Where to buy ska/reggae in NYC?
August 7, 2008 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get relatively unknown ska/reggae music in New York City (or online)?

The specific target of my search right now is a recentish album by a group called the Debonaires (a southern California band formed in the mid 90s, not the 1960s group with the same name). I've had such good luck with finding music on iTunes -- even stuff that's not really mainstream -- that this is the first time I've gotten an earbug that I couldn't immediately buy off the iTMS (boo hoo, I know).

As such, and because I've only lived here for a few years, I'm totally clueless about decent places to physically obtain non-popular music in New York, even though I imagine the place is teeming with indie music stores and the like. Does anyone know of such spots that would carry a decent amount of ska/reggae type music? I'll make the "lol Jamaica, Queens" joke now to get that out of the way.

Alternately, online music stores with a non-terrible ship time (the label for aforementioned album does have it but it's 2-4 weeks ship time) might work.
posted by cyrusdogstar to Shopping (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, unfortunately you're a few years too late to visit the Moon Ska shop in NYC, but Bucket now owns/operates Megalith Records and the site features an online store. Based on the Debonaires tracks on MySpace, if you haven't checked them out already, you should definitely pick up any/all records of Hepcat.
posted by Asherah at 10:13 PM on August 7, 2008

Also, it would appear that you can order The Debonaires records via their label, if you hadn't found them already.
posted by Asherah at 10:20 PM on August 7, 2008

Ernie B's is the best place to find a wide range of ska and reggae online. And their prices aren't bad.

I hadn't heard the Debonaires until I read your post. I checked them out on Amazon, where you can download their music for 99ยข a track - I'm not sure what the whole album would cost, but you could satisfy your need immediately through them.

CD Baby has their CD, and offers downloads too.

The band play well, but they come across as pretty slick and overproduced, and they genre-hop so much they seem to have little of their own personality. Most deep reggae / Jamaican ska fans wouldn't be interested. For those reasons, I don't think you'll find their record in most real reggae / ska haunts.

If you're just getting turned on to ska and reggae, I'd be happy to send you some recommendations.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:25 PM on August 7, 2008

you should definitely pick up any/all records of Hepcat.

Seconding this so hard just as a general recommendation. In my opinion they were the very finest band to come out of the 90s ska revival, and I heard almost all of 'em. Traditional ska/rocksteady with a soul/R&B influence, and every song on every record is just great. Also, looking at the Megalith link, they've released a record by Los Skarnales - another band I'd highly recommend checking out. Just really fun to listen to. They split up a year or so ago, but their live shows were some of the best I've ever seen. I've been a fan pretty much since they started, and wore out their first cassette release "No Mas Desorden" in the mid-late 90s.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:48 PM on August 7, 2008

The only two I usually find myself at are Generations (on Thompson St. between Bleeker and W 3rd St.) or Kim's on St. Marks. I'd try Generations first, but I'm not sure what the raggae or ska selection is like at either of these places.
posted by Venadium at 10:49 PM on August 7, 2008

Jammyland. Their store is closed for the summer while they look for a new location, but if these guys don't have it, then nobody does.
posted by saladin at 5:13 AM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations so far!

I guess I should have put in the album name at the start -- it's their most recent one, "Longshout", and I think they changed labels since it's not on Megalith, and I was able to find it at Jump Up! Records' website (as mentioned in passing in the post -- I'd order from them if not for the long ship time).

@Dee Xtrovert: yea, from the few tracks I've heard, that sounds about right. I regret to say that I'm still not at the point where I prefer only "true" or "deep" reggae/traditional ska -- when I was younger and just discovering the genre I was still listening to mainstream stuff so I thought Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish were the real deal, heh.

Nowadays (after a number of hiatuses -- I only get into "discover new music" mode about once every year or so and it's a different genre every time) I'm more into the Slackers and General Rudie, and recently started a Pandora station based on the Slackers, which is what led me to the Debonaires. Those bands seem, as far as I can tell, in a middle ground between mainstream crap like LTJ and the original ska groups: they're truly interested in paying homage to the roots of the genre, but still have a "newer" sound in some fashion.

Just tagged my (newly created the other day...so behind the times) Last.fm library's ska stuff, or as much of it as jumped out at me on a breeze-through. Some of these are ones that have only flitted through that Pandora station once, others are tracks I got off of compilation albums, and a few are ones that I've bought full albums of.

Last.fm 'ska' tag

Thanks again for all the help! Will check out some of the links above, and keep 'em coming...
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:50 AM on August 8, 2008

Bummer about Jammyland because saladin is right, if they don't have it, likely nobody does. It was a great little shop with an excellent selection. I hope they find a new home soon.

You might also want to check Other Music. Although they don't list the Debonaires online they have a great selection of indie, electronic, and others with some reggae & dub thrown in. I always try to make a trip there whenever I'm in NYC. They have a reasonably priced used section as well.

Good luck with your search.
posted by cjw333 at 5:54 PM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Ah, I think Other Music was mentioned by one of my co-workers today, wish I'd followed up with him on that...looks like I practically walked right past them on my way to the two spots Venadium mentioned. Sadly, neither of those had it. (On a whim, I also checked the Virgin Megastore on 14th...you know, just in case...but of course, no. They did have the new Slackers album but for some outrageous price)

I found another label-y website, Shantytown Records that had it, and claimed they ship within 24 hours. I'm hoping that means I'd get it sooner than 2-4 weeks, guess we'll see -- I caved and got it from them.

Thanks again for the replies! Will definitely be coming back here later on whenever I have a hard time finding stuff :)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:14 PM on August 8, 2008

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