musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘KLCC’

Victoria Music in Kuala Lumpur

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During my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur I spent a lot of time browsing the CD shops in town. Unlike in Bangkok, where it’s become nearly impossible to find good back catalog or anything other than mainstream new releases, there are several shops in Kuala Lumpur offering a very good selection of CDs and even some vinyl records. I may be one of a vanishing breed, but I vastly prefer shopping for real CDs, as opposed to downloading songs or buying stuff online. Okay, I’ve worked in retail since the late 1970s, so I’m biased, but I still think that nothing compares to the experience and ambience of shopping in a well-stocked store, and thankfully in Kuala Lumpur they have those in abundance!

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I think it’s safe to say that the Rock Corner chain of stores have the best selection of CDs in the KL area. I went to their branches in KLCC (next to the famous Petronas Twin Towers), Mid Valley Megamall, 1 Utama, The Curve, Subang Parade, and Bangsar Village, the latter branch having my favorite mix of new releases and older titles, plus the employees are all very nice, and the in-store music that they play is always interesting too. In some shops you invariably encounter a metalhead, hip-hop fanatic, or even someone who still worships Kenny G, but the employees at the Rock Corner Bangsar branch have much better taste in music!

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Another good chain in town is Victoria Music. I always visit their branches at the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya and in Sungai Wang Plaza in the Bukit Bintang area. I stumbled upon both stores by accident initially, but I now go out of my way to visit them, finding that, like the Rock Corner stores, they have a good mix of new releases and back catalog. The young woman who works at the Amcorp Mall branch is always very friendly and invariably recommends something I had not thought of or had overlooked during my bin browsing. She is one of those retail wizards who know exactly what they have in stock.

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Both Victoria Music and Rock Corner also have a good selection of these new mini-boxed sets of CDs that WEA and Sony have been putting out the past couple of years. These sets include 4 or 5 entire albums by a single artist (dozens of popular names, such as Hall & Oates, Bill Withers, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat, Young Rascals, X, Chicago, George Duke, George Benson, and many, many more) all housed in cardboard sleeves and packaged inside a sturdy box. But the best thing is that they are priced not much more than what it would cost you to buy a single disc, so they are great bargains indeed. For some reason I never see any of these special CD sets at the shops in Bangkok and if check online at sites like Amazon they are quite expensive. But not in KL!

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During my shopping spree I found a ton of new music from the likes of Broken Bells, Robert Cray, Blood Orange, Bombay Bicycle Club, Capital Cities, Mazzy Star, Tory Y Moi, Paul Heaton, Low, Temper Trap, White Denim, Eddi Reader, and My Morning Jacket. And I bought plenty of older goodies from The Hollies, The Turtles, Peter Green, Crown Heights Affair, Solomon Burke, Husker Du, Willie Nile, Robin Trower, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and The Troggs, Gordon Lightfoot, oodles of cool compilations, and many more than I want to list!

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Another cool thing about the Amcorp Mall, in addition to Victoria Music and the giant Book Xcess store, is their weekend “Flea Market”. This indoor market features several dealers that sell affordable secondhand CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records. Some dealers even have Star Wars memorabilia and other collectible items. Something for everyone!

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CD Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

In addition to buying books, one of the joys of visiting Kuala Lumpur — at least for me — is browsing the CD bins in the various music shops around town. Unlike in Bangkok, where CD shops with a decent selection of titles are becoming very scarce, KL boasts dozens of well-stocked shops, most of them located in shopping malls in Central KL or nearby Petaling Jaya.

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The best chain in operation, by far, is Rock Corner. They have branches at KLCC (next to the famous Petronas Twin Towers), Mid Valley Mega Mall, Bangsar Village, The Curve, 1 Utama Shopping Center, The Gardens, and Subang Parade. I’ve visited six of these branches over the past three years and they all are very well stocked, but my favorite is the one in Bangsar Village. It’s only a short walk from the Bangsar LRT station, the woman who manages the shop is very pleasant (and she plays good music, unlike the heavy metal dudes in some branches), and most importantly it has the best selection. They seem to be particularly on top of most important new releases, plus the back catalog they stock runs very deep, putting the woeful selection in Bangkok shops to shame.

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Thus, you can safely assume that I get a bit carried away when shopping at the Rock Corner stores, sometimes buying a dozen or more discs at a time. When I visited earlier this month, I found lots of new releases that were on my want list at the Bangsar branch, along with some cool unexpected oldies, titles I assumed that I’d have to order online if I wanted them. Because of the haphazard filing system, artists aren’t always where you would expect them to be, so I’ve discovered, it pays to thumb through the entire stock. It can be a tiring process, especially when they shelve the CDs with the spine out, like you see some bookshops do with paperbacks, but I’ve found some real jewels by being persistent.

 

Another smaller chain, Victoria Music, has branches worth visiting in the Amcorp Mall and BB Plaza. There is also a single Tower Records outlet still in business, recently relocated to the Times Square shopping center. But sadly, it looks like this Tower branch is running on fumes and may not be around too much longer. Their stock keeps shrinking and so has the number of employees. When I dropped by on a Saturday evening, only one guy was working. Nevertheless, I managed to find a half-dozen CDs amidst their dregs. But both Rock Corner and Victoria Music appear to be doing thriving business, judging from the number of customers that I see in their stores each time I visit. It puzzles me that KL has so many good CD shops, while in Bangkok it’s become very difficult to find a store with any depth in selection.

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I realize that more people are downloading music nowadays, but for me nothing beats the experience of perusing the selections in a well-stocked shop and talking music with a knowledgeable clerk. More power to retail, I say. I hope these stores can survive the digital onslaught and continue to profitably run their operations. If you enjoy buying CDs, even half as much as I do, it’s worth your while to visit Kuala Lumpur, especially the Rock Corner branches.

 

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