The New York City Record Store Year-End Roundup
In 2009, we began the weekly Local Top 10, a series we hoped would prove that New Yorkers were far too stubborn to let the record store go. The series ran until last month, when we literally ran out of stores to cover--not the best sign for the future of music retailing in New York City. Before we gave up altogether though, we went back to all the stores we originally profiled and asked them how their year had gone. Below, we chronicle the top 10 records sold in 2009 at each store. Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion was a citywide monster, appearing on lists from hardcore haven Generation Records to the crate-diggers-only Rebel Rebel.
In visiting the city's still-breathing boutiques, we witnessed many different approaches. Some are exactingly curated, like Hospital Productions, with its Lee Harvey Oswald painting and creepy red-and-black color scheme. Strider Records, on the other hand, has dissolved into one big admirable cardboard dustbin. Each store owner offered hilarious stories: At Strider, Johnny Cash used to buy his own records to give to friends because he didn't own any himself. Johnny Thunders often popped into Bleecker Bobs to autograph records in exchange for dope money. And one store had an employee was working at the now-defunct Mondo Kim's and was present in 2005 when the record shop was raided by the police after an agent bought an unsanctioned DJ bootleg. "I told them they really had their priorities straight after 9/11," the employee said.
The stores that still exist in the city have some sort of hook. Other Music stays alive adapting to the digital world through selling mp3s online. They also have a staff that can talk at length about pretty much anything you put in front of them at the store. Good Records, Record Runner, Bleecker Bob's, and Strider get by on wallet-shrinking collectibles like U2 tour jackets and obscure jazz records with Andy Warhol-provided cover art. We didn't meet many crotchety High Fidelity-types (though one store we tried to feature told us to leave, saying they didn't "do publicity"). Today, most folks are happy to sell anything, even if that means carrying Lady GaGa when they normally wouldn't.
After earlier conversations with all of the below stores, we contacted them again at the end of 2009 to learn what had sold best for them throughout the entire calender year. Seven months later, it turns out that no one has any better idea about how to pronounce "Veckatimest" than they did in May.
Below, the top ten records that actually sold in the last year at a store near you.
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Fat Beats in the West Village:
1. Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 2. J Dilla: Jay Stay Paid 3. MF Doom: Born Like This 4. Marco Polo & Torae: Double Barrel 5. Blaq Poet: Blaqprint 6. Mos Def: The Ecstatic 7. Brown Bag AllStars: The Brown Tape 8. Skyzoo: The Salvation 9. Tanya Morgan: Brooklynati 10. Sean Price: Kimbo Price
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Generation Records in the West Village:
1. Pearl Jam: Backspacer 2. Sonic Youth: The Eternal 3. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest 4. Converge: Axe to Fall 5. Tom Waits: Glitter and Doom 6. Slayer: World Painted Blood 7. Wilco: Wilco (The Album) 8. The Get Up Kids: Something to Write Home About (According to an employee, the ten-year reissue of this emo touchstone "sold a shit ton.") 9. Wolves in the Throne Room: Black Cascade TIE for Ten: 10. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion 10. Mastodon: Crack the Skye
The Top 9 Records Sold at Hospital Productions in the East Village (nine is all they gave us):
1. Cold Cave: Love Comes Close 2. Raspberry Bulbs: Finally Burst 3. Bone Awl: Nights Middle 4. Akitsa: Le Grande Infamie 5. Jason Crumer: Hum of an Imagined Enviornment 6. Hoor Paar Kraat: A Doorbell of Earbows for Brefix 7. Genocide Organ: Live in Japan 8. Hair Police: Certainty of Swarms 9. Ancestors: II
The Top 10 Records Sold at Kim's Video in the East Village:
1. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino) 2. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (Warp) 3. Death: For the Whole World to See (Drag City) 4. Flaming Lips: Embryonic (WEA) 5. Antony and the Johnsons: Crying Light (Secretly Canadian) 6. Wilco: Wilco (The Album) (WEA) 7. Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation) 8. The Oh Sees: Help (In the Red) 9. Bonnie Prince Billy: Beware (Drag City) 10. Beirut: March of the Zapotec (pompeii)
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Music Matters in Brooklyn:
1. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca 2. MGMT: Oracular Spectacular 3. Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes 4. Various Artists: Dark Was the Night 5. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix 6. Will Scott: Gnawbone 7. Bon Iver: For Emma 8. St. Vincent: Actor 9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz! 10. Feist: Reminder
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Other Music in the East Village:
1: Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion 2: Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca 3: Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest 4: Nite Jewel: Good Evening 5: Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix 6: Death: For the Whole World to See 7: Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light 8: Bonnie Prince Billy: Beware 9: Fever Ray: Fever Ray 10: Sonic Youth: Eternal
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Rebel Rebel in the West Village:
1. Patrick Watson: Wooden Arms 2. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast 3. Marianne Faithful: Easy Come Easy Go 4. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest 5. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion 6. Various Artists: Dark Was The Night 7. Jonsi & Alex: Riceboy Sleeps 8. The XX: xx 9. Lhasa: Lhasa 10. Matias Aguayo: Ay Ay Ay
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Record Runner in the West Village:
1. Madonna: Celebration 2. Lady GaGa: Fame 3. Pet Shop Boys: Yes 4. Duran Duran: Rio (Remastered) 5. Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream 6. U2: I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (single) 7. A-ha: Of the Mountain 8. Madonna: Celebration (single) 9. U2: The Unforgettable Fire (remastered) 10. Swing Out Sister: Beautiful Mess
The Top 9 Records Sold in 2009 at Rock & Soul in Midtown:
1. Jay-Z: Empire State of Mind 2. Jay Z: The Blueprint 3 3. Lady GaGa: Pokerface ('7 single) 4. Lady GaGa- Paparazzi ('7 single) 5. T.I: Live Your Life ('7 single) 6. Maxwell: BLACKsummers'night 7. Snoop Dogg: Malice N Wonderland 8. Jamie Fox: Blame it On the Alcohol ('7 single) 9. 50 Cent: Before I Self Destruct
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Rockit Scientist Records on St. Mark's Place:
1. Various Artists: Fire In My Bones 2. Circuit Rider: Self Titled (LP) 3. Various Artists: You Heard Them Here First 4. The Rationals: Think Rational! 5. Dead Weather: Horehound (LP) 6. Beach Boys: Smile (LP) 7. Starless & Bible Black: Shape Of The Shape 8. Various Artists: Psych Funk 101 9. Rodriguez: Coming From Reality 10. Various Artists: Where The Action Is!
