READERS' PICK: If you like your music eclectic, there's no better store in Arizona than Hear's Music. This cozy shop packs in more hard-to-find world, jazz and Americana music than stores five times its size. Sure, you won't find rows and rows of the latest flavor-of-the-month cotton-candy pop group displayed like you will in the big-box stores. But if you're looking for the latest in Tibetan chant, something different in the blues genre, an obscure singer/songwriter or a comprehensive selection of Celtic music, Hear's is the place. The folks here don't just like music; for them it's an all-consuming passion. They also seem to have no greater joy in life than when they can turn customers on to a new piece of music. They're so knowledgeable about various genres, artists, styles and history we wouldn't be surprised if they were all moonlighting from the UA's graduate program in library science or secretly researching doctoral theses in ethnomusicology. This funky Tucson treasure puts the lie to bigger is always better.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Zia Records, 3370 E. Speedway Blvd.; 3655 N. Oracle Road. Record stores are notorious for promoting juvenile delinquency and Zia Records is definitely an example of this. It is not uncommon to see apparently high-school age kids perusing the seemingly endless rows of CDs, looking at the many music-related posters or just hanging out. But the real draw at Zia's is the nearly dirt-cheap used CDs. While they sometimes have a tendency to buy only CDs in mint condition and sell only CDs that seem like they've been used and abused more than a groupie at an early '70s Zeppelin show, Zia's is still the place to go to buy or sell CDs. And if you can't find what you're looking for, Zia's grotesquely pierced and tattooed (but way cool) staff can always assist you.