Despite news to the contrary, there are still record stores in America. Chains, less and less but, at least in New York, the good ones are still going. April 18 was the third annual Record Store Day, a “celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.” Or, an excuse to get people to go out and remember just how cool and fun it is to browse and buy physical records and CDs in an actual record store. To entice people to do so, labels and bands pressed up exclusive vinyl releases that were only available that day.
The turnout last year took a lot of shops off guard. This year, with way more exclusive goodies, everybody seemed prepared. Especially record collectors, who got up early and cleaned out a lot of places by 1pm. (In NYC most stores opened at 11AM, just for context.) In New York, weather couldn’t have been more perfect and everybody seemed to be having a good time. Including me. Here’s how it went down.
First Stop: Academy Records Annex (96. N. 6th Street, Brooklyn)
One of the best places for vinyl in NYC, and probably THE best for the ever-growing new 7″ scene. Big, with fairly wide aisles, plenty of listening stations and nice staff who’ll let you listen to anything you want as long as it’s not sealed, Academy Annex has moved near the top of my favorite record stores in the city. (It’s also five blocks from my apartment.) Arriving a little past noon, it was crowded but not frenzied.
LOOT: They were out of the Sonic Youth / Beck split 7″, but I picked up the Jay Reatard / Sonic Youth split (Jay’s song, “Hang ‘Em All,” is a good ‘un; the SY side is a negligible instrumental). Also got the Pavement Live in Cologne 1997 LP, but passed over a numbered copy with a slightly bent corner in favor of a pristine, non-numbered copy. Little did I know it was one of only 97 copies (of 2500 printed) that was on colored vinyl. D’oh! Also picked up last year’s excellent Arthur Russell comp, Love is Overtaking Me, that was printed on double-vinyl just for Record Store Day (1000 copies). Nice.
SECOND STOP: Sound Fix (110 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn)
Williamsburg’s other best record store near the Bedford L stop, Sound Fix had a bit of a setback this year when pressure from neighbors forced the closure of the adjoining Fix Cafe, where they hosted some amazing in-stores over the years. But the actual store seems to be weathing the storm all right, with an equal focus on CDs and vinyl. Definitely one of the friendliest stores in New York.
LOOT: Arriving around 1:30, they were out of a lot of the super-exclusives but I did pick up Records Toreism, a five-song 12″ compilation from Thrill Jockey that easily had the best sleeve and packaging of anything I bought: a gorgeous sleeve by Post Typography and Crosshair, and a ‘zine inside with essays from Ira Robbins, Stephen Pastel, Ian Mckaye, Mike Watt and more. You can read more about it here. My favorite track is “Wounded Monkey” by Trans Am featuring Tim Soete, which sounds like some lost new wave single from 1979 (Spizzenergi comes to mind):
THIRD STOP: Other Music (15 E. 4th Street, NYC)
The king of indie/alt/etc in New York. Last year on RSD, the store was absolutely banannas. Co-owner Chris Vanderloo told me this year there was a long line before the store even opened! When I got there, he was playing doorman, keeping the small store from getting to crowded. Like last year, Other Music had bands DJing in hour shifts, with the 2009 roster including Grizzly Bear and Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Sohrab and Greg from Obits were DJing while I was there, and was happy to hearthem spin “Psychedelic Woman” by Honny & the Bees Band, and trippy classic “My White Bicycle” by Tomorrow. People were clamoring for the RSD exclusives and OM had a lot of them.
LOOT: I bought three of the four Sub Pop 7″ the label made for RSD (Vetiver, Blitzen Trapper, Obitz). The packaging was top-notch, and the vinyl was colored. The Vetiver single, on pale blue marbled vinyl, was especially nice and the two warm, Dead-ish tracks (which is what a lot of Sub Pop release sou
nd like these days) are the kind of stuff that sounds so good in this format. All three singles are very good, I only wish I could’ve scooped up the fourth which was Flight of the Conchords. I also got a Lykke Li/El Perro Del Mar Split and the new, eighth installment of the great The World’s Lousy with Ideas series, a 12″ with great new tracks from the likes of Vivian Girls, The Intelligence, Thee Oh Sees, and what I think is the first Sic Alps recording since adding Ty Seagall to the fold on drums. This was the best haul of the day.
MP3: Obits – I Can’t Lose
MP3: El Perro Del Mar – (At Your Best) You Are Love [a cover of Aaliyah’s cover of the Isley Brothers)
FOURTH STOP: Academy Records (12 W. 18th Street, NYC)
This is the original Academy. The rock vinyl all moved to the Williamsburg location, but this is still the place to go for jazz and classical. It’s also primo promo dumping grounds. You can get just about any new CD, sometimes way before it actually streets. It also pays to dig through the bins. Sometimes the same titles can be found in different locations with wildly different prices. There didn’t seem to be any actual Record Store Day stuff to be had — or if there was some it was long gone — so I just browsed the bins to see what I could find.
LOOT: Um, did I really find a copy of Jeffrey Lewis‘ great, great, great new album ‘Em Are I here when it doesn’t actually come out till May 19? Well, it was in my bag when I got home. Also in my bag: Deastro‘s Moondagger, which hits stores June 23, and the debut from ex-Out Hud vocalist Molly Schnick new bag, Jean on Jean, which didn’t get nearly enough ink last year.
More Record Store Day photos after the jump…