"I like curators," says The National's Matt Berninger in the Other Music documentary that's out to stream as of today. "People who are passionate enough to comb through it all and write a hundred words on a little card and make sure it stays stuck to the shelf." Those little cards at Other Music, the beloved NYC record store that was open from 1995-2016, meant a lot. Berninger added, "The first show at Mercury Lounge and the first time we got a card at Other Music, it was like 'My band is real.'"

When Other Music announced spring of 2016 that they would close on June 25, it signaled the end of an era in NYC, and filmmakers Puloma Basu and Robert Hatch-Miller document the store's final weeks. Nearly four years later, the Other Music documentary is out and is a love letter to record store culture, a bygone era of NYC and one tiny shop on W. 4th street in particular. "Per square meter it probably had more interest value than any other shop I'd even been in in the world," says Depeche Mode's Martin Gore.

There are many artists interviewed for Other Music, including Le Tigre's JD Samson, James Chance, Interpol's Daniel Kessler, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Brian Chase, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Magnetic Fields maestro Stephin Merritt, TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite, and Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna), plus actors Jason Schwartzman and Benicio Del Toro. Much of the screen time, though, is dedicated to the staff, including owners Chris Vanderloo and Josh Madell, and many of the clerks who stayed with the store for years. If you spent any time at Other Music over its 21-year run, you will probably say "oh yeah, that guy!" at least once.

Some of those staff members made music too, like Animal Collective's Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) and David Portner (Avey Tare) who worked at the store when their group was just starting out, and Antipop Consortium's Beans who was not shy about pushing his own music on customers. "No matter what [customers] said they were into," Madell remembers, "he'd say 'Have you checked out the new Antipop Consortium?" Many other musicians were regulars and sold CDs on consignment to Other Music, like Interpol and Vampire Weekend who both sold early EPs through the store before being signed. The most notable of these was probably William Basinski who talks about how his remarkable 9/11-inspired The Disintegration Loops owes a lot of its success to Other Music.

The film follows the whole history of the store: from when Vanderloo, Madell and Jeff Gibson all worked at Kim's Underground on Bleecker and decided to open their own store; to opening Other Music across the street from one of NYC's biggest record stores, Tower Records (which turned out to be a brilliant move on their part); through 9/11 and the NYC rock renaissance that came immediately after; to the store's short-lived entry into the MP3 market, and then age of streaming services that was ultimately a big part of their closing. The film climaxes with their final day in business and then their celebratory "second line" parade (featuring Matana Roberts, Jaimie Branch, Adam Schatz and more) down to Bowery Ballroom for a celebratory "Other Music Forever" concert featuring Yoko Ono, Yo La Tengo, Bill Callahan and more.

What the film does best is show how record stores could be a community, where clerks got to know their customer base, and how person-to-person recommendations offer more than an algorithm ever could (not yet at least). Back to those little cards, one of my favorite sequences in the documentary is when they bring a few of those cards to life, animating them and using the voices of the clerks who wrote them. When the staff talk about records they loved at Other Music, you can see the sparkle in their eyes, the passion -- and that made me miss it the most.

The only thing I wanted more from in the film was footage of Other Music's many live in-stores. There are brief clips of Neutral Milk Hotel (1996), Refrigerator (who sing a song about Tower Records), The National, Vampire Weekend, Mogwai, The Go-Betweens, Yo La Tengo, Apples in Stereo, Tinariwen, St. Vincent, Handsome Boy Modelling School, Conor Oberst, outsider artist Gary Wilson and a few more, but when they show a picture of all the VHS tapes they don't show...you hope for DVD bonus features.

The Other Music documentary was originally supposed to be in theaters today, timed to Record Store Day 2020 (4/18). Because of coronavirus, RSD got postponed to June 20 and most movie theaters are closed, so the film is getting a brief digital release from April 17-20 and your rental will go to help local independent record stores around the world who are hurting financially from the coronavirus pandemic. In NYC you can rent it via Academy Record Annex, Record Grouch, Jazz Record Center, DCTV, and Downtown Music Gallery (click the store name to rent digitally).

Head here for more info. A list of all participating stores/theatres and rental links, plus the trailer for the film, below.

OTHER MUSIC DOCEMENTARY -Virtual Theatrical Screenings
Support your favorite record shop or theater and rent the film via their link below.

April 17th-20th

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