Record Store Review: Academy Records & CDs
Even newbie NYC record collectors have probably heard of Academy Records – it is one of the first stores I visited when I started roaming the NYC and Brooklyn streets in search of records and one the more likely places you’ll come across in a simple search online. Part of this is because of its relative ubiquity. Academy actually consists of three distinct stores – Academy Records & CDs in the Flatiron District, Academy Records in the East Village and Academy Annex in Williamsburg. Since these stores seem to have nothing in common other than their name and owner, I am going to treat them separately, focusing today on the Flatiron shop.
First off, let me say that I enjoyed my visit to Academy even though I was only looking for vinyl and only looking for rock – neither of which is their primary specialty.
The CD collection dominates the records probably by about a 2:1 ratio, and the store specializes in classical music, with nice secondary collections of jazz and rock (in that order). I can’t speak to the quality of the of the classical vinyl selection in detail, but even to someone with no interest in the genre it was obvious (simply based on the volume of offerings) that this is the first place I’d go if I were so interested. The entire back half of the store (which isn’t small by record store standards) was dedicated to classical music on vinyl – I could imagine getting lost in there for a very long time.
As for the rock selection, while it is not huge (especially the used section) it is still comparable to other area stores. When comparing to other places I’ve reviewed, I’d estimate it has approximately half the number of pop/rock titles that you’d find at Other Music or Kim’s, which is fine for a solid hour or so of browsing. One clear positive trend is that in the two times I’ve been to Academy (approximately a year apart), the vinyl section grew considerably. Also, I was able to find some titles that I haven’t seen anywhere else, so overall I was very pleased with the selection.
The atmosphere in the store matched the overall classical aesthetic. (You could probably call it a bit pretentious, though I didn’t get that vibe on this visit.) Soft music played overhead and the shelves were packed and stacked to the ceiling but still very neat, so the feel was not one of overcrowding or general unwieldiness. The staff was friendly, and helped me with the one question I asked (where to buy a turntable; hint: elsewhere). Honestly, it felt a little bit like record shopping in an old-timey public library, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a little bland for my tastes.
One last note: I don’t normally mention a store’s website but this one is a doozy. It is nothing like the store, with its mismatched fonts and colors and blinking text. Then it has the following all the way at the bottom of the home page, in blinking green: “We Sell Vinyl Records by the foot. Call us for inquiries.” Bizarre. Yet oddly I want to call them and order “3 feet of vinyl records,” just for giggles.
Bottom line: Incredible store for classical or jazz music enthusiasts. Also worth browsing occasionally for rock, though not necessarily a must-visit store if that’s all you’re into. Pleasant surprises in the new music section (whereas normally the surprises come in the “used” vinyl section of a shop).
- Sells used, new, or both: Both
- Genres: Classical, Jazz, Rock
- Non-vinyl for sale: CDs (a lot), a few books and DVDs
- Selection: 8 out of 10 (probably 10 out of 10 for classical and jazz)
- Price: 7 out of 10
- Atmosphere: 6 out of 10
- Ease of browsing/shopping: 9 out of 10
- Used vinyl condition: 7 out of 10
- Yelp rating: 4 stars
 The same is true for jazz to a lesser extent.
 I ultimately purchased 3 new albums – The Pixies At the BBC, a Nirvana bootleg called Smells Like … Cover Versions (consisting of Nirvana solely performing cover songs) and the New Order concert bootleg Funeral Party from June 1981 – and 1 used album, Suck It & See (not the Arctic Monkeys album but an electronic music compilation released in 1999).