be exceedingly difficult
Anywhere I travel, record shopping is always on my brain. Since record stores become regional musical landmarks, the likelihood of finding something unavailable to me in Saskatoon is high. So, when I recently had the opportunity to spend two weeks traveling Iceland, I made sure to do my homework and talk to locals about where to grip some vinyl.
My first stop was at Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Records). Despite the store’s important contribution to Icelandic art and music, the shop has a disappointing selection of vinyl. Though a record label at one point, hardly any of their back catalogue was available. Among the records they did have, I didn’t see much I couldn’t find back home in Canada. Too bad.
Most stores in Reykjavik specialize in new music, which I am rarely interested in. Even a visit to 12 Tónar, an indie label and record store, didn’t house much more than a handful of contemporary local pop artists, among many jazz and classical albums. Since used records are more of an interest to me, I skipped over other stores such as Skifan and Eymundsson, which were specializing in the newest pop albums, and headed to Geislandiskabud Valda. A second-hand store selling used VHS tapes and video games, I was directed to a back room of records, which featured a very prominent death metal section. I was surprised to find that Regina’s own Into Eternity were stocked there! I started digging through the “Rokk/Popp” section, which was small, but I still managed to snag a UK pressing of the first Young Gods album, and a greatest hits comp of The Ronettes that Phil Spector released in 1975 on his personal imprint.
But what made the trip to this store totally worth it was unearthing an original pressing of the first album by The Moondogs, an underrated power-pop band from Northern Ireland. The fact that it was in mint condition was very exciting, as I’d heard of other power-pop fans paying hundreds of dollars for the LP. It cost me 1250 Icelandic króna (roughly $10 Canadian).
One of my goals was to find some interesting Icelandic music. Thanks to Lucky Records, the only store in Reykjavik that had an extensive collection of used records, I found an abundance. I was directed by the staff to a crate of Icelandic punk and new wave. The owner of the store and one of his employees were very attentive and friendly, asking me what I liked and recommended several albums to me. They even offered me a free cup of coffee and a generous discount!
The score: two albums and a 7″ by Purrkurr Pillnikk, two albums and a 10″ by Þeyr, and albums by Kukl and Jonee Jonee, all punks bands prominent in Iceland and Europe during the early 1980’s. I was really only familiar with Purrkurr Pillnikk, and was ecstatic to find more than one record, as all of their material is long out of print and very hard to find, even in Iceland. While overall very expensive, I usually find a way to justify purchasing rare records in such tremendous shape. The life of a collector…
While Iceland has a rich history of interesting music, their record stores are surprisingly disappointing for those who love used bins. But if you’re on the hunt for new music, especially contemporary Icelandic pop artists, Reykjavik is a great place to snatch up some tasty jams.
Oh, and I guess the landscape and food was okay, too.