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Friday, April 19, 2013

Our Favorite Independent Record Stores in Brooklyn

Black Gold Records in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Inside you can get some pretty great music and a mean cup o' joe.

In honor of Record Store Day, we've created a guide to some of our favorite independent record stores in Brooklyn. Though RSD may be all about snapping up that limited edition 7" that will complete your immaculately-organized-by-the-Dewey-Decimal-System-and-protected-by-plastic-sleeves collection, we think the best record stores are the ones that facilitate the discovery of something new, whether it be a band, an album you never knew existed, an independent label, or album art that's worthy of a museum. Our staff weighed in on their beloved vinyl supplierslet us know your picks in the comments.

Black Gold Records (461 Court Street, Carroll Gardens)
I love record stores because I love surprises. I love the feeling of awe after spotting a long sought-after LP buried in a stack of records, or the sense of wonder upon discovering music that has existed for decades but is somehow brand new to me. Black Gold on Court street is a record store overflowing with surprises. They have delicious pour-over coffee, walls draped in kitschy posters and antiques, a small but powerful selection of records, and just for good measure, a menagerie of taxidermied animals eyeballing shoppers as they dig through the crates. It's a great place to get a cup of coffee, flip through LP’s until you forget what you were looking for in the first place, and then leave with a surprise that you never expected. —Nicholas Breul

Earwax Records (218 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg)
It’s true that a good record store can make it seem as though a thousand musical worlds are right at your fingertips. But the best can make your own neighborhood or borough seem a bit more within reach as well. Earwax did that for me in 2005. I was there with my sister, intending only to browse until we heard what the record store guy—let’s call him John Cusack—was playing.

The bass groove was cavernous, but stuttering and glitchy. Syncopated bell patterns like something off of a Smithsonian Folkways record traded off with oboes, bassoons, and a Pygmy music-type of sound. The singer crooned and yodeled about being “eccentripidal.” “What is this?,” I asked John. “Dirty Projectors, The Getty Address,” he said. “They’re Brooklyn-based.” I asked him for the liner notes. As it turned out, I’d also gone to school with half of the members in the orchestra.

So I’d been caught red-handed as Narcissus, unknowingly admiring my own reflection in the music. But I’d also been reminded of how small and familiar a place (Brooklyn in this case) could be made to feel simply by walking through the door of a local brick-and-mortar record store. I bought the record, of course. And I’ll certainly be buying more from them, whether they’re of the borough-shrinking variety or not. —Robert Wood

Academy Records Annex (96 North 6th Street, Williamsburg)
This is a store for people who love digging for treasureand believe me, you will spend at least an hour digging. Crate after crate awaits you, and while the selection is extremely well organized, patience and perseverance are rewarded with incredible finds at excellent prices (like this Muddy Waters Rare & Unissued LP that I bought for five bucks! That's less than a latte and I listen to it almost every day). They don't discriminate in terms of genre; you'll find everything here from gospel to anime soundtracks. Plus, they have a cat named Tigger and stock vinyl micro-releases from your favorite local bands.  —Cynthia Lugo

Record Grouch (986 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint)
Record Grouch is not listed as an official venue on the Record Store Day website, but they are participating. In fact, they’re so into it that as we write this they are pricing hundreds of records they just got from Germany and the Netherlands in time for the big day. They say these new records “will be a pretty mind-blowing selection of heavy duty jams, i.e. lots of original press krautrock/prog, post-punk, new wave, Euro/Italo disco, glam, glitter, power pop, Britpop, and rare Nederbeat … Tons of LPs, 12 inches and 7 inches.” This might give you some idea of what kind of thing you’re getting from the Grouch—while there are plenty of reliable mainstays (you can restock your favorite Neil Young records here), there are lots of surprises, crates of esoterica, and fresh stuff every time you stop by. Recently relocated from a basement in Williamsburg to a proper above-ground store in Greenpoint, this is your spot for vinyl when you take the north-bound G past Metropolitan. And before you get through thumbing through the records, be sure to say what’s up to Doug Pressman, the Grouch himself, and don’t be disappointed when he turns out to be a pretty nice, often very funny guy. —Nathan Gelgud  

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