Record stores seem like a dying breed these days, with stalwarts like Sound Fix, Bleecker Bob's and Kim's Music & Video all shutting their doors over the past few years. But those who are still dedicated to vinyl and purchasing music from someplace that is not the Internet should not despair—this city's record store scene is still (somewhat) thriving, with plenty of spectacular spots left where you can fight for that one pristine gem in the used $1 bin. Here are a few of our favorites; as always, leave yours in the comments.
OTHER MUSIC: Unlike the now-deceased Tower Records that used to stand across the street, this 18-year-old record shop has managed to withstand the iTunes era thanks to its spectacular vinyl and CD collection, impressively organized by the store's super-hip, super-knowledgeable staff. Though Other Music is small, you can find lots of good stuff here, with records boasting everything from indie rock to experimental jazz to obscure electronica and heavy metal, the more bizarre the better. As the name suggests, Other Music shies away from the more mainstream stuff, but they also sell a handful of used vinyl and more popular music, if that's your thing.
Other Music is located at 15 East 4th Street between Astor Place and Broadway in NoHo (212-477-8150, othermusic.com).
THE THING: Good things come to those who dig at this massive Greenpoint music mound. The Thing is not built for efficiency—piles upon boxes upon shelves of records make up the shop’s 20,000+ inventory. Polka albums, jazz 45s, 80s glam rock, and white label hip-hop singles: it’s all here, but with no organization, no labeling, and no marked prices, which means that dedicated shoppers will spend hours or even days combing through the beautiful dusty chaos. The good news is that with enough effort you will strike gold, and when you bring your spoils to the counter the clerks eye the stack and just pick a reasonable price. (Expect to pay as little as $2/record.) Bring along gloves, a mask, and all the free time you’ve got. (Scott Heins)
The Thing is located at 1001 Manhattan Ave between Huron and Green Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-349-8234).
DEADLY DRAGON SOUND SYSTEM: Throw out that Bob Marley Legend CD you've been using as a coaster and step into this tiny Chinatown record den, where you'll find some of the best and rarest reggae, dancehall, and dub music on the planet. Deadly Dragon's library of refined and rare Jamaican grooves includes a collection of out-of-print 7" singles so regal it’d make King Tubby lay down his crown. What’s more, samples of almost every record in stock are posted on the Deadly Dragon website, and the owners are always putting on DJ nights across the city. Even if you’ve never heard of Augustus Pablo, you’d be wise to stop in, spend a little cash, and keep on dubbing. (Scott Heins)
Deadly Dragon is located at 102-B Forsyth Street between Grand and Broome Streets on the Lower East Side (deadlydragonsound.com).
BLACK GOLD RECORDS: Stocked with antique doodads, taxidermy pigeons, coffee and pastries, Black Gold is more than just your average vinyl shop. Though there's still plenty of that kind of thing here, with carefully curated old records stacked in delicate wooden crates, ripe for the picking. The vinyl is slightly pricey, but the albums are in good condition, and titles run the gamut from eclectic rock to esoteric experimental jazz. Even if the music's not to your taste, the store's oddball Victorian atmosphere is enough to keep you browsing, plus you can purchase coffee and bites from the likes of SCRATCHbread and other local food purveyors after flipping through the goods.
Black Gold is located at 461 Court Street between Luquer St and 4th Pl in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (347-227-8227, blackgoldbrooklyn.com).
CO-OP 87: This sliver of a shop doesn't boast much in terms of space, but its teeming piles of mint-condition used records make it worth facing your claustrophobia. Most of Co-Op's well-priced offerings stem from the days of yore, with plenty of rock, jazz, soul and other records from the '60s, '70s and 1980s on hand. Beyond the oldies, though, you can find tons of vinyl from local labels, along with curated contemporary goods from every genre imaginable.
Co-Op 87 is located at 87 Guernsey Street between Nassau and Norman Ave in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-294-4629).
Courtesy Scoboco's flickr
ROUGH TRADE: It's more than rare for a record store to open while the rest of the city's vinyl and CD shops quietly die, but Rough Trade is one such gem. The famed London transplant debuted its massive Williamsburg space back in November, and has since earned a spot on the city's finest record store list. Though you won't find a lot of used vinyl here—stick with the aforementioned Co-Op 87 for that kind of thing—they do have a stellar, well-organized and clean collection of first-rate new stuff that you can score for a reasonable price. Bonus points for Rough Trade's venue in the back, where you can hear local artists and traveling bands IRL.
Rough Trade is located at 64 North 9th Street between Wythe and Kent Aves in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-4111, roughtradenyc.com).
