YOU CAN TELL A LOT ABOUT THE MUSICAL HEALTH OF AN AREA BY HOW MANY RECORD SHOPS THERE ARE. THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN AT THE CORE OF LOCAL MUSIC SCENES, PLACES WHERE ARTISTS AND FANS ALIKE CAN MEET, HANG OUT, SEEK AND DISCUSS NEW MUSIC.
For all the revolution in streaming and digital music, Hackney’s record shops are thriving, with plenty popping up in recent years, from the punk-focused Tome to Dalston's Kristina and Hackney Downs' Low Company, which specialises in obscure and avant-garde releases.
New to the block is Stranger Than Paradise, founded by former long-term Rough Trade East employees Noreen McShane and Phil Adams. They’ve set up in the Mare Street Market, a new development that features a bar, pizza restaurant, deli and florist. With functional bare wood holding a well-curated range of vinyl that stretches from Nigerian disco to doom metal, this is a place where music is at the fore. “I think we wanted to get back to basics to a certain extent,” says Noreen McShane. “While a lot of thought went into shop aesthetics, we wanted the shopping experience to be an inclusive, pleasurable one for all our customers - a friendly environment with knowledgeable staff and a diverse selection of records, many of which you’d struggle to find elsewhere.”
The friendly approach seems to be working - you’ll often find curious customers browsing the racks, pint in hand, and Phil Adams says they’ve had a “quite a few pleasant surprises” in terms of local musician visitors since they opened. There are plans for events including DJ sets and intimate readings in the shop, as well as regular late night openings. Adams and McShane are full of beans about Stranger Than Paradise’s first year of operation so far, and insist that the community is going to be at the core of what they do in the future. “There's genuine support for what we’re building here, which is heart-warming and humbling in equal measure,” Adams says. “Our customer base is as varied as the records we stock, it’s a real joy to meet such a wide range of people with the same love of vinyl as we have.”