DirectorPuloma Basu, Rob Hatch-Miller
Release Date(s)2019 (May 31, 2022)
Studio(s)Factory 25/Vinegar Syndrome
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
As someone who grew up digging through racks of records and CDs in several mom and pop shops across Louisville, Kentucky and beyond, Other Music as a documentary definitely captures one of the more atypical music stores that, like many of the places I frequented as a teenager and into my twenties, is now no longer in existence. Other Music was a tightly-knit music store in New York that was located across the street from Tower Records, offering local customers an alternative to chain store purchase options and prices. Like many of its ilk (speaking from experience), it was likely a place that was high on their prices with clerks that were perhaps intimidating to deal with, but for an extended period of time throughout the late 1990s and into the 2000s, it was a home for employees, frequently returning customers, and struggling indie bands of all genres who were happy to have their music sold there.
Other Music captures the final days of the store’s business before it closed in 2016. It highlights the store’s humble beginnings, the many challenges it faced during changing music scenes and ways of buying music, various bands that not only played live shows in the store but sold their demos there as well, and the people behind the brick and mortar operation at 15 East 4th Street in Manhattan. We spend time on the floor with customers and employees, discussing their history with the place and what makes it special to them. Along the way, a few familiar faces pop up, including Benicio Del Toro, Jason Schwartzman, Regina Spektor, and Janeane Garafolo, all customers of the store. Most importantly, we delve a bit into the private lives of those who began it, seeing their reactions to the store closing, including a heartbreaking moment when the empty racks are destroyed with a sledgehammer as one of the co-owners looks on with tears in his eyes.
The documentary also uses VHS footage of concerts performed in the shop by the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ghost, occasionally interspersing animated pieces throughout. Despite the novelty of seeing glimpses of bands during their inception, it all feels a tad long in the tooth. Much of the same information is repeated over and over again, and none of it seems to be working towards a final goal. It’s primarily fly-on-the-wall-ish, despite the various interviewees and concert footage. That said, Other Music offers a story about a very important place for a lot of people and their personal ties to it, even if the subject matter doesn’t warrant the final running time.
Other Music was captured by Puloma Basu, Rob Hatch-Mille, and Mike Rossetti digitally and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It’s an unremarkable by proficient enough digital source with clean HD footage mixed together with occasional SD video and crisp animated segments. Interiors and exteriors are lit well by natural lighting, and the concert that closes the film offers deep blacks and a variety of neon colors. Saturation elsewhere is also satisfying.
Audio is included in English 2.0 Dolby Digital with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Despite the lossy source, there’s excellent separation for music and interviews, on the street or otherwise. The lower quality footage is obviously lacking, but aesthetically appropriate for the subject matter at hand.
The Blu-ray disc for Other Music sits in a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork, the front featuring a shot of outside the store itself, and the reverse featuring a minimalist orange cover. Tucked away inside is a 32-page insert booklet containing Notes on the Documentary by Tom Scharpling, An Oral History of Other Music presented in multiple parts with a number of different contributors, a 100 Albums to Check Out After Watching the Other Music Documentary list, and cast and crew details. The following extras are included on the disc itself, all in HD (with standard definition additions mixed in):
- Audio Commentary with Rob Hatch-Miller, Puloma Basu, Chris Vanderloo, Josh Madell, and Duane Harriott
- Extras Reel (43:30)
- Trailer (1:59)
The audio commentary featuring directors Rob-Hatch Miller and Puloma Basu, store owners Chris Vanderloo and Josh Madell, and employee Duane Harriott, is primarily a laid-back affair. The directors occasionally ask questions of the other participants, but also talk about making the film while all watching it together. They occasionally dip out, but mostly stay on track during their discussions. The Extras Reel contains 12 additional in-store music performances, documentary outtakes, and bonus interview footage. Last is a trailer for the film.
Even if one might find the idea of doing a documentary on a small music store pretentious and not that interesting, Factory 25 still manages to eke out a fairly satisfying Blu-ray for Other Music. Fans of indie and prog rock and underground rap need only apply here, especially those with fond memories of the original store.
- Tim Salmons