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Sound Fix in Brooklyn: 1. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest 2. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion 3. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca 4. Beirut: March of the Zapotec 5. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart 6. Wilco: Wilco (The Album) 7. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix 8. Various Artists: Dark Was the Night 9. St. Vincent: Actor 10. Bonnie Prince Billy: Beware
The Top 10 Records Sold at Strider Records in the West Village:
1. Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan 2. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin II 3. Led Zeppelin: Physical Grafitti 4. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon 5. The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street 6. The Beatles: The White Album 7. The Beatles: Abbey Road 8. Johnny Cash: Live at Folsom Prison 9. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds 10. Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced?
The Top 10 Records Sold in 2009 at Good Records in the East Village. Good Records is all-used, and relies on a lot of scavenging, making it difficult for them to compile a top-ten sellers list. So Owner Jonathan Sklute sent over a list of his picks with commentary:
1. "The Nation's Nightmare" (CBS Radio Broadcast, 1952) "An odd LP found in a jazz collection, the record covers one theme per side, "Traffic In Narcotics" and "Crime On The Waterfront", with stern raps warning the dangers of "dope and gangs". The real jewel is the album's jacket, featuring two early, prize-winning drawings by Andy Warhol: one of a junkie shooting up, and another of two men fighting. The LP sold for upwards of $2,000." 2. Michael Jackson: Thriller (Epic, 1982) "Obviously, this has always been a good seller... but the situation changed dramatically when MJ died. While some shops stuck inflated price tags on their copies in order to cash in, we didn't, and copies haven't lasted more than a day since then." 3. Dexter Gordon: Dexter Calling (Blue Note, 1961) "A gorgeous, original mono copy of this great session turned up in the same collection as "The Nation's Nightmare", above. The LP was purchased by a customer's wife, after he had mentioned it to her in passing a few days before. We've been doing brisk gift business all holiday season but this sale stood out for sweetness points." 4. The Ghetto Brothers: Power-Fuerza (Ghetto Records, 70s) "A holy grail of NY Latin and Funk music; the LP was made when the Ghetto Brothers quite literally ruled the streets of the Bronx. Lucky for us, Iin addition to their activity as a gang and a community organization, they played a killer mix of soul, funk, salsa and boogaloo on the side. This LP and one 45 are their only recorded material." 5. Public Enemy: Public Enemy No. 1 (Promo-only 7" single) (Def Jam, 1987) "A classic rap record in - literally - rare form. Rap 45s are getting really popular but this is one that rarely surfaces. And what a monster!" 6. Twilight: Pains Of Love (Ross, 1986) "A little-known R&B duo out of Vallejo, CA." 7. The Lijadu Sisters: Danger (Afrodisia, 1976) "We've got a really unparalleled selection of African music at the shop, but this is by far the closest to my heart. The Lijadu Sisters, cousins of afrobeat king Fela Kuti, sing in beautiful counterpoint over a mixture of afrobeat, funk, and psychedelic rock. The song "Life's Gone Down Low", off this LP, has gotten a lot of attention but I endorse the record from start to finish. When I started pushing this LP years ago, people didn't know it. Nowadays, I can't keep it in stock." 8. Family Circle: Family Circle (Sky Disk, 1973) "Perhaps my favorite 70s soul record - beautiful group harmony with production so deep it sounds like you're swimming in an ocean of heartbreak. My top find of this past fall's WFMU record fair." 9. Etoile De Dakar: Etoile De Dakar (International Music, 1980) "An obscure Senegalese LP that mixes jazz, afrobeat, psychedelic rock, and features a young Yossou N'Dour on vocals. Simply a killer, unique sound from top to bottom. Until recently, this was a very tough record to find, with even marginal copies commanding decent sums. My good friend Neal at Som Records in Washington D.C. stumbled upon some untouched, store-stock copies and it was my privilege to get a few for the shop." 10: DJ Class: Class Is In Session (Sub Base, 1992) "What was at one point a little-known hardcore hip-hop 12" from Baltimore ballooned into one of the most sought-after rap rarities right at the same time as Class himself was making a comeback, dueting with Kanye West on Class' own 'I'm The Sh*t.'"
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