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Record Store Review: Academy Records Annex (Williamsburg)

July 18, 2013

AcademyAnnex (5)Continuing my trek through the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, on the same night that I visited Record Grouch (review here) I also spent some time in Academy Records Annex, which conveniently stays open until 9pm seven nights a week. Unlike the Grouch, Academy is easy to find and well-known – it is right in the heart of North Williamsburg on N. 6th St., and should be familiar to vinyl shoppers if for no other reason than due to its popular sister stores, Academy Records in the East Village and Academy Records & CDs in Manhattan’s Flatiron district (review here). Unfortunately, that convenience and notoriety comes at a price when it comes to the selection at this shop.

AcademyAnnex (13)To be fair, Academy Annex is the best and largest one-size-fits-all record store in all of Brooklyn. There isn’t a single genre of music that isn’t represented here with at least 100+ records, and usually much more. If you can listen to it, they carry it – rock, punk, country, folk, blues, soul, funk, disco, electronica, hip hop, R&B, reggae, international (sorted by region) … if I missed anything, it’s me, because Academy didn’t miss anything. Once I actually looked at the record selection though, I found the pickings to be quite slim. I suppose it’s highly unlikely to find any hidden gems in a record store with so much traffic, but even with that “handicap” I was somewhat appalled at the lack of interesting music in the three sections I pored through – New Wave, Punk and Rock.

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You may recall that in my review of the Grouch I wrote: “… I found myself flipping very deliberately. It took me a fair amount of time to get through the Punk, etc. section even though it was organized alphabetically and easy to flip. Again, the selection was just so incredibly deep. … I never did get around to looking at the rock records. For such a small nondescript store, I could have stayed there for easily well over an hour.” Well, whatever the opposite of that statement is, that’s how I felt at Academy Annex. The New Wave section – like every section – was super-easy to look through as it was not only alphabetized, nearly every artist you could think of had it’s own divider. But while dividers are nice, actual records would have been nice too. Just by way of example: Depeche Mode: completely empty. Echo & the Bunnymen: completely empty. New Order: two lousy 12″ singles. Sometimes you know in your gut that you will inevitably find something you want to purchase based on the variety of things you’ve already seen, even if you haven’t found that one thing yet. My gut was telling me that I’d be leaving Academy Annex empty-handed.

AcademyAnnex (7)The punk section was no better: Hüsker Dü: completely empty. The Clash: completely empty. (What kind of record store has nothing from the Clash?) The Ramones: One overpriced undesirable album. How about rock? No David Bowie. Fewer than five Stones albums. And lots of lots of filler that will likely never sell. As you can see, I’m not citing obscure bands or artists that are specific to my taste. These are highly representative bands in their genre, the kind of artists you should be able to find anywhere. Alas, I walked away shocked that with such a large store – again, more records and more variety than any other record shop in Brooklyn – I had finished browsing the used vinyl in less than 15 minutes! Sometimes you just know garbage when you see it.

The "New Arrivals" table ... nothing to see here either

The “New Arrivals” table … nothing to see here either

As I resigned myself to walking out of the store empty-handed and dejected, I stopped in front of the relatively large “New issue & Re-issue” section of the store. (“Relative” in comparison to other stores; it comprises only about 20% of what Academy Annex sells, if that.) Suddenly, my outlook changed. The selection here was deep and varied. The prices were extremely fair (as new issues go anyway – sadly, new vinyl has become an expensive proposition). I spent at least as much time browsing through this area as I did the rest of the store. When all was said and done, I purchased three “new” albums, none of which are actually new: the Dum Dum Girls’ 2010 debut album I Will Be, The Men’s 2012 album Open Your Heart (which my loyal readers may recall I’ve had my eye out for since March) , and a 180-gram re-issue of New Order’s Brotherhood. Frankly, I could have spent a lot more than the $50 I dropped on these three albums, but with new vinyl – even at good prices – you have to be somewhat choosy.

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Bottom line: Yogi Berra once famously said of a popular restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” That’s how I feel about Academy Annex – as far as the used vinyl selection, there is nothing good there anymore; it’s too popular. When in Williamsburg though, I will definitely pop in to check out the new vinyl section. This will also be my go-to place for hard-to-find new vinyl.

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Quick stats:

  • Sells used, new, or both: Both
  • Genres: Everything. Literally.
  • Non-vinyl for sale: CDs, music magazines, basic stereo equipment (e.g. needles, cleaners).
  • AcademyAnnex (10)Selection: 2 out of 10 (used vinyl); 9 out of 10 (new vinyl)
  • Price: 3 out of 10 (used vinyl); 8 out of 10 (new vinyl)
  • Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
  • Ease of browsing/shopping: 8 out of 10
  • Used vinyl condition: 8 out of 10
  • Yelp rating: 4 stars

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Look at all the genres …

International

International

Country

Country

R&B

R&B

Soul/Disco

Soul/Disco

And more …

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