It hits you when you walk in the door. The familiar, hug-like, turn-up-your-nose smell of sage and jasmine burning in the back corner. The smoke kind of gets in your eyes, under your contact lenses, but you don’t really mind.
A bushy tail brushes across your ankles, but you don’t jump away. It’s a loving pet, a fellow customer. A connoisseur, just like you.
You’ve arrived at the record store nestled between Highway 41 and Kentucky Avenue in Evansville, Indiana. In the middle ground of middle America, it’s an oasis. It’s Space Monkey Records.
I discovered Space Monkey when I was in high school. It quickly became my personal haven, my lovely escape into a dimly lit room where all the things you need in the world come together. Every time I’m home, I beeline to the $5 LP bins. I close my eyes and flip the pressed tunes until my index finger chooses my fate. I’ve never been disappointed with fate in these instances. It’s brought me closer to the Pet Shop Boys, to Fleetwood Mac, to Van Morrison, to the Go-Go's, to Talking Heads. I can’t thank fate enough, actually. Thank you, fate. Thank you, left index finger.
I’ve observed that my generation hovers between comfortably situated nostalgia and the hustle toward the next great thing. We can either take our time, or we need it now, and we need it from Amazon. We hover between Goodwill and Shein. Between Spotify and Apple Music. Between quality and quantity. We teeter back and forth on a seesaw, contemplating worldly issues of great magnitude with poise, and those of small importance with aspirating anxiety.
But almost everyone I know my age owns a vinyl record. This format of listening hasn’t gone away, and that’s for a reason.
The record store is special, for one. The owners who you know and keep up with on social media. The rare, buried treasures that you find when you close your eyes and flip to an LP in the $5 crate. It’s more than music — it’s an immersive experience. It’s human connection through the higher entity that is music.
And for reason number two — if we have to number them — is the music itself. There’s something to be said for going unplugged, for playing with a turntable. For moving the needle ever so carefully over the smooth black vinyl, trying hard not to scratch the treasure. For watching the thing spin, hitting the grooves that make the music what it is. It spins and spins and the noise eases out slowly, and you listen, and you’re enchanted.
A professor once told me, “Music: it’s the closest thing to magic.” I agree. Visiting the record store isn’t just for older generations. It’s for everyone. It’s good for the soul.
I remember the first record I bought at Space Monkey. It was “Strangeways, Here We Come,” by The Smiths. Its yellow, faded portrait cover and glistening purple lettering in gothic-looking font were attractive. I knew one song on the album when I bought it, “Girlfriend in a Coma.” Now I play that record when I want to remember the first time I met the tabby cat, smelled the jasmine and got lost for hours in the aisles among the magicians and their tricks.
The vinyl record revival isn’t so much a revival. I think vinyl hasn’t gone away, and I hope it will always be here. It’s tangible. It’s a feeling you can’t get from streaming. It’s people and places and the experience of discovering buried treasure where you least expect it. Music must really be the closest thing to magic.
Visit some of my favorite record stores:
Space Monkey Records – Evansville, Indiana
Atmosphere Collectibles – Evansville, Indiana
Third Man Records – Nashville, Tennessee
Reckless Records – Chicago, Illinois
TD’s CD’s & LP’s – Bloomington, Indiana
Tracks on Kirkwood – Bloomington, Indiana
Audrey Vonderahe (she/her) is a sophomore studying journalism and criminal justice. Follow her on Spotify (@audreyvonderahe) for mediocre, highly curated playlists.