For a bit more of a sophisticated (and less expensive) experience seeking tunes, head to Academy Records in the East Village. The shop differs from most record shops in New York City largely in part to the tranquil vibe (versus an aura created by head-bangers and uber-pierced punks) that you’ll catch on to as soon as you enter the store. For starters, the guy behind the counter (whose name I don’t know but really should ask) seems more like a Zen master than a record shop owner. He is so laid-back and knowledgeable about his trade, you’ll feel more like his apprentice rather than his customer.
The selection at Academy Records is wide, but not overly so that it feels stuffy and difficult to finger through. Plus, their inventory turns over quickly, so not only should you jump on an item as you would into a mosh-pit (but not too loudly, because this place is not "like that"), but every time you visit, you’ll find lots of goodies that weren't there the last time you did. As for the prices, they will have you feel as blown away as that guy in the old Hitachi Maxell magazine ads. Vinyls range from $3- $5 dollars. There’s also a selection that falls under the 3 for $5 price point, and you’ll even find tunes here for $.2.50! Furthermore…drum roll, please… not only do they have a dollar bin, but they have a Fifty Cents bin, too, boys and girls!
Whenever I make a purchase at Academy, I kind of feel like I am stealing. The last time I was there I landed David Bowie’s "Let’s Dance” for $5 and The Beatles “Let it Be” for $8, both mint. A total score, if you ask me. A friend of mine got to Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” for $5 before I did. Another friend, who is a total jazz freak found a handful of Japanese Blue Note CDs for $10 a piece – and to that I will add that their jazz selection is tremendously beautiful.
If you are a skeptical used-good buyer, you’ll be pleased to know that Academy Records has two turntables for sampling your vinyl before you hand over any cash, and the staff is more than pleased to help, super patient and educated about just about any tune you’re interested in. They will allow you to sample as many records as you’d like.
In terms of collection, you’ll find the likes of Billie Holiday, Yard Birds, Coltrane, Hendrix, and a potpourri of other genres like hip-hop and even some rap. They carry records, including a decent amount of 7” vinyl and 45s. You will not find too much metal and punk related items here, so headbangers will probably need to seek tunes elsewhere.
Academy Records has a sister store, Academy Annex, which I have not yet had a chance to pay a visit too, but I have a feeling it is just as rockin’ as this East Village locale.