BEST 4: MUSIC Other Music (15 E. 4th St., btwn Broadway & Lafayette St.; 212-477-8150) is the ultimate downtown arbiter of what's worth listening to right now, especially since the demise of Tower Records' across-the-street flagship.
Beat freaks are sure to find their groove at Dancetracks (91 E. 3rd St., btwn First & Second Aves.; 212-260-8729), an old school-esque DJ wonderland hawking the hippest dancefloor anthems.
For the best recorded sounds in Hell's Kitchen, check out Future Legend (796 Ninth Ave., at 53rd St.; 212-707-8180), a small but tasteful and wide-selectioned new and used CD shop.
Showtuners and related singalongers will adore theater district mainstay Colony Music (1619 Broadway, at 49th St.; 212-265-2050) for its unique stock of hard-to-find Broadway, karaoke and sheet music stuffs.
BEST 4: BOOKS
The world's oldest gay and lesbian book emporium, Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore (15 Christopher St., at Gay St.; 212-255-8097) has lovingly colored rainbow reading lists for 40 years.
Its name culled from a 19th century term for women with strong literary interests, radical bookstore/fair trade cafe/activist center Bluestockings (172 Allen St., btwn Stanton & Rivington Sts.; 212-777-6028) carries over 4,500 titles, with special concentration on feminist and queer studies.
A glorious holdout from pre-megachain days, Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway, at 12th St.; 212-473-1452) is where you can gleefully and literally delve into "eighteen miles of used books."
Another thinking-man's gem is St. Marks Bookshop (31 Third Ave., at 9th St.; 212-260-7853), offering up the highest-brow in history, fiction, philosophy and culture for 30 years and counting.
BEST 4: UNIQUE FINDS
Step out of the Midtown Manhattan bustle and into the Zen-cum-spend Japanese oasis of Takashimaya (693 Fifth Ave., at 54th St.; 212-350-0100), with six floors of pretty stuff aimed at soothingly beautifying you and your home.
Named for a pesky Superman foe, Mxyplyzyk (125 Greenwich Ave., at 13th St.; 800-243-9810) offers high-end kitsch for the home, making it a favorite of the "Queer Eye" guys and Rachel Ray. Oh, and it's pronounced "mix-ee-pliz-ik."
For more authentic kitsch, Love Saves the Day (119 Second Ave., btwn 7th St. & St. Marks Pl.; 212-228-3802) saves the day, with more Pez dispensers, Jesus action figures and midcentury schtick than you can shake a stick at.
For your favorite flight attendant or travel buddy -- or even for yourself -- check out Greenwich Village's Flight 001 (96 Greenwich Ave; 212-691-1001), part of a chic travel minichain selling items of a "global" nature, such as rain hats, Italian toothbrush kits and hard-to-find guidebooks.