Fall is officially upon us, which means less time spent outdoors and more time at home. And just like the squirrel who saved up nuts for the winter, you might as well stock up on some new records now for those long, dark nights come December.
Before moving to Brooklyn a few months ago, I worked at a record shop in DC for three years, so I was excited to see what my new home has in store. I spent the summer rifling through the stacks in all the record stores in Brooklyn to make you this handy guide. So if you know what you want and how far you’re willing to travel to get it – residents of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, I envy you – let these short blurbs be your guide.
167 N. 9th St., North Williamsburg
A Williamsburg institution for over 25 years, Earwax Records sells mostly new vinyl, with lots of reissues of classic records from the 1960s and ‘70s in the mix. They also have some used LPs and CDs, and the owner writes up some really cute, handwritten descriptive notes on select favorites. They also sell very well-preserved vintage record players and receivers.
74 Wythe Ave., North Williamsburg
Halcyon is a tiny record shop tucked into the corner of the Output nightclub. The store focuses on dance music, so you’ll find lots of house, techno, and electronic records in neatly labeled drawers. The prices are reasonable, and they have more listening stations (maybe 10?) than any record store I’ve seen. There’s also a bar and event space attached.
Human Head Records
168 Johnson Ave., East Williamsburg
This place has everything – soul, Latin, reggae, Brazilian, free jazz, prog rock, 80s boogie, $5 LPs, and 45s for $1. The creepy mannequin heads hanging from the ceiling gave Human Head its name. The staff is extremely helpful, and the store is so well curated that you’ll certainly find something you like.
Norman’s Sound & Vision
555 Metropolitan Ave., North Williamsburg
Norman’s is so full of records, it’s packed to the brim. Count on spending at least an hour going through everything if you’re browsing. If you know what you’re looking for, the staff knows where everything is. They have mostly used records (mind the dust); there’s a wall of new LPs, too, but they’re a bit overpriced.
64 N. 9th St., North Williamsburg
Brooklyn’s largest record store is also a music label, venue, and coffee shop. Walking in, you feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1990s, specifically the store in Empire Records. This place has tons of new LPs, CDs (even CD listening poles!), cassette tapes, and books. Most of the new records are around $20, and they have a little used corner off to the side. Major bonus points for the free bike pump just outside the front door.
Superior Elevation Records
100 White St., East Williamsburg
Superior Elevation covers a whole basement with soul, rock, reggae, jazz, Brazilian, and lots of disco. There’s a wealth of 45s and the DJs in the dance section are separated by location (NY, Chicago, etc.) There’s a note on the wall that says you can’t listen to the dollar records at the listening station, which begs the question: are the dollar records going to destroy my record player at home?
Academy Records Annex
85 Oak St., Greenpoint
The Manhattan store’s Brooklyn annex has plenty of everything: new and used LPs, 45s, CDs, tapes, and a large selection of rock and punk, disco and house, soul and jazz. And the prices are also pretty reasonable.
Captured Tracks Shop
195 Calyer St., Greenpoint
Like Rough Trade, Captured Tracks is a record store as well as an independent music label. They seem to have a rock focus, but you can also find experimental jazz, soul, reggae, and the biggest used classical section I encountered in Brooklyn. Most of the records are used (except for the new ones from their label, of course), and they have some 45s, and even Middle Eastern cassette tapes.
87 Guernsey St., Greenpoint
Co-Op 87 is the place to go for funk/soul, 45s, and funk/soul 45s, many of them priced at $1 or $2. They have records both new and used (mostly used), and there are some great finds in the rock and jazz sections, too.
986 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint
Record Grouch is one of the few record stores I came across that has a sizable section for folk, bluegrass, and Cajun. They also have a lot of rock, soul, hip-hop, metal, punk, and jazz. And a sound poetry section. The store stocks mostly used LPs, 45s, and CDs. I’ve never seen so many Beatles 45s in one place before.
1001 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint
The Thing isn’t so much a record store as a potential goldmine. The back section of this thrift shop is full of boxes upon boxes of used records, and if you go down into the basement, there’s barely enough room to walk through wall-to-wall shelves and stacked boxes filled to the brim with LPs. 45s are 50 cents, 78s are $1, and 12-inches are $2. Nothing is organized in any way, so start digging! Oh, and they also have used receivers, CDs, VHS, DVDs, clothes, and vintage Playboy magazines, among other things.
184 Noll St., Bushwick
Material World specializes in metal, industrial, noise, synth, punk, and hardcore, but they also have a lot of reggae 45s. You’ll find new and used records, CDs, and tapes.
