Vinyl Sale: New York's Best Music Stores

Jonathan Zeller

(Updated 03/30/2018)

Before fans went online for music, they got in line. And though the information age has made acquiring one's jams more convenient, there's still plenty to be said for the irreplaceable value of brick-and-mortar record shops—where Facebook won't automatically generate a post announcing "Billy just bought Business as Usual by Men at Work on vinyl." As a matter of fact, 2017 marked the 12th straight year with an increase in LP sales.

Whether you're looking for the latest release from Diiv, classic salsa by Héctor Lavoe or a well-worn copy of H20 by Hall & Oates, there's one thing you'll be sure to find at these music dispensaries: the human touch. (And if you're looking for Rick Springfield's "Human Touch," you may also be in luck.)

By the way, as long as you've got records on your mind, check out our roundup of famous New York City album cover locations.

Academy Records. Photo: Joel Fisher

Academy Records

Think your records are ancient? Some music predates LPs entirely. Those who rock it really old school can take heart in Academy's extensive secondhand classical catalog. According to owner Joseph Ganun, "If you want the original cover art and a nice package [for certain rare recordings], the only way you'll find it is in a secondhand store like this one." Academy doesn't forget the past hundred years or so, either. Its jazz selection is outstanding, and there are rock, folk and R&B gems scattered throughout. The store also has a nice selection of used DVDs.

Come here if you like:
• Johann Sebastian Bach
• Louis Armstrong
• Philip Glass

Black Gold. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Black Gold

Despite opening a new outlet at Soho's Artist and Fleas on Prince Street, Black Gold remains a top candidate for "Brooklyn-est Store in Brooklyn." Not only does it accommodate the borough's thriving demographics of vinyl snobs and coffee snobs—it also carries taxidermy. Asked about the unusual combination, co-owner Sommer Santoro replies that it was a natural fit: "We're all collectors of records, antiques and big, avid coffee drinkers, so it just kind of made sense to us." Like the store concept itself, the music selection is wide ranging. While the collection is mainly rock, Santoro reports, "We have a lot of weird foreign stuff [and] a lot of rare soul." Now all we need is a record-pickling station.

Come here if you like:
• Coffee
• Taxidermied animals
• Rock, soul, world music

Casa Amadeo. Photo: Malcolm Brown

Casa Amadeo

This venerable store has stood on the same Bronx block for more than half a century, fueled by owner Mike Amadeo's love for and knowledge of music. This isn't the spot to seek out the latest chart-toppers, as they essentially never receive new inventory: "Anyone who has any sense about what music is can come to me and I'll help them out, but not with the reggaetón," explains Amadeo. It's a place for classics—including tunes by artists like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Cheo Feliciano, for whom Amadeo has composed. Amadeo also sells musical instruments. He recommeds calling ahead if you're looking for a specific record, lest you be disappointed.

Come here if you like:
• Tito Puente
• Willie Colón
• Héctor Lavoe

Earwax. Photo: Malcolm Brown

Earwax

Earwax owner Fabio Roberti feels strongly about tastemaking in his hip Williamsburg neighborhood and prefers his store's carefully chosen inventory to "all the [hogwash] that's on every website on the planet. There's a lot of [hogwash] out there." If you want to leap from The xx to the next next big thing, Earwax's knowledgeable staff may clue you in to your new favorite band. And, as befits its name, Earwax has a huge selection of vinyl.

Come here if you like:
• Roots, blues, country
• Psychedelic rock, Krautrock, alternative rock
• Noise/experimental, world music, reggae

Fifth Avenue Records and Tapes

This Park Slope gem is overflowing with used vinyl (they have new records, too, but the pre-played collection is massive). The stockpile is cramped and not particularly organized, but perusing the offerings is frequently rewarding. In addition to albums, the store carries a large selection of 45s from such standbys as the Beatles and Bob Dylan. There are even cassettes and eight-tracks on the shelves. There are also fantastic finds in the bargain bins outside: anything from show tunes to Phil Collins, Supertramp and Chicago can end up out there. (We saw a vinyl copy of Billy Joel's Storm Front, which, in certain circles, is pretty exciting.) The owner, Tony Mignone, offers the kind of personality that we want from our record store proprietors. When a young couple purchased a Paula Abdul record recently, he gave the album a cursory glance and dryly remarked, "I used to date her."

Come here if you like:
• The Beatles
• Kenny Loggins
• Density—the small space holds a huge collection that's always changing

Generation Records

Screeching guitars. Painted faces. Primal yelps. Some music scares parents. Generation provides an onslaught of such hard-core, punk and metal—including enough vinyl to fill a mosh pit. Jason, a manager at the store, chalks up the Greenwich Village institution's continued success to the loyalty of those genres' fans. "Metal and punk guys are always buying records, [and] that keeps us going," he says. If you're lucky, you may even catch a favorite act performing in-store (but don't thrash so hard you knock over the albums).

Come here if you like:
• …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
• Bridge and Tunnel
• Agnostic Front

Music Matters

The very essence of a small local record store, Music Matters' inventory is more about what Park Slope denizens want than anything else. Jason Figel, the owner, sums up the motivation behind his purchasing decisions as "neighborhood demand." Indeed, the shop's collection is curated to meet Park Slope's taste—a healthy dose of indie rock is available on CD and vinyl, with new releases coming in every week. Loyalty is rewarded here: customers get their 16th vinyl album free after filling up a punch card. The store is small, but Figel will order anything you're looking for that isn't on hand.

Come here if you like:
• Radiohead
• Fiona Apple
• Personal attention

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Norman's Sound and Vision

Many a record aficionado was bummed at the closing of long-running East Village record-and-video emporium Norman's Sound and Vision—but the place reemerged soon after in Williamsburg, which may be home to the City's highest concentration of vinyl buyers. Norman himself is knowledgeable and glad to talk about music, and the $1 bins hold rewards for those willing to dig. Some of us even learned how to clean musty old vinyl with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol from this shop's friendly staff.

Come here if you like:
• Classic rock
• Standards and show tunes
• $1 records

Rough Trade. Photo: Brittany Petronella

Rough Trade NYC

This London import, currently the City's largest record store, is practically an indie-music theme park. The company's Williamsburg outpost features not only an ample music selection, but also an exhibition room, a cafe and a space for live shows—some free and some ticketed. For much more info on Rough Trade, check out our complete guide.

Come here if you like:
• Sondre Lerche
• The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
• Ingrid Michaelson

The Thing. Photo: Malcolm Brown

The Thing

The Thing is an ever-growing blob of $2 vinyl and whatever else its proprietors find. Previously seen in the space: African statues, theater costumes, carnival props, paintings and found photos from family collections. Though searching the piles almost requires spelunking gear, customers often unearth the valuable and unusual. Just shop with an open mind. If you come in looking for a specific record, you're unlikely to find it—but if you're in search of something new, you'll probably be in luck.

Come here if you like:
• Secondhand appliances
• Every John Coltrane record shoved into one sleeve
• Entropy


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