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Record Store Review: Human Head Records

February 6, 2014

HumanHead (1)There’s a new record store in Williamsburg that Brooklyn vinyl enthusiasts should be talking about … and I’m not talking about new music mega-store Rough Trade. This one is slightly off the beat and path, perhaps closer to Bushwick than Williamsburg (how do you tell where the border is anyway?) and, unlike Rough Trade, sells used vinyl. Last weekend I made the trek out to Human Head Records and for a store in its infancy I really liked what I saw.

Human Head is the first record store that I specifically sought out after shopping their table at a Record Show. That should tell you all you need to know about their excellent selection. Though they didn’t bring much quantity to the show that day late last fall, they more than made up for that in quality. I purchased three records from them that day – early releases from the National, Phoenix, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – and made a mental note to visit the store when the co-owner, Travis, gave me his card.

The store itself reminded me a lot of another high quality shop in the area, Record Grouch. Like the Grouch, the store is set up as a no-frills place to shop for records, distraction-free. In fact, other than a few stray boxes of CDs, Human Head sells absolutely nothing else. One aisle of the store – the one you see when you walk in – holds the recent arrivals, sorted by date received into the store. I walked in on a Sunday and the first subsection that my eyes were greeted with was “Saturday”, then “Friday”, then “Thursday” … and once the days of the week were through, “Last Week”, “2 Weeks Ago”, “One Month Ago.” I’ve never seen this kind of setup before (the closest is Record Grouch with it’s stickered date-in system, which Human Head also uses), but I really like it. I could easily see coming in to this store much more regularly with the benefit of knowing what I’ve already browsed through and what I haven’t.

HumanHead (5)

After browsing the new arrivals, the next section up was “Indie Rock.” Loyal readers can understand why I fell in love with this store quickly. I went through all of the Indie Rock, only to turn around and find that the next section was “Punk and Post-Punk.” Had I died and gone to vinyl heaven? After that was a long section of Rock, followed by New Wave, and though I had only been through about 1/3 of the store I was very satisfied. The records  I settled on were all high quality and rare releases I hadn’t seen elsewhere – a 2008 single-sided etched 10″ from MGMT called MetanoiaA Lesson in Crime from Tokyo Police Club (which was not released outside Canada), I Don’t Think This Is … the Young Fresh Fellows (from 2009), and a promotional copy of Nine Inch Nails’ EP Broken released by Interscope.

HumanHead (3)

Having done so well in my favored categories I didn’t spend much time in the rest of the store. I’ll note that there is  a very large selection of Soul and that the back half of the store (approximately 1/3 of total store space) was dedicated to records in $2, $3, and $5 racks. Throughout my shopping I talked with store co-owner Steve, who was extremely friendly and even took a few dollars off the sticker prices for me. Steve explained that the store is still in launch mode, that the space was recently expanded and that they may even expand further to accommodate in-store performances. As he said all this, I came to the conclusion that I may have a new favorite shop in the Williamsburg/Bushwick/Greenpoint area.

HumanHead (4)

Bottom line: If your musical taste is anything like mine (or I suppose if you like Soul music), you have to visit Human Head. Their indie selection is as good as any I’ve seen in Brooklyn/NYC, with records you won’t find anywhere else. The rock, punk, and new wave selections aren’t quite as impressive, but are still really solid. I hope the initial quality level is maintained as the store gets past its honeymoon stage.

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HumanHead (2)Quick stats:

  • Sells used, new, or both: Used (with a tiny section of “New” sorted by record label)
  • Genres: Rock, Punk, Indie, Soul; lesser amount of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Metal, Hardcore
  • Non-vinyl for sale: A small number of CDs, Human heads?
  • Selection: 8 out of 10
  • Price: 8 out of 10
  • Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
  • Ease of browsing/shopping: 9 out of 10
  • Used vinyl condition: 9 out of 10
  • Yelp rating: 5 stars

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