Following in the steps of Rough Trade, Fool's Gold and Saddle Creek, homegrown record label Captured Tracks has officially spawned a brick-and-mortar record shop, damning the belief that they're a dying breed of commerce. Because this isn't a typical record store, for one. Under label founder Mike Sniper, they've portioned off their new office space at 195 Calyer Street in Greenpoint into the type of of place Rob Gordon-types daydream about but also less intense (less nerdy) music fans should feel comfortable hanging out in. The plan is to complement a constantly rotating stock of new and used records and tapes with anything that might pique Sniper's, and likely your, as a culture-obsessed Brooklynite, interest: art books, posters, vintage pedals, amps, synthesizers. Mid-century furniture? Sure, why not. A small collection might pop up if that what Sniper is drawn to on his cross-continental buying trips. With an arcade game or two to keep the room from getting too stuffy and some listening booths near a bay window, the space promises to become how you always dreamt your bedroom would look like as an adult crossed with a proper record shop that doubles as a trading post where people swap their old records for other merch (because it's that too).
At its core, though, is the music. Culling from Captured Tracks roster and far beyond, the store prides itself on consistently refreshing its stock: "The death of any record store is having the same record at the same price in the same bin for three years; people just stop coming back," Sniper told Billboard. So that explains the pileup of merchandise handpicked from all corners of the world that's currently in stock. Needless to say, there's a lot to navigate. Below, Sniper and Captured Tracks General Manager Katie Garcia guide you through the bins, recommending deep cuts from records you can buy at the shop. You should do that, speaking of. Buy lots of records. Let this whet your appetite:
General Manager Katie Garcia's Picks
This is a collection of freestyle songs otherwise known as Latin freestyle. It's electronic pop music that sprouted from the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican communities living in NYC, L.A. and Miami. I grew up in Miami when this style of music was at its peak in the late 80s and early 90s, so hearing this transports me back to being a kid listening to the radio on my way to school.
Lisette Melendez - "Together Forever"
This song and video are clearly both amazing. It definitely keeps with the theme of most freestyle songs (i.e.: your boo) and their outfits sum up the style of this genre. Gimme that quilted flight jacket now!
Noel - "Silent Morning" (Listen here.)
I actually still hear "Silent Morning" all of the time. Somehow this became a crossover song that a lot of people into minimal/cold wave got into. I'll hear people [play] DJ Trisomie 21 and then Noel back to back. Super weird, and super amazing.
Shavonne - "So Tell Me, Tell Me" (Listen here.)
This is a deeper cut. I love the chopped up "So tell me, tell me" repetition. It has all of the hard-hitting elements of a classic freestyle song: the beat pattern, a little piano, and a girl who sings really flat.
C-Bank - "I Won't Stop Loving You" (Listen here.)
One of the most epic intros to any freestyle song for sure. When that synth horn comes in, you know they mean business. The lyrics in this one remind me of that creepy song by Oto, "Anyway." " I won't stop loving you no matter what you do." The moral of the story is freestyle=undying love.
Stevie B - "Spring Love" (Listen here.)
Stevie B was a freestyle heavy hitter and went on to have a number-on hit with the ballad "Because I Love You." However, in my opinion "Spring Love" is the crown jewel in Stevie's repertoire. This was a huge hit in Miami since he was from there. I can't even tell you how many middle school dances I went to that featured this song.
Safire - "Let Me Be the One" (Listen here.)
This song, like "So Tell Me," has the quickly edited pitch-shifting vocals. It has an amazing "guitar synth" solo at one point. As far as this video is concerned, she works that fringe jacket big time.
TKA - "Maria" (Listen here.)
This song is the Latin freestyle version of "Maria" from West Side Story. TKA were the crooners of the freestyle world and had a few other pretty decent hits. This one is my favorite of theirs by far though.
Debbie Deb - "Lookout Weekend" (Listen here.)
Debbie Deb is another person whose songs I still hear when I'm out, which is great for me since she's my favorite freestyler. She definitely nails the flat singing (see also: Lil Suzy and Shavonne). The beat to this song is unreal and really tough. I would vote this the second-best freestyle intro after C-Bank's "I Won't Stop Loving You." Look out weekend 'cause here I come, indeed.
Lil Suzy - "Take Me in Your Arms" (Listen here.)
A massive freestyle hit. This video is my favorite of the bunch. It's so true to the NYC freestyle aesthetic. All playground/basketball court videos of the 80s and 90s were always A+. It's both really sweet and sassy.
Jocelyn Enriquez - "Do You Miss Me" (Listen here.)
These last two tracks are late freestyle tracks of the early and mid 90s. These songs for me are synonymous with roller blading at the Hot Wheels in Kendall by my house. It's more house-y than the earlier freestyle songs. The lyrics in this song are a bit creepy too. She calls up a radio station to ask the DJ to repeatedly play her song and then asks her ex, "Do you miss me now that I'm gone?" Stop doting, move on girl.
Lina Santiago - "Feels So Good" (Listen here.)
Vinyl pants, sick dance moves, pounding beat, and a vague spanish accent? Look no further than "Feels So Good." A dance hit for the ages.
Label Founder Mike Sniper's Picks
So I picked stuff that we currently have in stock in the used bin that's under $15; most under $10.
Ian Matthews - "Desert Inn," 1970
This is from his first post-Fairport Convention solo LP. Easy to see that he was the guy who was more into U.S. stuff than the traditional UK Folk Fairport are so known for. This wouldn't sound out of place on a Neil Young or CSN LP from the same time.
Moev - "In Your Head," 1982 (Listen here.)
I've never understood why this record isn't more respected with post-punk/minimal wave people. It's super cool. This track has always been a big fave. I'm a sucker for people who combine acoustic guitar, synth programming, drum machines and live drums. The magic Clan of Xymox formula, but these guys did it before.
Sopwith Camel - "Frantic Desolation," 1967 (Listen here.)
These guys get a bad rap for their hit "Hello, Hello" which is kinda Lovin' Spoonful-ish but most of this LP is killer West Coast psych, like the Charlatans, Moby Grape and early Airplane/Dead.
Miracle Legion - "Ladies From Town," 1989 (Listen here.)
I always say Miracle Legion is the R.E.M./Go-Betweens hybrid band no one ever talks about. This is from one of my favorite LPs from the 80s. Every track is amazing.
The Room - "In My Evil Hour," 1984 (Listen here.)
The Room are like the Miracle Legion, but instead of R.E.M., they're like the Wake or Felt. Just as good for one-fourth the price.
Harry Nilsson - "You're Breaking My Heart," 1972 (Listen here.)
Obviously Nilsson is not obscure, but this track is one of his best and never gets played on the radio, for obvious reasons. George Harrison and Graham Nash sang this on his grave a year after he died. When you consider the lyrics, that's pretty amazing.
Timmy Thomas - "Cold Cold People," 1972 (Listen here.)
Timmy Thomas is kind of like the Shuggie Otis that doesn't get as much cred. Really innovative drum-machine soul. It's not an unknown LP, and it had a minor hit, but I feel like it should be more referenced today.
The Beach Boys - "Never Learn Not to Love," 1969 (Listen here.)
This is from one of the later Dennis/Carl-led Beach Boys LPs. People seem to write off their post-Brian Wilson material for some reason, but those first couple records after (this one from 20/20) have awesome moments, some of which are genuinely kinda dark. And, yes, this was co-written by Charles Manson.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.