Blu-ray Review: Other Music [Factory 25]

Other Music

Studio: Factory 25

May 05, 2022
Web Exclusive

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For 20 years, Other Music sat just off the corner of 4th Street and Lafayette in New York’s East Village. As the neighborhood changed around it, their competition gradually vanished, and the music industry underwent a massive shift, Other Music had a survivor’s quality to it. It felt like an institution, particularly at a time when it felt like every other institution in the area was being replaced by a fashion store, fitness club, or barcade. In 2016, due to rising rent and streaming’s sudden dominance of people’s listening habits, Other Music closed its doors.

As of last year it sat empty, with big banners in the window advertising the space’s commercial appeal.

During my peak record-buying years, Other Music was never where I made the bulk of my purchases; their used LPs tended to be more high-end than I could afford for much of my time in the city. (These were the days of skipping meals to pay for Mission of Burma tickets.) I’m incredibly guilty of window-shopping, however: its central-ish location to the Astor Place, 8th Street, and West 4th Street subways made it an incredibly convenient stop-off no matter where you were going or coming from. Where the other stores had room for boxes and boxes of cheap records bins to flip through, Other Music was infinitely more curated than any of their nearby competitors who carried new releases. When you walked through the doors, you knew you’d find things that felt new, exclusive, or cutting edge—or, if you could express your tastes to one of the impossibly knowledgeable clerks on hand, they could usually find something especially tailored to you. There was very little crap music on hand at Other Music. The cramped, little one-room store didn’t have enough space to stock garbage.

Browsing at Other Music was always memorable. It was also an easy spot to run into some of your local musical idols. Once I felt the shadow of a much taller individual looming over me to look into the bin I was browsing. When I realized it was Thurston Moore, I tried to act cool while I quietly removed a used copy of EVOL from their display well, checked out at the counter, and then stood outside the store until he finished shopping and then awkwardly ambushed him to tell him I was a fan and ask him to sign my record. Even better were their in-store shows—if you got there early enough, you could be one of the couple dozen or so fans to see an act perform practically in your face. Many times these were the same acts playing at venues like the Mercury Lounge or Bowery Ballroom.

Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller’s Other Music (the documentary) is a lovely memorial for anyone who frequented the store or witnessed the city’s indie music boom in the ‘00s. Filmed over the store’s last few months of business—with an emphasis on its final days—Other Music tells the story of not only two of its founders, but the employees who dedicated large chunks of their lives to shaping its specialized, always-evolving inventory. Besides being given an opportunity to look inside that sorely-missed little storefront one more time, fellow former Other Music shoppers will probably get a thrill at seeing the faces of the store’s longtime clerks—the experience was like seeing old friends I hadn’t thought about in years.

Besides plentiful interviews with two of the store’s founders and its employees/curators, Other Music checks in with many local music luminaries who give their thoughts on the store’s legacy and its place in the ‘00s indie scene. We have Regina Spektor, Matt Berninger (The National), Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend), Daniel Kessler (Interpol), members of Animal Collective (two of whom worked at the store, pre-fame), and many, many more. The doc obviously includes many in-store musical performances, too, from St. Vincent (I was there!) and Neutral Milk Hotel, to Yo La Tengo, Antipop Consortium, and a baby powder-covered Gary Wilson.

Factory 25’s Blu-ray release of the film packs even more musical performances onto the disc as deleted scenes. A fat booklet includes dozens of artists and employees sharing their favorite OM memories, as well as a list of 100 albums to check out after viewing the doc. (This serves as a pretty great cross-section of the sort of music their crew tirelessly championed.) It’s a limited edition release, so anyone who misses the store or holds fond memories of the city’s indie music heyday will want to act fast on this one.


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