The Best (Remaining) Record Stores in New York City
June 2016 marks the end the end of the road for two NYC record stores that served vinyl enthusiasts for over 20 years. The East Village's Other Music and the West Village's Rebel Rebel Records, like many other independent and chain music stores before them, are both shutting down thanks to the combination of rising New York City rents and the internet's effects on the industry. Thanks to the ease of purchasing vinyl and streaming almost anything you could want, the days of getting music recommendations from a knowledgeable clerk and buying an album on a whim are basically extinct for the average customer. But, for those who treat record shopping as anything from a hobby to a quasi-religion, there are still plenty of places around town to dig through crates, trade tips with the people behind the counter, and pick up the cool new releases on vinyl or cassette. Here's our guide to New York City's best old and new record stores. Did we miss your favorite? Leave it in the comments.
For a store of its size, this East Village shop is never short on great used albums in almost every genre. Outside of the regularly organized bins, there are new arrivals that have yet to be filed in their appropriate crates, as well as -- weather permitting -- boxes outside that also offer some great finds for about $3 -- like a best-of Atlantic Records soul compilation, or Steely Dan’s Aja, to complement slightly pricier finds inside, like the Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs and the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at one Academy Records store, try the other two. The original opened in Flatiron as a book store in 1977, then expanded into music, movies, and merch before a second location was erected in the East Village, and later, an “Annex” in Greenpoint. The Annex has a more modern feel, with new releases, but still deals in vintage albums and online sales. Trades of LPs, CDs, and DVDs are welcome, too.
Yes, it sounds like a Brooklyn stereotype -- records, coffee, and antiques in a Carroll Gardens location -- but it's absolutely worth visiting for its attentive and knowledgeable staff, decent prices, and impressive (if small) collection. Even more interesting, Black Gold also has a satellite café in Gowanus' Morbid Anatomy Museum, which hosted an event in March with over 10,000 records for sale for a buck apiece. Don't miss the next one.
The famed Bleecker Street Records got pushed out of its Bleecker St location for a Starbucks, which is about as clichéd a circumstance as you can get in Manhattan. But this Village institution is still right around the corner from its old location, and retains much of the original's charm. Plus, visiting the shop means you can meet Creeper, the fat gray cat who calls the store home.
Brooklyn-based independent record label, Captured Tracks, which includes buzzed-about acts like Mac DeMarco, DIIV, Beach Fossils, and Perfect Pussy, opened its own store in Greenpoint to sell LPs from those acts, as well as new & used vinyl, tapes, and gear.
This small Greenpoint shop is stacked with mostly used albums in all genres, from collector staples to the wildly obscure, but you’ll also be able to get your fix of the best new releases. As New York magazine said in 2013, "Vinyl junkies, meet your new dealer."
Originally opened as part of the Silent Barn DIY space by two WFMU DJs, Deep Cuts now has its own space in Ridgewood, Queens. There's a "Weird Shit" section, occasional barbecues for customers, funny signs all over the place, and a seemingly endless supply of great records.
For the adventurous music lover, this Chinatown shop offers everything from underground jazz, to contemporary classical, to the “completely uncategorizable" -- plus weekly in-store performances that are equally as eclectic.
A Williamsburg staple established in 1990 (well before the neighborhood became the focus of hipster-profiling trend pieces), Earwax is great for buying specific records, getting obscure recommendations, and picking up some retro audio equipment.
Over four decades old, this tiny South Slope shop was on the verge of shutting down recently, but still survives while selling albums at ridiculously affordable prices (from 50-cent bargains to a $15 near-mint five-LP Springsteen live box set). The overall lack of organization means it's not for the shopper looking for a specific record, but if you're in the mood to spend time shuffling through stacks and bins, it's perfect.
If you're in the Village and looking to get your punk, metal, and jazz vinyl fix, then Bleecker Street Record’s sister store, Generation, is your destination. It’s been in business for decades, and still offers one of the most eclectic selections in the city (along with some slightly higher prices). Make sure to head downstairs for the rarer finds.
This is how passionate Halcyon is about music: it evolved from a weekly record-listening party held in a Brooklyn apartment to a full-fledged shop (that’s been through a few iterations). First, it was a vinyl/coffee shop and art space in Cobble Hill, then a larger version of the same in Dumbo, and now it’s found a home inside Williamsburg dance club Output, operating with a bent towards electronic and local labels but, overall, a love of music of all kinds. Its employees also have a great sense of humor about it, referring to the latest incarnation as "The Halcyon Stellar Record Armory and Strategic Audio Center."