Northern Lights Records
21 Lawton St., Bushwick
A relative newcomer to the record store scene at just two years old, Northern Lights is one of those rare shops with a free box outside. Inside, you’ll find lots of jazz, rock, reggae, doo-wop, rock, hip-hop, house, and soul. They have a nice variety of used LPs and 45s and a sizeable Latin section.
867 Broadway, Bushwick
Open on the weekends, Rebel Rouser is a super cute little record store inside a shipping container in an alley that hosts a weekly punk rock flea market. It has a great selection of reasonably priced LPs and 45s (mostly used rock, punk, garage, soul, funk, etc.) as well as VHS and books. There’s also a used bookstore across the alley and a cassette tape store next door.
Rotten Island Records
4 Stanwix St., Bushwick
Rotten Island, which opened earlier this year, ties with Rebel Rouser for my favorite Bushwick record store. The atmosphere in here is wonderful, and they have deals all over the store: 3 for $5, 5 for $20, and 10 for $10 on select records. The shop stocks lots of used records of all genres – from rock, funk, jazz, and hip-hop to dance, Latin, and African. Oh, and did I mention their stereo system plays cassette tapes?
Second Hand Records NYC
1345 DeKalb Ave., Bushwick
Celebrating its first birthday this month, Second Hand Records is the storefront to community radio station Radio Free Brooklyn, which has its studio in the back. As for the store, you’ll find plenty of used jazz, funk/soul, house, and disco records.
194 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick
Vinyl Fantasy, which specializes in records and comic books, was closed for remodelling when I tried to stop by, but according to Facebook, it’ll be back very soon. Stay tuned.
Fifth Avenue Records & Tapes
439 5th Ave., Park Slope
When I visited Fifth Avenue Records last month, the clerk was happily watching Lethal Weapon on VHS on an ‘80s TV/VCR combo. (Obviously, the place also sells VHS.) Most of the used LPs here are about $15, but they also have a selection of new records, as well as used 45s (in color-coded sleeves for the shopper’s convenience), CDs, tapes, and DVDs. Just don’t buy that TV/VCR; I have a feeling the employees are really going to miss it.
413 7th Ave., Park Slope
This store has more CDs than you can shake a stick at, both new and used. (People are still buying new CDs, I guess?) Most of the vinyl for sale is new, but they have a bit of a used section, as well as DVDs, miscellaneous music equipment, old show posters, and – my personal favorite for those cold, rainy afternoons – musical jigsaw puzzles!
159 20th St., Park Slope
To get into Permanent Records, you go through the side door of an office building, up in the elevator, and walk through the entirety of a coworking space to the back corner. The store is well worth navigating the maze, because it seems a lot of people don’t even bother. They have a great used selection (lots of 60s and 70s rock), and most records are under $10, with half the store on sale most of the time. There’s no listening station, but the people that own the place are so nice that they trust you to leave cash in the money box for dollar records, which they always leave just outside the door, even when the shop is closed.
Almost Ready Records
135 Huntington St., Carroll Gardens
Yet another indie label brick-and-mortar, Almost Ready opened up shop in February. It’s one of the cleanest-looking record stores around, and it’s packed with everything from dollar records to $100 collectibles.
461 Court St., Carroll Gardens
A coffee shop/record store, it seems Black Gold focuses much more on the former. The record selection is alright, but if you go on a weekend, expect bougie neighborhood parents waiting for their coffee with their bratty kids to block your way from finding anything worthwhile.
PROSPECT LEFFERTS GARDENS
African Record Center
1194 Nostrand Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens
The name says it all. Since 1968, African Record Center has been exclusively devoted to selling African and Afro-Caribbean music. They have CDs, tapes, records, and even some musical instruments.
65 Fenimore St., Prospect Lefferts Gardens
At only a year old, Record City has a great selection of used vinyl – hip hop, rap, disco, boogie, jazz, and Caribbean. Also, lots of Led Zeppelin. There’s a wealth of soul/funk LPs and lots and lots of reggae.
1362 St. John Pl., Crown Heights
Obviously, Keeling is all about the reggae (owner Keeling Beckford was big on the reggae scene in the 1960s), but they also have titles like “Zimbabwe Hits” and multiple copies of Nat King Cole’s “The Magic of Christmas.”
The Mixtape Club
1129 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy
The newest store on this list, The Mixtape Club just opened in July. It’s also a coffee shop (but sans obnoxious families) and specializes in house, techno, electronic, and world music.
360 Van Brunt St., Red Hook
The Record Shop has a nice, neighborly feel to it, with a little stage in back for occasional live shows. The shop is small, but there is a large variety of musical genres represented, and they also sell random musical instruments.
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