A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, by which I mean Baltimore circa 2007, I worked in a record store. It was one of those buy/sell/trade deals and we had mostly CDs, because 2007, but there was a special vinyl section. That’s how you knew someone was extra super cool: they were looking at actual records, and therefore presumably actually owned a record player.
Records have come back in full force since then, with vinyl sales making more money than free streaming services last year. Plus, more and more bands are producing their music on vinyl, so that’s a great way to help the musicians you love be able to, you know, eat and stuff. Sure, Spotify and iTunes are really useful for listening on the train or the bus and drowning out the ramblings of the Evangelical preacher who’s chosen your train car as his soap box for the morning. But being able to instantly summon whatever you want to listen to kind of takes the fun out of searching for new music: there’s something really special about sifting through bins to find the record you really want, or the one you didn’t know you wanted; holding a record in your hands, putting it on your record player, seeing it on your shelf next to your other records.
There’s even this magical day called Record Store Day coming up on Saturday, which is the best possible day to go visit your local independent record store. Though not all these shops are participating, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support them on all the days. So whether it’s Record Store Day or just a good ay for new music, here is a list of the best record stores in Brooklyn, plus an in depth bargain-bin analysis by us.
194 Knickerbocker Ave, Bushwick
Nestled on Knickerbocker Ave between Jefferson and Troutman is this Bushwick gem. What they may lack in space, they make up for in cool stuff: in addition to records,Vinyl Fantasy carries a curated selection of graphic novels and zines, plus the walls are covered in rad art from local artists. All the products, records and comics alike, are really organized, and the staff is extremely helpful. Plus they know their stuff. Vinyl Fantasy is ideal for fans of metal and punk.
Bargain bin: A $1 record bin full of metal/ punk records, but they’ve got all sorts of stuff. This is where you can find the hidden gems you weren’t anticipating.
168 Johnson Ave., Bushwick
Human Head is another Bushwick spot that serves as your one-stop-shop for all things vinyl: according to their website, they’ve got “over 5,000 pieces of vinyl that are priced to move.” They’ve got a constantly replenishing selection of new vinyl from labels they like, plus they’re open to selling records by local artists. They even sell supplies for mailing records out, in case that’s a thing you need to do.
Bargain bin: Human Head does that thing where you can bring in your old records for cash or store credit — like Buffalo Exchange, but less annoying. Plus, there’s a $2 to $6 bin if you’re feeling thrifty – and you’re already reading Brokelyn, so chances are, you’re feeling thrifty.
64 N 9th St., Williamsburg
No list of Brooklyn record shops could possibly be complete without a mention of Rough Trade. This massive Williamsburg staple features stacks upon stacks of vinyl in all genres, but they especially feature artists who are on the Rough Trade label — cool bands like The Prettiots and Parquet Courts. Rough Trade is a chain with four locations, but the Brooklyn store has an outstanding selection, features a bunch of different spaces for performances and listening parties, and they have really rad shows in the back room.
Bargain bin: Check their Facebook page to find out about free in-store performances from really great bands. the store has a discount section in the back and since the store is huge, it’s bigger than other stores’ discount bins too.
Norman’s Sound and Vision
555 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg
Named after its founder, Norman’s Sound and Vision found itself in Williamsburg in 2012 after getting priced out of the rent in its former East Village locale. It’s now on Metropolitan, right off the Lorimer stop on the L train, and Norman keeps it stocked with new and used vinyl at fair prices. Plus, with Norman there to help out, the shop has a familiar, mom-n-pop (or, in this case, just pop) feel.
Bargain Bin: Check out the $1 bins in search of a few hidden gems and you won’t be disappointed.
159 20th street, #1B, South Slope
Lest we forget that there are parts of Brooklyn that listen to vinyl that are not Bushwick or Williamsburg, South Slope’s Permanent Records is here to remind us that other folks get in on the record store action, too. Though this cute spot is not open every day — their normal business hours are Wednesday-Saturday, from 12pm to 7pm — their website offers a handy online shopping option.
Bargain Bin: When you do make it in, don’t forget to bring any old vinyl you want to trade in: Permanent Records will also buy or trade gently used albums.
867 Broadway, BushwickIf you’ve ever walked down Broadway in Bushwick by the Myrtle/Broadway stop on the J train, you may have passed the funky looking alley that serves as a punk rock flea market. Within the confines of this little alley lies Rebel Rouser, a treasure trove of LPs, 45s, rare books, comics, cool clothes, rock n roll and horror memorabilia, and, according to one Yelp reviewer, “Just about anything that makes you fuckable if you own it.”
Bargain Bin: Cruise the alley’s stalls for a plethora of cheap buttons, patches and clothes in addition to music that will probably make you cooler.
595 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights
Norton is both a shop and a label, specializing in retro rock n roll, rockabilly, soul, and other fun stuff, especially reissues from the 1950s and 1960s. The label was housed in Red Hook until Hurricane Sandy decimated their warehouse, destroying a large portion of their back catalogue. Reconstruction of the warehouse, and the records lost, is still underway, but founders Miriam Linna and Billy Miller proudly opened their doors to their new shop to newbies and vinyl connoisseurs alike in January. We recommend Norton for fans of rockabilly and rock n roll from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but they do support current underground artists as well.
Bargain Bin: Norton does special deals on some of the reprints they’ve done over the course of resurrecting their collection after Hurricane Sandy. Not only are you sure to find something that fits your budget, it’s bound to be really unique and cool as well.
Academy Record Annex
85 Oak St., GreenpointI think that everyone basically expects people who work in a record store to be cool. I mean, I certainly felt cooler when I worked in one, though I’m not sure my coworkers felt the same way. Anyway, the people who work at Academy Record Annex are so cool, and so into records, that several of them are actually DJs. Plus, they have different buyers for the (many) different genres they carry — so they really, really know about records. Also, in addition to a really cool physical shop, Academy also does online record sales via eBay and Discogs.
Bargain Bin: Academy buys and trades used records as well as CDs and DVDs. So you can bring in your old stuff, and get some new stuff. At least, new to you, anyway. Check their Facebook page to catch cool in-store performances, local DJ sets by Academy staff AND for their Record Store Day festivities.
195 Calyer street, Greenpoint
Like Rough Trade and Norton, Captured Tracks is a record label with a rad physical store in Brooklyn. Captured Tracks has a couple really great imprints (i.e. smaller record labels operating under the Captured Tracks umbrella), and their artists include Boulevards, DIIV and Mac DeMarco among other amazing Brooklyn based artists. They produce their music in vinyl, CD, and cassette form, so whatever your format, you’ll be sure to find something cool to listen to.
Bargain Bin: Captured Tracks buys, sells and trades new and used records, CDs, and cassette tapes. If you’re feeling fancy, you can save 10 percent on your next purchase by spending $100 – which, for some audiophiles, is totally plausible.
Did we miss your favorite shop? Make a case for it in the comments!
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