Owner Noreen McShane runs Stranger Than Paradise with long term friend Sonny and husband Marvin. Named after Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 masterpiece, Stranger Than Paradise is an Independent record store in the heart of Hackney, dedicated to sourcing a carefully curated selection of the best new releases and reissues, representative of a wide range of genres. We've teamed up with our record store neighbours to curate an ever-evolving edit of records and special edition vinyl. Find out more about the curation and the people behind Stranger Than Paradise below...
GOODHOOD: Where did your name "Stranger Than Paradise" come from?
NOREEN MCSHANE: Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 masterpiece Stranger Than Paradise, it was an absolute revelation growing up, it’s one of those films that does so much with so little. We love the independent ethos of Jim’s movie making, and what an amazing soundtrack by John Lurie.
GH: What did you both do prior to opening Stranger Than Paradise? How did it lead to opening up your own record shop?
NM: Having worked in and managed record shops in London most of my life, when an opportunity came up to open my own I jumped at the chance. I invited Sonny from working together previously and eventually roped in Marvin over lockdown!
GH: Can you talk us through your selections for you Goodhood curation? What decisions were made when selecting each record?
NM: We wanted to start with some STP essentials, albums new and old that have shaped the shop over the years. For example, Sad About The Times was our very first Album Of The Year, and Sex: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins is the second release on our in-house label; the first is sadly long sold out. The selections reflect our own eclectic tastes and cover most of the wide range of genres represented in the shop, with a few particular nods to London. Choosing just 20 was incredibly tough, we have plenty more classics and swerveballs waiting for their spot on the shelves!
GH: If you had to choose a favourite from the curation, which would you choose? What are your go-to records to play in the shop?
NM: Hard to choose a favourite - all of them are on regular rotation and have their own perfect time / headspace; the soothing piano of Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru is always a perfect Sunday morning cure to a Saturday night of Joy Orbison and Aphex!
GH: Streaming and downloading music is more accessible than ever. Why is music in the form of a tangible object still so important to you?
NM: You can’t deny the convenience of streaming, but nothing beats the warmth of vinyl, nothing beats the process of putting the needle down and playing an album through, fully engaging with an album physically as a complete work of art.. Going through a collection built up over the years, all the memories of the times surrounding those records, still with the price stickers on from where you bought them... We like to think that Stranger is more than just a shop also - it’s a cultural space, where we learn as much from our customers as they do from us, teenagers come in and buy their first album and chance encounters lead to bands forming on the spot!
GH: Your top spots in East London?
NM: Recently, we’ve been loving the newly reopened William IV, near Old Street but usually you’ll find us with a pint and a pizza sat outside the shop in Mare Street Market or down the Gun. Tom’s Pasta always hits the spot for incredible homemade lasagne and tiramisu, and mezcal mystery shots at Helgi’s always leave us stumbling into the night bewitched…
GH: Favourite places outside of London to record shop?
NM: A trip to Paris is never complete without a visit to Dizonord, Gemini Merchant and a couple of word-of-mouth, appointment-only back rooms... Red Light in Amsterdam, Grooves in San Francisco, Cosmos in Toronto - the list could go on!
GH: What are you currently reading?
NM: Come My Fanatics by Dan Franklin tells the incredible story of Dorset Doom legends Electric Wizard, and the new Sly Stone memoir is predictably mental!
GH: What does being an independent business in 2023 mean to you?
NM: It’s constantly exciting, we have complete freedom to do what we want to do, go in any direction without constraint. Trusting our gut hasn’t failed us yet!
GH: Any great radio shows we might not know about that you can put us onto?
NM: This Is The Modern World with Trouble on WMFU without fail every Thursday afternoon UK time - always interesting, beautifully curated selections and insightful guests.
GH: The impossible question - what’s your desert island disc?
NM: Maggot Brain by Funkadelic never gets old, you hear something new on every listen - a magical record that has stood the test of time on every level.
SONNY BARRETT: I’m cheating the question a little bit with an album about a desert island; Eden’s Island by Eden Ahbez is an enchanting LP of exotica from a true icon of mid century hippy counterculture. Noreen switched me onto it years ago and it will always remind me of her and of the shop!
MARVIN CASE: Aphex - Selected Ambient Works Vol II the 30 year old ambient masterpiece, it’ll calm me when I can’t light the fire...