Even if you only browse through this Bushwick shop’s $2-6 bins, you'll likely find something you want or need. Just ask the staff. While many owners go out of their way to improve their stock, these guys seemingly have a nose for the rare and obscure, with records coming and going so fast that serious collectors might as well make daily appointments to visit and see the latest items.
As the name suggests, this Chelsea institution is totally focused on jazz -- and you'll be hard-pressed to find anything better in the city when it comes to finding LPs, CDs, books, and anything else related to the genre.
Whether you call the neighborhood East Williamsburg or Bushwick, this part of Brooklyn has a niche for punk, noise, hardcore, metal, and all other kinds of ear-destroying artists. Luckily for them and their fans, Material World (formerly Heaven Street Records) is there with plenty of albums from those genres, old and new, from around the world. If that's your style, it's a great place to discover new albums. If you're looking for mainstream releases, you'll likely want to look elsewhere.
In business since 1998, Music Matters in South Slope is yet another store that's somehow survived the increasing popularity and rising rents of its surroundings. Owner Jason Figel can often be found hanging around the shop or working the register, and will happily point you to the right LP or CD to buy in this small-yet-prolific shop. As a bonus for musician shoppers, Music Matters also sells recording gear, guitar strings, and more.
Norman’s is a great spot to find new and old albums, discount CDs, and maybe even a new guitar. And, as a bonus, Barcade and the Knitting Factory are only a few blocks away, if you want to make a day of music and reliving your childhood.
Opened in 2016, Norton's Prospect Heights shop is unique in that it opened after its label's namesake lost almost all of its catalog -- which specializes in '50s-'70s rockabilly, garage, and soul acts like Gene Vincent, the Wailers, and The Dictators -- when Hurricane Sandy destroyed its Red Hook warehouse. Thanks to the generosity of artists and fans, the label persevered and opened this tiny store, where you can buy Norton albums (some of which survived the 7ft flood waters), books, merch, and LPs from acts like James Brown and the Ramones. Every purchase helps this treasured institution gets back on its feet.
“P-Recs” opened in Greenpoint in 2007, just as the area started to become a haven for musicians and music lovers. After being priced out by its landlord, it eventually moved to South Slope/Greenwood in 2014. The newer, neater digs are great for browsing, but Permanent also updates its inventory online daily, allowing you to buy albums for pick-up and even delivery.
If you're looking for new releases and reissues, this is a good spot, but it's mostly focused on DJs, so you'll find scores of LPs that are time-coded for mixing. Also, if you're not a DJ but want to be (so, basically everyone), Rock & Soul offers instructional classes.
Opened in 2013, Rough Trade offers new and reissued albums with varying levels of competitive pricing, but the real attraction is the venue located in the back. Operated by the Bowery Presents, the 250-capacity room has great sound, easily accessible -- and clean! -- bathrooms, and a slew of great acts. Tegan and Sara just played there, and there are frequent free performances and autograph signings from major touring acts (though it's recommended you get there very early for those).
What better name for this thrift store that has all sorts of tchotchkes and a basement packed to the ceiling with totally unorganized LPs (it claims to have the largest selection of used vinyl in NYC). Visiting the basement at The Thing is like discovering a big-time hoarder's record collection, one that rewards those who have the patience to dig through the throwaways. Just don't go if you're claustrophobic.
"Proudly in the East Village since 2001," Turntable Lab has a terrific vinyl selection, particularly in the electronic and hip-hop genres, but is especially geared towards DJs, or anyone looking to find some new equipment, not to mention clothing.
Vinyl Fantasy serves lifelong die-hards, enthusiasts reconnecting with an old habit, and total noobs when it comes to both records and comic books. Open since 2013, the shop also dedicates its space to random art shows -- this year included one that was Nickelodeon-themed -- as well as video-game tournaments. If you’re a true music geek, this is your dojo.
The Upper West Side certainly doesn't have as many affordable arty shops as the Village and parts of Brooklyn, but lovers of classic rock, jazz, show tunes, and other older-leaning LPs should find plenty here. You can also head up Broadway to visit the Westsider’s rare & used book store.
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