We're gonna make a bold claim, which is that New York is the greatest city in the world for music—there is simply nowhere else that has our storied history (just think of all those classic NYC songs) and incredible live music scene. And then of course, there are our record stores. Despite the loss of some beloved spots (including Rebel Rebel and Other Music), there’s still plenty of spots for both the serious vinyl junkie or casual collector perusing LPs on Record Store Day. Discovering that rare LP in a brick-and-mortar music store is a thrill you just can’t replicate online (we know—we’ve tried). These are the genre-spanning NYC record stores we swear by.
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Best vinyl record stores in NYC
The long-running New York institution’s flagship store, Academy Records and CDs—next door to the tiny niche where it originated back in ’77—boasts the city’s best selection of used classical CDs and LPs, plus an impressive array of rock and jazz discs. (The store is connected in name to NYC's other two Academy Record locations, though those spots focus mainly on vinyl). Approachable help and knowledgeable buyers add to the overall experience. Plan to spend time—and money—at both locations.
The Brooklyn offshoot of this East Village rare-vinyl mecca followed the pricing-out trend and migrated from Williamsburg to Greenpoint, where its vast selection of LPs has more room to breathe. The collection’s impressive for both its breadth and depth—it’s the uncommon kind of shop where you can easily walk out with a bag of painfully obscure soul 45s and out-of-print metal albums as well as low-priced ’70s classics and the latest from that buzzworthy band your friend just blogged about. Oh, and the steady stream of hip shoppers on sunny Saturday and Sunday afternoons matches the great people-watching in nearby McCarren Park. (Don’t worry, even when it’s crowded, the place is so damn spacious that there’s plenty of room to sift.)
How this small storefront manages to sell coffee, antiques and records without being a cluttered, cramped mess we’ll never know. For the latter, the tidy taxidermy-adorned space (peep the creepy hyena in the back) deals exclusively in vinyl—and leans toward primitive, hard stuff: garage-rock comps by the likes of Crypt and Norton Records, under-the-radar punk seven-inches.
Though anyone could get turned around below the haphazard Christmas lights and records plastering the basement ceiling, music nerds will be happy to get lost in this bi-level vault of new and used CDs, records, DVDs and posters. The shop is overstuffed with a great selection of rare vinyl, including jazz LPs from the ’50s and ’60s; rock albums from the ’60s; and British, Japanese and German imports. The bands run the gamut from never-heard-of-’em to Top 40—and the prices are just as varied.
Local label Captured Tracks has been setting indie rock’s agenda for eight years with a roster of heavyweight acts such as NYC faves Mac DeMarco, Perfect Pussy and DIIV. And in 2013 it opened this small, light-filled garden-level space, tucked away on a residential Greenpoint block. The store stocks its own releases (check out the debut LP from local power-pop upstart EZTV), as well as those by legendary New Zealand pop imprint Flying Nun and fellow Brooklyn tastemakers Sacred Bones, alongside a wide-ranging selection of used vinyl and cassette tapes. The staffers are always decidedly chill and approachable, to boot.
The selection at this cozy shop, which opened on a residential block in 2011, is small, sure. But the room is frequently filled with those strange and tough-to-find records—space-rock forebear Hawkwind’s Quark, Strangeness and Charm; long-out-of-print R&B collections—that remind you why in-person music browsing will always have a place in our online-shopping culture. Co-op 87 also stocks new offerings from trendsetting local indie labels like Captured Tracks, Mexican Summer and RVNG.
Originally housed in the same building as the trendsetting Bushwick DIY space Silent Barn (and offering on-site haircuts, because why not?), this little boutique is notable for its outsize eccentric streak. Staples like Bowie and Black Sabbath comfortably cohabit with more outré stuff like horror-movie soundtracks, psychedelic raga LPs and VHS copies of a Slayer tour movie. The oddball inventory only emphasizes the feeling that you’ve stumbled across the garage sale of some heroic vinyl-collecting weirdo.
Many landmarks of the so-called downtown music scene have shuttered in recent years, but as long as DMG persists, the community will have a sturdy anchor. The shop, which relocated from a plum Bowery spot to a Chinatown basement in 2009, stocks the city’s—and perhaps the world’s—most impressive selection of avant-garde jazz, contemporary classical, progressive rock and related styles. Discs by contemporary icons such as John Zorn share shelf space with legendary sides by the likes of Albert Ayler. Regular in-store gigs draw top local jazz talent.
Hardcore punk, ska and extreme-metal fans are well served by this Village mainstay; for everyone else, Generation carries a solid selection of classic-rock and alternative releases, along with a good scattering of collectibles.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Paul Sableman
Check out iconic music videos filmed in NYC
We live in an incredibly photogenic city. So it’s no surprise that, as with films and, you know, photographs, New York has served as the backdrop for some of the most iconic music videos. From Michael Jackson’s 1987 video for “Bad” (directed by Martin Scorsese) to A$AP Rocky’s 2015 video for “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” artists have and continue to shoot the videos for some of their biggest hits in NYC. Watch our absolute favorites below, and be sure to check out the best movies set in NYC neighborhoods for more Gothamcentric cinema.