Best New-CD Store -- Underground-Music Variety

Wax Trax

If you're looking for something out of the ordinary or want to pick the brain of someone who eats, drinks and breathes music, Wax Trax is still the bee's knees. The store's stock czars make sure that just about every new, intriguing, indescribable or curious release is on hand, be it imported or independently released, and the rest of the staff is capable of pointing adventurous customers in very interesting directions.
Of course, locals know that Wax Trax isn't a single store, but a several-headed music hydra -- and the branch dedicated to used product shouldn't be overlooked. The space is crammed with oodles of previously owned treasures: CDs and LPs from a wide range of eras, as well as stacks upon stacks of 45s available on the cheap. A great way to go forward into the past.
An annex to the original Twist & Shout (recently named Retailer of the Year by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers), conveniently located on the other side of the street, Underground stocks a potpourri of musical accessories, including new and used stereo equipment, cartridges, and clothing intended to bring out your inner raver. But it's built around two rooms filled with vinyl -- one jammed with new and old LPs from every conceivable genre, the other overflowing with the newest and hottest dance jams. No wonder DJs from all over the state make the store their one-stop shopping place.

Best Place for Used Vinyl and Knowledgeable Grouches

Jerry's Record Exchange

Don't ask for the time at Jerry's. There's a big clock on the back wall, buddy, and it ticks for thee. Musical questions, however, are permissible, as long as they don't waste time and aren't stoopid. Otherwise, browse to your heart's content in the tiny catacombs of vinylus obscurus and used CDs. There's everything from Biota to Bertolt Brecht, opera to avant-garde. Dirty East Colfax never felt better. If anyone asks, tell 'em Captain Beefheart sent you.

Remember that Anne Geddes photo of her signature babies planted in acres upon acres of terra-cotta pots? Now imagine the picture without any babies. That's what Jackalope looks like -- a vast expanse of planters and pots in all shapes and sizes, stretching almost as far as the eye can see. The second outlet of a Santa Fe-based store, this Jackalope imports clay goods directly from Mexico and passes the savings on to shoppers. Short of shopping south of the border, this is your best bet for buys on glazed pots, goat-shaped planters and freestanding clay fireplaces. When we feel like going to pot, we head to Jackalope.

Best Place for Vintage-Vinyl Fiends to Score a Fix

Don's Discs

Forget CDs. Don Radke, proprietor of Don's Discs, has more used records than he has time to clean, sort and stock. He stopped keeping count years ago, but Radke figures that more than a million separate slabs of vinyl inhabit his increasingly cluttered space in Thornton. While many a local has bought and sold his record collection here since the doors opened in 1982, Don's has garnered something of an international reputation in the time since, so it's not uncommon for European and Asian record fetishists to come to town and clog the shop's aisles for days at a time.

Local rappers and DJs who want to be sure that their recordings are well represented head to Sunshine Records, the revered East Colfax institution that's served and showcased local hip-hop heads for years. Alongside the latest records from E-40 and Jay-Z, releases from area MCs like Don Blas and Nyke Loc also line the shelves; Park Hill's A-1 Sick and BJ Hog have moved some respectable units through Sunshine as well. The store is a bright spot on the local urban-music map.
In a small but sparely modern shop across the street from East High School sits the aptly named Hip Hop One Stop, where under one roof you can find magazines and CDs that will put you in the hip-hop mood, plus a small but high-quality collection of jeans, jackets, shirts and shoes that'll make you look the part.
Half the population of Denver seems to know about the courtesy phones installed at the Tattered Cover Book Stores in Cherry Creek and LoDo. Discreet signage informs patrons getting ready to "ride the light" to limit calls to three-minute locals. But a bit of persistent eavesdropping reveals the full scope of the phones' functions: People with memorized resumés use them to apply for multiple jobs; intimacies are offered and sometimes accepted for a nighttime rendezvous; mysteriously involved business dealings are discussed by homeless people. And that's just a sampler of the over-the-wire goings-on at the TC: One-stop shoppers and tourists often have even juicier tidbits to offer.
All you really need to get a Denver library card is a pulse. From the day of your birth forward, you are eligible to rent materials, free of charge, as long as you bring them back on time. But while books are the primary draw at the library's Central Branch, smart card carriers know to make an additional stop in the audio-visual room, where a nice selection of videos and CDs is there for the borrowing. The titles aren't all scintillating -- there are plenty of instructional oddities on everything from building a deck to speaking Mandarin -- but plenty of gems hide in the slightly haphazard shelves. The library's foreign- and classic-film sections rival those of the mega-chain video stores, while classical-music connoisseurs will have reason to cheer in the music aisles. Best of all, there's no need to worry about those whopping late fees if you don't watch your flick in two days: Films and discs are checked out for one week. Don't make it a Blockbuster night: Get thee to the library!

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