TURNTABLE LAB: Kiss your bank account goodbye and step into one of the most varied and visually dazzling music shops in the world. If you're stumped by terms like "noise gate" and "low-pass filter" then Turntable Lab might not be the joint for you, but any honest list of NYC record shops has to give the East Village landmark its due. A trim yet perfectly-curated selection of indie rock, house, hip-hop, downtempo, and electro LPs and singles will greet you on the way in. Along the walls rest audiophile goodies like synthesizers, mixers, speakers, slipmats, pre-amps, headphones, needle cartridges, and, of course, hi-fi turntables of all vintages and varieties. Supported by a top-tier clientele of established working DJs and producers, the shop is not cheap—but then again buying quality only hurts once. (Scott Heins)
Turntable Lab is located at 120 East 7th Street between 1st Ave and Ave A in the East Village (212-677-0675, turntablelab.com).
ACADEMY RECORDS & CDS: Both Academy Records locations in Manhattan and their newly-relocated sister shop, the Academy Records Annex, offer up some of the best record-shopping vibes in the city. The Flatiron shop's been in more or less the same spot since 1977, and it sticks to its old school roots—though you can score the usual rock and jazz music here, Academy Records is better known for its massive collection of classical music, available on vinyl and on CD. The East Village shop is only loosely affiliated with the flagship, though it also boasts an excellent (and massive) collection of used LPs and 45s, with more classic and contemporary rock on tap. And the Annex, which recently made the move from Williamsburg to Greenpoint, has a hefty collection of reasonably priced used and new records that run the genre gamut.
Academy Records & CDs is located at 12 West 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-242-3000, academy-records.com).
GENERATION RECORDS: Generation Records isn't exactly the most wallet-friendly shop on this list, unless you're used to routinely spending upwards of $15 on a record. Cruel financial thievery aside, though, this longstanding Greenwich Village store boasts a spectacular collection of new and used albums (the used LPs are particularly good if you're on a budget), with plenty of excellent punk/rock/metal music from the 1970s, '80s and '90s, along with a whole bunch of new albums located in the store's second level. Peruse for hours, and pretend you're one with the cast of Empire Records until the staff kicks you out.
Generation Records is located at 210 Thompson Street between West 3rd and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village (212) 254-1100, generationrecords.com).
EARWAX RECORDS: Size isn't everything. This Williamsburg staple had to slim down a bit after leaving Bedford Avenue, but Earwax’s selection remains truly sublime, especially if your taste traffics on the sonic road less traveled. A deep cache of afrobeat and Brazilian funk reissues is always on hand, and fans of ambient and electro will rejoice at the extensive Brainfeeder and Warp Records selections. Earwax’s inventory skews new; on more than one occasion I’ve heard, “Sorry, that’s on backorder” at Rough Trade, only to mosey into Earwax minutes later and find exactly what I need. Shelves of refurbished stereo receivers and turntables—some dating back to the '70s—sit next to the register and might be the biggest draw of all; the prices are fair and good music deserves a good home system. (Scott Heins)
Earwax is located at 167 North 9th Street between Bedford and Driggs Aves in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-3771).
PERMANENT RECORDS: The bad news here is that Permanent Records isn't all that permanent, at the moment, since the Greenpoint shop has been forced from its location and will be departing its space come September 30th. But that's just all the more reason for you to stop by—here, helpful staff members will assist you in finding some of Permanent Records's many high-quality, eclectic offerings, with plenty of well-organized new and used vinyl on hand for browsing.
Feel free to rifle through their $1 vinyl bin, bring your dog in for some first-rate music education and don't worry about spending too much money, since everything here is priced for the budget-conscious. Best of all, though Permanent Records is leaving Greenpoint at the end of next month, they'll be relocated to a still undisclosed spot in Brooklyn in the near future, so...there's that.
Permanent Records is located at 181 Franklin Street between Green and Huron Streets in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-4083, permanentrecords.info).
A1 RECORDS: This East Village standby opened in 1996 after owner Isaac Kosman closed up his flea market stand in favor of permanent digs. A1 makes finding the city's best soul, jazz, and funk records from around the world a painless (if cramped) affair. There's a good chance you'll be elbow-rubbing with some of hip-hop's greatest producers as you comb through the supply of quintessentially cool vinyl. Fresh crates of vintage records arrive (and depart) daily, so there's reason to make multiple visits each month if you're trying to build up a solid home library.
A1's prices are very fair, with many near-mint LPs marked at around $8. With a helpful and scholarly staff on site, you're bound to have one of the best record-shopping experiences America has to offer in a shop that's doing business for all the right reasons. (Scott Heins)
A1 is located at 439 East 6th Street between Ave A and 1st Ave in the East Village (212-473-2870, a1recordshop.com).
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Every record store in this city deserves a shoutout for surviving this long. A few favorites that didn't make this list: Halcyon, Bleecker Street Records, Good Records, Human Head Records and Music Matters. Tell us what we've missed!